Russia seeking mine interests in place of hydropower plans

Russian officials have requested to operate the Vevi lignite mine close to Florina, northern Greece, as an alternative that would offset a stalled plan for the construction of two hydropower stations by Russian companies in Sykia and Pefkofyto, alongside the Achelous River in the northwest.

The alternative plan, forwarded to energy minister Panos Skourletis during his visit to Moscow yesterday, was made by the Russian officials as a result of legal complexities concerning the Sykia and Pefkofyto hydropower stations, now awaiting verdicts by the Council of State, Greece’s supreme administrative court.

Construction of the two hydropower stations by Russian companies had been incorporated into a Greek natural gas supply deal with Gazprom.

Russian companies have already expressed an interest to participate in the development of energy projects in Greece, especially in the field of electricity production. Prior to the Greek energy minister’s visit to Moscow, Russian authorities had revealed an interest to construct new power stations and revamp existing units.

Skourletis, during yesterday’s visit to Moscow, held discussions with his Russian peer Alexander Novak as well as officials from Gazprom and VEB Capital, a subsidiary of Russia’s Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs.

The agenda also included talks on Russia’s latest natural gas pipeline project for Europe’s southeast – being referred to as both “Turkish Stream and “Greek Stream”, depending on its segment – which was stalled following the recent downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkish forces.

Although bilateral relations between Russia and Tukey have been severely soured by the incident, the pipeline project, envisioned to pass through Turkey and northern Greece before crossing the Adriatic Sea to Italy, has not been cancelled, Greece’s energy minister announced following yesterday’s meeting with Novak.

“The plan’s strategic importance remains. Of course, the recent events between Russia and Turkey are a real obstacle, but the basic idea behind the pipeline must remain, and an approach, given the difficulties in Russian-Turkish ties, needs to be found,” Skourletis remarked. “I believe that the Russian and Greek side shares a common approach on this issue,” he added.

Novak told reporters that the two officials discussed the prospect of a Russian discount for natural gas supply to Greece. “We possess agreements that are valid until 2026. We are now discussing conditions and price levels,” Novak announced.

According to sources, Skourletis, as his agenda’s top priority, asked for Russia to soften its stance on a take-or-pay deal with Greece, activated as a result of a lower-than-expected absorption of Russian gas by Greece’s DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation. If upheld, Greece will need to pay for gas amounts not absorbed, which would affect the cost of natural gas in the Greek market. Natural gas demand has weakened in Greece as a result of the ongoing recession.