ChalkiOn: An Island-Wide Energy Community

By Chris Vrettos and Dimitris Kitsikopoulos

05/01/2022

On the 5th of November 2021 Chalki island became the pilot site for the multi-million Gr-Eco islands initiative, aiming to promote the digitalization and decarbonization of several Greek islands. The event attracted widespread national and international media attention due to its pioneering nature: a 1MW PV plant will now be providing clean energy to all of the island’s inhabitants through an energy community, utilizing the virtual-net-metering model (VNM). Greek legislation allows for energy communities to utilize VNM in the context of collective self-consumption projects. This model provides for great flexibility, as it allows for energy production to be geographically decoupled from energy consumption, thus bypassing various obstacles regarding rooftop or on-site installation of RES.

The 1MWp solar park is already up and running and the energy community has now to work on engaging citizens, explain to them the VNM model and acquire expertise and know-how about the governance model, the administrative model, and the financial model.

For two years now Electra Energy Cooperative has been supporting Hyperion Energy Community, the first VNM solar energy community in Athens, as well as other newer energy communities such as CommonEn in the region of Epirus. Drawing from this experience and in the context of SCCALE 20-30-50 an Horizon2020 program regarding the scaling up of energy communities in Europe, Electra will support the citizens of Chalki in implementing the energy community, using the VNM model.

Working closely with the local community and transferring the tools and capacity acquired through the SCCALE203050 program will 1) help experiment with collective actions beyond renewable energy production and self-consumption (e.g., energy saving, education, e-mobility and more) and importantly 2) ensure that no one is left behind by this transition.

Islands present both significant challenges and opportunities regarding the implementation of community energy models. From a technical point of view, non-interconnected islands cannot easily support renewable energy installations, but at the same time utilizing locally produced, clean sources of energy like the sun or wind, increases the island’s resilience, self-sufficiency and promotes local economic regeneration.

From a social point of view, opposing views and attitudes might hinder the community’s work, but with extensive and tireless engagement and networking, the necessary trust and social capital can be built. The island of Chalki is now paving the way for what looks like a certain future for most other Greek islands: a future of citizen participation, clean energy, and democratic governance.