Nikolaos Komineas is one of the driving forces behind the carbon-neutral transformation of transportation and energy supply on the Greek island of Astypalea. In an interview, the mayor outlines his motivation and gives an insight into the details of the conversion.
Like so many people, Komineas first discovered Astypalea as a visitor and reached a point, at which he never wanted to leave. As a student of architecture and sociology, he came to the island from Athens for the first time in 1979 and promptly made friends, with whom he agreed on a rendezvous: the group meets at Maltezana Beach in the middle of the island each year on 15 August. At the Sorbonne in Paris, Komineas began a thesis on the influence of the environment on the human psyche. He returned to Astypalea to carry out some of his research. “I did not complete the thesis, as the result was clear: life on Astypalea is far more human than in the big city,” the 65-year-old explains. In 1983, he decided to move to the island, where he worked as an architect. Since 2019, he has worn the mayoral chain. We met up with Komineas, who many people know as “Nikos” or “Mayor”, depending on the situation, near his office. Mr Komineas, how did the idea of a carbon-neutral island develop into the “Astypalea project”? It has been a complex process for us. Our small council only has a few employees who are able to oversee a project of this complexity. For me personally, the journey started just over a year ago. Back then, I happened to be at the Ministry of Transport in Athens and told them that I would like to establish a public transport system with electric buses on the island. At the same time, the Greek foreign office, which is also responsible for business development matters, was in touch with the Volkswagen Group and Herbert Diess. Both parties were considering doing something with e-mobility in the Greek islands. Apparently I was in Athens at the right time.