ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 70

international column
Greece Breaking Pollution Records

Tax Adds Fuel to Fire
By Constantinos A. Balaras, P.E., Member ASHRAE
Editor’s Note: This column first appeared in CIBSE Journal, March 2013.

Y

ou can smell it—feel it everywhere, especially at night and on
cold days. The haze of smog hangs over Athens, Greece.

The pollution is linked to an increase in tax on heating oil, which has

caused a notable shift toward the use of cheaper fuels, such as firewood
in open fireplaces and wood stoves. There are reports of people cutting down trees from Greece’s few forested areas, even around Athens.
People are burning anything they can get hold of.
Greek cities are breaking every record on air pollution, with particulate
matter PM10 (particles smaller than 10
micrometers) reaching atmospheric concentrations of three to four times normal
levels, leading to serious concerns over
the implications for people’s health.
At the beginning of the heating season
for 2012–13, the subsidy available for
heating oil was removed. As well as raising tax revenue, the harmonization was
aimed at stopping heating oil being used
as cheap diesel on the black market— the
only difference between the two being the
color additive in heating oil.
To soften the impact of the removal of
the subsidy, the government introduced
a tax return for the very poor, but, even
so, the vast majority of low-income
households simply cannot afford the
cost of heating. As a result, people have
turned to other means of heating their
homes—especially wood (mostly in open
fireplaces) and electricity, where electrical heat pumps that were historically used
for cooling in summer are now being used
as electric radiators. The move to new energy sources has been dramatic. The use
70

ASHRAE Journal

of heating oil is reported to have dropped
by 70% since the introduction of the tax.
As of January 2013 there was also an
electricity price increase and a new tariff
calculation rate based on consumption.
Further increases are expected later this
year. The first adjusted electricity bills
were issued last month, adding more

Annual consumption fell by 7.3% in
2010 to 19.0 Mtoe (million tonnes of oil
equivalent),1 the first decrease in more
than two decades.
Residential buildings consume more
than half of the electricity and more than
90% of the thermal energy required by
the Greek building sector2. In 2010, the
energy consumption of residential buildings fell to 4.6 Mtoe, or 24.2% of the
total.1 This is the fifth year of continuous
reduction in energy consumption, which
is now at 2001 levels.
Because of rising energy costs many
households are experiencing poor indoor thermal comfort conditions as they
reduce the operating hours of central
heating systems to the bare minimum and
set their thermostats to very low levels.
Fuel poverty is a tragic reality. Thankfully, Greece has been experiencing a
relatively mild winter, which has helped
alleviate some of the pain.
The current situation and public focus
on heating energy costs underline and
strengthen the practical importance of
energy conservation in buildings, and
potentially the exploitation of renewable
energy sources in Greece in the near future.
References

High levels of particulate matter in the
atmosphere lead to health concerns.
strain to household budgets. Natural
gas prices have gone up, too, as they are
linked to the price of oil.
Even before the latest rises, a combination of higher fuel bills and government
austerity measures resulted in a sharp
fall in energy consumption in Greece.
ashrae.org

1. “EU Energy in Figures–Statistical Pocketbook.” European Commission, http://tinyurl.
com/bf3rgkb.
2. Dascalaki, E.G., K.G. Droutsa, C.A.
Balaras, S. Kontoyiannidis. 2011. “Building
Typologies as a Tool for Assessing the Energy
Performance of Residential Buildings—A
Case Study for the Hellenic Building Stock.”
Energy & Buildings 43:(12)3,400 – 3,409.

Constantinos A. Balaras, P.E., is the
research director at Group Energy
Conservation (GREC), Institute for Environmental Research & Sustainable
Development (IERSD) and the National
Observatory, Athens, Greece.
April 2013



ASHRAE Journal - April 2013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ASHRAE Journal - April 2013

ASHRAE Journal - April 2013
Contents
Commentary
Industry News
Letters
Meetings and Shows
Feature Articles
Ground-Coupled Heat Pump and Energy Storage
Fan Efficiency Requirements for Standard 90.1-2013
Technology Award Case Studies:
Geothermal for 5 Ecosystems
Holistic HVAC Design
Standing Columns
Engineer’s Notebook
Data Centers
Emerging Technologies
IAQ Applications
Refrigeration Applications
Special Products
People
International Column
Energy Modeling
Products
Classified Advertising
Advertisers Index
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - ASHRAE Journal - April 2013
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - Cover2
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 1
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 2
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - Contents
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - Commentary
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 5
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - Industry News
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 7
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 8
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - Letters
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - Meetings and Shows
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 11
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 12
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 13
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - Ground-Coupled Heat Pump and Energy Storage
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 15
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 16
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - I1
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - I2
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - I3
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - I4
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 17
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 18
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 19
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 20
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 21
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 22
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 23
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - Fan Efficiency Requirements for Standard 90.1-2013
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 25
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 26
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 27
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 28
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 29
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 30
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 31
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - Geothermal for 5 Ecosystems
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 33
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 34
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 35
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 36
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 37
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 38
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 39
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - Holistic HVAC Design
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 41
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 42
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 43
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 44
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 45
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 46
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 47
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - Engineer’s Notebook
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 49
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 50
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 51
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 52
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 53
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - Data Centers
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 55
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 56
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 57
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 58
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 59
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - Emerging Technologies
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 61
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 62
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 63
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - IAQ Applications
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 65
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 66
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - Refrigeration Applications
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - Special Products
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - People
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - International Column
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 71
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - Energy Modeling
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 73
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - Products
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 75
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 76
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 77
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - 78
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - Classified Advertising
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - Advertisers Index
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - Cover3
ASHRAE Journal - April 2013 - Cover4
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