Brussels hears out Greek plan for electricity market reforms

The recently elected conservative New Democracy government’s plan for energy market reforms, especially in the electricity sector, has been closely listened to by leading European Commission officials over two days of talks in Brussels, generating cautious optimism for acceptance amid the government’s ranks.

Deputy energy minister Gerassimos Thomas spearheaded a Greek team to present the government’s proposals that include the termination of NOME auctions; withdrawal of lignite-fired power stations; reinforcement of the RES sector; and restructuring at power utility PPC.

The plan was presented to various Brussels officials, including the European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Canete; the Director-General of the Directorate for Energy Ditte Juul Jørgensen; as well as to the office of new European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

The main aim of the Greek officials was to underline PPC’s poor financial standing as a systemic threat, stress the need for further electricity market reforms, and highlight the government’s commitment over these matters.

The Greek proposals did not prompt any negative reaction, at least for the time being. On the contrary, they could represent the beginning of a positive course as the proposed measures are in line with EU policies on lignite unit withdrawals, emphasis on renewable energy and other matters.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis may have set the tone by presenting a green agenda during recent talks with key European officials.

European Commission technocrats will soon be in Athens for negotiations concerning the Greek economy’s post-bailout monitoring. These talks could stretch beyond October given the recent change of guard at the European Commission.

Energy ministry officials believe negotiations concerning the government plan to abolish Greece’s NOME auctions will have been completed prior to October 16, when the year’s final session is scheduled to take place, and therefore enable energy minister Costis Hatzidakis to scrap this particular session and the auctions in general, as the minister has declared he intends to do.

The NOME auctions, introduced by the previous Syriza government, are seen as a loss-incurring measure for PPC, obligated to offer below-cost wholesale electricity to independent suppliers since 2015.