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Durham University

Durham Energy Institute


Can solar energy help save Greece?

(16 August 2013)

Renewable energy programs in Greece may be more relevant than ever since the financial crisis say DEI's Sandra Bell and Daniel Knight.

A new journal article by the Durham Energy Institute’s Dr Sandra Bell and Dr Daniel Knight explores the implications of the Greek financial crisis on their renewable energy programme. The research was undertaken using a DEI small-grant.

Although it might be assumed that such programmes could wither in the face of austerity programmes and the in-ability of households to meet their own household heating costs, the authors argue that renewable energy programs, particularly solar, may be more relevant than ever in Greece.

A focus on renewable energy could lower domestic energy costs while also providing an export commodity that would help to ameliorate the economic crisis. However this would only work if public concerns are addressed.

One of the major unmet challenges facing the solar industry in Greece is a public that has become dubious of programs that involve international companies, foreign government and banking forces outside their borders.

Applying the methods of anthropology research, Knight lived with locals in central Greece for extended periods over the past two years to understand the influence of communities on renewable energy initiatives in Greece and both he and Bell interviewed homeowners, farmers, local government officials, engineers and renewable energy entrepreneurs, scrubbed archives and tracked media stories.

Many of the people they spoke with, including some energy providers and wholesalers, acknowledge that Greek solar initiatives in their current form are unsustainable and that policy changes will be needed in the future. But they also found that the government and the European Union (EU) as a whole are very poor at communicating policy to the local level. Historically this has caused solar power to be clouded by suspicion, with fears that a rapidly privatizing energy sector would come to exploit them.

Addressing those public concerns is crucial to realizing solar's potential.

Dr Daniel Knight, of the London School of Economics, will return to Durham University in October as an Addison Wheeler Research Fellow for 2013-2016 in the Department of Anthropology, Durham Energy Institute, and Institute of Advanced Study.

Both authors are contributing to teaching on the New Energy and Society Masters which is a collaboration between the Durham Energy Institute and the Department of Anthropology. The course is still accepting applications.


"Pandora's Box: photovoltaic energy and economic crisis in Greece" by Daniel Knight and Sandra Bell appears in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy.

A review of their research 'Under the Wings of Daedalus' was published in the DEI Review Magazine Issue 1.

About the journal

The Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy is an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal produced by AIP publishing that covers all areas of renewable and sustainable energy-related fields that apply to the physical science and engineering communities. See:

Media Coverage

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ECN Magazine