Lignite-fired stations troubled by lower nighttime loads

The System Marginal Price (SMP) fell to 16 euros per MWh on Monday morning, driven down by the grid’s extremely low load, at 3,900 MW. This prompted lignite-fired power stations that were in use to operate at mimimum possible levels in terms of technical ability to keep running. As for the natural gas-fueled power stations, just one, Megalopolis 5, was needed to cover demand. The lower SMP has also been attributed to the cut in exports, ordered by the grid operator, as a result of the low loads.

Monday’s reduced SMP is not an isolated incident but comes as a result of a wider trend showing that nighttime and weekend loads on the grid have been significantly reduced. This has resulted from reduced demand of energy-intensive industrial facilities, which, in the past, kept main power utility PPC’s lignite-fired power stations running during low-demand hours, these being at nighttime and on weekends.

Latest figures showed that, last night, loads were below 4,000 MW for two hours even though the SMP had not fallen to Sunday’s level. On October 28, a national holiday in Greece, the nighttime load fell to levels of 3,863 MW and 3,872 MW for two hours, when the SMP was at 23.60 euros and 24.50 euros per MWh, respectively. On October 27, when the SMP was at 23 euros per MWh, the loads were even lower, reaching as low as 3,734 MW. During these hours, PPC’s lignite-fired power stations were operating at their mimimum possible levels in terms of technical ability to keep running.

Latest data covering the nine-month period for the electricity market showed that lignite-fired production in Greece represented just 38 percent of production, at 14,848 GWh, while the year is forecast to end with a total figure of less than 20,000 GWh. A level of 27,500 GWh had been registered in 2012.

A further decline in nighttime loads would threaten PPC’s lignite-based output. In this event, the utility will need to find solutions to keep these stations running.