Tilos and sustainable development, the small Greek island full of energy


This territory of barely 65 kilometers that relies on ecology will be the first in the Mediterranean to produce, by September, almost all of its electricity from renewable energies. In Tilos, on the port of Livadia with small white houses, no motorcycles rumbling or deafening music escaping from the bars, tourists and villagers enjoy an Olympian calm. The place seems isolated from the rest of the world, far south-east of the Aegean Sea, a few kilometers from the Turkish coast, the small island of five hundred inhabitants is yet to set an example for the whole of Greece.By September, this territory of just 65 square kilometres will be the first in the Mediterranean to produce almost all of its electricity from renewable energy sources. This energy independence project is the culmination of the ecological commitment we made several years ago, explains tilos Mayor Maria Kamma, who is labelled independent. Already, in 1993, the municipality managed to ban hunting on its land, it was a first in Greece! And in 2006, the island was declared a natural park and registered in the European environmental protection network Natura 2000.

Two years ago, the Institute for Technological Education in Piraeus developed a scheme to enable a territory to become independent in energy, as part of the European research and innovation programme Horizon 2020, aimed at supporting projects combining scientific excellence, industry and societal challenges. Tilos was chosen and secured financing of 15 millions euros, including 11  millions European funds and 4 millions private investments. The Eunice Energy Group, a Greek pioneer of renewables, supplies a wind turbine and photovoltaic panels for one million euros.



“Despite the economic crisis, this company has chosen to invest with us because it sees the potential for the future that this can represent for other sites in Greece” argues Maria Kamma. The solar panels, installed in the centre of the island, have amaximum capacity of 400 kilowatts (kW) ; the wind turbine, facing the Turkish coast and served by a brand new road, has a power of about 800 kW. Above all, batteries for energy storage will be installed in September.

In all, about 20 people work there. These facilities respect the island’s wildlife, including its 150 species of birds. “Two studies have been carried out to find the appropriate location of the wind turbine so as not to disturb the raptors,” said Eustathios Kontos, the island’s deputy mayor.

Other parts of Greece have tried to install wind turbines, but have faced local opposition. Not in Tilos. For several   reasons: first, the island has always encountered energy supply problems, as it depends on its neighbour,
, to which it is connected by an underwater cable.

Reducing your bill

“Before, we often had power outages that could last up to eight hours, or we had sudden interruptions that damaged household appliances,” says Giorgos, sitting at a café in Livadia Square. So even if you’re not a convinced environmentalist, everyone understands that being energy independent is an advantage.”

The locals are all the more delighted because they live on an island renowned for its open-mindedness and sense of innovation. In 2008, we hosted the first same-sex marriage ever celebrated in Greece. We also welcome refugees and respect the environment. All this can only serve us to attract quality tourism,” says Michalis Kipraios, the owner of the Eleni Hotel.

He observes that the installation of renewable energy will allow each inhabitant to reduce his electricity consumption and reduce his bill. Smart meters have been placed in each house, to allow everyone to regulate their consumption.

The island’s needs will be met at 85  thanks to the new facilities from September. Since Greek law does not allow it to go beyond that, the surplus energy produced could be sold to neighbouring islands such as Kos. “When we were selected, there was no legislative framework in Greece to establish the energy independence of a territory,” reports Maria Kamma. In a country with so many days of sunshine and wind, this shows a lack of political will.”

Becoming a role model

The municipality quickly thought that in order to embark on major projects, it was necessary to go directly to the European Union without going through the national government. « Tilos is one of the places in Greece whereEuropean funds have been best used:  a boat connecting us daily to Rhodes has been bought, the roads have been redone… ”  lists the mayor, daughter of a former local elected official.

Tilos can become a model for other Greek islands not only in the ecological field, but also in terms of local government. “If we, a small community of 500 people, can get help from the European Union and move forward, others can do it. Solutions to counter the crisis and avoid the Greek bureaucracy exist,” exclaims his deputy, Eustathios Kontos.

Nikos Mantzaris, head of energy and climate policy at WWF Greece, agrees. “The government prefers to continue to bet on oil and allow the search for deposits by large companies in the country rather than to operate an ecological turn as in Tilos, “analysis” With the economic crisis, it should have realized that ecological and economic concerns come together. For example, more than 700 million euros of public money is spent each year on electrification of the Greek islands. By opting for renewable energy, Greece could make significant savings.”

Tilos already welcomes 13,000 tourists each year. By posing as a pioneer of renewable energy, the municipality hopes to attract more, but it does not intend to follow the example of Rhodes, its great neighbour, who has opted for the construction of vast hotel complexes and connections. low-cost airlines to northern Europe. Maria Kamma concludes:

“Wewant to preserve our little paradise. We are not going to build an airport, for example, but we are going to set up a waste recycling network, to encourage electric vehicles. A whole program”