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Politics

At COP27, Mitsotakis Says Low-Carbon Energy Security Key

ATHENS – Speaking at the COP27 United Nations conference on climate change being held in Egypt, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said part of the answer is a faster transition to low-carbon sources.

“Low-carbon energy means energy security – this much is clear. No one can shut down our wind or our sun energy,” he said, as Greece turns toward those sources in a bid to faster wean off Russian energy that makes up 40 percent of its needs.

Russian gas and oil was exempted from European Union sanctions for the invasion of Ukraine but President Vladimir Putin has threatened to withhold supplies during the winter in response, leading Greece and other countries to find alternatives.

“We meet today, in Sharm El-Sheikh, during an acute energy crisis—sparked by Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine,” said Mitsotakis, who was at the forefront of urging the the EU adopt a uniform subsidy approach to help households whacked by soaring electric bills.

“I want to speak to you as a ‘radical realist.’ Radical because I deeply believe in the energy transition. It is imperative. Ιt is unavoidable. The energy transition is not just about mitigating risk. It is an opportunity. It is also a strategic necessity,” he said of Greece’s moves.

“But this energy transition will also allow us to reconceptualize Greece’s economic model. For decades, we have been a net energy importer. Our trade balance and our competitiveness have suffered,” he said.

But, he added; “This is changing. Our future competitiveness will be grounded on abundant wind and solar resources. Greece is already a leader in renewable energy.

Almost half of our electricity today comes from wind, solar, and water.”

He noted that, “We have more than 10 gigawatts of installed solar and wind power and we rank in the top ten countries of the world in terms of the penetration of wind and solar.”

He mentioned that during a five-hour sunny period on one day in October that solar and wind met 100 percent of the country’s needs and that coal use had fallen 80 percent in 10 years, although there’s been a return now to coal-fired electric plants.

“The energy we consume today emits 30 percent less CO2 than it did in 2005. And we are just getting started. We have just voted our first ever climate law, committing to carbon neutrality by 2050. We want to double our renewable capacity by the end of the decade,” he said.

“We want to be a net electricity exporter to the rest of Europe. We want to help carry energy and hydrogen from North Africa and the Middle East to Europe,” he said, making Greece a critical conduit.

“We are discussing with Egypt about building a 3 GW cable to bring cheap solar electricity from North Africa to Europe. We intend to be at the center of a new corridor that will redraw the map of energy in Europe,” he said.

“But at the same time, we must also manage today’s crisis. Without energy security there is no energy transition. Like many other countries, we need to briefly increase our lignite production,” he noted.

He said part of the plan is to import more liquefied natural gas (LNG) with the port of Alexandropouli near Turkey’s boarder an essential hub for storage and importing more supplies to the EU.

“And we are investing in our gas infrastructure in order to enhance our energy security and that of our neighbors. And at the same time, we need to keep supporting our citizens in order to tackle the adverse consequences of a profound cost of living crisis,” he said.

He added: “I see no tension between safeguarding the present and investing in the future. Our people will not support us otherwise. That is why I believe that we need radicalism as well as realism.”

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