The most important problem that concerns governments, businesses and households in Europe in 2022 is that of the energy crisis. It is perhaps the worst crisis since 1970.

Unrealistic energy prices, risks to the adequacy of electricity production, great uncertainty about the coming winter.
In Europe, actions have already been initiated for the energy transition with the aim of facing the challenge of climate change. These policies do not yield the expected results so immediately, in the face of the urgent need for immediate energy savings, since several years are needed for their implementation and the results which they bring about.

Greece, as a direct measure of relief for households and businesses, preferred subsidized support regarding the cost of electricity.
At the same time, there were and are European programs which are "running", they can quite quickly change the national energy consumption map, upgrade the building potential and be a real incentive for citizens and businesses to participate in the much-desired reduction in energy consumption, having personal contribution with financial benefit but also acquisition of ecological consciousness.
The advantages are many and the profits also for all sides. Reduced energy costs for businesses and citizens, upgrading their assets. Dramatic reduction in primary energy consumption, huge savings (precious foreign exchange) for importing natural gas or directly importing electricity.
But how is Greece handling these programs so far, such as SAVE-AUTONOMO in its various recurring cycles?

Despite the benefits that many citizens have already managed to enjoy, until they reach the desired result, they are forced to go through the complicated stones of the bureaucratic madness of the Greek public. These programs in this difficult energy period should be the tip of the spear of an "aggressive" policy towards the desired goal by the government.
But due to the incredible bureaucratic procedures that are followed and the countless, often unnecessary supporting documents required for the final disbursements, they have become unattractive to the potential beneficiaries and discourage them from participating in subsequent rounds.

However, in order to understand the problems faced by all those involved (citizens, energy inspectors, project engineering consultants, suppliers, etc.) some characteristic problems will be mentioned which act as a discrediting and deterrent for their participation.
  • Based on the legislation (paragraph 1 of article 53 of Law 4409/2016 (Government Gazette 136/A'/28.07.2016), when an inspector issues an energy certificate, it is clearly defined that this is prohibited if: a) participated in the design, construction , supervision, maintenance, himself or a legal entity of which he is a member or partner or employee,
    b) has a right of ownership, jurisdiction or possession, himself, or his spouse or relative up to the second degree or a legal entity of which he is a member or partner or employee. These are self-evident and known to every energy inspector for any building inspection for whatever reason and not only for certificates issued within the framework of an energy program such as "SAVE MYSELF".
(fines and penalties for removing the possibility of conducting inspections are provided for in case the above are not observed, since there is a special control body for the correct observance of laws and regulations).

However, in the Greece of 2022 these are not considered enough. In the supporting documents required for the final disbursement, among others, responsible declarations are requested from the first and also the second energy inspector (who certifies the energy interventions of the upgrade), that the above grounds of incompatibility do not apply to issue the certificate.
  • Other characteristic examples of building bureaucracy, usually by responsible employees and auditors, each of whom puts his own little stone which is consolidated, are the requested declarations from the beneficiary that the property for which the subsidy will be his main residence or that he has given it away as if these are not already known through the taxis net from which the electronic platform of the program automatically draws all the data needed with electronic intersections.
  • A responsible statement is also requested from the engineer in case he issued a small-scale permit for the planned interventions, in which it should be stated that the permit was issued for the specific address of the property and concerns the works for "SAVE". (What is requested is by definition self-evident since they are already mentioned and registered in the electronic permit issuing system of the TEE while they are described in detail in the accompanying technical description.)
In this way, a mountain of bureaucracy is slowly being built which works as a complete deterrent since every now and then new unnecessary and meaningless prerequisite supporting documents are invented, resulting in a dramatic delay in the repayments of the suppliers, thus discouraging them from getting involved in an incredible suffering of months of waiting for the disbursement of the of their accruals, especially in times of tight liquidity.
  • Another huge problem that has "suddenly" and extortionately been discovered in the areas with reduced VAT such as the islands of the NE Aegean, is an arbitrary interpretation of the program body (Development Bank). Both the unit prices of materials and works in the program guide (note that this has the force of law, it is published in the government gazette) are stated to include the relevant VAT. So clearly in our region it is understood that the maximum predicted prices include the corresponding VAT of 17% for the islands.
    The decisions to be included in the program signed by the implementing body and the beneficiaries (which in essence have the force of a contract between two contracting parties), have the approved prices of the works calculated with VAT included, without any reference at all to what rate they are be determined. The beneficiaries who have signed a loan with banks, have signed the loan contracts also with the same approved budget.
    These absolutely clarified facts are misinterpreted by the organization, which completely arbitrarily claims with unsupported claims that the prices in the original guide have been calculated with 24% (WITHOUT MENTIONING THIS ANYWHERE). '
    All this arbitrariness reaches to the point of asking in letters to beneficiaries who have already completed both the upgrade operations, but also from others who have already completed the program and their contractual obligations, to pay money to the organization in retrospect for to allegedly cover the difference between the VAT rates (24% and 17%).
    Extortionate extra money is therefore demanded from the beneficiaries. In many cases also, shortly before the final disbursement, they are blackmailed into paying the arbitrary monetary difference, otherwise the whole process towards the completion of the program "freezes".
  • Another great "success" of the specific program is that the instructions for the completeness of supporting documents for the final disbursement were officially published at the beginning of June, while the program for the majority of beneficiaries had a deadline for submitting supporting documents on July 7, 2022.
  • Beneficiaries' requests for an extension to the deadline (7/7/22) for reasonable reasons (pandemic, impossibility for the timely implementation of the works, due to delays in the delivery of many materials due to the war), were never answered by the program operator. Just yesterday, on the last day, a horizontal extension of three months was given, putting a temporary end to the hostage-taking of mechanical suppliers and beneficiaries.
Unfortunately, all these truly incredible situations of bureaucracy, unreliability and suffering lead many engineers and suppliers to voluntarily "abstain" and at the same time negative advertising for these very useful and necessary programs.
The political leaders unfortunately seem to be completely uninformed and disconnected from reality about all of this. The "success" of the programs for them seems to be exhausted in the photos and in the usually pompous television announcements about the alleged success and the smooth operation of the procedures, simultaneously with the solemn citation of numerical data for the large number of interested parties and beneficiaries.
Unfortunately, it is no coincidence that letters of protest from the entire technical world (TEE) and the professional branches of the suppliers about the difficulties and malfunctions of the procedures are coming together.
Instead of such programs being the crown of energy policy with the aim of gaining energy awareness as well as real financial benefits for the national economy and citizens, they are discredited in everyone's conscience and to a large extent it seems that they are carried out to fulfill yet another energy "obligation" savings, with the main benefits for the decision-makers showing that they are only the (political) communicative ones instead of the very substantial ones.
Yannis Karavasilis

Electrical Engineer NTUA