PPC lignite monopoly unlawful, EU competition head notes

Commission Vice President Joaquin Almunia, in charge of European Union competition policy, has pointed the finger at PPC, the Public Power Corporation, noting that the Greek company’s exclusive access to the country’s lignite-fired electricity stations breached competition rules.

The competition policy head, who was speaking at European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, was responding to a comment from Greek European Parliament member Giorgos Kyrtsos – affiliated with the European People’s Party (EPP) – who, citing a general rise of prices in the market, pondered whether Europe was being held hostage by oligopolies and monopolies. He did not name PPC.

Almunia’s focused response, aimed directly at PPC, comes just days before the end of public consultation procedures organized by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, on NOME-type auctions. These will, for the first time, offer independent private-sector suppliers access to electricity produced at lignite-fired stations and hydropower plants, in an effort to open up Greece’s electricity market.

New players were currently absent from the market because investment opportunities did not exist, Almunia noted, adding that an economic recovery and heightened competition would open up the market.

Besides PPC, the EU competition policy chief went a step further, naming RAE, which, he said, needed to perform its task properly. Almunia noted that regulatory authorities in Europe played a vital monitoring role in national markets.

Almunia concluded his remarks on the Greek market by noting that a “very important legal decision for Greece was recently made with regards to lignite and electricity, which judged that exclusive access rights for one company is not compatible with competition rules.”