One cannot really criticize the government’s decision to cut short the hours worked by civil servants over the past few days. In fact, some have praised the initiative. In view of the current state of the Greek civil service, the less it operates, the better. That way, at least it spends less…
One cannot really criticize the government’s decision to cut short the hours worked by civil servants over the past few days. In fact, some have praised the initiative. In view of the current state of the Greek civil service, the less it operates, the better. That way, at least it spends less taxpayers’ money. But most importantly, the move helped reduce the consumption of electricity, such a precious commodity during a heat wave.
However, the same argument does not apply to the private sector. A government can decide to close down its own services but it cannot force a store owner to close his shop. Authorities can prohibit outdoor work, in order to protect the health of laborers exposed to excessive heat (this measure was not taken – foreign workers were left to sweat it out on construction sites like any other day).
But the demand by the country’s main labor union GSEE for all stores and services to close because of the heat was illogical and undemocratic. In air-conditioned offices, where workers’ health and safety are not at risk, there are no justifiable grounds for such a move.
Equally unjustifiable are the government’s defensive tactics in response to the whims of the weather. Authorities were asking citizens to reduce their electricity use precisely on the days that such use is crucial for them to stay cool. Let’s not kid ourselves – it is not easy to cope without air-conditioning units when temperatures soar in the cement jungle of Athens.
And so the Public Power Corporation (PPC) stretched its capabilities to the limits and resorted to importing a high volume of electricity from abroad; and it was thus able to meet the significant rise in demand for power. This is all very well but what will happen next year? Will PPC once again rely on expensive power imports? Will it try to expand its network by going ahead with a series of investments, most of which will be harmful to our environment and result in fines?
Wind parks would be a solution but no one wants them blocking their view. There is nowhere to build them anyway, since most parts of the country have been designated as “areas of natural beauty.” Solar panels are also an option but must cover a large surface area to be cost-effective.
In fact there is only one solution: to offer incentives for the liberalization and decentralization of electricity production.
Unfortunately the word liberalization has taken on negative connotations in Greece, with citizens fearing that big firms will bleed them dry. But actually liberalization can benefit the public. Would it be so bad, for example, for most households to have solar panels on their roofs to satisfy their energy needs and then sell the surplus to PPC? Many citizens avoid such initiatives, put off by the initial expense. But the tax breaks available for such initiatives would balance out such an outlay. This way maybe, one day, PPC will not have to import extra power.
KATHIMERINI English Edition, 29/06/2007