China Energy in 4 Copelouzos Group wind energy projects

Domestic investment partnerships between the Copelouzos Group and China Energy Investment for four wind energy parks – in Thrace, Trikorfo (Karystos area, Evia), Mani and Crete – have been included in a catalog of agreements signed by officials yesterday as part of a visit to Greece by China’s President Xi Jinping, heading a Chinese business delegation.

The four wind energy parks are part of a strategic partnership signed in July, 2018 by the Chinese company and the Copelouzos Group for China Energy Investment’s entry, as a shareholder, in the Greek group’s portfolio of wind energy projects, totaling 1,500 MW.

China Energy holds a 75 percent stake in the Thrace wind energy park, already operating. Development of the Copelouzos Group’s three other wind energy projects is expected to gain momentum following the signing of yesterday’s agreements.

Other projects included in the Greek-Chinese catalogue, a list of six projects – energy related and not – include an intention by State Grid Corp of China (SGCC) to build on its 24 percent stake of Greek power grid operator IPTO; a waste incineration project on Rhodes; and expansion work at Piraeus port.

China Energy was established in November, 2017 through a merger between China Guodian Corporation and the Shenhua Group, launching its operations with an equity value of just over 17 billion euros, total assets of 235.6 billion euros, 66 subsidiaries and a workforce numbering 350,000.

The company, heavily dependent on coal but taking major steps in the renewable energy domain, was ranked 101st on the Fortune Global 500 list for 2018.

Chinese officials to table widespread energy investment interest

Chinese investors are looking to, more or less, cover the Greek energy sector’s entire gamut.

Talks during a two-day visit, today and tomorrow, by a Chinese delegation headed by China’s President President Xi Jinping, are expected to cover energy cooperation in the installation of smart power meters and fiber optics to networks, investments in natural gas-fueled power stations, energy storage, as well as joint ventures for solar, wind and biomass energy projects.

This widespread Chinese investment interest, more or less covering the sector’s entire gamut, also includes financial support as well as the sale of all types of technology needed.

The interest of Chinese investors was made clear to power utility PPC chief executive Giorgos Stassis on a trip to China a week ago.

Talks between officials will include interest by State Grid Corp of China (SGCC) to build on its 24 percent stake of Greek power grid operator IPTO and enter the equity make-up of the operator’s subsidiary Ariadne, project promoter of the Crete-Athens electricity grid link.

Joint investments with PPC and other players in the renewable energy domain will also be explored.

HEDNO/DEDDIE’s plan for the installation of smart power meters is another topic of interest for the visiting Chinese investors.

The next chapter of preceding talks with PPC officials for the development of gas-fired power stations is also expected.

Fuel shift alternatives of the power utility PPC’s prospective Ptolemaida V power station, originally planned as a coal generator, will also be tabled.

Just days ago, PPC officials, led by Stassis, the CEO, held a range of meetings at the Shanghai International Import Expo 2019 with China Development Bank, Shanghai Electric and China Three Gorges, holding a stake in Portugal’s EDP Renovaveis.

China Intellectual Electric Power (solar), ZTE (telecommunications) and CHINT (smart power meters) are among other companies also believed to be seeking to secure investments in the Greek market, sources informed.

SGCC interested in additional IPTO stake, Crete grid link role

The chief official at State Grid Corp of China (SGCC) is expected to officially express interest for an additional stake in Greek power grid operator IPTO as well as an entry into its subsidiary Ariadne, project promoter of the planned Crete-Athens electricity grid interconnection.

Wei Kou, the SGCC chairman, is scheduled to hold a meeting with Greek energy minister Costis Hatzidakis in Athens today.

The Chinese official is part of a visiting Chinese delegation spearheaded by President Xi Jinping. The group arrived yesterday.

The energy ministry has known about SGCC’s interest in both matters for quite some time now.

In July, Hatzidakis, the energy minister, had announced a government intention to further privatize IPTO. SGCC already holds a 24 percent share.

Ensuing reports on the additional IPTO stake that could be offered by the Greek government have ranged between 20 and 30 percent.

As for the Crete-Athens grid link, needed to resolve a looming energy shortage threat on the island, SGCC’s right to become involved is unclear. The European Commission needs to clarify whether the subsidiary of a certified operator – in this case, Ariadne – can develop national grid projects if third parties have entered as shareholders.

Quite clearly, the Greek government is keen on further energy sector collaborations with China. Athens, however, will need to move with particular care and abide by stricter EU rules concerning Chinese investments in European sectors of strategic importance.

Chinese investors drawn by green PPC plan, Ptolemaida V

Power utility PPC’s plans for a restructured green future, as part of the country’s full decarbonization objective, set for 2028 by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, have generated considerable business interest in China, by far the world’s biggest manufacturer of renewable energy equipment and developer of energy storage and electric vehicle technology.

Small, mid and large-scale Chinese investors have displayed strong interest, asking many questions, at a series of meetings with PPC chief executive Giorgos Stassis, in China for Shanghai’s International Import Expo 2019, running until November 10.

Besides seeking to generate sales of equipment, Chinese company officials, more crucially, are also looking to establish joint RES investments in all domains, from wind and solar energy to biomass and combined technologies. Interest for the development of new thermal units, as well as financial support by Chinese banks, has also emerged.

A conversion plan for PPC’s Ptolemaida V unit, still under construction and initially planned to operate as a coal generator but now being reconsidered for a switch to natural gas, biomass, solar or a combination of these, stands as a major attraction for investors and banks. Stassis, the PPC chief, has received various proposals for Ptolemaida V at the Shanghai event.

Work groups will be tasked with appraising these proposals once Stassis returns to Greece. His meetings yesterday included talks with China Development Bank, Shanghai Electric and China Three Gorges, holding a stake in Portugal’s EDP Renovaveis.

Besides green energy projects, not necessarily just with PPC, Chinese investors are also eager to penetrate Greece’s nascent electric vehicle market. Chinese companies are the world’s leaders in this domain. Highlighting this dominance, all 16,000 buses operating in the city Shenzhen are electric.


Major Greek energy companies represented for PM’s China trip

The country’s energy sector is well represented in a business delegation accompanying Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ current official visit to China.

Greek energy corporations primarily active in electricity, renewable energy and energy project construction are represented by highly ranked officials.

Power utility PPC, represented by chief executive Giorgos Stassis; and top officials from Mytilineos group, the Copelouzos group, GEK Terna and the Panagakos group have joined the Greek Prime Minister for the China trip.

A significant energy-sector agreement has already been established by the two countries. In 2017, SGCC, the State Grid Corporation of China, acquired a 24 percent stake of power grid operator IPTO, one of the biggest Chinese investments in Greece to date.

In addition, a number of Chinese companies, including China Energy and the Sumec group, have signed Memorandums of Cooperation with Greek enterprises such as the Copelouzos group and PPC.

In the renewable energy market, Chinese-controlled EDP Renoveis has been awarded capacity, through competitive procedures, to develop RES projects.

SGCC has indicated it could be interested in an upcoming Greek electricity market privatization to offer a stake in distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO.

Ministry, DG Comp talks on PPC sale terms not over yet

Negotiations between the energy ministry and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition for an agreement on the revised terms of the main power utility PPC’s follow-up effort to sell lignite units will continue this week but are not expected to exceed it as a crucial Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers is scheduled for next Monday, March 11.

PPC’s lignite disinvestment is a pending bailout requirement. It is one of the key commitments for the release, by the country’s lenders, of a one-billion euro tranche.

Throughout the previous week, the talks between the energy ministry and the DG Comp were said to be nearing a deal. The fundamentals of the new sale’s revised terms, to feature improved conditions for investors following the initial effort’s failure, have been set but participation details concerning new entrants still need to be clarified, sources explained.

“The main objective of the two sides is to resolve whatever pending issues remain in a way that will maximize the sale’s chances of success this time around,” one source informed.

PPC is also making a committed effort for a successful follow-up sale. Last week, the utility’s chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis provided the European Commission with a letter listing a series of factors he sees as crucial to the disinvestment’s success.

Panagiotakis drew attention to an EU law limiting investment activity of non-EU investors, which he views as an obstacle for the sale. Russian, Chinese and American players of repute are interested in the PPC sale, according to the PPC boss, currently in Beijing for talks with Chinese firms.

Brussels asks RAE to inspect Chinese entry into Greek RES sector, IPTO

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, acting on a European Commission request, has begun an examination process to determine if a strategic agreement between the Copelouzos group and China’s state-run CHN Energy for the latter’s acquisition of wind energy parks creates any EU regulation issues regarding fellow state-run SGCC’s (State Grid Corporation of China) recent 24 percent stake buy into Greek power grid operator, authority sources have informed energypress.

RAE has been asked to examine whether CHN Energy’s agreement to buy Copelouzos wind energy farms with a total capacity of 1,500 MW violates an EU directive concerning the separation of a single entity’s activities in energy production, supply and transmission, according to the same sources.

In essence, RAE is being asked to inspect IPTO’s current certification as a result of SGCC’s purchase of a stake in the Greek operator before determining whether a follow-up certification process will be needed.

Much ground needs to be covered before the strategic agreement reached between the Copelouzos group and CHN Energy turns into an actual deal, the RAE sources told energypress.

The European Commission’s intervention is also linked to CHN Energy’s interest in the main power utility PPC’s ongoing sale of the Meliti and Megalopoli lignite-fired power stations, part of a bailout-required sale of PPC lignite units, the sources admitted.

Brussels increasingly vigilant towards Chinese investments

The European Commission is maintaining a passive yet increasingly vigilant watch on Chinese energy-sector investments in Greece and other EU member states, Brussels officials have indicated in comments to journalists.

China’s penetration of European markets is not viewed negatively as long as the related entrepreneurial activity complies with EU law, officials in Brussels pointed out.

Highlighting this intensifying lookout, Chinese initiatives in the Greek market were raised at a Brussels news conference held by European Commission officials.

Journalists forwarded questions concerning last year’s acquisition by SGCC (State Grid Corporation of China) of a 24 percent stake in Greek power grid operator IPTO, as well as CHN Energy’s interest in an ongoing bailout-required sale of main power utility PPC lignite assets, including the Meliti and Megalopoli power stations.

“Chinese investments can take place as long as they are in line with EU law and meet all obligations regarding electricity supply sufficiency,” one Brussels official noted. “The extent to which this is being observed in Greece’s case will be evaluated when the time comes to do so.”

DEPA, Cheniere discussing two time slots for LNG shipments

Gas utility DEPA and leading US energy exporter Cheniere, engaged in advanced talks for a first LNG shipment to the Greek market, have agreed on two possible time slots for orders, the first during the opening months of 2019, to cover peak winter-season demand, and the second for shipment in July or August to coincide with elevated summer-season energy demand.

The arrival of American LNG to the Greek market is also expected to test – in practice – the compatibility of American gas and local infrastructure and pave the way for long-term agreements, pundits have noted.

A decision by Beijing to impose tariffs on US energy-related exports to the Chinese market as a response to US tariffs on Chinese products is expected to prompt a redirection of considerable US gas amounts to other markets, primarily European.

DEPA and Cheniere officials are believed to be discussing both spot market and contract orders.

ELPE acts against any possible fallout of US sanctions on Iran

ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) has stopped placing new Iranian crude orders and also settled the biggest part of an older outstanding amount owed to the country’s state-run oil company as protection against any negative fallout that could result from US President Donald Trump’s new sanctions against Iran, announced in May.

Like other petroleum firms in various countries, ELPE reached its decision to stop ordering Iranian crude to safeguard itself against a variety of problems, including exclusion from transactions, with American banks and oil companies.

The US president has issued a strong warning to anyone trading with Iran, following his re-imposition of sanctions on the country.

“Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States,” the president tweeted.

Some re-imposed sanctions have just taken effect and tougher ones relating to oil exports will begin in November.

The EU, China and India have announced they do not intend to follow the American example and impose sanctions on Iran, as they had done in 2012, when the US last imposed sanctions on the country, international news agencies have reported over the past few days. However, all three could end up succumbing to market pressure if their oil firms find themselves in danger of being blocked out of US financial and oil markets.

Returning to ELPE, the Greek petroleum firm has already taken action to fill the void created by its decision to stop placing Iranian crude orders. A wider strategy adopted by the firm’s administration to diversify crude supply sources for ELPE’s three refineries – two west of Athens in Aspropyrgos and Elefsina, as well as a third facility in Thessaloniki – has helped cover the shortage.

According to ELPE’s annual economic report for 2017, Iranian and Iraqi crude represented 22 percent of total orders placed by the Greek firm. Russia and Kazakhstan each represented 10 percent of ELPE’s crude orders in 2017, Saudi Arabia supplied 5 percent, Mediterranean countries provided 9 percent, as did Libya, Egypt’s share was 4 percent, while various other countries supplied 13 percent.

Iranian crude exports declined by 300,000 bpd (barrels per day) to 2.3 million bpd in July as a result of reduced orders by European refineries, according to international news agency reports. Officials in Washington anticipate Iran’s crude exports could drop to a level of less than one million bpd.




JRC examining prospect of EU-China grid interconnection

The Joint Research Center (JRC), the European Commission’s science and knowledge service, is examining the prospect of a gigantic EU-China grid interconnection project that would also offer access to the enormous renewable energy potential offered by intermediate areas.

The idea was first proposed by Chinese officials in 2016. JRC, which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy, has begun exploring such a project’s potential. Its cost is expected to reach between 15 and 28 billion euros, depending on details.

Domestic Chinese interconnection projects, to link north and south, are now in progress.

According to Euractiv, the European media platform, JRC is examining three different routes for this gigantic interconnection, based on a plan avoiding sensitive areas. The interconnection could end up measuring a length of anywhere between 5,000 and 8,000 kilometers.

The shortest EU-China route would start from China’s northwest and run through Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine. Its proximity to Mongolia, whose wind energy potential is massive, is a positive feature but the route’s dependency on Russia and Ukraine is seen as a drawback.

The second route being considered would run through the Caspian and Black Sea. However, the installation of underwater power cables needed for this route significantly increases the project’s development cost.

The third option being looked at by JRC, which represents the longest route, begins from northwest China and runs through Myanmar, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey. Land surface challenges are a problem but this extended route does offer an opportunity for links with many energy sources along the way.

The JRC study acknowledges restrictions in China’s infrastructure but sees this as an opportunity for upgrades.

As a result of the time zone difference between the EU and China, development of an interconnection linking the two would offer opportunities for major flexibility boosts that would enable more effective handling of electricity demand peaks.

SolarPower Europe, the EPIA (European Photovoltaic Industry Association), has described the interconnection prospect as extremely interesting but notes that development of the EU market, the aim being to foster and further incorporate RES units into the system, remains the priority.


Chinese, US investors buying local Euroenergy RES interests

The Libra Group, an international corporate group active in energy, aviation, hospitality, real estate, shipping and diversified investments that is wholly-owned by the Logothetis family, is selling a portion of its Greek RES interests.

According to energypress sources, the group intends to hold on to about one third of its local PV investments and one quarter of local wind energy interests.

A Chinese firm is believed to have secured the PV units placed for sale by the Libra Group while a powerful US fund, already prominently placed in the Greek market, is expected to add the group’s wind energy units to its portfolio.

Interestingly, Euroenergy, the group’s company handling renewable energy investments in Europe, has spent the past three to four years working to strengthen its portfolio through acquisitions of developed wind parks and project licenses.

In 2016, Euroenergy bought three wind parks possessing a total capacity of 120 MW from French group EDF.

The Libra Group is expected to use the proceeds of the sales to cover loans.

Euroenergy maintains a prominent RES portfolio in Greece, Romania and Latvia. The Libra Group’s  investments in Greece also include the Grace boutique hotel chain as well as a series of investments held  independently and with partners.

China announces plan to free electricity trading market

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China and National Energy Administration (NEA) have issued a document called “Pilot Plan for Wholesale Distributed Generation Electricity Market”, outlining a plan for free electricity trading in China.

This move signals that the Chinese Central Government is committed to electricity reform as the document provides guidance for wholesale DG market reforms as well as instructions on how provinces not within the scope of the pilot program should gradually make the transition towards a more market-based approach of electricity generation.

The provisions set forth by NDRC and NEA calls for the expansion of long-term market-based “direct trading”. This will enable major-scale electricity consumers such as factories, retailers, and offices to directly buy electricity from electricity generators through bilateral agreements and a centralized auctions mechanism called “direct trading.” It is the first time that the market pilots have focused almost entirely on implementation of renewable electricity direct trading.

Direct trading will mean less dependency on subsidies for PV as PV would compete head-to-head with coal-fired power plants. PV manufacturers will thus have no choice but to accelerate the decrease in cost of production.

Photovoltaics manufacturers are now looking into how to make solar competitive when directly competing with coal, or how to increase industry’s share of industrial solar electricity consumption.

At JinkoSolar, a Chinese manufacturer of photovoltaics and developer of solar projects, the focus is on bringing the most appropriate technologies to the market. Providing technology that balances module price and performance, this company is focusing on promoting half-cell technology.

Half-cell modules deliver an additional 5-10Wp per panel compared to their non-half-cell conventional counterparts, without adding much cost. Also, half-cell modules have enhanced shade tolerance due to their optimized circuit design and decentralized junction boxes. The combination of increased output performance at a lowered marginal cost with enhanced shade tolerance promises rapid growth for half-cell modules over the next five years.

A global leader in the solar industry, JinkoSolar distributes its solar products and sells its solutions and services to a diversified international utility, commercial and residential customer base in China, USA, Japan, Germany, the UK, Chile, South Africa, India, Mexico, Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, and other countries and regions.

JinkoSolar has built a vertically integrated solar product value chain, with an integrated annual capacity of 6.0 GW for silicon ingots and wafers, 4.5 GW for solar cells, and 7.5 GW for solar modules, as of June 30, 2017.

JinkoSolar has over 15,000 employees across its 8 productions facilities in China(5), Malaysia, Portugal and South Africa, 16 oversea subsidiaries in Japan (2), Singapore, India, Turkey, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Australia, South Africa and United Arab Emirates, and 18 global sales offices in China (2) , the UK, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Morocco, Ghana, Kenya, Costa Rica, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico.



IPTO head expresses interest for more Chinese partnerships

The strategic partnership recently established between IPTO, Greece’s power grid operator, and SGCC (State Grid Corporation of China), which acquired a 24 percent stake in the operator, has so far proved exceptional, IPTO chief executive Manos Manousakis told Chinese news agency Xinhua.

The results of this partnership are already apparent in IPTO’s improved performance, which is why the operator plans to seek further collaborations with Chinese partners, Manousakis noted.

IPTO recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with CDB, the China Development Bank, one of the world’s biggest banking institutions. CDB has expressed an interest to finance companies and projects in Greece. IPTO hopes that CDB financing will provide impetus to the operator’s ambitious growth plan.

“We signed a very important memorandum of understanding with China Development Bank to explore the possibilities of financing our new projects and for the company’s capital,” Manousakis told the Xinhua agency. “Major interconnection projects on the Greek mainland and islands, as well as international interconnection projects in the Mediterranean all lie ahead,” he added.

Japan’s Hitachi widens Asian interest in PPC unit sale plan

Though European interest in the main power utility PPC’s bailout-required unit sale package, until now a lignite-only offer, has remained limited to investors from the continent’s east, Asian interest is broadening, as suggested by Japanese consideration following Chinese.

Japan’s Hitachi corporate group, which has taken on constructing the utility’s Ptolemaida IV, a project budgeted at 1.4 billion euros, is also eyeing the PPC units sale, sources have informed.

It is believed the Japanese company’s buying interest is combined with an interest to upgrade ageing PPC units and construct new ones, key activities at Hitachi Power Europe. Interestingly, Japanese investors are extremely selective in their investment choices, as is highlighted by the country’s limited Greek market presence.

Meanwhile, Greek officials, including government and PPC authorities, are continuing their negotiations with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition over the units to be included in the utility’s sale package.

Certain sources are claiming that Brussels authorities have eased up on previous objections concerning the inclusion of a Meliti unit license into the sale package. DG Comp authorities have questioned whether the sale of a permit to build represents a disinvestment move. This Meliti license is now seen as an asset by DG Comp officials, sources noted.

It remains to be seen whether PPC’s Amynteo or Megalopoli lignite-fired facilities will be included in the package. Greek officials believe the Amynteo unit proposal fully satisfies the procedure’s requirements, rendering any talk of Megalopoli’s inclusion into the sale package as unnecessary. Even so, Greek officials are fully aware of the fact that Brussels, not yet convinced of the local PPC unit sale proposal, has kept Megalopoli on the negotiating table.

Brussels sees the inclusion of the Amynteo facility as a costly option as this unit is ageing and requires an 80 million-euro revamp. Of course, if performed, the facility’s lifespan would be extended to 2035.





EBRD: China capitalizing on Greek energy market openings

A European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) report monitoring China’s investments in Europe, whose findings on Greece were presented in Athens yesterday, notes that China, sensing market opportunities, has been able to enter the Greek market after being permitted to do so by European authorities, However, the country is now facing tightening conditions being engineered by the EU, the report mildly suggests.

The EBRD report, authored by Dr. Jens Bastian and funded by the Central European Initiative, an intergovernmental forum committed to supporting European intergration through cooperation among member states, details China’s aggressive investment approach in Greece and places particular emphasis on the local energy sector.

Attention is paid to Greece’s role in China’s wider plans. The report describes Greece as a gateway for Chinese investments in the wider Balkan region. China’s strategy, continuously bolstering the country’s standing abroad, has cultivated aspirations for the Balkan and central European markets, the EBRD report notes.

It also notes that Chinese investors, contrary to other interested parties, have made the most of the subdued investment activity in Greece and shown a willingness to take risks and pursue long-term business strategies.

The EBRD report also points out that reliable ties have been established between Chinese investors and Greece’s political and business communities. As a result, Chinese investors are now placed in the pole position for Greek projects, it notes.

Reference is made to two major Chinese energy-related moves in Greece. One concerns the interest of the China Development Bank (CDB) to reinforce its presence in Greece, primarily through financing energy sector projects, as has been pointed out by the bank’s chief, Hu Huaibang. CDB and the Bank of Greece recently signed a memorandum of cooperation.

The recent entry of SGCC (State Grid Corporation of China) into IPTO, Greece’s power grid operator, as a strategic partner with a 24 percent, is also presented in the report. This agreement ranked as the second largest investment to be made in Greece in 2016. Another Chinese investment, Cosco’s takeover of the Piraues Port Authority (OLP), topped the list.



PPC units sale interest limited to east Europe, China investors

Investor interest in main power utility PPC’s approaching bailout-required sale offer of lignite units is restricted to east European firms, especially Polish and Czech, as well as China, all of which are expected to seek the backing of local partners, sources have informed.

Greek officials, who will discuss the PPC unit sale plan at the Directorate-General for Energy and Directorate-General for Competition in Brussels on Monday, will present these expressions of interest made so far as part of the effort to examine the level of attractiveness of Greece’s lignite-only offer.

The Greek sale plan will need to be deemed as attractive for investors if the European Commission is to endorse it. The offer will also need to represent 40 percent of PPC’s lignite capacity and also permit the utility to remain sustainable.

PPC officials contend their sale package plan was prepared with genuine intentions and does not aim to undermine and delay the sale procedure. Even so, it does not seem capable of luring central European investors, as was highlighted by the absence of EdF representation in French President Emmanuel Macron’s delegation assembled for an official two-day visit to Athens last week.

France’s EdF, which already maintains a Greek market presence through Italian energy firm Edison, ought to have been represented in Macron’s visiting delegation if the PPC sale plan was viewed favorably by European investors.

PPC preparing for new attempt to penetrate Balkan markets

PPC, Greec’s main power utility, is preparing to make a new attempt at penetrating the Balkan market, the corporation’s chief has told the recently launched weekly Nea Selida.

As part of the effort, the utility plans to participate in an upcoming international tender offering two hydropower facilities in Turkey, while similar moves are being planned for the Albanian market, according to PPC chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis.

The power utilty’s entry into the wider Balkan market, gaining pivotal importance as the EU energy market moves towards full intergration, is imperative for the Greek corporation’s future, Panagiotakis stressed in the interview.

PPC is aiming to heighten its activity in the Turkish market by establishing synergies with enterprises in the neighboring country, Panagiotakis noted without elaborating further.

Many pundits believe that PPC will seek to penetrate the Balkans with the backing of Chinese business partners. For quite some time now, the Greek utility has made clear its anticipation of and reliance on Chinese capital as a key towards entering Balkan markets following unsuccesssful attempts going back over a decade.

PPC made its first attempt in 2003 when it sought to enter the Romanian market. A series of other efforts ensued, all proving unsuccessful.

Albania, where PPC has established a subsidiary, needs to have its network developed, while thermal units also need to be constructed as the country’s network is heavily reliant on hydropower facilities.


PPC head stresses utility’s persistence with China partnerships plan

The main power utility PPC’s top official has once again highlighted his determination to stick to a plan envisioning business partnerships with Chinese enterprises as a way out of the utility’s problems along many fronts.

Manolis Panagiotakis, PPC’s chief executive, is counting on Chinese capital and knowhow as support for the utility’s new investment plans, intended to offset bailout-required market share losses in electricity production and retail, the official made clear in an interview for Chinese news agency Xinhua, which took place in northern Greece’s west Macedonia region, a key local energy producing region.

PPC’s administration is striving to lead the utility into a new era where business interests will stretch beyond electricity production and sales, Panagiotakis noted in the interview, adding that Chinese firms are pivotal to these aspirations.

Panagiotakis noted that agreements already reached between PPC and major Chinese firms point to a bright future for Greek-Chinese collaborations in the energy sector. Chinese enterprises can play a fundamental role in the Greek energy sector’s new strategic planning, the PPC chief remarked.

The PPC head cited the utility’s plan for the co-development, with CMEC, of a lignite-fired power station in Meliti, northern Greece. He described this as a feasible project regardless of the outcome of a bailout-required sale faced by PPC concerning 40 percent of its lignite capacity.

He also made note of another plan involving CMEC for the development of a smart meters production facility. A preliminary agreement has already been signed for this project.

Panagiotakis described SGCC’s (State Grid Corporation of China) recent acquisition of a 24 percent stake in IPTO, Greece’s power grid operator, as a positive development. He stressed that PPC is keen to expand this SGCC strategic partnership, citing the electric car market and a submarine power cable interconnection project to link the Greek mainland with Crete.

The PPC chief also noted that the Greek power utility is interested in working with Shenhua on various projects concerning innovation in the environmental sector, an area in which Shenhua has made major progress, he added.

Panagiotakis has held meetings with 21 major Chinese enterprises on two official visits to China since taking over the helm at PPC about two years ago.





Minority stakes safest way for Chinese investors eyeing PPC units

Chinese firms expected to express an interest in acquiring main power utility PPC lignite units to soon be placed for sale, a bailout requirement, will need to buy as minority shareholders of consortiums featuring Greek or European players so as to avoid encountering European Commission competition regulation problems.

Chinese offers will need to be based on models similar to that adopted for SGCC’s 24 percent acquisition of IPTO, Greece’s power grid operator, to avoid problems in Brussels, pundits told energypress.

The European Commission is maintaining a defensive stance against Chinese energy sector investors as most firms are state controlled. Protective measures by Brussels, existing and prospective, aiming to safeguard the EU from China’s expansionary drive, could run contrary to Greece’s PPC plans.

Many Greek government officials believe that an understanding ought to be established between Greece and Europe that could stretch beyond serving the interests of major EU member states, exclusively, and, rather offer wider benefits for all involved.

Keen to keep attracting Chinese investments, the Greek government believes the role of Athens should be an intermediary one bridging gaps between China and the EU. The adoption of protectionist policies by the EU, in reaction to China’s plans to broaden its interests, does not befit Europe’s declared policies, the Greek government supports.

Whether Brussels is prepared to show some leniency for the anticipated Chinese interest in PPC’s lignite units remains to be seen. China, too, is well aware of the hurdles and can be expected to tread carefully, through minority stakes in consortiums.

Various scenarios being tossed about will acquire more definite shape this coming autumn when a market test is held to determine the potential buyers, and their respective levels of investor interest, with regards to PPC’s attempt to sell lignite units.



Increased administrative rights, monitoring at IPTO

Power grid operator IPTO’s new certification, jointly issued by the European Commission and RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, to facilitate the operator’s split from main power utility PPC, the parent company, offers increased administrative rights too shareholdres but also enhances the terms for supply security.

IPTO and the stategic investor must fully adhere to Greek and EU law and abide by RAE and EU decisions on supply security. Any violations could terminate the operator’s certification and lead to penalties, the certification specifies.

In the case of IPTO, State Grid International Development (SGID), representing parent company SGCC (State Grid Corporation of China), which has acquired a 24 percent share of the operator, possesses extended rights to co-decide on strategic matters at IPTO such as strategic planning, the operator’s annual budget and investment plans.

The certificiation’s terms also provide for monitoring of activities to ensure adherence to EU law and supply security policies.

The future developments concerning activities pursued by SGID, SGCC, and, on a wider level, the Chinese government in Greece amd Europe need to be monitored to ensure that security supply conditions remain unchanged, the new IPTO certification points out.

China undisputed climate change, RES leader following US withdrawal

The US withdrawal from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, announced yesterday by the recently elected President Donald Trump, leaves China as the world’s undisputed leader in the quest to reduce CO2 emissions and promote renewable energy production.

Trump’s decision comes at a time when the EU has set ambitious targets concerning RES development, CO2 emission reductions and energy efficiency, and China has poured the greatest amounts to achieve such objectives.

The world’s main greengouse gas polluters, namely the US, China and EU member states, carry greater responsibility on the global stage as their behavior sets the example for others.

The US withdrawal will impact the Paris climate agreement on a number of levels. The international pact, which, prior to yesterday, was missing just Syria and Nicaragua, has now been left without the support of the world’s biggest ever CO2 polluter, and second biggest at present. The US will not be subject to any restrictions concerning emission reductions until 2020, at least. This prospect, along with other similar-minded US initiatives taken by the Tump-led US administration, including its withdrawn support for climate change research, all combine to mean that the US will, from now on, be left to walk in isolation.

Certain pundits contend that, depsite yesterday’s US walkout, the global trend towards clean energy and emission reduction policies also makes economic sense and, as a result, will continue being supported in the US, regardless of Trump’s intentions.

The US President’s climate pact withdrawal is also expected to make major political impact on an international scale, providing further impetus for China’s development as the world leader. The amounts invested by this country to counter climate change are staggering.

China is seeking to establish a new model for economic and industrial growth, which the country will aim to export along with its technology. The Chinese model shares certain similarities when compared to its European equivalent but many aspects differ. The absence of the US in this department will allow China to move freeely and have a greater influence on global developments.

At the same time, Trump’s climate change isolation should enable the US to export fossil fuels at competitive prices, which, to a certain degree, will affect the RES sector’s level of competitiveness.

The main objective of the Paris climate agreement is to limit global warming to a maximum average of 2 degrees Celsius. The absence of the US from the pact for at least four years, or eight if Trump is re-elected for a second term, greatly reduces the probability of this target being achieved, given the scale of the US. This increases the threat of irreparable environmental damage in the future.



Meliti II inclusion on PPC sale list ‘would affect CMEC plan’

The inclusion of the existing main power utility PPC Meliti I lignite-fired power station and the prospective Meliti II facility to the utility’s bailout-required list of unit sales would require any contract for the latter’s development to be offered through a tender, the corporation’s chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis clarified today during a general shareholders’ meeting.

If the Meliti units are not included on PPC’s bailout-related unit sale list then PPC should not have any issues actualizing its plan, the utility chief pointed out.

Just days ago, deputy development minister Stergios Pitsiorlas noted that collaborations such as a partnership envisaged by PPC with CMEC, the China Machinery Engineering Corporation, for the construction and operation of Meliti II would need to be established through tenders. This was widely viewed as a further government obstacle to PPC’s plans.

“Much will depend on the procedure determining the units to be included in PPC’s sale package,” the PPC chief noted during today’s general shareholders’ meeting. The list of PPC lignite-fired unit sales needs to be prepared by next month.

“Preparing this list is not a simple matter as power stations cannot be split into units, nor is it easy to break up the mines supplying these power stations,” Panagiotakis remarked.

Prior to Pitsiorlas’s remarks, energy minister Giorgos Stathakis announced that a new tender would need to be staged for part of the Vevi mine, whose output would be crucial for Meliti II.

“If the Vevi mine’s current tender runs into trouble then this is sure to create problems with the Chinese investors for the Meliti project,” the PPC head noted. “This would also affect supply for PPC’s existing Meliti I power station,” he added.



Bailout an obstacle for Chinese interest in PPC projects

Greek energy ministry and main power utility PPC officials appear to be fully aware of concerns in Brussels over warming Greek-Chinese ties for various Greek energy-sector projects, as indicated by additional terms in the recently revised bailout agreement.

These European Commission concerns explain why PPC chief Manolis Panagiotakis remained reserved despite a firm interest expressed by Chinese investors for the Greek energy market during his visit to China earlier this week.

A clause added to the revised bailout, which notes that prospective buyers of PPC units, “based on available information, should neither create any apparent competition problems nor cause delay risks in the implementation of structural measures” could, in one sense, be interpreted as an attempt to obstruct the development of Meliti II and, in addition, block Chinese investors from buying exisiting PPC units and becoming involved in partnerships for the construction and operation of new ones.

PPC and CMEC (China Machinery Engineering Corporation) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) last September and have held extensive talks on joining efforts for the development of Meliti II, a prospective carbon-fired power station in the Meliti area, close to Florina in Greece’s north.

The Chinese State, which controls CMEC, is also behind SGCC (State Grid Corporation of China), whose agreement to acquire a 24 percent stake in the power grid operator IPTO, a PPC subsidiary, was endorsed by Brussels several days ago. Brussels appears concerned by the prospect of a concerntration of control for the Chinese State.

Pundits told energypress that the additional bailout term will obstruct PPC’s planned collaboration with Chinese companies, a prospect viewed with increased concern by EU member states such as Italy, France and Germany, which, despite their negative stance, have yet to display any clear interest in PPC’s prospective sale of utility units, a bailout requirement.

CMEC, still requiring certain details before making a final decision, appears keen to move ahead with the development of the Meliti II project, sources informed following the PPC chief’s visit to China. The issue may have cleared up within the next month. The future of the nearby Vevi mine, whose coal supply is crucial for existing Meliti I and prospective Meliti II, is a pivotal factor that will influence CMEC’s interest.

Energy minister Giorgos Stathakis recently announced that a new tender will need to be staged for part of the Vevi mine. If so, this could deflate CMEC’s interest in Meliti II.

In China, Panagiotakis, the PPC boss, presented his plans for the development of two more coal-fired power stations, not including Meliti II, in talks with Chinese investors, including the Shenhua and SPIC enterprises.

Shenhua appears interested in becoming involved in environmental upgrades of exisiting PPC power stations and development of new units.



PPC chief discusses new smart meter facility at CMEC meeting

The main power utility PPC’s chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis, accompanying Greek Prime Minister Alexis on a trip to China for the country’s Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, a premier diplomatic event, has held a series of meetings with key Chinese energy-sector figures.

Panagiotakis’s meetings, according to a PPC statement, included a session with CMEC (China Machinery Engineering Corporation) president Zhang Chun as well as other highly-ranked officials of the Chinese company.

CMEC has been exploring the possibility of collaborating with PPC for the development and operation of Meliti II, a prospective carbon-fired power station in northern Greece. Other senior PPC officials joined the utility chief for the CMEC meeting, dominated by talks concerning the Meliti II project. The meeting was described as a constructive session.

The two sides also discussed the prospect of jointly developing a smart meter production facility in Greece, which would serve both the local and foreign markets. This facility would create as many as 400 jobs, according to the Greek power utility.

PPC and CMEC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) last September for the Meliti II project.

PM, PPC boss to discuss energy collaborations on China visit

The Greek administration is viewing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s current visit to China as a follow-up to Chinese investments in Greece by Cosco for the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) and SGCC’s (State Grid Corporation of China) agreement with the state-controlled main power utility PPC for a 24 percent acquisition of subsidiary IPTO, the power grid operator, endorsed by the European Commission yesterday.

A barrage of Chinese investments, particularly in the energy sector, is expected following the recent conclusion of the Greek bailout’s second review.

The timing of the European Commission’s approval of the IPTO agreement with SGCC, announced while Tsipras was on his way to Beijing, provides further momentum to the prime minister’s China trip.

The Greek government would view favorably Chinese interest in the upcoming sale of PPC units and 17 percent privatization of the utility, both bailout requirements. Extensive talks have already been held with CMEC (China Machinery Engineering Corporation) for the development of Meliti II, a second carbon-fired power station planned by PPC in the Meliti area, close to Florina in the country’s north.

PPC chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis, accompanying the Greek prime minister on this trip to China, will seek to appease Chinese concerns generated by energy minister Giorgos Stathakis’s recent announcement of the need to stage a new tender for part of the Vevi mine, whose output is essential for Meliti II. Talk of including the Meliti II license in the bailout-required sale package of PPC units has also unsettled CMEC officials.

The PPC chief has proposed constructing two new lignite-fired power stations, not including Meliti II. This plan has not been embraced by the Greek energy ministry as it runs contrary to the bailout agreement concerning the energy sector.

On this visit to China, Panagiotakis, who is expected to meet with officials at CMEC, Shenhua Group, SPIC and the China Development Bank (CDB), will need to convince prospective investors that lignite-fired power stations will remain a key part of PPC’s future operations.



PPC chief travels to China today for meetings with key officials

The main power utility PPC’s chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis will travel to China today for a series of important meetings with head officials at SGCC (State Grid Corporation of China), CMEC (China Machinery Engineering Corporation), the Shenhua group and CDB (China Development Bank), all linked to possible dealings with the Greek power utility.

Panagiotakis, who is believed to have angered European Commission officials as a result of his intention to develop two new carbon-fired power stations, not including Meliti II, as joint ventures, a prospect that runs contrary to terms in the Greek bailout, will update Chinese officials on Greece’s energy-sector developments and also present his future vision for PPC.

The PPC chief has noted that, on this trip, he will present the utility’s market prospects in the wake of the bailout measures, the utility’s lignite-fired electricity production prospects, as well as his insistence on free CO2 emission rights for PPC from the European Commission.

The government’s position on state-controlled PPC issues, given related bailout requirements, remains undecided, utility officials have noted. PPC officials believe the European Commission may agree to exempt the utility’s existing carbon-fired power station Meliti I, as well as the prospective Meliti II, from a bailout-required unit sale package the utility will need to soon prepare.

Prospective buyers will not express an interest in the Meliti II license without access to the nearby Vevi mine, PPC officials anticipate. Energy Minister Giorgos Stathakis recently announced a new tender will be held for rights to part of the Vevi mine.

The outcome of Panagiotakis’s talks with CMEC president Zhang Chun will be pivotal as the two officials have already extensively discussed collaborating on the Meliti II project.

PPC officials are counting on an older commitment from Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who described Meliti II’s development as a “vote of confidence for the Greek economy”.

Panagiotakis is accompanying Tsipras on this China visit, coinciding with a Beijing conference, the Belt and Road Forum. PPC officials hope the prime minister will underline that the Meliti II project remains alive. PPC officials have not ruled out developments during the Greek delegation’s stay in China.


PPC boss in China to present plans, check bailout reaction

The main power utility PPC chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis has scheduled a series of meetings with key electricity market officials in China over the next few days to present project plans and, most crucially, see how Chinese investors feel about Greece’s bailout update, revised following last week’s conclusion of the second review. He will also seek to nurture ties with Chinese investors.

The PPC chief, who plans to meet with officials at CMEC – currently examining the prospect of developing Melitis II, a carbon-fired power station in Greece’s north – the Shenhua Group, SPIC, and the China Development Bank (CDB), will present plans for the construction of two additional carbon-fired power stations, not including Meliti II.

If Panagiotakis’s plan to develop additional power stations with Chinese support is to make any progress, several bailout-related developments will need to be overcome. The existing Meliti I and prospective Meliti II power stations must be exempted from a sale package of PPC carbon-fired power stations specified in the updated bailout agreement; energy minister Giorgos Stathakis needs to reverse an intention to stage a new tender for a mine at Vevi, whose supply is crucial for Meliti II; PPC will need to be granted permission to form partnerships with private-sector companies; and a Greek bid for free CO2 emmission rights at the European Commisison must succeed.

In an interview with Greek daily Kathimerini, the PPC boss stated he believes a certain degree of leeway in Brussels continues to exist, expressing confidence that Greece’s lenders, including the European Commission, will reexamine certain aspects of the latest bailout.

A meeting between Panagiotakis and CMEC president Zhang Chun will be important as the two officials have already extensively discussed the Meliti II project.

On his visit to China, the PPC chief will accompany Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at a Beijing conference, the Belt and Road Forum. PPC officials hope the prime minister will underline the Meliti II project remains alive.

Once back from China, Panagiotakis will travel to Brussels to present his PPC plans to the European Commission.


China’s CTG visit linked to likely PPC hydropower unit sales

Officials representing Chinese energy giant China Three Gorges Corporation (CTG), a state-controlled enterprise behind the construction and operation of the world’s biggest hydropower project, the Three Gorges Dam project, were in Athens yesterday to explore investment opportunities, including the prospective sale of main power utility PPC hydropower units, sources noted.

It looks like Greece’s state-controlled PPC utility will eventually need to sell hydropower units, ongoing bailout negotiations between government officials and Greece’s lenders for the second review’s conclusion strongly indicate.

CTG officials were included in a visiting delegation of Chinese entrepreneurs who held a meeting in Athens yesterday with key Greek officials.

Members of the Chinese delegation held talks with deputy economy and development minister Stergios Pitsiorlas as well as officials representing Enterprise Greece, a state-sponsored investment support group, to discuss investment opportunities offered by the Greek market and establish ties with related ministries.

SGCC, the State Grid Corporation of China, which has agreed to acquire a 24 percent stake of power grid operator IPTO, a subsidiary of main power utility PPC, and  CMEC, which has signed an MOU with PPC for the development of a second power station at Meliti in northern Greece’s Florina area, were not represented by the visiting Chinese group.

CTG is responsible for the construction and operation of the world’s biggest hydropower project, the Three Gorges Dam project, possessing a 22,500 MW-capacity, almost double Greece’s total power-generating capacity.

Present in 40 countries, CTG is ranked the world’s biggest hydropower producer. The total capacity of Chinese power hydropower stations under its control measures over 46,300 MW. Adding CTG’s investments beyond China takes the firm’s installed capacity figure to 100 GW.

In 2014, CTG generated 201.2 TWh of electricity, approximately five times the energy produced and used in Greece, for revenues of 10.1 billion dollars and a profit of 3.3 billion dollars.

Late in 2011, CTG participated in the privatization process of Portugal’s power utility Energias de Portugal, acquiring a 21.35 percent stake for 2.69 billion euros.


China Shenhua Group interested in Amynteo upgrade project

China Shenhua Group, one of China’s biggest coal and energy trading corporations, has expressed an interest to participate in the upgrade project of an ageing main power utility PPC lignite-fired power station in Amynteo, close to Florina, in northern Greece.

A team of China Shenhua Group officials visited the 600-MW capacity facility last week, following up on a preceding expression of interest in the upgrade project, according to an article published by Greek daily Kathimerini.

During the visit, the Chinese corporation’s officials also held preliminary talks with the Kopelouzos Group on the possible establishment of a partnership for the upgrade.

The lifespan of PPC’s ageing Amynteo station has been restricted to 17,000 hours by the European Commission as a result of its carbon emissions. PPC has requested an extension to 32,000 hours.

Last December, Ling Wen, President and Vice Chairman of the Board at the Shenhua Group, and a team of associates visited Athens for talks with all of the country’s major energy corporations.