Greek-Italian-Slovenian intraday market coupling in autumn

Market coupling of the Greek, Italian and Slovenian intraday markets has been scheduled for September 21 through complementary regional intraday auctions (CRIDAs), a further step towards full unification of the European electricity market.

This market coupling move promises to bolster the liquidity of Greece’s intraday market, which has remained subdued since its launch several months ago, while also easing balancing market burdens of participants.

A liquidity boost in the intraday market is necessary for optimal management of intermittent production, as is the case with most RES units.

Greece’s coupling with Italy and Slovenia constitutes the first step in this direction, the intention being to avoid significant discrepancies for RES units and costs they cause.

The degree to which this coupling step will impact Greece’s intraday market remains to be seen, given the limited capacity of an existing subsea cable linking Greece and Italy, offering 500 MW.

This interconnection will require a capacity boost if high-level intraday market activity is to be achieved, as the infrastructure will need to be able to facilitate physical deliveries of electricity amounts ordered.

Also, the interconnection’s leftover capacity for intraday market trading will depend on the level of electricity import and export agreements established through the preceding day-ahead market.

For example, if, on certain days, the interconnection’s capacity is entirely taken up for day-ahead transactions, then intraday market trading will not be possible.

A second step in the coupling of Greece’s intraday market is planned with the country’s entry into the continual XBID (Cross Border Intraday) market with Italy and Bulgaria, planned for the first quarter of 2022.

Mytilineos considering new gas-fired power units in Balkans

The Mytilineos group is examining the prospect of developing natural gas-fired power stations in Bulgaria and North Macedonia, seeing investment opportunities, like Greece’s other major energy players, in the Balkan region.

EU members Bulgaria and Romania, as well as non-EU members in the Balkan region, such as Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia, are announcing closures of old coal-fired power stations.

This development is creating investment opportunities as older units being withdrawn will, over the next few years, need to be replaced by new facilities, including natural gas-fired power stations.

A month ago, after receiving equipment for a new gas-fired power station unit in Agios Nikolaos, Viotia, northwest of Athens, Mytilineos informed that the company is examining the prospect of developing a similar combined cycle unit in Bulgaria.

Bulgaria, like Greece, is withdrawing its coal-fired power stations and aims to have completed the country’s decarbonization effort by 2025. The neighboring country will need to replace lost capacity through the introduction of natural gas-fired power stations and RES unit investments.

Extremely higher carbon emission right costs have made the withdrawal of coal-fired power stations a priority for Bulgaria and the wider region, one of Europe’s most lignite-dependent areas.

Greece, Bulgaria and Romania, combined, represent nearly ten percent of the EU’s total lignite electricity generation capacity.

Carbon emission right prices relaxed to 49.26 euros per ton yesterday after peaking at 56.65 euros per ton last Friday, following a months-long rally.

Last week, during a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, North Macedonian leader Zoran Zaev disclosed that his government is discussing the prospect of a new gas-fired power station, in the neighboring country, with Mytilineos.

In Romania, projections for 2030 estimate the installation of 5.2 GW in wind energy units and approximately 5 MW in solar energy units.

Serbia, possibly offering even bigger green energy investment opportunities, aims to replace 4.4 GW of coal-fired generation by 2050. The country is now making plans for 8-10 GW in RES investments.

PPC power plant in northeast to rely on new Bulgaria, Turkey grid links

New transboundary grid interconnections with Bulgaria and Turkey will seemingly play a pivotal role in the sustainability of a new 665-MW gas-fueled power station planned by power utility PPC in Komotini, northeastern Greece, judging by estimates at RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

The authority has already issued a production license for this unit, which PPC aims to launch by the end of 2024, despite the fact that five other investments plans for new gas-fueled power stations, promising additional total capacity of 3.2 GW, already exist, including a Mytilineos group unit already under construction.

According to a related report submitted by RAE to Greek Parliament, the National Energy and Climate Plan foresees an increase in installed natural gas-fueled power stations from 5.2 GW in 2020 to 6.9 GW by 2025, a 1.7 GW increase.

Given these figures, RAE presumably considers that the development of all planned units will not be possible. Instead, market forces will determine which of the investors will be able to proceed with their plans, based on individual company feasibility studies.

Power grid operator IPTO’s ten-year development plan covering 2021 to 2030, expected to soon be approved by RAE, includes projects designed to bolster the grid in the east Macedonia and Thrace regions of northeastern Greece, and also reinforce the grid interconnections of these regions with the North Aegean islands, Bulgaria and Turkey.

PPC eyeing Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia for RES investments

Power utility PPC is looking to make its next major investment moves in the neighboring countries of Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia, solar energy and hydropower projects being a priority.

RES activity has soared in these three countries over recent years and is expected to continue.

PPC, which has not taken any investment initiatives abroad in quite a few years, anticipates it will be ready to announce details on major-scale solar farm projects in these countries towards the end of the year.

Bulgarian officials are making plans for 2.64 GW in new RES installations by 2030, of which 2.2 GW will concern solar farms, according to the country’s ten-year climate plan.

In Romania, the country’s 2030 projection is for investments reaching 5.2 GW in wind farm investments and approximately 5 GW in solar farms.

Serbia, possibly offering the biggest green energy investment opportunities among these three countries, will need between 8 and 10 GW in RES investments to replace coal-fired generation with a capacity of 4.4 GW by 2050, deputy energy minister Jovanka Atanackovic recently announced.

A first round of wind and solar project auctions is planned to take place in Serbia by the end of this year.

A month and a half ago, a partnership involving PPC and international contractor Archirodon advanced to the second round of a tender staged in North Macedonia for construction and operation of a major hydropower plant, Cebren, budgeted between 500 and 600 million euros and with a capacity between 333 and 458 MW.

PPC will continue to pursue this Cebren contract but its main focus will be on Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia and their solar energy project opportunities, sources informed.

 

 

EastMed alliance broadens, eight countries express support

Support for the EastMed pipeline, planned to transport natural gas from offshore Levantine Basin gas reserves in the southeast Mediterranean to Greece and further into Europe, is growing in numbers with an initial Greek-Israeli-Cypriot alliance promoting this project now joined by five additional partners, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Serbia and North Macedonia.

Energy ministers representing these eight countries forwarded a letter of support for the EastMed project to the European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson late last week, Greece’s energy and environment minister Kostas Skrekas has told local media.

The pipeline, to be developed by IGI Poseidon SA, a 50-50% joint venture between Greek gas utility DEPA and Italian gas utility Edison, is planned to cover a 1,470-km distance.

IGI Poseidon plans to develop EastMed all the way to Italy via Cyprus, Crete, the Peloponnese, mainland Greece and Epirus, the country’s northwestern flank.

This latest move, bringing the eight energy ministers together for the joint letter, was initiated by Skrekas, Greece’s energy minister, sources informed, following an initiative taken two months earlier by his Israeli counterpart Yuval Steinitz to organize a joint virtual conference involving ministers of all eight countries.

In their letter to Simson, the EU energy commissioner, the eight ministers highlight the importance of EastMed, noting the project promises to contribute to the wider region’s energy security and offer benefits to consumers as a result of increased competition and reduced natural gas price levels.

Regional gas interconnections, including the Greek-Bulgarian IGB, Bulgarian-Serbian IBS, Bulgarian-Romanian IBR and the Romanian-Hungarian IRH would be utilized to extend EastMed’s reach, the letter notes.

Greece and North Macedonia are currently planning a new gas pipeline interconnection whose Greek segment is being promoted by gas grid operator DESFA.

IPTO seeking active role in Cyprus, Israel, Egypt grid interconnections

Power grid operator IPTO is seeking an active role in the grid interconnections to link Greece with Cyprus and Israel, as well as Egypt, the company’s chief executive Manos Manousakis told yesterday’s Power and Gas Supply Forum, an online event staged by energypress.

Responding to questions as to whether IPTO is considering to acquire an equity stake in these projects, Manousakis noted that the operator’s role is to ensure the interoperability of the Athens-Crete and Crete-Cyprus power grid interconnections, a commitment made by the Greek government back in October, 2019.

The European Commission, engaged in ongoing exchange with IPTO in an effort to understand the level of maturity of these grid interconnection projects and, primarily, the interoperability of its systems, has mentioned that Brussels would be interested in the equity involvement of a European TSO, Manousakis informed.

Other priorities at IPTO include upgrading and expanding Greece’s grid interconnections with neighboring countries, which would boost cash flow in the domestic energy market through electricity exports, the chief executive noted.

A tender for the development of the local segment of a second transboundary grid interconnection linking Greece and Bulgaria, from Nea Santa, northeastern Greece, to Bulgaria’s Maritsa area in the south, will be completed this year, Manousakis informed.

New interconnections with Albania and North Macedonia are also being examined at present, he noted.

In addition, IPTO is close to signing a cooperation agreement with Italian operator TERNA for the development of a second Greek-Italian grid interconnection.

Furthermore, plans for an upgrade of the Greek-Turkish interconnection, a project linking the European and Turkish transmission systems, are also maturing, the IPTO chief informed.

 

 

Greek market coupling with Bulgaria scheduled for May 11

Greece’s next market-coupling step, a day-ahead market link with Bulgaria, following an equivalent step with Italy in December, is scheduled to take place on May 11 as part of a wider effort by Europe’s Nominated Electricity Market Operators and Transmission System Operators for a single European day-ahead market.

Preceding trial runs, started on March 16 and planned to take place until April 30, must be successfully completed before the Greek-Bulgarian day-ahead market link is given the green light for its launch.

Automatic energy flow from the more expensive to the less expensive electricity market is expected to initially prompt a slight reduction in domestic wholesale electricity prices.

Greater price convergence between the Greek and Bulgarian markets is expected to be achieved with the introduction of a second transmission line running from Nea Santa, northeastern Greece, to Bulgaria’s Maritsa area in the south. This second line promises to greatly boost transmission potential between the two countries.

The additional transmission line was originally slated for launch in 2023, but swift progress from the Bulgarian side has increased the likelihood of an earlier delivery, mid-way through 2022, according to Greek power grid operator IPTO’s ten-year development plan (2022-2031), forwarded for public consultation at the beginning of this year.

Until now, Bulgaria has clearly been the dominant electricity exporter in trading with Greece, but this role is expected to be reversed as of 2023 because Greek electricity prices will be relatively lower, according to ICIS, a specialized news portal covering energy and related domains.

RES spatial plan to be delivered within 2021, Action Plan notes

The completion of a RES sector spatial plan within the current year has been included in an energy ministry Action Plan for 2021, just published along with the respective action plans of all other ministries.

The energy ministry’s action plan lists interventions planned for 2021 in nine areas under its authority, including energy-sector privatizations, energy market reforms, support for decarbonization and recycling, adoption of circular economic principles, greenhouse gas emission reduction, the tackling of climate change effects, as well as green energy transition.

RES sector measures this year will help cut down the time needed by new RES projects for licensing procedures to two years, the ministry anticipates in its action plan.

It also expects the installation, by the end of the year, of at least 2,000 recharging units for electric vehicles in public areas, including along highways, and at private properties, including domestic and commercial.

On the privatization front, the energy ministry expects all seven energy privatization plans to have been completed or reached an advanced stage by the end of the year.

On energy market reforms, the adoption of a remuneration mechanism for grid sufficiency, to replace a transitional mechanism remunerating flexibility, is a standout feature.

The energy ministry also intends to adopt, as Greek law, an EU directive promoting energy storage and demand response systems.

The ministry’s action plan also anticipates the signing of agreements this year for distribution network development and RES penetration support. It also expects DEDDIE/HEDNO, the distribution network operator, to announce a tender for the installation of smart power meters within the current year.

Taking into account plans by DEDDIE/HEDNO and power grid operator IPTO, the ministry expects investments in distribution and transmission networks to reach one billion euros this year.

Investments for gas network upgrades and expansion are expected to reach at least 300 million euros, primarily driven by projects planned by gas distributor DEDA, covering all areas around the country except for the wider Athens, Thessaloniki and Thessaly areas.

On international projects, the action plan notes that a Greek-Bulgarian gas pipeline project, the IGB, promising to significantly diversify Greece’s gas sources, will be completed by the end of 2021.

A latest edition of the Saving at Home program subsidizing energy efficiency upgrades of properties, budgeted at one billion euros, will stimulate work on 80,000 buildings in 2021, according the energy ministry’s action plan.

This activity will contribute to a National Energy and Climate Plan objective for an improvement, by 2030, of energy efficiency at buildings by 38 percent, reducing energy consumption to levels below those registered in 2007, the action plan notes.

 

Market coupling with Bulgaria expected by early May

Market coupling to unify the Greek and Bulgarian day-ahead markets, representing a second step for the participation of Greek wholesale electricity markets in a pan-European unification of markets through the target model, is planned for late April or early May, sources have informed.

The forthcoming step was preceded by market coupling between Greece and Italy, unifying, as of December 15, the day-ahead markets of the two countries through a single price coupling algorithm, EUPHEMIA (Pan-European Hybrid Electricity Market Integration Algorithm). It calculates energy allocation, net positions and transboundary electricity prices.

Greece’s market coupling with Bulgaria promises to create an even broader trading platform for market participants, sector officials noted. Besides bilateral contracts for energy imports and exports, market coupling will also facilitate automatic energy flow from the higher-priced country to the lower-priced country.

To date, Greece has clearly been an energy importer in its transboundary energy trading relationship with Bulgaria. It remains to be seen if this will be maintained under the new conditions.

Once market coupling of the Greek and Bulgarian day-ahead markets has been accomplished, Greece’s next step towards unification with European energy markets will be to link its intraday market with that of Italy, a step expected by next summer, through the implementation of complementary regional intraday auctions (CRIDA).

Further ahead, a third step, balancing market coupling through two European platforms, MARI (Manually Activated Reserves Initiative) and PICASSO (Platform for the International Coordination of Automated Frequency Restoration and Stable System Operation), is planned for the second half of 2022.

 

Alexandroupoli FSRU 2Q investment decision, work to start in ’21

The shareholders of Gastrade, a company founded by the Copelouzos Group for the development and operation of the Alexandroupoli FSRU planned for Greece’s northeast, are gearing up for an investment decision, expected in the second quarter, ahead of the beginning of the project’s development, anticipated within the current year.

Gastrade’s shareholders will most likely make an investment decision in May, sources informed.

The consortium’s shareholders are currently awaiting final administrative details that will formalize the entry into Gastrade of Bulgaria’s Bulgartransgaz and DESFA, the Greek gas grid operator.

Last week, Thanassis Dagoumas, the head official at RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, approved the transfer of a 20 percent Gastrade stake from the Copelouzos Group’s Asimina Eleni Copelouzou to the Bulgarian gas company.

Copelouzou now controls 40 percent of Gastrade, with three stakeholders, Gaslog, DEPA Commercial and Bulgartransgaz each holding 20 percent.

Within the next few weeks, the RAE chief is also expected to endorse a further 20 percent transfer from Copelouzou to DESFA, giving the consortium’s five partners equal shares of 20 percent each.

Gastrade has already announced a tender offering an EPC contract for the floating LNG terminal in Alexandroupoli. Participants face a February 18 deadline.

An investment decision promises to push forth engineering studies, including geotechnical, as well as the order of a floating vessel for the project during the year. The FSRU will be completed in 2023, Gastrade shareholders have announced.

The shareholders appear receptive to the idea of North Macedonian involvement in the Gastrade consortium. They are awaiting bilateral developments at a diplomatic level, sources informed.

Gas developments in the East Med

The international oil companies (IOCs) are still reeling under the impact of low oil and gas prices and massive losses and asset write-offs during 2020. ExxonMobil, under increasing pressure, is considering further spending cuts and even a shake-up of its board.

The path to full recovery will be slow and at the end of it, in 2-3 years, the IOCs will be different, placing more emphasis on clean energy and renewables.

In the meanwhile, around the East Med, Egypt is forging ahead. It has signed a new exploration agreement with Shell for an offshore block in the Red Sea. This is in addition to the 22 agreements signed during 2020 that included major IOCs such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, Eni and Total. Moreover, EGPC and EGAS are planning to offer onshore and offshore exploration blocks for bidding in February.

This continuing activity led to the discovery of 47 oil and 15 natural gas fields in 2020, 13% more than in 2019, despite Covid-19.

Tareq El-Molla, Egypt’s petroleum minister, signaled earlier this month Egypt’s intention to expand its petrochemicals sector to take advantage of the country’s expanding hydrocarbon resources. Egypt has updated its petrochemical national plan until 2023 to meet the increasing prospects in this industry.

LNG exports

Egypt has also benefited from the recent increase in LNG prices, resuming exports from its liquefaction plant at Idku, with most exports going to China, India and Turkey. The country is also ready to resume exports from its second liquefaction plant at Damietta starting end February. This has been lying idle since 2012 due to disputes that have now been resolved.

LNG exports will mainly utilize surplus gas from the Zohr gasfield and possibly imports from Israel, should prices allow it.

In fact, the resumption of LNG exports from Idku relieved some of the pressure on Egypt’s gas market, which is in oversupply partly due to impact of the pandemic, but also due to falling gas demand in Egypt’s power sector and growth in renewable energy.

El-Molla said that Egypt is planning a revival of its LNG exports. But this depends greatly on what happens to global markets and prices.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said that the Asian LNG demand and price spike in January was a short-term phenomenon and it is not an indicator that global demand will rebound in 2021. The IEA expects only a small recovery in global gas demand this year, after the decline in 2020, partly due to the pandemic. But given ongoing concerns over the pandemic, the rate of gas demand growth will remain uncertain. The IEA said the longer-term future of LNG markets remains challenging.

Gas from Israel

Chevron – having acquired Noble Energy and its interests in the region last year – with Delek and their partners in Israel’s Leviathan and Tamar gasfields, signed an agreement to invest $235million in a new subsea pipeline, expanding existing facilities. According to an announcement by Delek, the pipeline will connect facilities at Israeli city Ashod to the EMG pipeline at Ashkelon, enabling Chevron and its partners to increase gas exports to Egypt to as much as 7billion cubic meters annually (bcm/yr).

The partners signed agreements last year to export as much as 85bcm/yr gas to Egypt over a 15 year period. Gas supplies from Israel to Egypt started in January last year.

It is not clear at this stage if new agreements will be reached to fully utilize the increased export capacity from Israel to Egypt, but given Egypt’s gas oversupply this may not be likely.

These developments, though, show the vulnerability of Cyprus and the weakness of relying on trilateral alliances with Egypt and Israel for its gas exports.

EastMed gas pipeline

This is being kept alive by regional politicians. Only this week, Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Bulgaria, Hungary and Serbia confirmed their support for the EastMed gas pipeline.

While such developments are good politically, bringing like-minded countries around the East Med closer together, they are not sufficient to advance the project. This requires private investment and buyers of the gas in Europe. None of these is forthcoming, because the project is not commercially viable. By the time the gas arrives in Europe it will be too expensive to compete with existing, much cheaper, supplies.

Europe is also moving away from gas and from new gas pipeline projects. Catharina Sikow Magny, Director DG Energy European Commission (EC), covered this at the European Gas Virtual conference on 28 January. Answering the question how much natural gas will the EU need in the future, she said ZERO. She was emphatic that with the EU committed to net zero emissions by 2050, by then there will be zero unabated gas consumed in Europe. In addition, with the EU having increased the emissions reduction target from 40% to 55% by 2030, the use of gas in Europe will be decreasing in order to meet the 2030 and 2050 climate targets. She said that ongoing natural gas projects are expected to be completed by 2022 – with no more needed after that.

With exports to global markets becoming increasingly difficult, there are other regional options to make use of the gas discovered so far around the East Med, including power generation in support of intermittent renewables and petrochemicals, as Egypt is doing. The newly constituted East Med Gas Forum (EMGF) should place these at the heart of its agenda.

What about Cyprus?

Hydrocarbon exploration activities around Cyprus are at a standstill, partly due to the continuing impact of Covid-19, but also due to the dire state of the IOCs and the challenges being faced by the natural gas industry in general.

This lack of activity in resuming offshore exploration may be a blessing, taking the heat off hydrocarbons, while priorities shift to discussions to resolve the Cyprus problem and the Greece-Turkey maritime disputes.

Dr Charles Ellinas, @CharlesEllinas

Senior Fellow

Global Energy Center

Atlantic Council

3 February, 2021

 

Greece, Israel eyeing broader alliance for Balkans, central Europe

The Greek-Israeli energy alliance is broadening its scope by aiming for the establishment of a Greek gateway to facilitate Israeli gas supply to the Balkan region and, by extension, central Europe.

This objective, part of strong diplomatic relations between the two countries in energy, was confirmed during a recent virtual meeting between Greece’s newly appointed energy minister Kostas Skrekas and his Israeli counterpart Yuval Steinitz.

Their bilateral talks will be followed up by broader meeting today to involve the energy ministers of Greece, Israel, Cyprus, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, North Macedonia and Hungary.

The participating officials will seek to lay the foundations for a closer energy alliance that would facilitate distribution from Israel’s Leviathan gas field via alternate routes – the Alexandroupoli FSRU and the IGP – to soon be offered by Greece.

The aforementioned Balkan and central European countries are extremely keen on securing alternative supply routes, diplomatic sources informed.

Much work is needed by Israel and Greece to establish energy alliances with Balkan countries, but a first step will seemingly be taken today.

Greek-Italian market coupling boosts transaction efficiency

The Greek-Italian electricity market coupling of day-ahead markets, launched on December 15 as part of the target model, is living up to its expectations as a safety valve facilitating optimal electricity flow between countries.

The initiative, operating through a single price coupling algorithm, EUPHEMIA (Pan-European Hybrid Electricity Market Integration Algorithm), which calculates energy allocation, net positions and transboundary electricity prices, has run smoothly since its launch over a month ago.

Greek-Italian transboundary electricity transactions admittedly enjoyed a high level of maturity prior to the introduction of market coupling, courtesy of reliable price forecasts by participants for the Greek and Italian markets.

A grid interconnection, in the form of a 163-km, 400-kV voltage and 500-MW capacity subsea cable, has been in service since 2002.

However, the market-coupling initiative has taken the efficiency of these transboundary Greek-Italian electricity transactions to a higher level as auctions allocating grid interconnection capacities are no longer required.

Since the mid-December coupling of the Greek and Italian energy markets, electricity has constantly flowed from the market offering lower prices to the higher-priced market, proving this market system’s ability to utilize interconnections to their fullest.

Market coupling of the Greek and Bulgarian day-ahead markets is planned to follow, its launch scheduled for spring.

An increased number of interconnected electricity markets promises to give the Greek wholesale electricity market a regional role. However, transboundary grid interconnections will need to be upgraded if this is to be achieved.

Brussels forwards new PCI list, to be finalized late this year

The European Commission’s fifth PCI (Projects of Common Interest) list in the electricity and natural gas sectors, being forwarded for public consultation, features, for now, a number of project additions and removals, compared to the previous edition.

Market officials and state authorities will have the opportunity to offer their views and observations over the consultation procedure’s twelve-week period before the European Commission adopts a finalized version of the fifth PCI list towards the end of 2021, based on an existing Trans-European Networks for Energy (TEN-E) framework, focused on linking the energy infrastructure of EU countries.

PCI projects are entitled to EU funding support. Brussels authorities introduced selection criteria revisions in December, ascertaining, however, that the impact of all projects, especially on CO2 emissions, will be appraised when finalizing the PCI list’s fifth edition.

The provisional list includes a number of electricity and gas sector projects concerning Greece.

Electricity-sector projects involving Greece include: a Bulgarian-Greek grid interconnection, expected to be completed in 2023; an Egyptian-Greek-Libyan grid interconnection headed by Green Power 2020 and scheduled for delivery in 2025; as well as three Egypt-Greece interconnections, two of these featuring Kykladika Meltemia SA as project promoter and expected to be respectively completed in 2025 and 2028, and a third headed by Elica SA and scheduled for completion in 2028.

An energy storage project planned by Eunice for Ptolemaida, northern Greece, and scheduled for completion in 2022 is a new entry on the PCI list.

In the natural gas sector, the PCI list includes: the Alexandroupoli FSRU (2022); a subsea pipeline between Greece and Italy, known as the Poseidon Pipeline (2025); EastMed, a pipeline planned to carry natural gas from the east Mediterranean to European markets, via Crete (2025); a compressor station in Thessaloniki’s Nea Mesimvria area (2022); a metering and regulating station in Megalopoli, Peloponnese (2025); a compressor station in Abelia, in Greece’s mid-north (2023); a compressor station in Kipoi, northeastern Greece (2024); a pipeline link for the Alexandroupoli FSRU (2022); a TAP pipeline capacity increase (2025); and the development of an underground gas storage facility (UGS) in the almost depleted natural gas field of “South Kavala” in northern Greece (2023).

North Macedonia involvement in key Alexandroupoli projects

North Macedonia plans to help cover its energy needs through an involvement in two Greek-based projects, the prospective FSRU in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, and, in the same region, a gas-fueled power station to run on LNG stemming from the floating LNG terminal.

Much progress has been made on the neighboring country’s interest in these two projects since a meeting in Athens last September between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his North Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev. The partnership also represents a strategic decision for the Greek government.

It is considered certain that a state-owned North Macedonian company will soon enter the Alexandroupoli FSRU project’s equity pool with a 10 percent stake, energypress sources have informed.

This project’s five current partners – Copelouzos group, Gaslog, Greek gas utility DEPA, Greek gas grid operator DESFA and Bulgartransgaz – are expected to each offer small portions of their respective 20 percent stakes to make available a 10 percent stake for the state-owned North Macedonian company in the Alexandroupoli FSRU.

The project’s development is not expected to be impacted by any equity reshuffles.

Two international tenders staged by Gastrade, a company established by the Copelouzos group for the development and operation of the Alexandroupoli FSRU, have been successfully completed. One of the two tender concerns the FSRU’s construction. The other concerns the installation of pipelines linking this facility to the national gas grid.

The Alexandroupoli FSRU consortium is expected to make a final investment decision in late February, sources informed.

On the other front, ESM, North Macedonia’s state electricity company, is expected to acquire a 25 percent stake in a gas-fueled power station to be developed by Damco Energy, a Copelouzos group subsidiary, in Alexandroupoli’s industrial zone.

The initiative will secure 200 MW of the facility’s 800-MW capacity for North Macedonia. The country currently has an electricity deficit of approximately 2 GWh.

Bulgarian state-owned electricity company NEK EAD also appears interested in acquiring a stake in the Alexandroupoli power station. Bulgaria has projected an electricity deficit a few years from now as the country must phase out major lignite-fired power stations. European Commission exemptions extending the lifespans of these units are expiring.

Gas market competition intensifies, TAP lowering prices

Competition has intensified in the country’s wholesale gas market at a time of changing conditions and negotiations for 2021 deals between importers and major-scale consumers, namely electricity producers and industrial enterprises.

Many gas supply contracts expired at the end of 2020, requiring a large number of players to renegotiate deals. Some of these big consumers have already reached new agreements with gas wholesalers.

Market conditions have changed considerably compared to a year earlier. Supply of Azeri gas through the new TAP route has already begun to Greece as well as Bulgaria, increasing overall supply, which has obliged, and permitted, gas utility DEPA to pursue a more aggressive pricing policy as the company pushes to absorb quantities it has committed to through clauses in existing contracts.

Also, the TAP-related increase of gas supply to Bulgaria, combined with this country’s inflow of Russian gas through oil-indexed price agreements, currently relatively cheaper, is now depriving Greek wholesale gas companies of entry into a neighboring market that was available for trading activity last year.

Furthermore, conditions have also been impacted by a competition committee decision no longer requiring DEPA to stage gas auctions to make available a share of its gas orders to rival traders. This measure was introduced and maintained to help liberalize Greece’s gas market.

The new conditions are pushing Greek traders towards more competitive pricing policies. They appear to have acknowledged that their profit margins will be narrower in 2021.

DEPA, helped by the fact that a sizeable proportion of its gas purchases is oil-indexed, is said to be playing a dominant role in the ongoing negotiations for new contracts with customers.

It should be pointed out that, unlike rival gas importers such as Mytilineos, Elpedison and Heron, all benefitting through self-consumption of a large part of their gas orders for gas-fired power stations they operate, DEPA does not self-consume.

Prometheus Gas, a member of the Copelouzos group, remains a formidable player, while the power utility PPC and petroleum company Motor Oil are less influential in the wholesale gas market.

Higher LNG prices, compared to pipeline gas, will decrease demand for LNG this year and weaken the interest of traders for LNG supply through gas grid operator DESFA’s Revythoussa terminal on the islet just off Athens. Last year, this facility was a hot spot of trading activity as a result of lower-priced LNG.

Greek-Italian market coupling, soon, target model’s next step

Domestic market players and officials are eagerly awaiting to see how the target model’s next stage, Greek and Italian day-ahead market coupling, scheduled for December 15, will influence wholesale electricity prices.

Wholesale electricity prices in the day-ahead market and, especially, the balancing market, have escalated since the target model launch in Greece a month and a half ago.

Greece’s market coupling with Italy will be a crucial step as it promises to take Greece to the essence of the target model effort, namely gradual unification of national energy markets – electricity and gas – into one common European market.

Once market coupling is established between Greece and Italy, energy will flow from the country with lower energy prices to the higher-cost country – to the extent permitted by grid interconnection capacities – until price discrepancies have evened out.

All preliminary work for next week’s Greek-Italian market coupling launch has been successfully completed. An ongoing dry-run procedure involving simulated trading will continue until December 12.

The market coupling launch, three days later, is on schedule, the Greek energy exchange has informed RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

Market coupling of Greece and Italy’s balancing markets will take place at a latter date, while Greek-Bulgarian market coupling is planned for early in 2021.

TAP trial test preparing launch, Azeri gas delivery by year’s end

The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project, to enable the delivery of Caspian gas to destinations throughout southeastern, central and western Europe, is currently undergoing trial tests at its interconnection with the Greek grid in Thessaloniki’s Nea Mesimvria area, sources have informed.

As things currently stand, gas grid operator DESFA should be ready to receive Azeri natural gas through the Nea Mesimvria point within the next few weeks, a development that will offer the Greek gas grid a fifth alternative supply entry point.

Completion of the trial testing, expected to last until next month, will enable the project’s commercial launch. Greek gas utility DEPA and Bulgaria’s BEH have reserved respective capacities at preceding auctions.

The TAP project’s launch promises to benefit the Greek economy and also bolster the country’s energy supply security.

At present, the national gas grid possesses three entry points. Russian gas enters Greece via the Nea Mesimvria point after crossing the Bulgarian system. Kipoi in Evros, northeastern Greece, linked to a Greek-Turkish pipeline, and the LNG terminal at the islet Revythoussa, just off Athens, represent the Greek system’s two other entry points.

Besides Nea Mesimvria, the TAP project, running across northern Greece and through Albania all the way across the Adriatic Sea to Italy, will also offer the Greek gas grid a fifth entry point via Italy.

Bulgaria’s BEH reserves local capacity for gas market entry

Bulgaria’s state-owned Bulgarian Energy Holdings, participating in a gas auction staged by Greek gas grid operator DESFA, has reserved gas infrastructure capacity at the national grid’s crossing with the new TAP line in Nea Mesimvria, west of Thessaloniki, establishing a base for entry into the Greek gas market.

Greek gas utility DEPA reserved the biggest share, 29,000 MWh per day, at the auction, while Bulgaria’s BEH secured a smaller share of 3,300 MWh per day.

The DESFA auction offered Nea Mesimvria infrastructure capacities for the first quarter of 2021.

Local market authorities regard the Bulgarian company’s move as a positive step that reignites interest in the Greek market.

It remains to be seen if BEH can attract customers in the Greek market and supply here, or whether its share of TAP line gas, even if modest, will end up being used for Bulgarian market needs.

Either way, the Bulgarian company’s initiative can be interpreted as a positive move by an international player seeing potential in the Greek market.

Significant steps towards maturity have been made in recent years, but the Greek gas market still has ground to cover before reaching levels of liquidity and transparency achieved by major markets and hubs in central and western Europe.

New market dry-run testing to end this week, target model launch on Nov. 1

The dry-run testing procedure for market systems ahead of the forthcoming target model launch, scheduled for November 1, will be finalized at the end of this week, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, the energy exchange and power grid operator IPTO have jointly decided.

Dry-run testing of the day-ahead, intraday and balancing markets began on August 3 to test their limits and operating ability ahead of the target model’s launch, aiming for market coupling, or harmonization of EU wholesale markets.

Market coupling, to increase competition and lower wholesale energy prices, will ultimately lead to energy union, the EU strategy seeking to offer consumers secure, sustainable, competitive and lower-cost energy.

All domestic parties involved, as well as the energy ministry, have ascertained the Greek launch will take place on November 1 following previous delays.

Even during these final days of simulated testing, day-ahead market prices have, at times, continued to display discrepancies with Day-Ahead Schedule price levels.

This has been attributed to the absence, from dry-run testing, of many traders who participate in the Day-Ahead Schedule, meaning the price levels of the two situations are based on different data.

Though balancing market prices have improved considerably as the simulated testing has progressed, following discrepancies, conclusions cannot be made until actual market conditions come into effect.

Meanwhile, public consultation by RAE on a market monitoring mechanism and a market surveillance mechanism for the new markets is due to be completed next Monday.

The market monitoring mechanism will seek, through structural and performance indicators, to evaluate levels of concentration and the market power of each participant, while the market surveillance mechanism will focus on identifying and combating strategies detrimental to competition.

The next step, once the new markets are launched, will be to market couple, initially with the Italian market, by the end of the year, followed by the Bulgarian market, in the first quarter of 2021, Greek energy minister Costis Hatzidakis recently informed.

 

 

Extraordinary conditions push SMP as high as €105 per MWh

Extraordinary conditions resulting from coinciding temporary closures of various power facilities, both in Greece and abroad, have pushed up the System Marginal Price, or wholesale electricity, to levels of as much as 105 euros per MWh, as was the case yesterday.

Four domestic gas-fired power stations – Enthes (Elpedison), Heron CC, Lavrio IV and Protergia – were out of order yesterday, for different reasons.

Problems beyond the Greek border have made matters worse. Bulgaria’s 1,000-MW Kozloduy nuclear power plant is currently out of order. The Greek-Bulgarian line serves as a transit route towards North Macedonia as a line linking Bulgaria and North Macedonia is out of order. So, too, is a line linking Greece with Italy.

Power stations that rarely operate, such as an open-cycle Heron unit, needed to be called into action as a result of the problems on these various fronts. Their necessary contributions pushed the SMP to far higher levels.

Three power utility PPC lignite-fired power stations, Agios Dimitrios II and III and Melitis, along with PPC’s gas-fired power stations Aliveri V, Lavrio V, Komotini, Megalopoli V, as well as units run by the independent energy firms Heron, Thisvi and Corinth Power, all needed to be called into action to cover the grid’s needs.

The market appears to have normalized for today. SMP levels are down to relatively satisfactory levels, averaging 44.49 euros per MWh, primarily as a result of significant RES contributions, covering more than 50 percent of the overall demand, 123.993 GWh.

The lignite-fired power stations used yesterday – Agios Dimitrios II and III and Melitis – will remain closed today.

Local gas-fueled generation up in response to high-cost power imports

Higher electricity prices in neighboring countries, increasing the cost of electricity imports, have prompted power utility PPC to capitalize on the situation and operate its gas-fueled power stations at maximum capacity for satisfactory market prices.

In recent days, PPC’s natural gas-fueled units have covered between 35 and 40 percent of electricity demand.

Yesterday, the power utility’s gas-fueled power stations covered 40 percent of electricity demand at a price of 42.6 euros per MWh for ten hours.

Independent producers covered 19 percent of electricity demand at a price of 64.4 euros per MWh for one hour.

Electricity imports covered 14 percent of electricity demand for a price of 51.7 euros per MWh over 11 hours.

Renewable energy sources covered 24 percent of electricity demand yesterday, while the decreased lignite input continued on its downward trajectory, contributing 3.6 GWh.

In Bulgaria, the wholesale electricity price was 53.14 euros per MWh. In Italy, it was 51.93 euros per MWh. Romania registered a price level of 51.7 euros per MWh. The price in Serbia was 49.91 euros per MWh.

Bulgaria gas pipeline explosion highlights need for local projects

Yesterday’s Bulgarian gas pipeline explosion in Bulgaria, prompting a supply cut into Greece from a northern route, yet again highlights how vital it is for Greece to develop two gas infrastructure project plans in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, and Kavala, in the north.

The explosion of this pipeline, carrying Russian gas into Greece via Bulgaria, has not affected Greece’s energy security as supply from the alternate Kipoi route remains uninterrupted, while the contribution of high LNG reserves at the Revythoussa terminal, just off Athens, has also been crucially important.

However, a Greek energy crisis could have resulted if this accident were more serious, or if the Revythoussa facility did not exist, or, worse still, the accident coincided with even greater Greek-Turkish tensions than at present, which could have meant a cut in gas supply from Turkey, hosting one of Greece’s key gas import corridors.

The intensifying geopolitical instability of the wider region, which includes Turkey, an extremely troubling neighbor, makes imperative the existence of sufficient gas storage facilities to safeguard Greece’s energy security. Despite the precarious conditions in the region, Greece remains one of the European countries without sufficient energy storage infrastructure.

In addition to the existing Revythoussa LNG terminal, Greece’s infrastructure definitely needs to be reinforced by projects such as the Alexandroupoli FSRU and an underground gas storage facility at a virtually depleted offshore deposit south of Kavala.

 

Long-standing DESFA northern Greece pipeline plan scrapped

Gas grid operator DESFA has scrapped plans for a natural gas pipeline that had been envisioned to run across northern Greece, from Komotini in the northeast to Thesprotia in the northwest, after maintaining the project in the company’s business plans for about a decade.

DESFA reached this decision as Russian President Vladimir Putin is supporting Gazprom’s development of a second branch for the wider Turkish Stream gas project, deviating Ukraine, to supply the Balkans and central Europe via Bulgaria, not Greece, as was initially considered.

A first Turkish Stream branch supplying Russian gas to Turkey is already operating.

“The project remained on the business plan for approximately ten years without progressing to the construction stage, while there is no sign of conditions leading to its construction in the immediate future,” DESFA announced.

The Komotini-Thesprotia pipeline project was budgeted at 1.8 billion euros.

The total cost of projects included in DEFSA’s development plan for 2021-2030 is now budgeted at 545.5 million euros.

Wholesale electricity prices rising, up to €47.30/MWh today

Wholesale electricity prices, determined by the System Marginal Price, are rebounding following a significant drop over the past few weeks.

The rise is being fueled by an anticipated increase in demand. A sidelined 600-MW line linking Greece with Bulgaria, depriving the system of electricity imports via this route, as well as a disruption in operations at an Elpedison power plant in Thessaloniki are two other contributing factors.

In addition, the Revythoussa LNG terminal just off Athens is not under any pressure, a factor subduing gas-fired unit bids and subsequently lowering the SMP.

Based on grid orders placed for today, the SMP has climbed to 47.30 euros per MWh, up from a level of around 30 euros per MWh five days earlier and 14.20 euros per MWh on May 1. Bidding by units has gradually risen since early May.

Demand, today, for domestic consumption and exports is estimated to reach 127 GWh, 40 percent of which is planned to be covered by natural gas-fired power stations, 30 percent by RES and hydropower plants, 23 percent by electricity imports, and 7 percent by lignite-fired power stations.

The SMP level will be determined by gas-fired power stations for 22 hours today, lignite-based generation will shape the price for one hour and imports for the remaining hour.

Electricity imports up, gas-fueled power stations running non-stop

A significant drop in gas prices, especially LNG, as well as the availability of particularly lower wholesale electricity prices in neighboring countries have prompted major changes to the country’s Day Ahead Schedule.

Electricity imports via interconnections with Bulgaria, Italy, North Macedonia and Turkey have risen to represent just under 30 percent of overall consumption.

Demand for an even greater level of imports during certain time periods has not been met as a result of infrastructure capacity limits.

Renewable energy generation, also making considerable contributions to the grid’s needs, has, at times, exceeded 30 percent of total consumption.

Gas-fueled power stations operated by independent producers are now operating around the clock, not just during peak hours, as had previously been the case. Offers by these units are now very competitively priced.

Gas-fueled power stations are currently covering over 30 percent of total consumption and lowering wholesale prices.

On the contrary, power utility PPC’s production is covering smaller amounts of daily electricity consumption. The utility’s contribution, currently slightly over 10 percent, primarily stems from its lignite-fired power stations.

Alexandroupoli FSRU market test offers total 2.6 bcm, viability assured

Binding capacity reservations for the prospective Alexandroupoli FSRU in northeastern Greece, whose second-round market test expired on Tuesday afternoon, amounted to 2.6 bcm, a tally that secures the project’s sustainability and paves the way for a finalized investment decision, energypress sources have informed.

Two Greek utilities, gas company DEPA and power company PPC, are among the participants who have reserved capacities, for long-term periods, the sources noted.

Bulgaria’s Bulgartransgaz and a Serbian company also confirmed earlier requests for capacity reservations.

Romania’s Romgaz did not turn up for the market test’s second round after expressing interest for a considerable capacity covering a lengthy period in the first round. Instead, two private-sector Romanian trading companies ended up submitting binding offers for Alexandroupoli FSRU capacities.

The Bulgarian, Serbian and Romanian interest highlights the potential of the Alexandroupoli FSRU to serve as a new natural gas gateway for southeast European markets, via the Greek-Bulgarian IGB pipeline, now under construction, as well as other existing and planned gas pipelines in the region.

IPTO: Thessaloniki RSC headquarters for southeast Europe in July

A Regional Security Coordinator (RSC) role for Thessaloniki planned by Greek power grid operator IPTO with its Romanian and Bulgarian peers, Transelectrica and ESO-EAD, respectively, will be ready for launch, from its headquarters in the northern Greek city, in the first week of July, energypress sources have informed.

IPTO chief executive Manos Manousakis has declared the headquarters for southeast Europe’s RSC will be in Thessaloniki.

The Thessaloniki RSC plan was established by the Greek, Romanian and Bulgarian operators following years of negotiations with ENTSO-E, the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity.

According to EU law, all European operators must, as of 2020, hand over a list of responsibilities to one regional security coordinator with headquarters at an EU member state.

These responsibilities include capacity calculation coordination, common network model development and regional security coordination.

East Med, IGB, Alexandroupoli FSRU upgrading Greek role

Three major energy projects of international dimension, the East Med and IGB natural gas pipelines, as well as the Alexandroupoli FSRU (Floating Storage Regasification Unit), all once seeming distant prospects, are now gradually turning into a close reality.

Their development promise to transform Greece into an energy hub and upgrade the country’s geopolitical standing in the fragile southeast Mediterranean and Balkan regions.

The leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Israel are set to sign a trilateral agreement for East Med, to carry natural gas to Europe via these countries and Italy, at a meeting in Athens on January 2. The transmission capacity of this project, measuring 2,000 km, will range between 10 to 20 billion cubic meters. Italy is also expected to eventually join the partnership for this project.

Its development prospects have been further propelled by a decision from Poseidon, a 50-50 joint venture involving Greek gas utility DEPA and Italy’s Edison, to accelerate the completion of all pending issues needed for the project’s maturity.

The trilateral agreement promises to further bolster ties between Greece, Cyprus and Israel amid a period of heightened regional intensity. Turkish provocation has escalated. An East Med Gas Forum to take place in Cairo January 15 and 16 with participation from the energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority should help expand the alliance.

The Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas pipeline is expected to have begun operating far sooner, in July, 2021. DEPA holds a 25 percent stake in ICGB, the consortium overseeing the IGB project, whose initial capacity will be 3 bcm. Through this pipeline, DEPA plans to supply the Bulgarian market with Azeri gas hailing from the TAP route, and, as a result, break, for the first time, the existing Russian monopoly in the neighboring market.

The IGB will not only be fed by TAP, running westwards across northern Greece for Azeri supply to Europe. The Alexandroupoli FSRU to be anchored off coastal Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, will also feed the IGB, enabling an alternative gas supply source for Bulgaria, other east European countries, and Ukraine.

DEPA is also involved in this project. The gas utility has just decided to acquire a 20 percent stake in Gastrade, the company developing the FSRU project in Alexandroupoli.

Leading Washington officials have expressed their support for the East Med, IGB and Alexandroupoli FSRU projects. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will be seeking confirmation of this backing on an upcoming official trip to the US from President Donald Trump himself.

 

Elpedison makes dynamic gas market move for 2020, Balkans also eyed

Elpedison’s strong turnout for gas grid operator DESFA’s annual reservation of LNG slots at the Revythoussa terminal just off Athens highlights the company’s strategic decision aiming for a leading role in the wholesale gas market, which it entered last year.

Elpedison has reserved 22 slots, roughly one-third of a total of 65 slots offered by DESFA for the terminal in 2020.

Mytilineos, the country’s biggest LNG importer, also booked 22 slots. Gas utility DEPA reserved 14 slots, while Heron booked seven slots.

Elpedison considers its involvement in the wholesale and retail gas markets just as important as its activities in the electricity market, chief executive Nikos Zahariadis underlined in comments to energypress. Elpedison will bolster its gas market presence in 2020, he added.

Storage and gasification capacity increases at the Revythoussa LNG terminal have played an instrumental role in helping liberalize Greece’s gas market. This development, along with lower-priced LNG, compared to pipeline gas, has created market prospects and opportunities. Elpedison operates two gas-fueled power plants.

Besides the Greek market, Elpedison, just like all other corporate groups importing and trading gas, also sees opportunities in Balkan markets. The company already sells modest gas quantities in Bulgaria and Romania but is aiming for a significant increase in 2020.

Greece is developing into a gas hub for supply to the wider southeast European region, Zahariadis, Elpedison’s chief executive, noted. Major international gas infrastructure projects such as the TAP, IGB, Alexandroupoli FSRU and underground gas storage facility in the offshore South Kavala region are expected to be completed within the next few years, he stressed.