Greek officials looking for alternative gas market options

Greek government officials will seek to table an alternative proposal to the country’s creditor representatives for a comprehensive plan that could fully liberalize Greece’s natural gas market with openings for new suppliers. Talks aiming to settle pending energy-sector prior actions required by the bailout agreement will continue today.

The country’s lenders are pushing for a Greek commitment to a substantial increase of gas amounts auctioned off by DEPA, Public Gas Corporation, for suppliers, the objective being to break regional monopolies maintained by the corporation’s EPA gas supply subsidiaries. Although not formally stated, the creditors want a doubling of the gas release.

Greece’s energy ministry has argued that a major increase in the gas offered by DEPA through its auctions would inevitably devastate the corporation, controlled by the Greek State with a 65 percent stake. This concern has prompted a search for alternative paths towards the Greek gas market’s full liberalization.

Greek officials contend that gas release arrangements elsewhere in Europe do not demand that gas amounts offered by utilities to wholesalers and suppliers, through auctions, exceed 10 percent of overall supply. Denmark is the exception, while the figures in other European countries range between 5 and 7 percent. Greece’s lenders have called for a 20 percent figure.

DEPA’s destabilization would cause wider problems of geopolitical dimension in Greece’s energy plans. DEPA is participating in major infrastructure projects such as the IGB Greek-Bulgarian Interconector, a key part of the EU’s energy security policy, to be achieved through greater diversification.

The Greek government is expected to table its alternative gas market liberalization proposal during today’s talks. Alternatives could involve the establishment of new markets, including spot markets, as well as a percentage reduction of the industrial sector’s involvement in the gas auctions and greater participation rights for suppliers.

This latter option would certainly spark strong protest from the industrial sector.