The majority stakes held by DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, in Greece’s EPA retail suppliers covering the wider Athens area, Thessaloniki and Thessaly are the cause of serious conflicting interests, the lenders have highlighted in the bailout’s third review, while also declaring the upcoming privatization of the gas utility’s 66 percent as a top energy-sector priority.
The revised bailout’s terms note that the local natural gas market’s liberalization is now in effect, enabling consumers to freely choose suppliers as of January 1.
The DEPA auctions offering gas amounts to wholesalers are offering improved competition conditions but conflicting interest issues exist as a result of the utility’s role in the EPA retail suppliers, according to the revised bailout agreement.
Natural gas market bailout prior actions, linked to a road map established for the sector, include the full harmonization of the country’s gas market with European network regulations, especially with regards to issues such as the demand response mechanism (interruptability) and capacity mechanisms.
The prior actions listed also require the implementation of all necessary measures and actions so as to lift obstacles and enable full competition in the wholesale and retail markets, management of interconnections, further diversification of supply sources, distribution network expansions, as well as the establishment of a balancing platform and energy exchange for natural gas.
Any changes or solutions reached for the EPA supply companies will be linked to DEPA’s privatization, a process that must secure the protection of consumers by avoiding the creation of a private-sector monopoly or oligopoly, the revised bailout terms stress.
The privatization of DESFA, the natural gas grid operator, needs to be concluded by June, 2018, following the submission of binding offers by the slightly extended deadline of February 16, the revised bailout terms note, adding it is extremely important that these dates are honored following four years of market uncertainty.
As for other energy sector reforms, the bailout notes that power grid operator IPTO ownership changes have been completed, the target model, aiming to harmonize the electricity wholesale market with EU standards, is in progress and expected to be completed in August, 2018, and the RES special account deficit has been wiped out, while a new RES support system has been legislated and is set to be launched with RES auctions beginning in April.