What remains of traditional Crete will cease to exist in a few years. EU and Greek officials planning to transform the island into an energy production plant will destroy the flora, fauna, and irreplaceable traditions and histories. If the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) schema is fully implemented, everything from agriculture to archaeology, culture, and history will be at risk. Sadly, it is becoming increasingly difficult for this writer and analyst to care. I shall explain why below, but I know dozens of concerned experts in the same boat – ready to give up on saving Crete for future generations.
Paradise Lost – Meter by Meter
Over the past few years, our team has been trying to convince Crete business people of a better way of development for Greece’s biggest island. So far, convincing anyone with a project in mind to lean toward regenerative economics, agriculture, tourism, or other sectors desperately needing a new path has been nearly impossible. The development wave of quasi-five-star resorts on the island’s North shore has been rampant. The Greece Tourism Ministry’s luring the most prominent cruise lines in the world to Heraklion’s port represented another setback for anybody on the island wishing for a better life in the tourism industry. However, as much as I’d like to blame Geek oligarchs and far away hedge funds for unsustainable business, it’s the Crete people’s fault their island is being destroyed plot by plot.
Cretans are amazing people, and before the pandemic, you could not find a more hospitable destination to visit anywhere on Earth. However, even before the COVID disaster, Cretans carried on with a carefree attitude about the environmental and even aesthetic health of their homeland. They simply don’t care. There are many causes, the most significant being a general feeling of helplessness among Cretans and Greeks. Their government has bled the citizenry dry to fill the treasure chests of powerful Greek magnates and their partners in Europe and the United States. This is a subject for another discourse, however. What is most critical now is the onset of an energy development disaster. From all appearances, RAE, in partnership with mega-companies like Terna Energy, seems intent on making Crete and its offshore islands into Europe’s electric battery. The video below from HEREMA tells us these plans are all going forward and that they’ve been under development for years without educating the public about the pitfalls. An advertisement for a huge conglomerate and the investor benefactors is what the public knows.
Schemes of the Powerful
Let’s not get too complicated here. In 2021, when the headlines read: “Crete-Peloponnese Interconnection: The largest subsea AC cable in the world has been electrified,” most Crete people figured they’d be free of the old diesel-powered plants supplying their electricity. The longest AC cable interconnection in the world (174 km) was even billed that way by some officials. However, no one stopped thinking of another reason politicians, EU financiers, and the European Investment Bank would fork over €1 billion to get more power to 600 thousand of Cretans. If all the RAE planned projects are completed, Crete will be one of the biggest energy suppliers to Europe’s traditional energy gluttons.
The Crete people bludgeoned into not giving a damn for generations now, never considered (or cared) that the cable was not for supplying energy to Crete. Nobody figured Earth’s longest undersea electrical cable would properly send energy to the mainland and Europe. Big surprise, huh? Well, it’s not surprising for those fighting to save Crete’s natural, cultural, and historic treasures. Before I began this story, I called on the distinguished archaeologist, Professor Diamantis Panagiotopoulos to offer his opinion about the overall development of Crete. Previously, Diamantis told me, “They will destroy this island Phil. Please inform your friends, readers and colleagues so that we might stop them.” Rather than offer a quote, the learned expert on Minoan (Keftiu) archaeology directed me to an article he’d written about investors seeking to develop in the middle of the NATURA protected zone in the Municipality of Gortyna. Diamantis’ concerns about the development of such sensitive areas stemmed from fears of precedents being set for more extensive invasions of sensitive areas. The archaeologist very critical of investors in such projects, in particular. On this subject, his paper read in part:
“Even if one accepts that the investors are not acting fraudulently by trying to mislead the competent authorities with fictitious data, it is certain that they are acting with complete ignorance or even indifference to what ecological disaster they are about to cause.”
Panagiotopoulos protested against construction plans threatening the natural landscape of the Asterousia natural and archaeological landscapes. He and others are also concerned with developing strategies for the preservation and development of cultural heritage. Panagiotopoulos also asserted that in his opinion “It is inevitable that this drama will soon be played out again in the same or another area of the island.”
So, here we are discussing the onset of an investment/development catastrophe a thousand times more destructive than a single business venture at a lone site represents. Ringing the entire island with five-star beach resorts would be preferable, compared to transforming the land of the ancients into a battery for Europe, feeding hedge fund investors.
Dr. Panagiotopoulos summarized what the correct path for the development of Crete should be. He wrote that European Union funds and programs should be used to eliminate potential disasters. His argument that there should be intermediaries who truly represent the helpless public in a scientific and unbiased manner reads, in part:
“Archaeologists, geographers, environmentalists and other scientists must be given the opportunity to actively participate in these action plans. Locals must finally be informed that raping or sacrificing a landscape on the altar of reckless economic development is not a one-way street.”
Destruction Disguised as Progress
The image above shows the future development of wind and photovoltaic production, storage, and distribution systems already in operation or at various stages of development. If you close in on the map, you can easily see wind and solar farms encroaching on pristine and historic landscapes like Dia Island, where the legendary Jacques Cousteau once searched for remnants of the fabled Atlantis. Dia, viewed from the marinas and beaches near Heraklion, would look like a spectacular bird grinding machine instead of a protected wildlife refuge. The incredible Lassithi Plateau, where the god Zeus was born, will be rimmed in wind turbines. Wind power stations in the bowl of the plateau and turbines atop the ridges of the stunning Crete landscape already have operating licenses.
In addition, the view to the Southeast from the long-lost Palace/Temple of Galatas will also be obscured by giant windmills. Visitors to the world-famous Matala and the hidden Red Beach on the Gulf of Mesara can look up on a moonlit night and see row after row of winding sentinels dotting the mountainous landscape. The plan to install a photovoltaic farm and windmills overlooking Agiofarago Gorge and Beach is even more stupid. This is another of the projects under consideration. These examples do not even illustrate the irreparable damage such developments will have on the small local villages. The whole soul of Crete Island would be transformed. And God knows what archaeological treasures or animal species may go asunder. Farther to the East, Zakros Palace/Temple will be surrounded by a pair of photovoltaic farms. The entire Far Eastern end of Crete is slated to be energy collection central if the extent of planned development there is accurate. I could go on, but the map tells the story.
Energy trading licenses are already being granted by RAE, such as the one for 100MW for a 20-year period granted to MET Austria Energy Trade GmbH. To be clear, the Greek government has already set plans for running energy to Austria and Southern Germany to help those countries’ citizens and the industrial base. In addition, few Greeks know of a second undersea cable system Attica-Crete HVDC Interconnector, which will trade energy to Cyprus and Israel. It will be the integral segment of a 1,518km trans-border HVDC cable system to connect the electricity grids of Israel, Cyprus, and Greece with the European transmission network.
Finally, by researching all the connectives with Therma, it is clear that humongous sums of money are being invested in engineering our way out of global warming and energy shortages. Another project by Ocean Winds, EDP Renewables, Terna Energy, and Engie (Blackrock) is turning the Aegean and other seas into rows and rows of navigational obstacles in the form of offshore wind farms. The French conglomerate Engie is as good an example as any huge corporation cashing in from every angle of the energy game. The company is set on putting solar and wind farms all around us, is also the second-largest gas transportation network in Europe, has the fifth-largest LNG portfolio in the world, is the largest LNG importer in Europe, and operates the second-largest LNG terminal on the continent.
Ignoring the Regenerative Path
A chilling irony exists in all this public relations generative “green movement” by energy giants. One of Crete’s few forward-thinking entrepreneurs, Panagiotis Magganas, is practising regenerative agriculture and business with his efforts at Peskesi Organic Farm and the award-winning Peskesi restaurant it serves in Heraklion Center. One ironic aspect of all this is the fact that Magganas has been trying to convert Cretans to his way of success but with only a smidgen of success. One success story I know of is the luxury resort reclamation project, Pnoé Breathing Life, which has created the amazing Thymises restaurant in cooperation with Magganas. An even more pungent reminder that the corporate steamroller mashes everybody sooner or later are the wind farms under consideration slated to look out over Peskesi Farm and Dia Island. The only plan in motion is decidedly not for a regenerative Crete future. In fact, one friend suggested last week that there really is “no plan” at all for the development of this island. An expert on the subject told me money inflows alone dictate what gets done here. Sadly, those windmills will stand only 2.5 kilometres from a regenerative agriculture effort unlike any other in Greece. So, sooner than the reader may think, the Island of ancient wonders will disappear into a menagerie of developments for pure and unsustainable profits.
As I suggested in my introduction, my threshold for caring about the future of Crete has been reached. Almost no one is listening, let alone taking any action. Decisionmakers in the small villages affected are being bought off with concessions for rebuilding or investing in those towns and villages. A truly regenerative Crete is a pipe dream that can be bought and sold. As happened in the US and elsewhere, those who control industry have unlimited resources to squeeze out anyone who stands in the way of their ultimate financial win. It’s fair to say the onslaught of these money interests is even more powerful than the series of tsunamis that wiped out Crete’s Minoan (Keftiu) fleet in 1620 BC, sealing the first thalassocracy’s fate. Tomorrow, the island that gave birth to European civilisation will be unrecognisable even to Malia’s beach crowd. And there is little any of us can do about it.