PPC facing crucial hearing on lignite, wholesale dominance

A crucial European Court hearing concerning main power utility PPC’s challenge of a European Commission decision on the utility’s abuse of dominance in the lignite supply and wholesale electricity markets is scheduled for this coming Tuesday.

The outcome of this case, which had been unofficially suspended for as long as an agreement between Greece and the country’s creditor representatives on a part-privatization solution for PPC – locally dubbed “Little PPC” – was considered valid, will be pivotal for the utilty’s future course.

However, the legal case was reactivated after the Greek government decided to withdraw the part-privatization plan for PPC, entailing the sale of a 30 percent stake, in exchange for surrendering 50 percent of the utility’s virtually monopolistic market share.

The Greek government and the country’s lenders are currently negotiating specific terms intended to carve away 50 percent of PPC’s market share. Next Tuesday’s verdict is expected to set a new framework for these negotiations. The government’s delays in reaching agreements with lenders could ultimately prove detrimental.

Current indications virtually rule out a repeat of a favorable verdict handed to PPC in 2012, when the European Court had nullified preceding rulings, delivered in 2008 and 2009, against the utility.

Most recently, PPC has sought to create a new business environment concerning the lignite sources it controls. The utility’s chief has begun talking about possible collaborations with private-sector investors for the operation and construction of new lignite-based power stations and revamps of older ones that are on the verge of being withdrawn.

Investors appear reserved about the prospect and would most probably express interest only if hydropower plants operated by the utility are also added to the package.

Otherwise, PPC faces the danger of being forced to implement irreversible rulings leading to the end of its dominant position in the lignite and wholesale electricity markets.