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What do Cyprus and Iceland have in common?

Published on November 21, 2012 in the CyprusMail

IT SOUNDS like the beginning of a joke: what do Cyprus and Iceland have in common? But the question was discussed in all seriousness yesterday during an EU enlargement discussion at the House of Europe.

In a session entitled ‘Iceland and Cyprus: Lessons learnt in the field of energy and renewable energy sources’, Cyprus’ potential in harnessing renewable energy was placed in the context of EU candidate member state, Iceland.
Iceland’s electricity and heating needs are met almost entirely (99 per cent) through renewable energy sources, said Joost Korte, deputy director general responsible for the EU’s enlargement process.

On the other hand, the EU has set Cyprus a target of powering 13 per cent of its energy consumption via renewable energy sources by 2020.

The EU as a whole has a 20 per cent target. Iceland “surpasses the conditions of the EU,” Korte said. It used what Korte called a “handicap” – its small size, its isolation from mainland Europe, no infrastructure in terms of oil – and it turned it into an advantage by using its natural resources – mostly stemming from geothermal power, Korte said.
Cyprus can do the same where it is strong: “there is a huge potential” for solar energy, Korte said.

University of Cyprus rector Constantinos Christofides, who was in the panel, said the technology was there to have an energy independent island by 2030 that relies only on solar energy for its domestic consumption. The Electricity Authority of Cyprus spends €600 million a year to import oil, Christofides said. “This clearly demonstrates the benefits of alternative energy,” he said.

Rather than rely on natural gas reserves, Cyprus can sell those abroad, and rely on solar power for the island’s demands, Christofides said. “Just one per cent of land is enough to cover our needs,” he said. The head of the energy regulator CERA, Giorgos Shiammas, said that renewable energy sources were part of a longer term plan for Cyprus but added that “state policy has to be formulated by the government”. This was in response to a few questions by the audience – among them several diplomats and EU technocrats – who wanted to know how come Cyprus does not have electric cars despite its small size and what efforts are being made to increase efficiency and so reduce waste.

Though there was no definitive answer save an acknowledgment of the need to include renewable energy sources in Cyprus’ future plans at least the connection between Iceland and Cyprus was clear: both have renewable energy sources to tap. But in Cyprus’ case, it will take “deliberate policy” over many years to create an energy independent island, Korte said.
The panel discussion at the EU House was a half-day event that included addresses by government representatives and politicians, and a discussion on Croatia, as well as the transformational power of EU enlargement.

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