Looming PPC unit sales testing coalition’s political endurance

An anticipated reaction by main power utility PPC union members and coalition MPs opposing the energy ministry’s acceptance of a demand by the country’s lenders for the sale of a substantial proportion of the utility’s producing capacity is expected to test the government’s political endurance.

The news of prospective PPC lignite-fired unit sales brought back to Greece by energy minister Giorgos Stathakis from a meeting in Brussels just a few days ago has sparked anger within the ranks of the utility’s Genop union and among MPs of the coalition, holding just a slim majority in Greek Parliament.

Though the minister accepted the PPC unit sales demand made by the lenders, seen as a compromise that may help conclude the bailout’s prolonged second review, a final agreement on the unit sales plan will not be approved by the Greek government unless Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his close associates deem that the discontent prompted within his Syriza party’s ranks can be managed at a political level.

Stathakis, the energy minister, held a meeting yesterday with one of the Syriza MPs opposing his acceptance of the PPC unit sales demand by lenders. The MP, Kostas Seltsas, representing a seat in the Florina region of northern Greece, was told that the government is facing relentless pressure by the lenders. Stathakis has lined up more meetings with concerned MPs today.

One seasoned MP of the main opposition conservative New Democracy party told energypress that the coalition had made too many sacrifices to stop now. The sale of a mere few PPC units represents just a small addition to the country’s overall sacrifice, the conservative MP noted, contending that the development is “controllable”.

A market test to be conducted in September in order to measure the level of interest of potential buyers is expected to determine which PPC units will be put up for sale. Besides lignite-fired units, hydropower stations may also be included in the sale package.

From a political perspective, this means that any challenge to be faced by the coalition will not need to be dealt with until a few months later, in December, when the PPC sale package is tabled in Parliament for ratification.