Speech at the closing Event of the Renewable Energy Program under the EEA & Norway Grants

Kalimera-sas,

Distinguished guests, friends,

It is with engagement and enthusiasm I address you today at this closing event of the Renewable Energy Program supported by the EEA & Norway Grants. The program is contributing to Greece’s implementation of the Green transition or Green shift, which has become a matter of global urgency.

Please let me first reflect a bit on the broader picture of this issue by making five observations.

The broader picture

First, science tells us that climate change and environmental degradation is accelerating. Recent years has shown what we can expect if we do not
ramp up action. Hurricanes, floods and forest-fires have left people
homeless and states in devastation. In the far North, the ice is
melting at an alarming speed. Mitigation, innovation and adaptation must go
hand in hand if we are to restructure our societies in a way that make growth and development compatible with the tolerance limits of nature. In essence, this is what the green shift is about.

Second, we also know that the technological shifts driven by new concepts and innovation happens faster than ever. This opens up for new techniques and measures to deal with unprecedented challenges. I am happy to see that new

possibilities and capacities in many countries attract a growing business interest, thus making a partnership between investment capital and green technology possible.  Current business investments in renewable energy have exploded.

Third, I think it is fair to say that politicians are often energetic, but not always fast. However, we need politicians to lead, we need politics to catch up and we need politics to enable the technological and industrial development to combat climate change. Governments and business companies have stepped up climate action in many countries. The cost of postponing action far exceeds the cost of acting now.

Fourth, during the last years, the growth in global carbon emissions has almost stalled. At the same time, the world economy has been growing by almost three percent a year. This demonstrate that decoupling of carbon emissions and economic growth is possible. In other words: the transformation of our energy systems and the adaption to a low-carbon economy is not an impediment to economic growth and prosperity. It is becoming more and more a prerequisite.

And Fifth, we need a broadly concerted effort if significant achievements are to happen. The Government, private sector, relevant business companies, technological institutions, researchers, the civil society, the NGOs and youth organizations can and should all take part in a unified drive forward. We must enable, respect and protect those who will carry us towards a low emission future.

The new climate economy: Norway and Greece

The green shift is high on the Norwegian agenda; Norway´s goal is to become a low carbon society by 2050.We are on track to meeting our 2020 target of cutting 30 percent compared to 1990, and by 2030, we will make further cuts reducing our emissions by 40 percent in total. This issue is also high on the agenda in Greece, which is set out to achieve a 20% share of renewable energy sources in power production by 2020 (the so-called 20-20-20 plan).In short, Norway and Greece share the goal of a changed economic dynamic; a “new climate economy” based on solutions that will produce low greenhouse gas emissions.

In order to deal with this effectively, we need to keep the focus on all levels concerned: the international or multilateral level, the regional and national levels, and not at least, the local level. An integrated approach including both partners and measures are called for if we are to succeed.

 

The program

Now, please let me turn to the program, whose successful conclusion we are celebrating today.

By providing green energy solutions to achieving green goals, this program has seized the moment and opportunity to connectdirectly to a most pressing global challenge in our time.Completely in line with national, European and global strategies, the various projects have increased the share of renewable energy in the Greek national energy mix.In addition, the results are most commendable.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight three important achievements among many made possible by the current EEA Grants program.

First, The replacement of conventional systems of high-energy consumption with Renewable Energy Systems, such as solar systems for hot water, biomass and geothermal systems for cooling/heating and photovoltaic systems (PVs) for energy production in buildings.

Second, Micro grid applications in central heating systems, involving biomass and geothermal systems.

Third, implementing new technology for renewable energy systems in public  buildings, and to support “green energy facilities” such as pumping stations.

Greece certainly holds a large renewable energy potential. Through the ambitions expressed in the country´s action plan, the Greek government has underlined its course of green development as a way to follow, irrespectively of the impact of the current financial and fiscal crisis.

My country is very much impressed by this stance. And I will in this context draw your attention to the following, which I briefly touched upon in my introduction:

The report “The New Climate Economy” (2014), co-commissioned by Norway together with six other countries, shows that there is no contradiction between climate action and economic growth. The report rather shows that technological innovation and investment in efficient low-emission solutions will create new opportunities: more jobs, increased corporate earnings and a sustained and well-balanced economic development. The alleged/ asserted incongruity between climate and growth can not be substantiated.

According to the report, the energy sector is one of the areas with the highest potential for rapid climate-friendly growth. I am therefore very happy that environment and renewable energy will continue as a prioritized area also in the new funding period of the Grants. The Memorandum of Understanding between Greece and the Donor countries for the new period leading up to 2021 was signed 31 October. Out of the total allocation of 116.7 million euros, 15 million will go to continued efforts within the area of environment and renewable energy.

I am encouraged to see that the Grants continues to make itself relevant by addressing one of the most pressing contemporary concern both for Greece and  the international society: namely  the green shift and the transformation of our energy systems.

Please let me also mention a few points on Norway’s broader engagement in Greece for the coming years. In the context of the new period, we will see a strong focus on entrepreneurship and innovation, in particular with a view to green energy, blue growth and ICT. We will also keep a strong focus on enabling factors that can give the young educated people a renewed hope and opportunities in this country. Opportunities for the new young generation is key and have to be created. There will be a continued strong focus on migration and asylum management, digitalization of the Greek public administration, the Greek civil society organizations, and the support to the poorest segment of the Greek society. All these areas stand out as important benchmarks for us.

We have all a very exciting times ahead.  

Many people have played important roles in implementing this program so successfully. Primarily I should mention the program’s operator CRES, and in particular, Markos Damasiotis and Kostas Patlitzianas as well as the entire EEA Grants team for their dedicated efforts in achieving results that have even exceed our expectations.  I would also like to commend them for being proactive in the promotion of bilateral relations with the Donor countries.

We also commend their initiative in taking the lead in organizing meetings with counterparts in other beneficiary states, where good practices were presented and discussed.

Norway is most grateful. We are looking forward to a continuation of this excellent cooperation. Congratulations with a job well done!

Thank you for the attention!