PPC lignite reserves, stations ready for winter, official assures

Lignite reserves are sufficient to meet elevated demand this winter, while the country’s lignite-fired power stations, hydropower facilities and lignite mines are all set to operate, Dimitris Metikanis, general manager of power utility PPC’s lignite production division has noted in Parliament, in response to questions over energy sufficiency and the energy crisis.

PPC has done all that is possible to prepare the country’s lignite and hydropower units for possible energy demand increases during the winter, the PPC official noted.

Maintenance levels for the country’s lignite facilities have been relaxed in recent times as these units are headed for withdrawal by 2023, as part of Greece’s decarbonization effort. However, the energy crisis may require the lignite units to be brought back into play this winter.

Adequate lignite sources are expected to prevent a reliance on electricity exports, while PPC’s lignite-fired power station Agios Dimitrios V is expected to return by the end of the year after being sidelined for desulfurization work, the official informed.

Daily electricity demand in Greece is projected to reach between 180 and 190 GWh during colder weather conditions from December to February, according to power grid operator IPTO projections.

Such demand levels will require contributions from all available lignite-fired power stations, seven in total – Agios Dimitrios I, II, III, IV and V, Melitis and Megalopoli IV – offering a total capacity of 1,800 MW.


PPC’s second voluntary exit plan this year achieves 85% success rate

Power utility PPC’s second voluntary exit program offered to employees this year has achieved a success rate of 85 percent, convincing 465 staff members to sign up, from a target group of 550.

Applicants needed to meet two prerequisites for this latest PPC exit program. Firstly, applicants must be on the way to turning at least 55 years of age by December 31, 2020. Secondly, they needed to have already qualified for pension rights before applying for the exit plan.

Without the pension right criterion, the program would have applied to a far broader group of as many as 1,700 employees at PPC units around the country.

PPC is believed to be satisfied with the course of its voluntary exit plan this year. The tally of voluntary exits this year is seen reaching 1,200, over an initial estimate of 1,000.

Employees who sign up for the program each receive compensation packages totaling 35,000 euros.

The power utility is expected to keep downsizing. According to last year’s business plan, PPC is aiming for a workforce reduction of 4,500 employees by 2023.

PPC, turning to green energy, has scheduled to shut down its Kardia III and IV and Megalopoli III lignite-fired power stations in 2021, followed by Agios Dimitrios I and II in 2022. Megalopoli III could be withdrawn sooner than planned, the company recently announced.

PPC’s Agios Dimitrios I, II, III, IV phase-out starting July 1

Power utility PPC’s four Agios Dimitrios power station units in Kozani, northern Greece will be phased out as of July 1 and should cease operating, completely, well before 2022, when the facilities are officially scheduled to shut down as part of Greece’s decarbonization effort.

At this stage, it appears that Agios Dimitrios I, II, III and IV will only be available in winter to cover telethermal needs. These units will not be used for electricity generation, according to PPC’s new business plan, meaning they will be withdrawn sooner than had been expected.

Contrary to the four Agios Dimitrios units, an emission-limiting desulphurization investment now being completed at Agios Dimitrios V is expected to prolong the life of this unit as the effort’s results should meet EU emission limits.

PPC, responding to an EU directive from 2010 asking producers to inform, by 2013, on how they intended to transform high-polluting facilities, had performed a dry desulphurization process on Agios Dimitrios I, II, III and IV ahead of a June 30, 2020 deadline, but this technique failed to produce the desired results.

PPC’s Amynteo unit set to shut down, temporary closure for Kardia

Power utility PPC’s Amynteo and Kardia lignite-fired power stations in Greece’s north are both planned to cease operating at the end of this month, but the Kardia unit is scheduled to restart in October to cover the area’s telethermal needs, running between October and May.

Despite its closure, the Amynteo unit will be placed on stand-by – along with power grid operator IPTO – for possible electricity contributions between June 20 and August 20, when electricity demand peaks in Greece as a result of the tourism season. This, however, is seen as a highly unlikely prospect this summer given the severe impact of the coronavirus pandemic on electricity demand and the tourism industry.

A joint ministerial decision that had been tabled by former energy minister Giorgos Stathakis offered both the Amynteo and Kardia facilities 32,000-hour operating extensions, meaning they are entitled to operate until May, 2021.

However, state-controlled PPC, taking into consideration the current government’s ambitious decarbonization plan, has opted to withdraw Amynteo on April 30, it has informed RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, and IPTO. The government is aiming for a withdrawal of all existing lignite-fired units by 2023.

PPC and union group Genop are currently engaged in talks concerning the futures of the 400 or so workers employed at the power utility’s Amynteo facility. Some 250 are stationed at the power station and 150 work the mines.

Some of these workers could be transferred to PPC’s Kardia and Agios Dimitrios units, while others will head for retirement, according to one proposal, energypress has been informed.

Voluntary exit programs will also be offered, especially for Amynteo staff.

The Kardia facility workers could be transferred to the Agios Dimitrios facility between the end of this month and the new thermal season, in October, when they are expected to return to the unit.


Grid proving resilient amid growing winter season pressure

The country’s grid has so far managed to cope with the gradual decline in temperatures around the country and subsequent rise in electricity demand, the lack of major pressure on wholesale prices has indicated.

Over the past week, wholesale electricity prices have ranged between 40 and 63 euros per MWh with demand levels reaching 7,000 to 7,900 MW, data concerning the day-ahead market, the main arena for trading power, has shown.

The additional contribution to the grid that has resulted from the return of one of two main power utility PPC units at the Agios Dimitrios power station, which were temporarily sidelined for revamp work, has proven crucial to the price stability achieved.

At present Agios Dimitrios 1, III, IV and V are operating but Agios Dimitrios II, one of the facility’s two units that had been withdrawn for the revamp, remains sidelined.

Also, PPC’s two Amynteo and two Kardia units are feeding the grid for many hours per day.

Just days ago, PPC’s chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis, speaking at the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce’s annual “Greek Economy Conference”, warned that the grid’s current need for heightened contributions from the Amynteo and Kardia lignite-fired units is burning up their remaining lifespan hours, which increases the urgency of a request submitted by the utility to the European Commission for lifespan extension of both. Otherwise, the grid will face serious equilibrium issues within the next few years, the PPC boss stressed.

As for the independent electricity producers, all but one of their units are fully available at present. A Heron unit contributed for just one day over the past week. Hydropower production has been greater on certain days, but has used up existing water reserves. RES production has produced at its usual mild rate. Electricity imports have also been subdued.

J&P-Avax awarded desulfurization contract for PPC’s Agios Dimitrios unit

The main power utility PPC has awarded the J&P-Avax construction group a contract for the procurement and installation of an emission desulfurization system at Unit V, the most recent addition of the utility’s lignite-fired facility in Agios Dimitrios, close to Kozani in northern Greece.

The contract for the desulfurization project at Unit V is worth 68 million euros. It still needs to be endorsed by a parliamentary committee before being finalized.

J&P-Avax plans to collaborate with Sirius Engineers Ltd, a project management, engineering and consulting company specializing in power station cleaning technologies, as well as Steuler KCH GmbH, for this particular project. Sirius Engineers Ltd will focus on the desulfurization project’s design and Steuler KCH on its absorption tower.

PPC’s tender for its Agios Dimitrios project developed into a long-running ordeal. The tender was launched in 2012 but ended up being cancelled while bids were being assessed as a result of wider project rescheduling at the utility.

A follow-up tender was then announced early in 2015. It drew five bids, made by Terna, J&P-Avax, Metka, Toxotis and an Intrakat-Ergotem joint venture.

Toxotis was eventually eliminated because a sub-contractor, CPI Yuanda Environmental Protection Engineering Co. Ltd – a subsidiary of Chinese giant SPIC – which would have designed the project, did not meet certain criteria. An appeal filed by Toxotis in May, 2016, was rejected. This contributed to a delay in the date set for the opening of bids.

SPIC’s elimination from the second tender did not dishearten another Chinese giant, CMEC – currently involved in talks with PPC for the construction and operation of the utility’s prospective Meliti II unit, also in northern Greece – from expressing an interest in the Agios Dimitrios Unit V desulfurization project. CMEC had proposed fully funding the project and being paid for its services over a period exceeding ten years. However, bringing CMEC into the picture would have required cancelling and relaunching the tender. Major delays would have ensued.