Lessons learnt from second energy crisis in a few days

The country’s second energy crisis in just a few days has served to further highlight a series of energy market problems and voids that led to misjudgments and pushed the energy system to the verge of collapse. It seems that a degree of luck helped avert such an outcome. The response by authorities to raise the energy system to Level 2 Alert just two days ahead of a natural gas shortage most probably came a little too late.

The basic lesson learnt from the crisis, one which all market players need to pay close attention to, is that the energy market’s demand-related issues have shifted in terms of time and no longer concern the summer period, as was the case in the past, but the winter. Energy demand peaks during the summer months are nowadays resolved with relative ease courtesy of contributions made to the grid by solar producers during the daytime and natural gas-fueled power stations at nighttime. Unlike the winter period, natural gas supply has never been an issue during the summer.

As things turned out, a decision by IPTO, the power grid operator, and its parent company, the main power utility PPC, to temporarily close two lignite-fired power stations for desulphurization maintenance work proved to be a bad move. The missing input to the grid of these two units was crucial. Electricity exports needed to be restricted as of yesterday afternoon, while interconnections were closed today for the energy system to regain its balance.

A second lesson learnt from the crisis is that the market, as it currently operates, does not reflect the true cost of natural gas and electricity amid adverse conditions. Energy price levels soared throughout Europe, including in neighboring Bulgaria, as a result of the extreme weather conditions, but they remained subdued here.

Contrary to certain previous criticism, the demand response mechanism offered to industrial units proved to be a pivotal tool in the effort to overcome the energy crisis, both in cases of units fueled by gas and – especially – electricity.

The demand response mechanism enables major industrial enterprises to benefit from energy cost savings in exchange for shifting energy usage to off-peak hours whenever required by the operator.

The crisis also highlighted, yet again, the lack of coordination between authorities and the Greek State. Meteorologists had warned of the bad weather coming but the Greek State was caught off guard, overall, not just for energy matters.