New utility for grounded ‘Turkish Stream’ is unnecessary

A parliamentary committee responsible for public utilities is preparing to appoint the administration of DEPENE, a new public utility established by the government’s ex-energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis in order to represent the Greek state in investments concerning construction and management of natural gas pipelines, other infrastructure, as well as participation in companies active in related fields.

Turkish Stream, Russia’s most recent natural gas pipeline proposal planned to run westward from the Greek-Turkish border area and across Greece, whose prospects are currently grounded, was a key factor behind the new public utility’s establishment. The formation of the utility now appears unnecessary.

At the time of DEPENE’s establishment, Lafazanis – the former energy minister who ended up quitting Syriza last summer to form his own anti-eurozone party, Popular Unity, which has not made Parliament – had declared the Russian gas pipeline would generate two billion euros of revenues for the Greek state and 20,000 new jobs.

Although such prospects appear to have all but vanished, his successor, energy minister Panos Skourletis, is determined to press on with the new utility, presumably so that the Greek state will be prepared should the Turkish Stream plan be revived.

Besides its possible role in Turkish Stream, DEPENE is soon expected to also acquire a wider role in Greece’s hydrocarbon interests, making it the second company to be established for this purpose following EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, the difference between the two being that DEPENE will be able to participate as a shareholder in research and production investments for oil and gas.

It remains questionable how capable the Greek state is to take part in high-risk ventures amid the adverse market conditions and subdued hydrocarbon research and production activity, worldwide, as a result of fallen crude prices. Also, exploration and exploitation tenders that have either been completed or are in progress cannot be revised to create a role for DEPENE.

The parliamentary committee responsible for public utilities is scheduled to convene on January 8 to consider the proposals forwarded by Skourletis, the energy minister, for the administrative posts at DEPENE, to be run by a seven-member board.

Antonis Georgopoulos has been proposed for the chairman’s post, Eleni Zafiropoulou as his deputy, and Argyrios Argyriou as managing director.