Mitsaris lives here with his family in Agios Paneleimonas. It is a mountainous community of only 800 people in northern Greece. They have turned their home into a winery and are now able to entertain visitors.
Mitsaris, whose father was also a coal miner, purchased 44 acres of vineyard. “I have two young daughters.”
The most polluting fossil fuel is coal, and Greece has been working hard to get rid of it.
A year ago, Greece believed it would close all its coal-burning power plants by 2023. The country planned to build a final coal plant in the region where Mitsaris resides, Western Macedonia. This area generates more electricity than half of the nation’s total. Ptolemaida 5, the new plant, would run on natural gas in 2025. This is a polluting fossil fuel but it is generally less expensive than the brown coal (lignite) found in this region of Greece. Greece is to expand its coal mining production by 500,000 tonnes over the course of the next two years as Vladimir Putin tightens the gas connections to the EU. In June 2021 coal produced 253.9-gigawatt hours (GWh) worth of electricity.
This is all while the country battles wildfires on its mainland and islands. These are fueled by a scorching hot wave that has been supercharged due to climate change, which is mainly caused by humans’ burning of fossil fuels such as coal.
When the government keeps changing its plans, major life decisions, such as where you live and what you do, can be difficult. “I would have gone to Athens if I had known that we would find ourselves in the current situation.”
The Greek government wants to convince people that the return to coal is temporary. However, Western Macedonia’s coal resurgence is luring people back to the industry.
This is where coal is referred to as a “blessing” and “curse”. A return to fossil fuels can make the difference between staying or leaving.
A village in decay
Greece was a great success story in terms of its transition from coal. It was the first country of the Balkans that announced a near-term goal to eliminate all fossil fuels.
The PPC expropriated many villages in Western Macedonia, which supplies 80% of Greece’s coal, so it could mine the coal below them. This allowed the PPC to move entire communities to the edges.
During this transitional period, when coal is still being mined but its years have come to an end, residents of Akrini are left unable to relocate. The world around them is falling apart. The dispute has been ongoing for over a decade between residents and the PPC. They claim they have the right to receive compensation to help them move from the village that has been around coal mines for many years.
CNN was informed by the PPC that it wasn’t responsible for the villagers. They also declined to answer any follow-up questions that were presented with the law stating that they have the right to relocation assistance until 2021.
He has started a new life, just like Mitsaris.
He works an additional job as a solar panel technician, which he does in addition to his cattle farming. He typically puts in 13 hours per day between the two jobs to make ends work.
The solar panel company provides Mouratidis with an additional income. He said that solar expansion also takes up more land, which leaves less space for cultivation and grazing. Therefore, it is almost impossible to get permission to expand Akrini’s farmland.
All other infrastructure projects in Akron, except the solar farms have been cancelled.
To help Greece transform from a country based on fossil fuels to one that is green and innovative, the Greek government has created a plan worth 7.5 billion euros ($7.9billion). The EU has funded 1.63 billion euros to the Just Transition Development Plan.
The plan places Western Macedonia at the center of the plan. It should be given a lot of money to partially make it a center for renewable energy in the country. He said that some money will go to those who support the current government, while the majority will be with those who manage these funds. A few kilometers away from Akrini are Nikos Koltsidas, and Stathis Paschalidis, who are looking for sustainable solutions to help those who have lost jobs in the green transition and are open to getting involved with goat and sheep farming.
Paschalidis, his sheep bleating behind him, said that ” We aspire to create a network of farms that are self-sufficient and respectful to both the environment and animals.”
Koltsidas stated that he wanted to inform the community about the fact that farming is not what it used to, and that it can offer a secure future.