Brussels: Lignite vital for Greek market, wider access needed

Lignite-based electricity production continues to play a vital role in Greece’s wholesale electricity market and is crucial for the country’s energy supply security, while, given the prevailing market conditions, the current level of lignite-based output remains necessary to keep the Greek wholesale market balanced and will, therefore, continue offering a comparative advantage, the European Commission has noted in a report linked to the main power utility PPC’s bailout-required sale of lignite power stations and mines representing 40 percent of the corporation’s overall lignite capacity. This report, prepared in mid-April, has just been published.

According to the latest report, PPC’s bailout-required lignite disinvestment plan is appropriate to counter competition issues that had been identified by Brussels officials in an older examination of the Greek electricity market a decade earlier. It had produced measures. The current disinvestment plan has replaced these.

PPC’s lignite units included in the sale package are highly competitive, the report pointed out.

The report also noted that market-test questionnaires sent out by the European Commission to 80 prospective investors in order to measure the sale’s level of interest – recipients included enterprises operating beyond Europe in regions such as Asia and North America – prompted 30 responses, included 15 expressions of interest.

Some of the market test’s participants stressed that the sale would be far more alluring with the addition of hydropower units to the package.

PPC plans to commission an independent evaluator, previously endorsed by Brussels, to determine the market values of the lignite assets headed for disinvestment.

The Greek wholesale and retail electricity markets continue to be affected by the same market distortions identified by the European Commission a decade earlier, the latest report reminded, noting that high concentration levels have not changed as PPC =controls and exploits the country’s entire lignite and hydropower production capacity, totaling 7,085 MW.

Independent players will need to be given greater access to these electricity generation sources if market competition is to intensify, the report noted.