Forgotten hydropower plants included in Russia dealings

Production Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis has planned to be in Russia two days ahead of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF – 2015), scheduled for June 18, to prepare the ground for a forthcoming visit by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, energy matters being at the core of the agenda for both visiting officials.

Greek government officials will strive to have completed procedures for the signing of a joint declaration offering no less than political support to Greek Stream, the local segment of Turkish Stream, Russia’s latest pipeline proposal for gas supply to Europe from the south, via the Greek-Turkish border area.

The possibility of an advance payment by Russia of between three billion and five billion euros, a prospect that had emerged last April, following an official visit by Tsipras to Moscow, has since waned. However, Russia’s Gazprom appears prepared to finance Greek Stream in exchange for future earnings to be generated by the project – if a consortium is established for the pipeline’s construction and operation. An amendment has already been submitted to Greek Parliament for the consortium’s establishment.

On a less favorable note, Russia has once again raised the issue of a 250 million-euro sum owed by Greece to Russian companies for preliminary work on two hydropower station projects at Sykia and Pefkofyto along the Acheloos River in western Greece. The projects were not developed. Russian officials have proposed that the sum be offset in future dealings. Russia would also settle for the companies taking on another project, or projects, of equal worth.

A Russian consortium with Prometheus Gas – a 50-50 Greek-Russian venture operated by the Copelouzos Group and Gazprom – as a key component, had been awarded the two hydropower projects, for a 2X60 MW facility in Sykia and a 2X80 facility in Pefkofyto, as part of a wider deal concerning Russian gas supply to Greece.

The Copelouzos Group is the corporate representative for Russian companies operating in Greece. Its chairman and managing director, Dimitris Copelouzos, will be a key speaker at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Returning to Greek Stream, the project’s prospects have been bolstered by Greece’s initiative to propose a route headed west, through the Adriatic Sea, to utilize a previous IGI interconnection plan linking Greece and Italy. The plan has been backed by the Italian companies ENI and Edison, including the latter’s parent company, France’s EDF. The EU and US  have not embraced the Turkish Stream plan, but the recent support being expressed by Italy and France may help soften their stance.