Clean Mountain Air and Keeping the Lights On

by Griffin Merians

Mountains are home to some of the most pristine and beautiful places on our planet but life often isn’t easy for the people that call them home, particularly when it comes to having enough energy to keep the lights on. Research published by Nicholas Katsoulakos and Dimitris Kaliampakos in the 91st issue of Energy Policy finds policies that encourage decentralized energy systems and renewable energy may be the key to addressing energy poverty and reducing costs for mountainous regions. The research conducted in the mountainous regions of Greece sought to identify the most viable energy solutions with consideration for key factors including altitude, remoteness, spatial and aesthetic restrictions, energy poverty alleviation, and employment invigoration. The analysis found that at high altitudes (above 800 meters), 8 out of 10 families experienced energy poverty in that they spend over 10% of their annual income on energy costs. The study sought to find the optimum energy mix or optimum balance of different methods of energy production to help alleviate energy poverty in these high altitude regions. 

For settlements located at 1000 meters that are more than 90 km from established electrical networks, it was found that the best option was to construct decentralized power systems that use renewable energy and local distribution networks, rather than build the infrastructure required to connect these settlements to the existing power grid. Constructing these decentralized electrical networks is initially expensive, but results in significant energy savings, job creation, preservation of natural beauty, and a net positive effect on reducing energy poverty in high altitude regions. Furthermore, these benefits increase as the settlements increase in altitude or remoteness.

Despite the study’s promising findings with regard to energy poverty alleviation and increased renewable energy implementation, the study emphasized the vital nature of progressive government policies. The right mix of tax incentives, government subsidies, etc. are essential to help these settlements overcome the initial cost barriers to implementing decentralized energy systems. The research conducted in Greece may have larger implications and be useful in conducting research in other remote mountainous regions worldwide and help others living in the mountains preserve their beauty and improve their quality of life.


Katsoulakos, N., Kaliampakos, D., 2015. Mountainous areas and decentralized energy planning: Insights from Greece. Energy Policy 91 (2016) 174–188.


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