Gas market, NOME, supplier surcharge bailout’s remaining energy issues

The country’s NOME auctions will not be changed so as to adjust to the main power utility PPC’s hydropower output, energy mnister Giorgos Stathakis has made clear ahead of next week’s arrival to Athens by the troika for another round of bailout negotiations.

Though the issue has already been tabled at a technical level, the Greek side has rejected throughts by Brussels technocrats to increase the role of hydropower output at the NOME auctions. They are held with the aim of opening up the retail electricity market and offering third parties access to PPC’s lower-cost lignite and hydropower sources.

On the contrary, talks between the government and lenders concerning RES sector funding, the opening up of the natural gas market and privatization of DEPA, the public gas corporation, remain unsettled.

The government will enter next week’s talks with the aim of replacing the RES-supporting supplier surcharge no sooner than 2019. No further supplier surcharge changes are planned for this year following a recent decision reducing this charge by 35 percent, according to the ministry.

The introduction of so-called green certificates in 2019, through the energy exchange, is currently being examined. Suppliers will purchase green certificates, which will constitute competitive forms of compensation for RES producers.

According to the energy minister, the RES sector is driving down wholesale electricity prices and, therefore, this effort needs to be paid for by suppliers.

The energy ministry has ruled out any chance of a RES-supporting ETMEAR surcharge increase on consumer bills.

As for the natural gas market, DEPA and Shell have reached an agreement on the former’s acquisition of a 49 percent stake held by Shell in their EPA Attiki supply venture covering the wider Athens market. DEPA already holds a 51 percent stake.

Also, Italy’s Eni, currently holding a 49 percent stake in EPA Thessaloniki-Thessaly, will gain full control of this supply venture following a deal with DEPA, until now the majority partner with a 51 percent stake.

An agreement between the government and lenders on DEPA’s privatization is pending but may now proceed following the aforementioned developments. The energy ministry has prepared a proposal entailing the formation of a holding company, part of which will be eligible for a bourse listing.

According to the plan, the holding company will include three subsidiaries, one responsible for the DEPA networks, a second for commercial affairs, and a third for international natural gas projects. A strategic investor will be able to enter the subsidiaries, especially the one controlling commercial matters.

It is unclear what amount this model could inject into the country’s privatization coffer. The higher-than-expected sale price achieved just weeks ago for a 66 percent stake of DESFA, the natural gas grid operator, which fetched 535 million euros, well over a budgeted amount of 400 million euros, has provided the energy ministry with more negotiating space concerning its DEPA sale plan. TAIPED, the state privatization fund, expects 250 million euros from this sale.