Discussion with Grigoris Konstantellos, Mayor of Vari-Voula-Vouliagmeni

Vari-Voula-Vouliagmeni (VVV) was one of the Greek municipalities selected by the C-Track 50 project to receive technical support for the development, implementation and financing of their long term climate and energy plan. In this interview, the Mayor shares their experience and the ambitious plan developed by the municipality and C-Track 50 experts.

Discussion with Grigoris Konstantellos, Mayor of Vari-Voula-Vouliagmeni

The Municipality of Vari-Voula-Vouliagmeni, 20 km from the Greek Capital of Athens, is a coastal municipality depicted by pine tree forests, idyllic seaside views and palm tree boulevards, drawing comparisons to the French Riviera, and the Amalfi Coast.  In addition to its charm, VVV also boasts an ambitious climate plan, intending to become a European pioneer of municipalities’ green transition.

Grigoris Konstantellos, Mayor of Vari-Voula-Vouliagmeni

Grigorios Konstantellos, Mayor of the municipality of Vari-Voula-Vouliagmeni, outlined their experience from taking part in the C-Track 50 project, the added value for the municipality and the municipality’s projects for the foreseeable future.

How was your experience within the C-Track 50 project?

The overall experience of our municipality with C-Track 50 has been extremely positive and was definitely beneficial for us. VVV municipality is always interested in participating in pioneering activities. Since 2018, we have had the pleasure to join several working meetings with other municipalities to define priorities and actions based on best practices and other energy and climate policies in place. In addition, the municipal staff took part in working meetings with C-Track 50 coordinators to develop our energy and climate plan, identify financing sources and receive technical support to submit investment proposals to receive funds from European and national programs. Having enhanced our personnel’s skills, the programme also provided us with the resources and tools to follow up the plan’s implementation and monitoring.

Which added value did this experience bring to your municipality?

Since 2014, the municipality has been a signatory of the Covenant of Mayors Europe and engaged in the Covenant’s targets for 2020. C-Track 50 explained to us the benefits of long-term and consistent planning in regard to national, regional and local policies, helping us to develop a coherent strategic plan and roadmap to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 – which only a few cities across Europe have so far. In parallel, the plan includes energy access and adaptation actions in response to the impact of climate change based on risk and vulnerability assessment.

The strategic plan for energy and climate also sets targets of 40% emissions reduction by 2030, 60% by 2040 and 80% by 2050. This means reducing more than 405,000 tons of CO2 for our municipality only. Besides, it sets a target of achieving energy savings of around 615 GWh/year by 2050 and energy production from renewable sources of around 112 to 115 GWh/year by 2050. The triggered cumulative investment is estimated at around €600 million by 2030, €1.2 billion by 2040 and €1.7 billion by 2050 in the municipal residential, tertiary, transport and electricity production.

Finally, it includes several monitoring indicators that allow us to evaluate whether the municipality achieves its target on time and adopt corrective measures if necessary.

What is your municipality energy and climate plan?

Some of our key actions from the municipalities’ strategic plan for energy and climate are the deep renovation of municipal buildings to be transformed into nearly zero-energy buildings. Our municipality is already working on renovating 40 of its buildings and installing solar photovoltaic panels on 20 rooftops. Secondly, we want to promote bioclimatic buildings, not only for municipal buildings but also residential buildings. The plan also includes the deployment of e-vehicles charging stations, upgrade and transform our mobility, through the promotion of walking, cycling, car-sharing and public transport. We also want to increase the penetration rate of recycling and reducing organic waste. Implement capacity building programs and awareness-raising activities for employees, citizens and more importantly students. Our plan also includes the use of financial incentives to implement waste recycling and increase the penetration of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures, which are important to fight energy poverty.  Furthermore, we aim for the establishment of an energy community to cooperate with citizens and organizations within our city. Finally, we are in the process of establishing a new department for energy policy and climate change adaptation, which will be responsible for the implementation and monitoring of the municipality’s energy and climate plan.

What is your vision for your municipality?

Our municipality’s vision is simple, but also quite complex. Our municipality implements an integrated holistic approach to the design and implementation of its policy programs and actions, aiming to cover simultaneously the needs of citizens, the local economy and the environment. Under this scope, our vision is to make our city carbon-neutral, by cutting 80% of CO2 by 2050. Our objective is to create a resilient, adaptative city in response to emerging climate change threats, transform it into a smart city by implementing new technologies and reach energy independence. Ultimately, we are aiming towards sustainability by implementing principles of good governance in regard to the engagement of national and regional authorities, citizens, and stakeholders.

Our final and greatest goal is to deliver for our children and grandchildren a municipality that is better, greener and more beautiful than the one we received from our parents.