The project linking the Cyclades islands to the Greek power grid on the mainland, whose first phase was launched on Monday, had brought to life a decades-long dream for Greece and the Cyclades islands, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said during an event on the island of Syros that officially inaugurated the new power connection.
"The important projects do not belong to any government, they belong to the people," he said.
Tsipras noted that the island power connection, whose first phase was completed with the addition of Mykonos, will bring multiple benefits - both financial and environmental - as well as encouraging greater penetration of renewable energy sources.
"The total benefits from the first year of operation of the connection of the Cyclades islands will reach 80 million euros, while the corresponding cost of charges for the use of the new system will be very low, so consumers throughout the country will soon see significant reductions in their electricity bills," Tsipras said.
He also sent a message concerning the economy as a whole, saying that Greece was approaching the end of a prolonged economic crisis and could look to the future with optimism if all Greeks worked together.
"We are close to an exit from the crisis, we will make it happen," the prime minister underlined.
"I truly believe that after eight years of great hardship, we can be optimistic. Today is a day of optimism," he said and added: "We are exiting the crisis, we are working to create new jobs, we are working for equitable growth that will be distributed fairly among our people and not confined to an elite that has for years 'skimmed off the cream' .... We are close to an exit from the crisis, we will make it happen by working all together in the effort to raise our country a little higher."
Tsipras referred to the strategic significance of the 105-kilometre high-voltage power cable that now linked the island of Syros with the power grid on the mainland via a sub-station at Lavrio, calling it a project of historic significance. Through similar power cables, Syros was now also linked to the islands of Tinos and Paros, which in turn supplied other nearby islands in the group, Tsipras said.
In this way, he added, in addition to Syros, Tinos and Paros, connection to the mainland grid was also available for Antiparos, Naxos, Koufonisi, Schinousa, Iraklia, Ios, Sikinos and Folegandros, as well as the island of Mykonos.
The total budget for the project was 245 million euros, using both national and EU funds with the support of the European Investment Bank, Tsipras said. It is expected to greatly reduce the cost of generating electricity for the islands, which currently meet their needs by using high-cost and highly polluting independent power stations burning oil, as well as increasing security of supply during the tourist season. Once the third phase was concluded in 2020, with the laying of a second cable between Lavrio and Syros, it was expected to generate savings amounting to 2.7 billion euros over a period of 20 years, the prime minister said. The fourth phase will then extend the grid connection to the western and southern Cyclades, followed by the larger Dodecanese islands.
"These connections mark a new era for electric power networks in the country: an era of major investments that will help make our islands a growth pillar, not only for the broader energy sector but for the entire economy," he said.
Tsipras concluded his address by referring to other "connectivity" issues for the islands, such as air-lifts by the ambulance service or improving air transport and ferry links. Regarding Syros, in particular, he announced that the island's historic Neorion Shipyard will soon resume its operation after an investor was found, possibly in three to four months.