The prefecture of Karditsa consists of 20 municipalities and its surface is extended over an area of 2.636 km2. The population of Karditsa is 130.214 residents (2005) and has a demographic density of 49,4 inhabitants/km2. The primary energy sources of the prefecture include electricity, oil and, recently, natural gas. The expansion of the natural gas pipeline network is estimated to cover mainly the needs of medium pressure industrial users and large residential consumers.
Considering the fact that Karditsa is an agricultural community, it possesses high potential for hydro, biomass, solar collectors, PVs and wind applications, enabling, thus, the growth of the regional RES - RUE market. Apart from the already existing hydro-electric plant supplied by the lake “Plastira”, new projects for the construction of dams and artificial lakes are on their way so as the region’s hydro potential to be further exploited. Further to this, the large diversity of the region’s existing biomass resources (agricultural and forest) creates significant prospects for their use in the future. According to the current estimations, at present about 85% of the agricultural area is used for cotton cultivation, which means that the technical potential of the cotton plant residues from the area of Karditsa is more than 10 times the combined demand of electricity, heating oil and gas of the 20 largest local users (based on international analyses). Moreover, the wind potential is mainly located on the south-west mountainous part of the prefecture, where the wind speed is sufficiently high (from 6 to 8 m/s). For these places, based on the current estimations, the technologically exploitable potential is considered to be approximately 2.000 GWh/ year. At last, the existence of therapeutic baths outlines the significant potential for geothermal exploitation.
In general, the development of RES and RUE projects in Greece is quite limited compared to the country’s existing potential since a lot of barriers have to be overcome for the project’s implementation. The most important of these barriers are mentioned below:
- The complex process of permission granting.
- The technical immaturity of the investment plans.
- The citizens' limited awareness.
- The constrains in RES production's penetration. The current network infrastructure is incapable of absorbing the energy generated by RES units, while their reinforcement is time- and cost-consuming for the extension of High Voltage networks.
These needs, although not territory specific, affect the implementation of RES & RUE projects in Karditsa prefecture. A number of identified local needs, deriving from the community’s analysis are analyzed below.
Raising citizens’ awareness on RES & RUE technologies is considered one of the main needs that should be addressed, as very often is the phenomenon of inhabitants opposing such projects, and finally being able to inhibit their implementation. Although the responsibility for dissemination of RES & RUE related information belongs to a number of stakeholders, the main responsible to tackle this obstacle is the local administration. Recommendations on raising citizens’ awareness include the implementation of demonstration projects and the regular organization of workshops, seminars and information days. Moreover opportunities to achieve this goal should also be sought through energy education, as the existing efforts in the regional level are considered extremely poor.
Although Karditsa has a long agricultural tradition, the penetration levels of RES & RUE technologies that could be incorporated in the electrification, heating or irrigation of their farms remain very low. This phenomenon is related to the farmers’ low awareness on the existing possibilities and the farming associations’ confinement in acting as intermediates in the wholesale purchase of agricultural supplies and equipment. A recommendation to address this need is the activation and training of these associations. Seminars with professors and researchers from the regional university of agricultural sciences could be realized in order to enhance the knowledge and technical background of the farming associations’ members.
Since the main stakeholder behind the abovementioned activities is the local administration, critical is considered the need to establish strong political will, long term political commitments and an energy vision. Karditsa community has no long term action plan on the local level to promote RES & RUE technologies, since the regional promotion and development of these technologies mainly depends on the mayor’s beliefs and commitments. All these needs can be addressed through the development of an action plan with the active involvement of all political parties’ representatives. This action plan should be binding for all local administration officials, regardless of the person in power.
The reason behind the occasional, small scale dissemination activities at local level can be also located at the limited cooperation among the existing involved associations. Thus the deriving need is the undertaking of coordinated action towards the promotion of RES & RUE technologies. A number of recommendations to achieve this may include the establishment of coordination boards with representatives of all involved organizations, clustering of the smaller organizations and the determination of an independent observer, perhaps the local energy agency, to monitor and coordinate their actions.
Another need for the promotion of RES & RUE technologies in the territory, at least in small scale, is the transfer of technology know-how. Practices not widely met at local level, even if they are common practice in regions with similar characteristics, are difficult for realization. Staffing the local energy center with personnel experienced in these solutions could assist the technologies’ penetration level in the local market, through the provision of advice and guidance on the proper solution for each one’s needs.
The prospects for RES and RUE market growth in Karditsa are deriving from the community’s detailed analysis framework and the regional energy balance, and are being identified in the following paragraphs.
Karditsa is a combination of mountainous and flat region. Arable land covers almost 42% of the territory, while another 24% is covered by forests. Given the fact that almost 43% of the inhabitants make their living from farming related activities, it is obvious that there are large amounts of biomass produced. The exploitation potential of this source is intact, since low utilisation rates are observed, while most of these wastes are simply dropped in landfills without further processing.
The technological and market prospects for wind energy and small hydroelectric plants in the territory are also considered significant, as the existing potential remains unexploited so far. More specifically, the region’s morphology and the existence of medium and small rivers throughout the prefecture’s territory, and especially in the mountains, offers the potential for the development of small and micro hydro capacity.
Prospects for the development of solar and photovoltaic systems installations are also considerable. Besides the large hydroelectric plant and the corresponding dam which have been built in the early ‘60s, the recent efforts to install renewable power are confined to small hydropower and small PV installations. To this end, electricity is produced mostly via lignite power stations and secondarily via renewable energy, which covers less than 10% of the region’s energy needs.
As regards the local building sector, it seems that the majority of the existing buildings, either residencies or commercial and public buildings, have been built long before 1990. In addition to this, houses are according to the regional energy balance the largest energy consumer. These facts signify the vast unexploited potential of RUE and RES activities in these establishments.
So far, though, there is no or limited use of RES in the agricultural activities. The farmers are unaware of the benefits of RES technologies in mitigating the cost of cultivations and there is also lack of support mechanisms and entities to increase awareness. The market for RES technologies in agriculture is also underdeveloped.
A factor greatly affecting the region’s prospects is the reformation of the Greek agricultural policy, which places emphasis at strengthening the diversification of cultivable crops by supporting the biological agriculture and by encouraging the use of cultivation types and systems that have little energy needs. Furthermore, growing attention is paid to the rational use of wastes from agricultural and livestock farming activities and the conservation of the land and the aquatic resources, as well as the establishment of the proper procedures for controlling these phenomena.
Green tourism constitutes a major development axe of Karditsa, which has further exploitation potential, as the majority of tourists concentrate in limited municipalities, while the rest of them embrace only a few numbers of visitors. Green tourism is an opportunity for the region’s sustainable development that will contribute to the improvement of the inhabitant’s living standards.