PPC, decarbonizing, to hire consultant for worker exits

Power utility PPC has decided to soon hire a consultant to help shape a voluntary exit plan for employees working in the corporation’s lignite sector, set to gradually wind down as a result of the country’s decarbonization policy.

The consultant’s efforts will focus on the structure of the voluntary exit plan, its incentives, timing and extent within PPC’s workforce, not including employees eligible for retirement and workers to be transferred to other company units.

PPC plans to appoint a consultant in the immediate future with the objective of announcing the full details of its voluntary exit plan towards the end of this year.

PPC’s voluntary exit plan is intended to stretch over a number of years as a gradual process aligned with the decarbonization effort.

Severance payments, according to a company announcement made several months ago, currently total 22,000 euros per employee.

PPC’s objective is to reduce its workforce to 11,500 by 2024 from 15,300 at the end of 2019, according the company’s new business plan.

The Amynteo lignite-fired power station in Greece’s north is at the top of PPC’s withdrawal list, but it now remains unclear when this exit can take place.

Amynteo was originally scheduled to be withdrawn by April 30, tomorrow, but this exit may be postponed until next year. The completion, by local authorities, of regional projects securing telethermal services is a key factor. PPC is currently awaiting an update on these projects.

 

 

DESFA 10-year plan approved, virtual pipelines not included

Gas grid operator DESFA’s ten-year development plan has been approved by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, following a lengthy procedure, including consultation, that lasted several months.

A virtual pipeline proposal envisioning LNG supply to Crete, the north Aegean islands and the Dodecanese via tankers from the operator’s Revythoussa terminal just off Athens was left out of the approved plan. This is the ten-year plan’s only notable change compared to the draft forwarded for consultation.

LNG virtual pipelines serve as a substitute for conventional gas pipelines to enable the transport of LNG to points of use by sea, road or a combination of these.

The virtual pipeline proposal was removed from the DESFA ten-year plan following concerns expressed by consultation participants over higher surcharge costs for consumers that could have been imposed as part of the project’s cost recovery procedure.

The gas grid operator’s ten-year plan includes, for the first time, a natural gas outlet along the TAP route for the west Macedonia region in Greece’s north.

This TAP outlet, a project budgeted at 3 million euros and expected to be launched late in 2022, is intended to supply natural gas to the area’s provincial cities of Kozani, Ptolemaida, Florina and Amynteo for use at telethermal facilities as well as other energy needs in the post-lignite era.

The area’s telethermal system currently relies on energy produced by power utility PPC’s lignite-fired power stations, soon set for withdrawal as part of the country’s decarbonization effort.

 

PPC boss: Oil cost benefits outweigh pandemic’s damage

Benefits offered by the sharp drop in oil prices promise to outweigh the negative impact of pandemic-related tariff discounts offered to customers and lower revenues, power utility PPC’s chief executive Giorgos Stassis highlighted to analysts and investors during a two-hour virtual conference held yesterday.

Company financial figures for 2020 and the first half of 2021 have needed to be revised but the coronavirus lockdown measures imposed until now do not appear to have negatively impacted the corporate group, the CEO informed.

On the contrary, operating profit has risen as a result of a significant reduction of energy costs, Stassis explained, noting this gain is greater than reduced turnover figures prompted by lower energy consumption during the pandemic as well as the consequences of electricity bill payment delays by customers.

PPC’s energy expenses rose by 425 million euros in 2019, according to yesterday’s presentation.

The state-controlled corporation’s decarbonization schedule, or withdrawal of lignite facilities, will not be postponed by the pandemic, Stassis noted, responding to related questions.

PPC plans to soon withdraw its Amynteo facility from the grid, while the corporation’s lignite-based electricity generation has been significantly reduced, according to recent company announcements.

Lignite-based production at PPC has dropped by 65 percent compared to last year, according to a monthly report released by the Greek energy exchange in March.

PPC’s lignite facilities financially burden the corporation by 200 to 300 million euros per year, analysts were told yesterday.

The power utility’s retail electricity market share is expected to keep falling in 2020 but an attempt will be made to limit this slide through a new commercial policy, Stassis told analysts.

The company’s renewable energy portfolio will grow to 650 MW from a current capacity of 160 MW over the next three years, he noted.

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.

 

Brussels links lignite withdrawal plan with cost recovery bid

European Commission energy authorities have linked the progress of the Greek government’s lignite withdrawal program with a possible approval of a lignite-related cost recovery mechanism sought by state-controlled power utility PPC, controlling the country’s lignite sector.

If Brussels authorities remain dissatisfied with the progress of Greece’s lignite withdrawal plan they will refuse to discuss any implementation of a cost recovery mechanism.

Also, the European Commission is expecting a solution for an end to PPC’s lignite monopoly if it is to endorse a lignite cost recovery mechanism.

Greek officials plan to soon stage a new round of related talks in Brussels.

For the time being, Brussels remains suspicious as to whether the Greek government will be able to pull off its lignite withdrawal schedule and shut down units on time.

The government has announced a plan to withdraw all existing PPC lignite units by 2023.

Brussels would consider the closure of PPC’s Amynteo units this year, as is scheduled, a constructive first step.

PPC’s interest in cost-recovery support for its lignite units, loss-incurring facilities still needed to cover the country’s energy requirements, was first publically discussed by the utility’s chief executive Giorgos Stassis in December, during a presentation of the company’s business plan. Other countries benefit from such support, he noted, without elaborating.

PPC aiming for €650m EBITDA in 2020, seen as a pivotal year

Power utility PPC’s administration is aiming for a return to profitability in 2020, the objective, numerically, being to generate an EBITDA figure of between 650 and 700 million euros.

The company’s chief executive Giorgos Stassis presented PPC’s goals and challenges during a presentation, late in 2019, of a business and strategic plan for 2020, seen as a landmark year by the corporation’s leadership.

Within the next few days, PPC is expected to receive a 200 million-euro amount stemming from arrears linked to public service compensation in previous years. This amount, alone, promises to offer a considerable boost to PPC’s cash flow and operating profit.

Within the first quarter, PPC plans to stage a forum for investors and analysts during which the company business plan, objectives until 2024, as well as a restructuring plan will be presented in detail.

The PPC board may decide to proceed with an international bond issue during this period, once market conditions and reactions have been appraised. However, Stassis, the CEO, has clarified there is no great need to take such action fill any financial gap.

PPC is expected to securitize unpaid receivables worth 1.5 billion euros during the first quarter of 2020.

The company also intends to reshape its profile as perceived by customers. New products combining electricity and natural gas, as well as products reflecting household and business needs, will soon be marketed, possibly within the first two months of the year, sources informed.

The company’s transformation for a green-energy focus is one of PPC’s biggest challenges. As part of this effort, a series of partnerships with private-sector firms entailing joint RES investments are expected to be announced. Talks with ten investors have already taken place, the PPC boss noted during his presentation of the business plan.

PPC’s signing of a memorandum of cooperation with Masdar Taaleri Generation (MTG) for the development of wind and solar energy projects is expected to be followed by more initiatives.

Also, PPC will launch its decarbonization plan in 2020 with the withdrawal of its Amynteo I and II lignite-fired power stations.

The state-controlled power utility is also expected to announce details concerning the sale of a 49 percent stake in distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, a subsidiary firm. This privatization is seen generating major investment interest. Digitization of the country’s networks and installation of smart meters have fallen well behind schedule.

 

Gas supply for post-lignite west Macedonia added to grid plan

A natural gas outlet – stemming from the TAP project – for supply to Greece’s west Macedonian region intended to help cover the region’s energy needs in the post-lignite era is one of the few new features added to a gas grid operator DESFA ten-year development plan covering 2020 to 2029, slightly revised compared to its previous version.

The aim is to supply natural gas through pipelines to the region’s provincial cities of Kozani, Ptolemaida, Florina and Amynteo for use at telethermal facilities, currently operating through heat produced at power utility PPC’s lignite-fired power stations.

These PPC units, however, will soon be withdrawn as part of the government’s plan for a decarbonized Greece by 2028, incorporated into a new National Energy and Climate Plan.

The national gas grid’s 10-year development plan, prepared by DESFA, is undergoing public consultation for the second time since August for feedback on its minor changes, including the gas supply plan for west Macedonia.

The first round of public consultation was staged by DESFA while the second round is being held by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

A total of 49 projects budgeted at over 2.5 billion euros, overall, are included in the ten-year plan. Responses to the latest public consultation procedure face a January 10 deadline.

PPC working on withdrawal plan for lignite power stations

Power utility PPC’s newly appointed administration is preparing to commission a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) to determine the order of lignite-fired power station withdrawals, as well as a follow-up plan for workers stationed at these facilities and related telethermal issues.

The withdrawal of old lignite-fired power stations represents a key part of the wider restructuring plan at PPC, under financial pressure and in need of a reshape.

The CBA is part of a new business plan being prepared by PPC for presentation around the end of the year.

Polluting levels of lignite-fired power stations will be a key factor in the order of withdrawals. State-controlled PPC’s Amynteo and Kardia units, operating virtually illegally following dubious extensions granted by the previous government’s energy ministry, are expected to be placed at the top of the withdrawal list.

The withdrawal of lignite units promises to represent a key bargaining tool in the energy ministry’s forthcoming negotiations in Athens with European Commission officials on electricity market reforms and the market position of PPC, still the dominant retail player on the strength of distorted terms not taking into account actual market conditions. These talks are expected to commence September 16.

The closure of older power stations could represent a last chance for PPC to keep alive its hopes of developing Ptolemaida V, a lignite-fired power station investment budgeted at 1.4 billion euros.

Talks between Greek officials and the European Commission aimed at boosting the country’s impetus towards a post-lignite era are already underway, sources informed.

 

Ministry talks with Brussels on lignite unit closures underway

Negotiations aiming to accelerate Greece’s transition towards a post-lignite era, through the closure of old power stations, appear to have begun between the energy ministry’s leadership and the European Commission.

Measures requiring the withdrawal of old power stations as a solution for breaking power utility PPC’s dominant market position are also expected to be discussed and implemented.

A plan by the previous Greek government to sell PPC’s Meliti and Megalopoli power stations proved futile, prompting the new administration’s energy minister Costis Hatzidakis to talk of costly units negatively impacting the utility’s financial results.

European Commission officials, due to visit Athens for talks on September 16, have included on their agenda the need to discuss PPC’s disinvestment schedule.

The withdrawal of older PPC units could represent the last chance to keep alive the utility’s plan to develop Ptolemaida V, a prospective lignited-fired power station budgeted at 1.4 billion euros, sources noted.

Rising CO2 emission right costs will soon make many PPC units unsustainable, sources told energypress.

Besides Amynteo and Kardia, the withdrawal plan is expected to also include other units. Details will be discussed at the upcoming talks between Athens and Brussels officials.

In moving to withdraw lignite-fired units, the energy ministry will also aim for the cancellation of legal action taken against Greece at the European Court for PPC’s lignite monopoly. The lignite unit closures would restrict the utility’s dominance in production and, by extension, supply of this energy source.

Greek officials will also be looking to offset the inevitable negative impact of lignite unit withdrawals on local economies, including the west Macedonia region in Greece’s north, where livelihoods depend on lignite.

Energy ministry officials will also present the plan for closures as a measure seeking to limit PPC’s financial losses.

 

PPC ‘Amynteo closure’ news intended for investors, Brussels

The main power utility PPC’s plan to discuss the closure of its now-expired Amynteo lignite-fired power station ended up not being included on the agenda of a board meeting last Friday, as the company chief Manolis Panagiotakis had announced ahead of the session, the official reason, according to the company boss, being the need for an additional study on the matter.

However, other underlying reasons were at play, it can be safely presumed. Investors eyeing PPC’s bailout-required sale of the Meliti and Megalopoli power stations were one of the audiences targeted by the utility chief’s Amynteo-related announcement, as it is anticipated this plant’s closure will make Meliti and Megalopoli more competitive and generate better sale price prospects. This sale has been relaunched after an initial effort failed to excite investors.

Panagiotakis’ Amynteo announcement was also aimed at the European Commission as an indication of the power utility’s intention to conform amid reports of a launch of infringement procedures by Brussels against Greece for PPC’s overtime usage of the power plant. A 17,500-hour Amynteo lifeline extension offered by the European Commission expired early last winter but the unit is still operating.

Domestic political interests are another factor behind the board’s avoidance of a discussion on Amynteo’s future at last Friday’s PPC meeting. Given the fact that some 1,000 jobs could be lost if Amynteo is shut down, state-controlled PPC would rather delay any talk on the subject until after the upcoming local, regional and European elections.

PPC is not planning an immediate withdrawal of Amynteo. The power plant’s closure is expected in late 2020 or early 2021, when a 32,000-hour extension offered by the government through a ministerial decision last November – as a further extension to Brussels’ 17,500 hours – should expire.

PPC to withdraw Amynteo in support of effort to sell Meliti, Megalopoli

The main power utility PPC’s board is expected to reach a decision today to withdraw its now-expired Amynteo lignite-fired power station from the grid in order to improve the clarity and market conditions for investors in the utility’s bailout-required disinvestment package that includes two other lignite units, Meliti and Megalopoli.

An Amynteo facility withdrawal, combined with an ongoing effort by PPC for improved supply terms from the operator of the Ahlada mine feeding the Meliti power station, would boost the incentive of investors considering the PPC disinvestment package. Its initial sale effort did not produce a result.

PPC’s chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis wants an Amynteo withdrawal decision from the board today in an effort to avoid Brussels sanctions against the utility for its continued operations of the outdated facility.

Amynteo is currently operating beyond a 17,500-hour lifeline extension granted by the European Commission in 2016.

Last week, Kostas Skrekas, the main opposition New Democracy party’s shadow energy minister, told a Power & Gas Supply Forum in Athens that the European Commission has begun infringement procedures against Greece for this overtime usage.

The Amynteo withdrawal will not be instant but, instead, made in late 2020 or early 2021, when a 32,000-hour extension offered by the government through a ministerial decision last November is expected to expire.

This extension, which effectively added 14,500 hours to Brussels’ 17,500-hour extension in 2016, had not received any approval from the European Commission.

Brussels had set its 17,500-hour extension limit as part of the EU decarbonization policy.

Genop, the power utility PPC’s main union, is planning action against the planned closure of Amynteo in Greece’s north, with support from local and regional authorities. The plan casts doubts over the jobs of 1,000 PPC workers and could also affect the region’s telethermal needs and economic activity.

PPC had received four different Amynteo environmental upgrade proposals from the Mytilineos, Copelouzos, Peristeris and Intrakat groups prior to this latest decision for the facility’s eventual withdrawal.

 

 

 

Infringement procedures for PPC units ‘launched by Brussels’

The European Commission has begun infringement procedures against Greece in reaction to the main power utility PPC’s decision to continue operating its Amynteo and Kardia lignite-fired power stations, Kostas Skrekas, the main opposition New Democracy party’s shadow energy minister told yesterday’s Power & Gas Supply Forum in Athens, attributing his disclosure to a Brussels source.

The two power stations, among the Greek system’s oldest and least efficient, have been able to keep operating as a result of respective 17,500-hour lifeline extensions granted by the European Commission.

This additional time has now been exhausted by the Amynteo facility and is close to running out for Kardia, whose extension ends in May.

The Greek government and state-controlled PPC have disregarded these limits and decided to increase Brussels’ extension to 32,000-hour extensions for both power stations, a move that has not been accepted by the European Commission.

Amynteo and Kardia are continuing to operate amid highly inefficient conditions, exhausting more efficient gas-fueled power stations operated by both PPC and private-sector electricity producers, Dinos Benroubi, the energy division head at the Mytilineos group, supported at yesterday’s forum.

Given the typically slow bureaucratic procedures in Brussels, the time-extension issue surrounding the two PPC units promises to represent yet another challenge for the country’s next administration, set to emerge no later than October when national elections are due.

Minister promises lifeline extension for PPC’s Kardia power station

The main power utility PPC’s Kardia power station in northern Greece’s Kozani area will continue to operate beyond May, when the facility’s EU-approved 17,500-hour lifespan expansion is due to expire, a union group leader has contended following talks with energy minister Giorgos Stathakis, mindful of upcoming elections.

The government has agreed to strict European Commission withdrawal terms for the Kardia unit.

One of the Kardia power station’s units, Kardia III, has just 13 days of operating time remaining.

In comments to local media, Moschos Moschou, the head of PPC’s Spartakos union group, representing workers employed in electricity production, has assured that a lifespan extension beyond May would be granted to Kardia as part of Greece’s effort to meet energy sufficiency and energy security requirements.

Moschou and the energy minister also discussed the lifeline extension of another PPC unit, Amynteo, given an additional 32,000 hours from the previous 17,500.

PPC has already received four different Amynteo environmental upgrade proposals from the Mytilineos, Copelouzos, Peristeris and Intrakat groups. No agreements have been reached.

Private-sector investors will need to participate in any Amynteo power station upograde, the energy minster told Moschou, according to the union leader.

 

 

 

Expired Amynteo, RES units, imports vital for grid sufficiency

Renewable energy output, electricity imports and the main power utility PPC’s lignite-fired Amynteo power station, still operating despite the expiration of a European Commission time limit, are all proving crucial for the system’s sufficiency amid the high demand prompted by freezing weather conditions around Greece over the past few days.

All available energy sources are being resorted to in an effort to cover the  elevated demand. Hydropower output, electricity imports and RES production are providing vital energy injections during peak hours, which once again, once again highlighting the fact that the Greek system is stretched to its limits under such conditions.

The situation validates a recent IPTO power grid operator study noting grid sufficiency is presently not achievable without grid contributions from PPC’s Amynteo unit as well as the power utility’s Kardia facility, headed for closure.

Virtually all the country’s thermal power stations will be operating to meet a demand peak of 9,024 MW at 1pm today, according to the energy exchange’s day-ahead market figures. State-controlled PPC’s Agios Dimitrios IV and V, the Kardia unit, two Megalopoli units, two Amynteo units, Meliti, as well as private-sector gas-fired power stations operated by Heron, Enthes, Thisvi, Protergia and Korinthos Power will all be called into action.

Even so, 1,914 MW in RES production, 44 MW in net imports as well as 140 MW of hydropower production will also be needed to meet demand.

The System Marginal Price (SMP), or wholesale electricity price, is set to reach 82.52 euros per MWh during peak demand.

PPC pressuring ministry on Amynteo power station’s future

The main power utility PPC is maneuvering to increase the pressure on the government for action that would ensure the inclusion of the power utility’s lignite-fired Amynteo power station in the country’s energy mix over the coming years, secure its environmental upgrade and attract investors for its sustained utilization.

PPC appears to remain unconvinced of the government’s intentions to keep the Amynteo power station alive despite assurances from energy minister Giorgos Stathakis that the facility’s two units, totaling 600 MW, have been factored into the country’s electricity production calculations until 2030.

PPC is demanding a study as verification of the government’s Amynteo plan.

A 17,500-hour operating time limit imposed on the Amynteo power station by the European Commission for environmental reasons expired just over a month ago but Greek authorities have decided to sustain its operations while working on a revamp plan that would enable the unit to keep operating. Brussels is believed to be gearing up a sanctions procedure but it would typically move along at a slow pace.

The Mytilineos group, Gek Terna, Copelouzos and Intrakat have all expressed interest for involvement in an Amynteo upgrade.

The national energy and climate plan, currently undergoing public consultation, projects an installed capacity reduction of fossil fuel-fired power stations from 4.3 GW to 3.4 GW in 2020. A slight rise to 3.5 GW is foreseen for 2025 before this capacity is slashed to 2.7 GW in 2030.

Brussels set to launch action against Amynteo overtime use

The European Commission is set to launch a sanctions process against Greece in response to the country’s continued use of main power utility PPC’s lignite-fired Amynteo power station, whose 17,500-hour operating time limit, imposed for environmental reasons, expired approximately three weeks ago, on November 19.

The news of the imminent Brussels action was disclosed by a highly-ranked Directorate-General for Environment official in Athens last Friday, who added the specific department, responsible for EU policy on the environment, has not received any Greek extension request.

European Commission sanction procedures for such issues are typically lengthy and could take anywhere between a year or two to complete from the time Brussels forwards its initial complaint, the two sides exchange ensuing letters, Athens raises an anticipated objection, and Brussels issues a ruling, an official who is well-informed on the process told energypress.

Athens will aim to utilize this period and push ahead with a plan to complete an Amynteo power station upgrade that would enable the revamped unit to keep operating. The development of Ptolemaida V, a modern facility, may also be completed by then.

The Amynteo upgrade is not expected to begin until a bailout-required sale of three power stations at Megalopoli and Meliti has been completed.

The Mytilineos group, Gek Terna, Copelouzos, joined by China’s Shenhua, as well as Intrakat, have all expressed interest for involvement in the Amynteo upgrade.

 

 

Focus on Amynteo upgrade, Meliti II sidelined, for CATs

The energy ministry plans to focus on an environmental upgrade plan of the main power utility PPC’s Amynteo lignite-fired power station in the country’s north, intended to keep the facility running until all lignite deposits in the region have been depleted and, at the same time, sideline the development prospects of Meliti II – also in the north, in the Florina area – as a lower-priority project, as part of a wider effort to ensure CAT remuneration for existing lignite units.

The main power utility PPC, facing a bailout-required disinvestment, is currently selling lignite units and mines representing 40 percent of its overall lignite capacity.

A study conducted by PPC, as part of partnership talks with Chinese investors, has shown that Meliti II can only be a viable project with CAT remuneration support.

Under the EU’s current decarbonization regulations, an addition of Meliti II to the national grid will only be possible if the country’s other lignite-fired units are environmentally upgraded to an extent that would enable a Meliti II entry without any negative impact on the country’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

Any new owner of Meliti II will need to factor in the investment cost of these strict decarbonization regulations.

Amynteo to run beyond limit for heating purposes until upgrade

The government intends to keep operating state-controlled main power utility PPC’s ageing Amynteo power station in the country’s north beyond the slim remainder of a 17,500-hour time limit imposed by the European Commission, now down to six days, to keep covering local telethermal needs until an environmental upgrade of the unit is completed for its full-scale relaunch.

According to initial estimates, the Amynteo upgrade effort could take over a year to complete once the Brussels time limit on the power station expires on November 19.

A process for decisions on the Amynteo upgrade plan’s optimal course is not expected to begin until the completion of PPC’s ongoing bailout-required sale of other lignite units, including three lignite-fired power stations in Megalopoli and Meliti.

The possibility of rival power producers filing complaints or charges against PPC – during the revamp period – for keeping Amynteo running beyond the Brussels-imposed time limit cannot be ruled out.

The government is taking a chance on the issue as, otherwise, locals in the Ptolemaida, Amynteo and Filotas would be left without a general heating system this coming winter.

A public consultation procedure on the use of lignite in the national energy plan until 2030 begins today.

Gov’t intends to keep Amynteo unit running beyond limit

The government is planning to make a third attempt for a European Commission operating extension of state-controlled main power utility PPC’s ageing Amynteo power station in the country’s north, now left with approximately just ten days of operating time following heavy usage over the past few months.

The lignite-fired unit, which needs to be withdrawn as a result of EU environmental regulations, is now left with a slight remainder of a 17,500-hour time limit imposed by Brussels.

The Greek government plans to follow up on two previous unsuccessful extension requests with a third effort to include a detailed environmental upgrade plan inviting investors to express interest in developing the revamp.

Government sources told energypress the Amynteo power station upgrade initiatives would be taken immediately following the completion of PPC’s bailout-required disinvestment of other lignite units, now in progress.

At this stage, the government appears determined to sustain the Amynteo facility’s operation into the winter, beyond the remaining time limit.

However, PPC officials with positions of authority in the Florina region, where the Amynteo unit is located, want to avoid taking on any personal responsibilities for such an initiative without any prior personal protection  measures, in writing. Given the market’s competitive environment, overtime operation of the Amynteo unit could prompt legal action.

Besides producing electricity for PPC, the Amynteo facility also covers telethermal needs of locals.

PPC’s Kardia power station set for closure, minister to tell

The main power utility PPC’s 1,250-MW capacity power station in Kardia, northern Greece, launched back in the 80s, is headed for closure, beginning in November with the withdrawal of two units, followed by the closure of the facility’s remaining two units next April or May, as the energy ministry has decided not to pursue an operating extension permit from the European Commission for the four units.

The remaining operating hours granted by Brussels, following lignite limit related exemptions, for all four Kardia units will expire during the aforementioned periods.

Energy minister Giorgos Stathakis has summoned Syriza party MPs holding seats in Greece’s west Macedonia region, representatives of the PPC union Genop, as well as regional authority Thodoros Karypidis to a meeting tomorrow, during which the decision will be officially announced and discussed.

The development marks the beginning of a clean-energy policy for Greece.

A definite plan on the futures of 400 employees at Kardia I, II, III and IV as well as approximately 800 workers stationed at associated mines has yet to be announced. However, at this preliminary stage of the upcoming closure, it appears Kardia power station employees will be transferred to other units with vacancies, while some of the miners will remain at their posts for coal supply to other power stations.

A voluntary retirement plan by PPC for Kardia station and mine workers approaching retirement age cannot be ruled out. This plan could also be offered at other utility units.

PPC intends to seek an operating extension for its Amynteo power station, also in the country’s north, through an environmental upgrade included in an investment plan. A plan for a possible partnership with a private-sector investor is also being considered.

 

Amynteo unit upgrade plan in making for life extension

The main power utility PPC is preparing an environmental and energy upgrade plan to be presented to the European Commission in an effort to gain a 32,500-hour extension for its 600-MW lignite-fired power station in Amynteo, northern Greece. Its permitted operating time now has just 39 days to go before an initial 17,500-hour extension granted by Brussels expires.

PPC hopes the European Commission will eventually add even more time to the 32,500-hour extension currently being sought for the Amynteo facility.

The power utility insists its Amynteo unit needs to continue producing electricity to ensure sufficiency for the grid and support a telethermal effort in the nearby provincial city Florina.

For the time being, the European Commission, guided by its decarbonization and environmental protection policies, does not appear likely to grant Amynteo a 32,500-hour extension.

However, the Greek energy ministry and state-controlled PPC do appear to have ensured a small extension for the Amynteo unit covering the winter season for coverage of its telethermal and grid needs, energypress sources informed.

Brussels rejects Amynteo time extension, upgrade now urgent

The European Commission appears to have rejected a Greek request for an operating hours extension of the main power utility PPC’s Amynteo lignite-fired power station, making the need to environmentally upgrade the facility extremely urgent.

Both the power utility and energy ministry are believed to have already accepted this position, according to energypress sources.

The Directorate-General for the Environment, in particular, has opposed a second request  made by Greek authorities, following an unsuccessful initial effort, calling for an extension of the ageing Amynteo facility’s remaining lifespan from 19,500 operating hours to 32,000.

A more positive stance on the prospect by the Directorate-General for Energy had raised the hopes of Greek officials, but it now appears the environmental authority’s position on the matter has prevailed.

This development means that PPC will need to act fast until the end of 2018 for a financing solution and assignment of the unit’s environmental upgrade so that the power plant can continue operating and, furthermore, ensure that the provincial city of Amynteo, in the country’s north, is not left without a telethermal facility as of 2019. Telethermal technology would cover the heating needs of Amynteo’s 10,000 or so inhabitants at an exceptionally low cost.

The Mytilineos group, GEK-TERNA, and the Copelouzos group, backed by China’s Shenhua, have all submitted upgrade proposals for the Amynteo facility.

As was disclosed yesterday by energypress, the energy ministry’s upgrade decision will be based on a series of critertia, key factors being the project’s assured financing as well as  assurance of low-cost electricity for major energy-intensive industries as a means of boosting their level of competitveness.

The Mytilineos corporate group’s Amynteo upgrade proposal, forwarded just days ago by chief executive Evangelos Mytilineos, entails a 110 million-euro revamp and lifespan extension to 2030 in exchange for a favorable long-term electricity supply agreement concerning the group’s Aluminium of Greece industrial enterprise. This proposal called for electricity absorption of between 300 and 400 MW per year, from the unit’s total capacity of 600 MW. Mytilineos left open the possibility of other industrial enterprises also taking part in the agreement. The Viohalco industrial group is believed to be interested in such a project, but the prospect remains unconfirmed.

GEK-TERNA had forwarded its environmental upgrade proposal to the energy ministry in October in exchange for favorable electricity tariffs.

The Copelouzos group and China’s Shenhua have proposed upgrading the lignite-fired facility in exchange for a stake of the facility.

 

 

 

Lower-cost industrial electricity a ‘key factor’ in Amynteo plan

Officials at the energy ministry see an environmental upgrade of the main power utility PPC’s ageing Amyneo lignite-fired power plant as an opportunity that would offer energy-intensive industry lower-cost electricity in the long run.

The Mytilineos group and GEK-TERNA have both proposed to upgrade the Amynteo facility in exchange for favorable electricity tariffs over an extended period, while the Copelouzos group and China’s Shenhua have joined forces to propose upgrading the lignite-fired facility in exchange for a stake of the facility.

Energy ministry officials are already making clear that the main criterion to be applied in the appraisal of these proposals will be the extent to which they assure lower-cost electricity for industries as a means of boosting their level of competitveness and complying with EU and Greek competition terms. At present, industrial enterprises are offered special tariffs by PPC on an individual basis.

Similar deals entailing upgrades for lower-cost energy have been reached in France.

PPC is currently preparing to move ahead with a bailout-required sale package of lignite units. Amynteo was excluded from the sale list by European authorities but the upgrade proposals offer potential to extend the old facility’s lifespan, currently running out of time.

The future course of the Amynteo lignite-fired power plant will depend on government decisions concerning the country’s energy strategy, PPC officials told energypress earlier this week. Lignite’s share of the country’s energy mix would need to remain considerable for the Amynteo upgrade to make sense, officials explained. It is believed that a lignite presence in the energy mix of close to the 19 TWh reached last year would justify an Amynteo upgrade. Lower levels of around 16 TWh would make Amynteo redundant, the sources added.

Just days ago, the Mytilineos corporate group’s chief executive Evangelos Mytilineos made a 110 million-euro offer to upgrade PPC’s ageing Amynteo plant and extend its lifespan to 2030 in exchange for a favorable long-term electricity supply agreement concerning the group’s Aluminium of Greece industrial enterprise. The proposal called for electricity absorption of between 300 and 400 MW per year, from the unit’s total capacity of 600 MW. Mytilineos left open the possibility of other industrial enterprises also taking part in the agreement. The Viohalco industrial group is believed to be interested in such a project, but the prospect remains unconfirmed.

GEK-TERNA had forwarded its environmental upgrade proposal to the energy ministry in October in exchange for favorable electricity tariffs.

 

PPC waiting for gov’t decision on Amynteo unit for direction

 

The future course of the main power utility PPC’s Amynteo lignite-fired power plant will depend on government decisions concerning the country’s energy strategy, utility officials told energypress when questioned about the utility’s intentions following three upgrade investment proposals made for Amynteo by GEK-TERNA, Mytilineos and Copelouzos-Shenhua.

PPC’s chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis is definitely interested in attracting an investor to take on the environmental upgrade of the ageing Amynteo facility, which would spare the utility of needing to provide capital of its own for the project, as long as lignite’s share of the country’s energy mix remains considerable, the sources noted. It is believed that a lignite presence close to the 19 TWh reached last year would justify an Amynteo upgrade.

If the annual share of lignite in the energy mix is limited to no more than 16 TWh then certain lignite-fired power stations will be redundant. Amynteo would certainly be sidelined in such a case. Newer plants and units included in a bailout required sale package of PPC lignite units, from which the Amynteo facility was dropped, would carry on operating.

PPC is waiting for energy ministry decisions on Amynteo around March, when they are expected to be revealed and forwarded to the European Commission, before deciding, the officials noted.

 

Mytilineos makes Amynteo upgrade offer for power deal

The Mytilineos corporate group’s chief executive Evangelos Mytilineos has made a 110 million-euro offer to upgrade the main power utility PPC’s ageing Amynteo lignite-fired power plant in exchange for a favorable long-term electricity supply agreement. This initiative comes as one of three key moves promised but not disclosed by the CEO earlier this week.

The offer, a written statement, was forwarded to state-controlled PPC’s head official Manolis Panagiotakis, energy minister Giorgos Stathakis and the country’s new privatizations superfund director Ourania Ekaterinari.

The Amynteo facility has been excluded from a bailout-required sale package of PPC lignite units.

In the offer, Mytilineos highlights the key role played by PPC over the years in supporting the industrial sector, adding that the time has now come for industry to support PPC.

The industrialist’s offer requests the establishment of an electricity supply agreement with PPC, offering between 300 and 400 MW per year, until 2030, as well as the right to use 90 percent of this supply. Mytilineos left open the possibility of other industrial enterprises also taking part in the agreement.

Such an agreement would secure competitively priced electricity for energy-intensive Greek industries.

Mytilineos noted that such an agreement could be utilized to help the utility reach bailout-term objectives by factoring in the mid-voltage share (up to 20 percent) into PPC’s retail electricity market share contraction requirement.

As part of the agreement, METKA, a Mytilineos group subsidiary providing a complete range of Engineering-Procurement-Construction (EPC) services for energy and infrastructure projects, could take on the Amynteo upgrade project without delay, the group’s CEO noted in the offer.

Such a development would enable PPC to continue operating its ageing Amynteo plant, whose lifespan is currently limited, and save PPC capital for other needed investments. Also, an upgraded Amynteo facility would be eligible for CATs and offer job security for staff working at the facility.

Mytilineos has asked PPC to confirm whether the utility is interested or not in the proposal by February 28, so negotiations may begin.

 

Amynteo lifespan extension request viewed favorably

A request forwarded by Greek authorities to the European Commission for an extension to the remaining operational hours of the main power utility PPC’s 600-MW Amynteo power plant, from 17,500 hours to 32,000 hours, is believed to stand a good chance of being approved.

According to sources, the Amynteo facility, an aging unit excluded from the utility’s bailout-required sale package of lignite units, may be permitted to continue operating well beyond 2019.

In its request, the Greek energy ministry contends that a withdrawal of the Amynteo facility in 2019, as is currently scheduled, would prompt serious telethermal issues at the Amynteo power plant and the Ptolemaida facility, whose prospective addition, Ptolemaida V, is not expected to be launched any time before 2021.

On the other hand, any lifespan extension for the Amynteo facility means prospective buyers of PPC’s lignite units placed for sale (Meliti, Megalopoli) would face an additional lignite-fired electricity producing rival. This prospect was pointed out by potential buyers during the market test staged for PPC’s bailout-required sale package.

Either way, prospective buyers are awaiting the final decision from Brussels.

Three investors have already expressed an interest to become involved in Amynteo’s environmental upgrade, should this be permitted by Brussels. The Copelouzos group and China’s Shenhua appear willing to join forces for such a project. This could secure the pair a minority stake in the Amynteo facility.

A second major energy player in the Greek market is also believed to have presented state-controlled PPC and the energy ministry with a utilization plan for Amynteo, even though the content of the utility’s sale package has yet to be finalized.

In addition, an energy-intensive industrial firm is also believed to be interested in the Amynteo upgrade, either alone or as a partnership with a fellow industrial player, in exchange for favorably priced electricity.

 

 

 

Three investors interested in Amynteo facility upgrade

Three investors have expressed an interest to environmentally upgrade the main power utility PPC’s 600-MW Amynteo lignite-fired power station, until recently regarded as an ageing, discarded unit of limited lifespan and potential, energypress has been informed.

The Copelouzos corporate group, joined by China’s Shenhua, is believed to have emerged first to express an interest in the upgrade project in exchange for a majority share in the venture to sell its electricity output to the grid.

In addition, a representative of an unnamed major local energy group is also believed to have forwarded a specific proposal concerning the utilization of state-controlled PPC’s Amynteo power station to the utility’s CEO Manolis Panagiotakis and energy minister Giorgos Stathakis. This expression of interest was apparently made a few months ago, well ahead of the recent finalization of a list of PPC lignite units to be included in a bailout-required sale package.

An intention by PPC to have Amynteo included in this sale package was stopped by the lenders as a result of the facility’s limited lifespan – in its current condition.

A third proposal was apparently forwarded by an energy-intensive industrial producer interested in upgrading the Amynteo power station in exchange for favorably priced electricity supply to its facilities. A fellow industrial producer may also be involved in this initiative.

This third proposal is believed to have resulted from a recent appeal by Panagiotakis, the PPC boss, to the industrial sector, urging its players to capitalize on the developments and secure reliable, competitively priced electricity.

Panagiotakis, presenting his thoughts at a recent American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce conference, invited investors to take part in an upcoming market test for the sale package of PPC lignite units, representing 40 percent of the utility’s total lignite capacity, as well as environmental upgrades of ageing units not included in the sale, in exchange for favorably priced electricity supply deals.

For quite some time now, PPC’s administration has turned to the private sector in search of capital for the environmental upgrades of old units as the utility’s coffers are currently unable to cover the cost of such investments.

The purported cost of the Amynteo power station’s environmental upgrade, as well as the stabilization of the area’s mine affected by a landslide last June, has varied. Some authorities estimate both projects, combined, could require 200 million euros.  investments.

It remains unclear what percentage of Amynteo PPC could retain if negotiations with investors proceed.

 

DG Comp reiterates outright rejection of Amynteo for PPC sale list

The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition has once again rejected an intention by Greek officials to include the main power utility PPC’s ageing Amynteo lignite-fired facility in a bailout-required sale package of utility lignite units, energypress sources have informed.

The DG Comp reiterated its position in a letter received by the energy ministry on Wednesday, the sources said.

Technocrats representing the country’s lenders for preliminary negotiations ahead of next Monday’s arrival in Athens of the lender representatives – for about a week of work on the Greek bailout’s third review, including energy sector issues – warned Greek officials that time for the PPC sale package is running out.

The technocrats are pushing for a solution that would satisfy the DG Comp. The authority supports the sale-list inclusion of state-controlled PPC’s more modern Megalopoli unit in the Peloponnese rather than Amynteo, located in the country’s north.

The gap between the DG Comp and Greek team of officials does not appear to be bridgeable at present. Recent local reports suggested the DG Comp could be willing to accept the inclusion, on the PPC sale package, of Amynteo, a facility needing a major revamp if its lifespan is to be extended. However, the latest letter forwarded by the authority to the energy ministry fully rejects such a prospect.

In its letter, the DG Comp rejects a Greek argument claiming PPC would be comparatively disadvantaged – in terms of unit lifespans – if the more modern Megalopoli facility is sold to investors and PPC is left with ageing facilities, the energypress sources informed.

Amynteo reports on landslide cause making slow progress

Examinations by local authorities looking for the cause, or causes, of a major landslide that struck and wiped out the country’s Amynteo lignite mine on June 10 are making slow progress. No findings have yet to be delivered.

The main power utility PPC was the first to announce that it would assemble a committee to examine the landslide’s cause, noting the study would be completed by the end of June. Soon after, energy minister Giorgos Stathakis announced he would put together his own team of authorities to investigate the incident, while a third team of mining inspectors also announced it would look into the issue. No findings have yet to be delivered by any of these three teams.

According to latest reports, the mining inspectors are awaiting the release of PPC’s findings before they deliver their own. The energy ministry’s effort is believed to be at a preliminary stage as its team was assembled with some delay, on June 20.

PPC and the mining inspectors ought to have completed their investigative efforts and delivered their respective findings by now, given the initial announcements made.

From early on, Stathakis, the energy minister, has not been convinced by PPC’s claims, which have more or less presented the landslide as a geological phenomenon that could not be foreseen, even though the existence of fractures at the Amynteo mine had been known for decades.

Certain local authorities argue that the Amynteo mine landslide was bound to eventually occur, but the scale of the accident was unexpected.

Michalis Kavvadas, an Associate Professor at the National Technical University of Athens’s Department of Geotechnical Engineering, who is a member of the PPC committee assembled to investigate the landslide’s causes, had precisely predicted the incident’s timing but not its intensity and extent.

The professor had traveled to the mine to survey the situation on June 8 and 9, shortly before the incident occured. He had warned PPC officials that a landslide was just hours away. Kavvadas also advised staff on where to position large excavating machines so that they could be protected from the avalanche waiting to happen. This was not to be avoided.

The major landslide ended up covering a large part of the mine, equipment, and the lignite deposit, estimated at 28 million tons, depriving PPC’s two Amynteo power stations, both lignite-fired and possessing a total capacity of 600 MW, of needed fuel.

It was announced yesterday that Greek authorities have reportedly already begun work on an alternative follow-up sale package proposal of PPC units, a bailout requirement, as a result of the European Commission’s dismissal of an initial plan, which, according to officials in Brussels, failed to meet conditions that had been set.

Greece’s initial proposal, a lignite-only package, included the two Amynteo power stations and mine, despite the landslide. The two Amynteo units will most likely be replaced by other PPC units in the alternative plan.

 

Minor landslide at Serbian mine raises domestic power supply concerns

A minor landslide at a coal mine in the Serbian region of Kolubara has raised fears of energy supply shortages in the country as a result of diminishing coal reserves at the country’s Nikola Tesla power plant complex, Serbian media has reported.

Though the landslide was of limited scale compared to a respective event last weekend at Greece’s Amynteo facilities, Serbian energy authorities are concerned as coal reserves at the Nikola Tesla complex, the country’s biggest covering neary half of Serbia’s electricity needs, currently measure approximately 400,000 tons, well under a safety level of at least 1.5 millon tons, according to Serbian media.

Power utility EPS rejected the reports by noting coal reserves measure over one million tons. The utility also dismissed reports of a drop in the quality of coal being mined.

Besides claiming the country’s coal reserves are diminished, Serbian media is also reporting that the Kolubara mine has produced lignite of inferior quality in recent months. This is believed to have increased fuel consumption levels as oil is added to the coal mix when coal combustion levels are lower.

The developments have generated uncertainty as to whether EPS will be able to cover the country’s electricity needs without having to turn to costly imports during periods of peak demand.

Commenting just days ago, Milorad Grcid, managing director at EPS, assured that sufficient coal supply exists for electricity generation but did admit output at the Kolubara was 5.6 percent lower than planned. Coal and electricity prices would not rise, the official added.