Dear Mayor, dear Mr. Regional Governor, dear Herbert, dear Mr. Minister, dear Mrs. Undersecretary, dear Mr. Undersecretary, dear Alexandra, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great joy and emotion, I dare say, that I return for the second time -after a year- to the beautiful island of Astypalea.
Dr. Diess recalled a meeting we had two years ago when this extremely daring, and one could say a bit crazy idea, started: the Greek Government decided to work with the largest European car industry and choose a Greek island so that we could move, much faster than we could do in a big city, in the field of electricity. Let’s try new ideas and finally prove, dear Mayor, that technology is only useful if, in the end, it serves human needs. And if this can be combined with the unequivocal priority we all have to pass on to our children a planet that is better protected from the great threat of climate change.
And this project finally started, as I remember, together with the Minister Kostas Fragogiannis, whom I want to thank separately, because he was the coordinator and the “engine” that constantly overcame all the obstacles that arose. We looked at the map and said: “where are we going to go now”? Which island should we choose? There were several options. However, we chose Astypalea because it had the right size – neither too big nor too small – it covered the needs of Volkswagen, but also (we chose Astypalea) for one more reason:
Because we found out that there was a Municipal Authority that wanted to cooperate with us. They believed in this project from the beginning and took on the difficult task to help us to create all the relevant infrastructure but, above all, to educate the local community for the benefits of this very important innovation, which we presented last year, for the first time, and today we come to update and strengthen even more.
And, I remember, when we came to Astypalea for the first time last year and we presented with great ambition and enthusiasm our plan for a “smart & sustainable Astypalea”, I saw in the eyes of many that they had some reservations. And I consider this to be absolutely justified and expected, as every change raises reasonable questions.
But today, a year later, I believe that more and more of you -and I am addressing the citizens of Astypalea- are really convinced that what is happening here on this beautiful Aegean island, in the “butterfly” of the Aegean, is truly a revolution. And it is a revolution that is very important for the island.
But what is taking place here in Astypalea is not happening in many parts of the world. Today we are at the forefront of innovation and technology: on how we can adopt smart travel systems, on how we can and should adapt our regulatory framework – congratulations to the Undersecretary.
It is not an easy and simple task to be able to legislate, in order to be able to predict that all this will work properly and especially safely for all users – and how this innovative technology, that starts but does not end with e-mobility, will eventually become an engine for a better everyday life.
An everyday life with less noise, no noise at all. An everyday life without emissions and a daily life of course which will ultimately have a financial benefit for the citizens and for the users of these services.
So today, a year later, we present this highly innovative and intriguing online smart mobility platform, “AstyMove”, which enables residents and visitors alike to choose among a service of smart electric mini buses.
Let me just say: I think that all of us who love cars – I include myself in this category – were happy and excited when Volkswagen decided to end up releasing the electric version of a car that was a symbol, a legendary car for an entire generation.
So one can choose to travel safely with a driver or one can choose to come to the island and rent, essentially according to one’s needs, an electric car or an electric motorbike, a scooter or an electric bicycle, always according to his needs. As a result, fewer cars come to the island and of course the quality of life is substantially improved.
And all this, of course, as Alexandra said, would not make sense if the energy, the electricity we used, is still generated through the old factories which consume the most polluting form of fuel that produces electricity, which is diesel.
So, we are coming here and we are launching – the public tender was launched today – a new system of electricity production from photovoltaic panels in the first phase. A system that combines the production of electricity with storage and which of course comes and “matches” the upgrade of the island’s network itself through the installation of 2,000 “smart” meters, so that we can better manage our energy and we can be, at some point, not only consumers but also producers of electricity, who will sell and buy energy from the system in a much smarter and much cheaper way than we do today.
And you are right, Mayor, we are also watching with great interest this discussion on Renewable Energy Sources, from where this very large energy that we need will be produced. The more electric cars we use, the more electricity we will need. And the demand for electricity will skyrocket globally and in our country in the coming decades.
Renewable Energy, I will say it again, is the cheapest form of energy we can produce today. And at a time when we are all victims of a war, an invasion of European territory, which has led to a spike in gas prices, we realize that the purpose of the green transition is not only to reduce our emissions and to prevent the catastrophic phenomenon of greenhouse gas. It is also pursued for energy security reasons. The wind that blows today, the sun we have is ours. No one can take it from us. And as technology advances, the energy produced by the sun and the wind will become cheaper and cheaper.
It will be sun or wind, it will be both. Probably more energy will be produced, especially on our islands, by the sun and less by the wind, because there is indeed a very big issue and we are listening to it very carefully: that we can not install wind turbines, large wind turbines, especially on small islands and thus disrupt the balance of the landscape of the Greek islands.
So the wind turbines will be installed in places where the local communities want them and can support them. It is very likely that in Astypalea, as you said Mr Mayor, one wind turbine is enough to cover the needs. But even this one wind turbine will be installed under the condition that we can agree with the local community that it is essential.
But there are limits when it comes to the sun.There is no sun at night, so we need to store energy. On the contrary, when it comes to wind it can blow all day long, as you are well aware of here, 24/7. This is why the combination of the two sources of energy is, in the end, the best solution and it is highly recommended. So I am very happy. What we are doing today will spread all over the world. Have no doubt about it.
And of course the fact that the largest automobile company is involved in this project is essentially, to put it in simple words, dear Mayor, a free advertising for the island. Even if we spent the entire budget of the National Tourism Organisation in order to advertise Astypalea, I don’t think that we would achieve the results that we will now have thanks to this project for the promotion of this island.
Have no doubt about it. More and more visitors will choose their destinations based on the sustainability criteria and the interest demonstrated by local societies for the protection of the environment, for green development and the circular economy in total.
These are mainly visitors willing to spend more for their vacation, they are more aware and I think that, starting from this year, you will get to see the first results as regards the tourism product, given the publicity attracted in the island.
This effort will finally carry away with it the entire local community and the entire local economy. The product will be upgraded. I was very interested to see that you have undertaken an initiative to collect old abandoned vehicles.
The production, what the island can produce, the local production, the capacity to associate the tourist product with the primary sector, with our sea, with sustainable fishing, along with the protection of our culture, all the above make up a unique opportunity for the Greek islands.
Of course, what we are doing here, in Astypalea, will not be limited only in Astypalea. The Regional Governor referred to two more islands in the South Aegean, which are taking leaps in the sector of green transition and sustainable growth. In Tilos, where unfortunately I could not travel, which is a pioneer in waste management and in Chalki, which also has an inclusive program that concerns circular economy in total and is making its own leaps in this exciting path towards green transition.
It is easy to implement this project on our island, where the scale is smaller and where the resources that we will have to mobilize are available today. Along with the support of the private sector – let me thank the sponsors that supported this project, especially Alpha Bank and Sky Express – we can really make a difference on our islands.
I really believe in the Astypalea project, but I also believe that the Astypalea project is a “lighthouse” that will eventually raise awareness in more local communities, dear Regional Governor. I am pointing this out, because nothing can happen unless we have the support of the local communities. Unless we have Municipal authorities, Regional authorities, and aware citizens who will embrace this transition and will understand the benefit that this project brings first and foremost in your everyday life, and your own financial planning.
The energy produced – as Alexandra said – in the photovoltaic panels will lead to lower electricity bills for everyone of you. What is the case in Chalki, for example, will soon be the case in Astypalea.
So, I want to thank you. I want to thank the local society, the municipal authorities for the fact that you have supported and still support what is happening on the island. As Dr Diess said, there will be difficulties, we will learn from our mistakes and we will move on. This is life, this is the natural course of things. There is one thing we know. In the fight against Climate Change, we cannot stand still. We need to be bold and, as a country, we need to be pioneers and not laggards.
Let me end my speech with a very encouraging message that I have gained from the visit I paid, before meeting you and talking to you. I visited the Primary School of Astypalea, where thanks to Alpha Bank’s donation, the students of the 5th and 6th grade have completed a very interesting and impressive project, where they used technology to create a smart greenhouse, proving in an experiential way, how technology can help us change our life and how each and everyone of us, both men and women, can finally play a role in this major effort to make this transition possible.
This new generation, children of 11 and 12 years old, will soon be the citizens of tomorrow. They will soon pick up the torch. They will innovate – I hope – with the same excitement. We need to instill these exact ideas to them. We need to educate them, so that they perceive knowledge as a creative process, so that they understand the value of these experiential interventions and of course realize that the change starts with each and every one of us.
With small changes in our everyday habits, if we all apply these changes together, we can finally make a big revolution. Once again, congratulations. I pledge that I will come to the island regularly so that I can follow the project’s progress.
So, I hope to see you again and I wish you a great tourist period. Take care and thank you.