This month ECOCLUB interviews Mr. Artemios Chatziathanassiou, an Expert working for the Greek Centre for Renewable Energy Sources (CRES), in Athens. Mr Chatziathanassiou obtained a B.Sc. from the Agricultural University of Athens, and an M.Sc. in Energy Management and Environmental Protection from the Technical University of Athens and the Economic University of Piraeus. At CRES, he focuses on energy exploitation of waste, the promotion of the use of Renewable Energy Sources (RES), as well as the assessment of RES environmental impacts. He also coordinated CRES's participation in the European Union LIFE 98 project “Green Flags For Greener Hotels” (ENV/F/338). The objective of this project was the definition of a set of award criteria for the implementation of an ecolabelling scheme. He regularly participates in research at a national and international level and in demonstration projects as a scientist on behalf of CRES.
ECOCLUB: Which in your view are the main obstacles regarding the use of Renewable Energy Sources (RES) in Greece today, and in particular in tourism? How different is the situation in other Mediterranean / European countries?
Artemios Hatziathanassiou: Taking into account the second part of the question, the energy efficiency techniques and the use of RES in the Hotel Sector in the southern Europe have a very low penetration apart from few exceptions. In a survey that CRES participated in the framework of a European project, entitled “A strategy of Energy Efficiency and Use of RES in the Mediterranean Hotel Sector” (1998), was conducted by five bodies from Europe (Italy, France, Spain, Cyprus and Greece), was indicated that most of the new energy technologies have a very low penetration in the market, which is combined with a low percentage of knowledge. In particular, whilst the efficient lamps are the technology that is broadly know and used, the sophisticated systems of electricity and heat control (BEMS, thermostatic valves, cooling storage systems) have a low contribution to the energy consumption of hotels. Regarding RES the technology that was mainly used and broadly known in the current survey is the active solar systems for hot water production. Finally it is worth mentioning that the hotel owners and/ managers were not very much aware of energy issues and energy conservation technologies and in two and three-star hotels the person responsible for the energy management is mainly the hotel manager who in general does not have specific technical knowledge. Specialised technical personnel was only registered in 5 star hotels. In Greece things are looking good now. By the end of 2001, thirty-one hotels had materialised RES applications receiving renewable energy grants through the Operational Programme for Energy (Hellenic Ministry of Development) in the framework of the 2nd Community Support Framework. Going back to the first part of the question, the barriers that eliminate the wide penetration of RES in Greece or generally in EU can be summarised in three issues: the lack of knowledge of those technologies, the lack of financial incentives (combined with state measures, regulations, bodies enforcement) and the high prices of crude oil (present situation).
ECOCLUB: You participated in a European project whose objective was to survey the applicability of a european ecolabelling scheme for the hotel sector. What were the results of that project?
A.H.: In the framework of that project entitled “Green Flags for Greener Hotels”, six institutions participated, representing the most famous tourism destinations in the European Union (France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Spain and Greece). CRES organised a national technical team, members came from the national tourism industry and finalised a set of criteria based on the environmental measures that a hotel have to be accomplished. The approach of this project was based on the determination of the environmental requirements (technical measures, managerial procedures and awareness techniques) that could be applied by the hoteliers in order to improve the business process under environmentally friendly manners. The applicability of those requirements was checked by an environmental review of a sample of hotels in all countries. I have no intention of presenting the results of other countries. Regarding our results, Greek hotels showed a preference on low cost practices: use of solar panels for hot water and low energy lamps; generally the monitoring of the environmental effects were not the first priority. Especially, serious environmental issues such as toxic waste are treated in a disappointing way. The lack of structures (waste acceptors) and the local differentiations (isolated islands) sometimes explained these findings. Still, our survey indicated the hoteliers’ expressed interest in participating in environmental initiatives, to raise their environmental performance in their business.
ECOCLUB: Some allege that the drive for eco-certification in Greece peculiarly comes from a few large resorts. Which in your view is the greater picture?
A.H.: The whole view is not so good as we are waiting for. There are cases that its impacts are on world level such as Grecotel resort hotels (awards and global recognition) and Maris Group (four hotels were certified to ISO 14001 in 2001). Moreover, the Greek participation in the European “Blue Flag Campaign” scheme (marine protection) is very encouraging, as on the EU level the Hellenic Blue Flag awards comes among the first three positions (2001). On the other hand the conditions of Greek hotels on environmental management schemes or applied environmental policy is poor. As an example there is no eco-labelling scheme on a national level. The needs of the future (Olympic Games) require that the Hellenic hospitality industry be involved in more environmentally friendly processes.
More details on the work of KAPE can be found at http://www.cres.gr/kape/index_uk.htm