Damco Energy CCGT boost to 840 MW approved by RAE

A plan by Damco Energy, a Copelouzos group subsidiary, to increase the capacity of its prospective natural gas-fired power station in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, from 662 MW to 840 MW has been approved by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

The energy company now needs to make an investment decision, expected within the summer, before work on the project commences, sources informed. Its licensing procedure has been completed.

According to the sources, ESM, North Macedonia’s state electricity company, set to acquire a 25 percent in the Alexandroupoli natural gas-fired power station, is now at the final of its preparations and is currently performing due diligence.

Damco Energy is one of a number of companies that have not only decided to develop natural gas-fired power stations but also to boost capacities of their respective projects to over 800 MW.

Mytilineos was the first to do so with its plan for an 826-MW combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT unit) in Agios Nikolaos, Viotia, northwest of Athens, a project already being developed.

Following suit, Elpedison upgraded a licensed natural gas-fired power station plan in Thessaloniki to 826 MW, while, just weeks ago, GEK Terna and Motor Oil also announced an upgrade for their natural gas-fired power station in Komotini, northeastern Greece, a joint venture, to 877 MW.

Power utility PPC has also announced a plan to convert its new lignite-fired power station, Ptolemaida V, to a natural gas unit, planned to ultimately offer a capacity of over 1,000 MW by 2025.

The prospective natural gas-fired power stations, totaling 4.3 GW, are planned to fill the capacity gap that will be left by PPC’s withdrawal of lignite-fired power stations, exiting as part of the country’s decarbonization effort.

These new gas-fired units are also expected to export electricity to Balkan countries through grid interconnections with neighboring markets.

Energy investment activity rising, focus on RES projects, energy transition

Investment activity in the domestic energy sector is rising with major deals being negotiated, the main focus being on renewables and the energy transition, participants at yesterday’s Delphi Economic Forum made clear.

This activity promises significant growth for all RES technologies, even the more innovative, such as offshore wind farms and energy storage units.

Major energy players are moving to capitalize on opportunities that are emerging as the country pushes ahead with its decarbonization effort. Also, investor talks concerning domestic and international partnerships, the latter promising to secure expertise in sectors such as offshore wind farms, are in progress.

Power utility PPC, moving ahead with RES investments, aims to have launched projects with a total capacity of 1.5 GW by 2023. The utility’s redevelopment plan for the country’s two lignite-dependent regions, Ptolemaida, in the north, and Megalopoli, in the Peloponnese, is in progress.

PPC plans to invest 3.4 billion euros on RES project development in these regions, and an upgrade of their distribution networks, Konstantinos Mavros, chief executive of PPC Renewables, a PPC subsidiary, told the forum.

PPC is also expected to establish partnerships facilitating its entry into the offshore wind market. In addition, the company also aims to have formed a joint venture with German power company RWE by the end of summer for development of RES projects totaling 2 GW.

Elsewhere, energy company Mytilineos is also preparing a strategic alliance with a major international group for its entry into the offshore wind farm sector.

Mytilineos is also close to completing, this year, a major post-lignite investment in natural gas-fueled electricity generation. In addition, the company plans to develop 300 MW in wind farms and 1.5 GW in solar farms over the next two years.

Furthermore, Mytilineos plans to develop 20 energy storage projects, each with 50 MW capacity, by utilizing its immense knowhow gained in this field through involvement in such projects abroad.

Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) is preparing RES and digital transition projects and will concurrently focus efforts to reduce carbon emissions and develop more eco-friendly products, including biofuels and hydrogen.

The Copelouzos group is nearing an investment decision on the development of a natural gas-fueled power station in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece. A decision is expected this summer. The group is currently engaged in talks with neighboring North Macedonia’s power utility for its possible entry into this project as a minority partner.

As for networks, power grid operator IPTO has planned numerous projects as part of a ten-year investment plan worth five billion euros. The operator anticipates new RES project penetration of 17 GW, a forecast exceeding the National Energy and Climate Plan’s goals.

DEDDIE/HEDNO, the distribution network operator, has put together a 3 billion-euro investment plan for the two next regulatory periods, each four years long. Projects include network undergrounding, service upgrades and improvement, new technologies, as well as grid digitalization projects.

Unlocking Greece’s offshore wind potential – Challenges, opportunities

Greece’s attempts to develop its untapped offshore wind potential have stalled in the past, but renewed investor interest and government commitment to set up a sound regulatory framework has strengthened its prospects.

By Dimitris Assimakis, Partner, and Minas Kitsilis, Senior Associate, Reed Smith.”

Introduction

Since 2006, Greece has taken several different approaches to the development of offshore wind projects. So far, these policy measures have had few concrete results. Given the present ambitious national energy and climate plan for the period up to 2030, dictating at least a twofold increase of the existing renewable energy capacity, the immediate necessity for new capacity due to the government’s decision to cease the operation of all existing lignite-fired power plants by 2023, as well as the existence of certain impediments to the further development of onshore wind farms, such as the availability of land, the pressure from other activities, such as tourism, and the necessity for the considerable expansion or reinforcement of the grid, offshore wind is expected to start playing an important role in the country’s pursuit of cost-effective and efficient renewable energy prospects.

For several years now other EU coastal countries with significant sea fronts have developed offshore wind projects and so this could certainly be a successful approach for the country with the most extensive coastline among all Mediterranean countries and one of the highest offshore wind potential in the region.

Therefore, aside from certain technical challenges (e.g. steep sea-bed drop-off around mainland Greece and around most of the Greek islands) and foreign affairs policy issues (e.g. territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea), a clear national regulatory framework, which adequately addresses spatial planning, licensing, grid interconnection and economic support issues, is also required in order for offshore wind technology to deliver its significant potentials in the country’s power generation mix.

Ongoing structured public discussions with interested investors and stakeholders as well as recent policy statements from the Greek Ministry of Environment and Energy are expected to result in an offshore wind-specific framework within this year that will enable the exploitation of this valuable renewable energy source also in Greece. Already, major international market players such as Ocean Winds (EDPR and Engie) in cooperation with Terna Energy, the largest renewable power producer in Greece, Iberdrola, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Equinor are actively involved in these discussions, while reportedly other international investors such as Blue Float Energy and Innogy are closely following the developments in the sector. Moreover, local market players such as PPC Renewables, the renewables arm of Public Power Corporation (Greece’s largest power producer and supplier), Copelouzos group and RF Energy are actively engaged in this process. These deliberations are conducted within a very positive momentum for the offshore wind sector, following the recent release of the EU Strategy on Offshore Renewable Energy and the great technological developments in the sector, especially with respect to the imminent commercialisation of large-scale floating wind projects, which seem to be the most proper offshore wind technology for Greece given the depth of its territorial waters.

Past approaches stalled

Until mid-2010 the generally applicable licensing scheme at the initiative of interested investors was also applicable for offshore wind projects’ development, licensing, spatial planning and economic support against transparent and objective criteria and a regulated feed-in tariff through a standardised long term (20 years) power purchase agreement with the energy market operator as offtaker and dispatch priority for the power produced. In this context a large number of licence applications for offshore wind projects were filed with the competent Regulatory Authority for Energy in Greece (RAE).

However, only two fixed-bottom offshore projects were licensed by RAE in 2012, one of an approximately 500 MW capacity offshore the island of Lemnos in the north Aegean Sea and another one of 216 MW capacity offshore the port of  Alexandroupolis in the Thracian Sea. On the other hand, most of the licence applications filed within the period are still pending assessment from RAE with unclear further development options in anticipation of the new offshore wind-specific framework.

Subsequently, in mid-2010 Greece introduced a special centralised planning scheme for offshore wind projects to be rolled out at the initiative of the jointly competent Ministers of finance and economy, maritime affairs, foreign affairs, national defence, culture, tourism, environment and energy by virtue of a new provision introduced into the Renewables Law 3468/2006 (i.e. Article 6A), which rendered the previous open licensing scheme inapplicable for offshore wind projects.

That rather unclear approach entailed the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of potential offshore project sites before the respective projects were licensed by the Minister of Environment and Energy, instead of RAE, and before they were auctioned off for construction through an open public tender process (public works procurement process) against economic exploitation by the successful bidder during the concession period; presumably through some long term power purchase agreement with the energy market operator as offtaker against an agreed feed-in tariff and dispatch priority. Environmental impact assessment (EIA) and further site planning, installation and construction works licensing until the operation period (inclusive) would follow the generally applicable legislation for renewables, except for some special provisions of law for the concession of sea areas in favour of renewable energy projects that would be anyways addressed as above.

This framework also entailed a number of implementing ministerial decisions and presidential decrees that were never adopted as this approach was never actually pursued in spite of a SEA study commissioned to this end by the Centre for Renewable Energy Sources in Greece (CRES) and presented in September 2015.

New approach required │ key issues

Licensing framework – recent developments & challenges ahead

The recent review of the Environmental Licensing Law 4014/2011 in May 2020 (i.e. by virtue of Law 4685/2020) raised certain hopes at it was aimed at simplifying and expediting the environmental licensing of projects of any type, including renewable energy projects, as well as at simplifying the first licensing milestone for renewable energy projects before RAE. Offshore wind projects are qualified as ‘special renewable energy projects’ and may benefit from the above simplified licensing framework as soon as an offshore wind-specific framework is adopted. In effect, this licensing framework reinstates the previous licensing scheme at the initiative of interested investors but ultimately, fails to provide any coherent legal certainty as it does not explicitly repeal the rather problematic provision of Article 6A of Renewables Law 3468/2006 mentioned above.

So although the general environmental licensing and the RES specific licensing framework were improved through the adoption of Law 4685/2020, there was not actually any real value for the offshore wind sector from this legislative process, since two parallel and apparently, inconsistent licensing regimes are currently in place although neither in full force and effect until Greece finally decides whether it will go on with a centralised or a develop-led planning system. Moreover, the licensing framework in place does not really address what will happen with the existing two electricity production licences granted as well as the various licence applications that are still pending assessment under the past licensing scheme.

Apparently, the envisaged new framework should provide for a consistent, coherent and well-structured licensing regime enabling as well the performance of any early development actions from the investors, in the sense that they should be allowed, on the basis of an exclusive right, to enter into a specific sea area in order to perform wind measurement campaigns and preliminary field surveys.

Spatial planning issues

The Special Spatial Planning Framework for Renewables of December 2008 provides for wind power in general and onshore and offshore wind power in particular. Such provisions include generally applicable criteria, limitations and exclusion zones for wind energy and special ones for onshore and offshore wind projects. However, it is commonly admitted that the said framework needs to be reviewed to account for technological developments and acquired experience in spatial planning and deployment of renewables not only in Greece but also in the EU, including current best practices.

The Ministry of Environment and Energy is already working on updating the framework but it will take some time to achieve concrete results due to the technical and SEA studies involved. In addition, it must also be compatible with the regional and other special frameworks for spatial planning that are also under review pursuant to Part A of Law 4417/2016 and most importantly, with the still pending maritime spatial planning for marine areas in Greece according to Part A of Law 4546/2018 (as per the relevant EU Directive 2014/89) for the avoidance of conflicts. An interim solution may have to be sought in this connection as otherwise neither central nor individual planning will be feasible and legally sound against a reasonable time schedule and certain target capacity for offshore wind development by 2030 and beyond.

Sovereign rights and public international law

Greece has reserved the right to exercise all its sovereign rights under Article 3 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to expand its territorial sea beyond six (6) nautical miles, which is the current breadth thereof, up to twelve (12) nautical miles measured from baselines determined in accordance with the UNCLOS. Greece has signed and ratified the UNCLOS by virtue of Law 2321/1995. Recently, by virtue of Law 4767/2021, Greece has expanded its territorial sea to twelve (12) nautical miles in the whole of the Ionian Sea area up to the Cape Tainaron in south Peloponnese, while it is reiterated therein Greece’s sovereign rights to do the same with all other sea areas, including the Aegean Sea, being the area with the highest offshore wind potential.

However, given the historical tension between Greece and Turkey concerning the Aegean Sea, it is rather questionable whether Greece will finally decide to exercise such sovereign rights and expand its territorial sea to twelve (12) nautical miles also in the Aegean Sea, according to the UNCLOS, in the years to come. In this respect, it is reasonably expected that any development of offshore wind projects in the Aegean Sea will need to be limited within the six (6) nautical miles zone. Further, the establishment and delimitation of the Greek exclusive economic zone by means of valid and legally binding agreements with neighbouring states pursuant to the UNCLOS is still pending too, save for the recent agreements with Italy in the Ionian Sea and Egypt in part of the Mediterranean Sea south-east of the island of Crete.

Proper support scheme for offshore wind

The new support scheme for renewables in Greece introduced by virtue of Law 4414/2016 in line with the European Commission’s Guidelines on State aid for environmental protection and energy for the period 2014 – 2020 provides for operating aid to renewables through a technology-specific sliding feed-in premium (FiP) scheme for the vast majority of new projects which is added as a premium to wholesale market revenues and thus tops up their market revenues in order for the operating aid to reach an acceptable level of support measured against a technology-specific reference tariff (RT).

Aside from small scale and experimental projects, since 2017 the RTs are set through competitive bidding processes (auctions) on project basis for the two mature technologies (i.e. onshore wind and solar photovoltaic) in technology-specific and technology-neutral auctions run by RAE. In the event that the wholesale market price of a renewable technology exceeds the applicable RT, the excess is rebated to a special account for renewables kept by the RES operator and aggregator of last resort (DAPEEP) and hence the operating aid contract is a standardised two-way contract for differences (CfD) between the applicable RT (as strike price) and the producer’s revenues from the wholesale electricity market.

The auctions scheme is expected to extend beyond 2020, likely up to 2024 and for a certain overall capacity threshold not in excess of 2.1 GW, in accordance with the relevant statements made by the Minister of Environment and Energy in mid-November 2020.  However, technology-specific auctions for offshore wind or technology-neutral auctions including offshore wind are not likely to be feasible for Greece in this time schedule. In the meantime, previous auctions for renewable electricity have resulted in applicable RTs for onshore wind and solar photovoltaic projects below wholesale market prices for certain time periods. Therefore, alternative revenue structures involving corporate renewable power purchase agreements (PPA) cannot be excluded for onshore wind and solar photovoltaic or offshore wind projects in Greece in common with other countries where such alternatives are already pursued for some years now in the onshore wind and solar photovoltaic sectors, and recently also in the offshore wind sector. However, such structures are hardly suitable or bankable during the early days of a new sector development like offshore wind.

Optionally, individual aid without an auction process is also possible for renewable energy projects (including offshore wind) exceeding 250 MW or clusters of projects exceeding 250 MW and sharing common interconnection with the transmission system according to the said guidelines on State aid and Article 4 para 12 of Law 4414/2016. Individual aid requires prior notification to and approval from the European Commission. An implementing ministerial decision is still pending (para 12 was added to Article 4 of Law 4414/2016 in end-2019) for all renewable energy projects or clusters of such scale and importance for national and EU renewable energy targets, but it is reasonably expected soon. This option is reasonably considered more suitable, especially for floating offshore wind projects, and certainly more bankable at the early stages of any new renewable technology.

Moreover, Greece could consider when developing its national recovery and resilience plan in the context of the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility possible priority actions in order to facilitate the development of offshore wind projects in the country.

Grid connection

However, unlocking the great wind potential of the Greek seas and islands depends on the development of some critical interconnections, some of which are expected in the short to medium term. The anticipated completion of the interconnection of the island of Crete with the high-voltage system in the Athens metropolitan area by 2023 and of all Cycladic islands by 2024 will enable the significant development of new wind power capacity on these islands but also in the sea areas around them covering a significant part of the south Aegean Sea.

Moreover, ADMIE, the Greek TSO, has included in its current ten-year development plan the progressive interconnection of all other major islands in the south-eastern and north Aegean Sea, such as the islands of Rhodes, Kos, Karpathos Lemnos, Lesvos, Samos and Chios by 2029,  covering therefore though such plan the remaining of the Aegean Sea.

ADMIE is actively participating in the discussions held for the formulation of the offshore-wind specific framework and clearly, one of the key issues which need to be addressed therein is the interlink of any offshore wind investment projects with ADMIE’s development plan and its role in the design, construction and financing of the necessary grid expansion and reinforcement works.

Strategic investments programme and offshore wind

Since 2011, Greece has had in place an investments facilitation programme whereby productive investments (private or public ones, foreign or domestic) which generate quantitative and qualitative results of major significance for the national economy (including other criteria on investment budget, employment creation, innovation and sustainability) are qualified by an inter-ministerial committee as ‘strategic investments’ and are entitled to one-stop-shop and fast-track licensing and development procedures, including environmental and spatial planning ones as well as land expropriation related ones and dispute resolution provisions.

Part B of Law 4608/2019 on attracting strategic investments aims at modernising, improving and enhancing the scope of application and the fast-track licensing and development procedures in favour of strategic investments. These new provisions include: special spatial plans on project basis; tax benefits (as individual State aid subject to applicable EU regulations); one-stop-shop and fast-track licensing within 45 calendar days per licence, permit, opinion or approval (subject to special EU law provisions and procedures, e.g. public awareness on environmental matters), and overall within three (3) years from the MoU between the strategic investor and the Minister of Finance and Development on the time schedules and mutual obligations; cash grants for research and development (R&D) projects, and a UNCITRAL arbitration clause for disputes relating to the said MoU. On the other hand, applications for qualification under the new programme can be filed until the end of 2023.

Greece’s strategic investments programme has facilitated to some extent the spatial planning and licensing of a number of investments, mainly in tourism and other commercial sectors including some solar photovoltaic and solar thermal projects of scale and clusters of onshore wind projects. However, it has been limited to licensing aspects thereof and it does not address operating aid or other economic support aspects. Furthermore, it captures urban or onshore (including seashore) spatial planning, but it does not capture offshore aspects and maritime spatial planning that is still pending as described above. Therefore, account taken of the end-2023 current deadline for applications under the new programme, it is yet to be considered in more detail how the new programme for strategic investments in Greece could facilitate offshore wind. A recent positive development though is the special benefit conferred now under the programme to innovative renewable projects, amongst which offshore wind projects, in relation to their priority for grid connection over other projects using more typical renewable energy technologies, such as onshore wind and solar photovoltaic projects.

The way forward    

Experience from other jurisdictions has shown that formulating a comprehensive and appropriate legal framework for offshore wind in any given country is a challenging multi-disciplinary exercise. Structured public discussions with interested investors and stakeholders are ongoing in Greece during and have been for the last couple of years. Specific proposals are also being put forward for public consultation by stakeholders like the Hellenic Wind Energy Association but also from major global offshore wind developers. The Ministry of Environment and Energy has also announced that it will present a legislative proposal for offshore wind by mid-2021 taking into account the particularities of the Aegean Sea and international experience in offshore wind industry and technologies. We are confident that the ongoing process will result in a comprehensive legislative proposal for an offshore wind-specific framework. However, time and planning are of the essence for long lead capital intensive infrastructure investments like offshore wind to materialise within a certain time schedule, e.g. by 2030, on legally sound and commercially sensible and therefore bankable conditions in order to pursue successfully the national and EU energy, climate and environmental policies.

 

DEPA Commercial pushing to mature RES licenses in time for auction

Gas company DEPA Commercial, currently placing emphasis on its alternative business interests, is making efforts to bring to maturity solar energy licenses in time for an upcoming RES auction. These PV licenses concern solar farm projects representing a total capacity of 499.61 MW.

Late in January, DEPA Commercial announced it had acquired a 49 percent stake in North Polar, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) established on the basis of a portfolio carrying solar energy project certificates and production permits. These licenses concern projects in northern Greece’s west Macedonia region.

DEPA Commercial and its SPV partner have submitted environmental terms for these projects and are now expecting their connection terms.

The partners are striving to participate in the next RES auction to be staged by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, the first to be held under new terms expected to soon be approved by the European Commission.

On another front, DEPA Commercial is closely monitoring developments regarding the Alexandroupoli FSRU in northeastern Greece, another of its project interests.

DEPA Commercial holds a 20 percent stake in Gastrade, a company established by the Copelouzos group for the development and operation of the Alexandroupoli FSRU.

The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition still needs to approve Greek gas grid operator DESFA’s entry into the consortium, also with a 20 percent stake, to be taken from the Copelouzos group’s current 40 percent share in the Alexandroupoli FSRU venture.

The Brussels authority’s endorsement of DESFA’s entry is seen as a formality following its recent approval of the entry of Bulgaria’s Bulgartransgaz as a fourth member of the consortium, also with a 20 percent stake. Gaslog is the other consortium member, also holding 20 percent.

The DESFA entry approval is anticipated within the second quarter. Gastrade’s partners are then expected to swiftly follow with an investment decision on the Alexandroupoli FSRU’s construction.

Elpedison launches tender for Thessaloniki power station

Energy company Elpedison has launched an international tender for procurement of mechanical equipment concerning its 826-MW gas-fueled power station project in northern city Thessaloniki’s Diavata area, sources have informed.

The company, also moving ahead with the project’s environmental permit procedure, is expected to soon finalize its investment decision.

Besides Elpedison, a number of other energy firms are also moving ahead with gas-fueled power station plans.

GEK-TERNA is planning a 665-MW facility in Komotini, northeastern Greece; power utility PPC recently secured a license for a 665-MW unit, also in Komotini; Elvalhalkor is pursuing plans for a 566-MW unit in Thisvi; the Copelouzos group is moving ahead with a 662-MW project in the industrial area of Alexandroupoli, in the northeast; and the Karatzis group is planning a 660-MW power station in Larissa, in the mid-north.

The Mytilineos group has already begun constructing an 826-MW gas-fueled power station in Viotia’s Agios Nikolaos area, northwest of Athens, a project expected to be launched late this year or early next year.

The establishment of a permanent CAT mechanism, anticipated by the investors behind these projects, promising grid flexibility, is crucial for the investment plans.

Electricity demand levels in the Greek market as well as the course of Greece’s decarbonization effort, expected to create openings for new power stations, are also vital factors.

 

PPC granted license for 665 MW gas-fueled power station

A power utility PPC investment plan entailing the development of a 665-MW gas-fueled power station in the industrial zone of Komotini, northeastern Greece has been granted a license by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, adding to the list of licensed projects to serve as a bridge in the country’s energy transition until the renewable energy sector fully prevails.

The project linked to this latest license, given a 35-year duration, is scheduled to be launched in December, 2024.

RAE has now granted five licenses to an assortment of companies for such investment plans, though not all will necessarily be developed.

An 826-MW gas-fueled power station being developed by Mytilineos in Viotia, slightly northwest of Athens, set to be launched at the end of this year, is the most advanced of these investment plans.

The maturity levels vary for other projects in terms of environmental licensing and other procedural matters. These include a 665-MW unit planned by Terna, also in Komotini; an 826-MW project planned by Elpedison in Thessaloniki; and an 830-MW facility planned by the Copelouzos Group’s Damco in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece.

Also, the power utility is expected to reach a decision on converting its prospective Ptolemaida V lignite-fired power station into a gas-fueled facility.

DESFA’s Alexandroupoli FSRU entry awaiting DG Comp OK

Gas grid operator DESFA’s agreement, last November, for the acquisition of a 20 percent stake in Gastrade, the company established by the Copelouzos group for the development and operation of the Alexandroupoli FSRU, a floating LNG terminal planned for Greece’s northeast, requires, as its final step, approval from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition, to officially make the operator the consortium’s fifth member.

DG Comp approval of DESFA’s agreement is needed as the operator, managing Greece’s gas transmission system, is entering an independent gas system through its agreement to buy a Gastrade stake.

The DG Comp’s endorsement of the anticipated DESFA entry is seen as a formality following its recent approval of the entry of Bulgaria’s Bulgartransgaz as a fourth member of the consortium, also with a 20 percent stake.

A finalized investment decision by Gastrade for the development of the Alexandroupoli FSRU is expected this spring. The unit’s launch is scheduled for the first half of 2023.

The FID will enable the procurement procedure for the project’s equipment to go ahead, beginning with the floating unit, for which a Gastrade tender has already been completed.

A preferred bidder has also been declared for the FSRU’s subsea-and-overland pipeline, to link the floating unit with the country’s gas grid.

Bids for a tender offering a contract for the design, procurement and construction of the project’s fixed mooring system were submitted in late-February.

Talks are still in progress, at a diplomatic level, for the possible entry into the Alexandroupoli FSRU by North Macedonia’s state gas company, through the acquisition of a 10 percent stake from Gastrade. The outcome of these talks will not affect the project’s development.

Offshore wind farm framework within first half, auction in ‘22

A legal framework for offshore wind farms will be ready within the next few months, no later than the end of the year’s first half, enabling investments in this sector to begin in Greece, the energy ministry has assured.

The energy ministry’s leadership is expected to reiterate this stance, without offering further scheduling details, at an event to be staged today by ELETAEN, the Greek Wind Energy Association. Energy minister Kostas Skrekas and the ministry’s secretary-general Alexandra Sdoukou will be participating.

Norway, a country with extensive offshore wind farm knowhow, will be strongly represented at the ELETAEN event. The Norwegian Ambassador to Greece, Frode Overland Andersen, and Daniel Willoch, a representative of NORWEA, the Norwegian Wind Energy Association, will take part.

So, too, will Giles Dickson, CEO at Brussels-based WindEurope, promoting the use of wind power in Europe.

If all goes as planned with efforts being made by the energy ministry, as well as ELETAEN, a first auction for offshore wind farms in Greece could be staged within the first half of 2022.

Considerable progress has been made in recent months, but pending issues on important details concerning spatial and licensing matters, connectivity with power grid operator IPTO’s network, as well as a remuneration formula for investors, all still need to be settled. The overall effort is complex and involves a number of ministries.

Investor interest in offshore wind farms is high as studies project electricity costs concerning floating units in Greece will experience a 40 percent decline by 2050. This cost, according to an older European Commission study, was estimated to drop from 76 euros per MWh in 2030 to 46 euros per MWh in 2050.

The same study estimated Greece’s offshore wind farm capacity would reach 263 GW, a prospect promising investors sustainability for the development of such projects.

Norway’s Equinor has already expressed the strongest interest for offshore wind energy development in Greece. Denmark’s Copenhagen Offshore Partners, also a major global player, has also shown some signs of interest.

As for Greek companies, TERNA Energy, the Copelouzos Group, and RF Energy have, in the past, submitted applications for offshore wind energy parks to RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

 

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.

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.

DEPA Comm VDR open; 5-year stay for Infrastructure buyer

The video data room for the privatization procedure of DEPA Commercial, one of two new gas utility DEPA entities placed for sale, is now open to prospective bidders, but initial information made available is limited to non-financial details.

Financial details on DEPA Commercial will be made available as a second step to all consultants representing the potential buyers, while a third and final stage will follow to conditionally offer bidders confidential information in person at the DEPA headquarters.

As previously reported, the second-round, binding-bids deadline for the DEPA Commercial sale, offering investors a 65 percent stake, has been extended to March, 2021.

The field of second-round qualifiers is comprised of two partnerships, Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) with Edison and power utility PPC with Motor Oil Hellas, plus Mytilineos, TERNA, the Copelouzos group, Shell, and the Swiss-based MET Group.

As for DEPA Infrastructure, the other new DEPA entity up for sale, energy minister Costis Hatzidakis is preparing a legislative revision that will require the winning bidder to retain its company shares for a period of at least five years.

This condition will also apply for the DEPA Infrastructure subsidiaries EDA Attiki, EDA Thess and DEDA, the gas distributors covering the wider Athens area, Thessaloniki-Thessaly and rest of Greece, respectively. DEPA fully owns DEDA and EDA Attiki and holds a 51 percent stake in EDA Thess.

The DEPA Infrastructure binding-bids deadline has also been extended to the end of February, 2021. Italgas, EPH, First State Investments, KKR, Macquarie and Sino-CEEF have qualified for the final round.

 

Business plan, better results, new activities in DEPA Commercial VDR

The virtual data room for a forthcoming privatization to offer a 65 percent stake in DEPA Commercial, an offshoot of gas utility DEPA, expected to be opened for potential buyers to assess by the end of this week, will present a business plan, improved financial figures at DEPA, new company activities envisaged, as well as DEPA’s outlook on the course of the country’s natural gas market and the company’s position within it.

According to privatization fund TAIPED’s revised Asset Development Plan, participants will submit binding bids in December.

The field of first-round entries, comprising two consortiums and five companies, will have roughly three months to prepare binding bids, according to the schedule.

Hellenic Petroleum ELPE and Italy’s Edison are one of the privatization’s two participating consortiums, the other formed by power utility PPC and Motor Oil Hellas. The five individual participants are: Mytilineos, TERNA, Copelouzos group, Shell and the Swiss-based MET group.

New partnerships could be established by the field of participants as long as they do not affect the sale’s competition standards and have been approved by TAIPED.

The sale of DEPA Commercial is a major attraction for potential buyers as it offers a big slice of the wholesale and retail markets, including gas supplier Fysiko Aerio Attikis, a subsidiary covering the wider Athens area. Fysiko Aerio Attikis already serves close to 400,000 households and 10,000 businesses.

DESFA one step away from Alexandroupoli FSRU entry

Just days after the entry of Bulgaria’s Bulgartransgaz, Greek gas grid operator DESFA appears set to become the fifth member of Gastrade, the company established by the Copelouzos group for the development and operation of the Alexandroupoli FSRU, a floating LNG terminal envisioned for Greece’s northeast.

Talks concerning a DESFA entry, ongoing since the beginning of this year, have essentially concluded, while an announcement of the operator’s entry into Gastrade’s line-up is expected soon, no later than the end of September, energypress sources informed.

DESFA’s interest to join the consortium for the Alexandroupoli FSRU project, the first ever private-sector plan for such infrastructure in Greece, reflects the intention of the company’s new ownership and administration to broaden DESFA’s role from gas grid operator to a major player in Greece’s natural gas market.

As for Gastrade, keen to establish partnerships that support its strategic objectives, DESFA’s expected entry into the Alexandroupoli FSRU consortium appears to have been encouraged as a result of the operator’s knowhow, as a TSO, in LNG and the Greek gas market, its players, as well as the legal framework.

DESFA’s entry would also give the Greek State a stake in the Alexandroupoli project, supported for years by the previous and current Greek governments.

Besides the Copelouzos group, holding a 40 percent stake, the Gastrade consortium is currently also made up of Gaslog, Greek gas utility DEPA, and Bulgartransgaz, each holding 20 percent stakes. The entry of a fifth member will give all partners equal 20 percent shares.

The project, budgeted at 380 million euros, is expected to be launched no later than early 2023.

The Alexandroupoli FSRU, along with the existing Revythoussa islet LNG terminal just off Athens, are crucial given the current strains in Greek-Turkish relations as the two units represent the country’s only gas infrastructure not relying on Turkish territory.

The LNG terminals also promise to increase competition in the regional market and reduce natural gas supply costs to neighboring countries.

A market test was successfully completed for the Alexandroupoli FSRU in March.

DEPA Infrastructure VDR open, DEPA Commercial data soon

A virtual data room has just been opened for the six bidding teams preparing to make second-round offers in the privatization of gas company DEPA Infrastracture, an offshoot of gas utility DEPA.

Czech company EPH, Italy’s Italgas, the Australian investment funds First State Investments and Macquarie, US firm KKR and China’s Sino-CEEF & Shanghai Dazhong Public Utilities now have access to all relevant data concerning the DEPA Infrastructure sale.

Another VDR is expected to be opened within the next few days for bidders participating in the privatization of DEPA Commercial, DEPA’s other entity up for sale.

The participants in this sale, seven entries in total, are: Motor Oil Hellas-PPC, ELPE-Edison, Mytilineos, GEK-TERNA, the Copelouzos group, Dutch company Shell and the Swiss-based MET Group.

VDR information for the DEPA Commercial sale will be made available over three phases as a protective measure intended to ensure competition. The first phase, offering non-sensitive data, will be open for all. Access to VDR information during the second stage, offering sensitive data, will be restricted to consultants. Bidders will be offered conditional access to confidential information in the third phase.

Greece’s privatization fund TAIPED is aiming to declare preferred bidders for both sales in the final quarter of this year. Market officials, however, believe this is more likely to occur in the first quarter of 2021.

DEPA Commercial bidders are allowed to team up and establish consortiums but partnerships for the DEPA Infrastructure sale are not permitted.

Bidders participating in the DEPA Commercial sale are mainly eyeing the company’s prized asset, retail gas supplier and subsidiary Fysiko Aerio Attikis, covering the wider Athens area. This company already serves close to 400,000 households and 10,000 businesses.

Alexandroupoli FSRU investment decision later in ’20

Investors behind the Alexandroupoli FSRU are expected to make final decisions on the project’s development in the final quarter of this year.

Two pending issues, the completion of a regulatory framework for the project, as well as approval by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition of the project and funding via the National Strategic Reference Framework (2014-2020), are expected to be resolved by the final quarter.

Also, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, is soon expected to reach a preliminary decision exempting the FSRU from compulsory access to third parties as well as tariff adjustments every three to four years. This decision, needed for the project’s regulatory framework, is expected by late October or early November, when the European Commission’s approval is anticipated.

The Directorate-General for Competition will also need to give the green light for NSRF funding.

Once these pending issues are all resolved, investors will be able to decide on the project’s development, expected to require two years to construct. Investors envision a launch in 2023.

Yesterday’s anticipated entry of Bulgartransgaz, for a 20 percent stake, highlights the project’s regional prospects. This regional dimension will be highlighted even further if ongoing Romanian interest is materialized.  Talks that have been going on for some time were disrupted by the pandemic.

For the time being, Greek gas utility DEPA, Gaslog and Bulgartransgaz each have 20 percent stakes, while the Copelouzos group holds a 40 percent share. The entry into the project of Gastrade, as a fifth partner, remains pending.

Most crucial for the project’s prospects, a market test completed in March showed that the Alexandroupoli FSRU is sustainable. The test prompted a big response from Greek and international gas traders, who placed capacity reservation bids for a total of 2.6 billion cubic meters per year.

US interest for LNG supply via the Alexandroupoli FSRU is strong. Last year, Cheniere sold a big shipment to Greek gas utility DEPA, while a further ten American shipments have been made so far this year.

Two, possibly three, bidders for South Kavala UGS license

An upcoming tender to offer an underground natural gas storage facility (UGS) license for the almost depleted South Kavala offshore natural gas field in the country’s north is expected to attract the interest of two, or possibly three, bidding teams.

Interested parties have been given an extension to express non-binding first-round interest. Prospective participants are busy preparing.

The participation of Storengy – a three-member consortium formed by France’s Engie, Energean Oil & Gas, holder of the South Kavala field’s license, and construction firm GEK-Terna – is considered a certainty as this consortium was established in anticipation of this tender.

Greek gas grid operator DESFA, increasingly active, since its privatization, in various projects, including some beyond its more customary operator-related bounds, is seen as another certain bidder for the South Kavala UGS license.

Senfluga, the consortium of companies that acquired a 66 percent stake of DESFA, appears very interested in the South Kavala UGS tender. This consortium’s current line-up is comprised of: Snam (54%), Enagas (18%), Fluxys (18%) and Copelouzos group member Damco (10%).

Though Senfluga’s three foreign partners – Snam, Enagas and Fluxys – are examining the prospect of joining DESFA to express joint interest, separate bids from the two sides are considered likeliest. The main reason for this has to do with certain tender rules that restrict the ability of consortiums participating in the first round to then reshuffle, if needed.

Pricing policy regulations expected from RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, ahead of binding offers, will be crucial to how the tender plays out as these rules will determine the project’s earnings potential and level of bids.

PPC triggers options for 2021 gas orders from DEPA, Prometheus Gas

Power utility PPC has activated options to extend, by an additional year, its 2020 gas supply contracts with gas utility DEPA and Prometheus Gas, a joint venture involving the Copelouzos group and Russia’s Gazprom, for respective gas orders of 2 million MWh and 2.5 million MWh, according to sources.

PPC expects to require a total gas amount of between 17 million and 18 million MWh for its electricity generation needs in 2021, unchanged compared to the estimate for this year.

A nine-year gas supply agreement between PPC and DEPA securing the power utility approximately 11 million MWh of gas, annually, expires at the end of this year. As a result, PPC will need to reshape its gas supply policy from scratch.

The gas supply prices secured by PPC through its aforementioned one-year contract extensions with DEPA and Prometheus Gas are roughly 8 to 9 percent lower compared to the prices of the power utility’s long-term agreement with DEPA.

The cost of PPC’s additional one-year gas order from DEPA is believed to be about 30 million euros, while the 2021 order from Prometheus Gas is estimated to be worth 36 million euros, sources said.

Early this year, PPC purchased additional gas amounts totaling 4.5 million MWh from DEPA and the Copelouzos group, through a competitive procedure, to primarily cover needs at its Aliveri and Megalopoli power stations.

PPC is also covering this year’s gas needs through supplementary LNG orders. The power utility has so far brought in three shipments of 2 million MW each, and may order a further 2 million MWh in the second half.

Natural gas market forecasts for 2021 remain hazy. RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has yet to determine the manner in which slots will be distributed at gas grid operator DESFA’s LNG terminal on the islet Revythoussa, just off Athens. In addition, the sale of DEPA Commerce, a new DEPA entity established for the gas utility’s privatization, is expected next year.

 

PPC, Copelouzos end idle joint venture, grounded for years by unions

Power utility PPC and the Copelouzos group have agreed to dissolve a joint venture, PPC Solar Solutions, formed eight years ago for development of retail outlets around Greece for electricity sales, energy services and domestic solar panel installations, but never able to get off the ground.

Fierce and adamant opposition by PPC union groups against the joint venture, formed in January, 2012 as an innovative move – for its time – stifled the business plan.

The Copelouzos group’s Damco held a 51 percent stake in this joint venture, PPC holding the other 49 percent.

In 2017, the power utility’s then-CEO, Manolis Panagiotakis made an effort to revive the idle business plan, but his initiative also sparked a heated response and resistance from PPC unions.

GEK TERNA set to develop new 660-MW thermal unit

GEK TERNA is expected to finance its development of a gas-fueled power station with a 660-MW capacity in Komotini, northeastern Greece, through bond funds totaling 500 million euros, sources have informed.

In a company statement, GEK TERNA noted it intends to use 400 million of 500 million euros in bond funds to finance the group’s investment program, which includes gas-fueled power generation.

GEK TERNA is close to reaching an investment decision on this facility, the sources added. It would represent the third thermal unit involving the group.

GEK TERNA, which has the potential to play a key role in renewable energy through Terna Energy, is not overlooking thermal-unit developments.

Greece’s decarbonization strategy and the dominance of natural gas as the main fuel during the energy transition are two factors creating major opportunities for the GEK TERNA group.

Other vertically integrated electricity producers are also preparing new thermal facilities. The Mytilineos group is already constructing an 826-MW gas-fueled power station in the Boetia area, slightly northwest of Athens. This unit is expected to be launched next year.

A licensing procedure by Elpedison, also for an 826-MW facility, in Thessaloniki, is maturing.

In addition, the Copelouzos group is making progress on licensing for a 660-MW facility in Alexadroupoli, northeastern Greece. Company official Kostas Sifneos recently said this facility’s launch is scheduled for 2022.

The country’s big energy players are also continuing to eye Balkan markets for electricity exports, pundits informed.

DEPA Commerce sale may change gas, electricity markets

Ongoing procedures in the sale of DEPA Commerce could serve as a catalyst for major changes in the retail gas and electricity markets, leaving fewer players in these markets.

Challenges of the new era, from electromobility to renewable energy, are expected to soon lead to the establishment of various energy-sector mergers and partnerships in Greece.

Talks between company officials for potential partnerships have proliferated since seven consortiums were confirmed as the qualifiers through to the second and final round in the sale of gas utility DEPA’s commercial division.

Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) chief executive Andreas Siamisiis, during a press conference yesterday, left open the prospect of an entry by an additional partner into the consortium formed by ELPE and Italy’s Edison. This consortium is among the sale’s seven qualifiers.

Such a development could even influence the line-up of electricity supplier Elpedison, a joint venture formed by ELPE and Edison for Greece’s retail market, Siamisiis admitted.

It is believed that fellow qualifiers Motor Oil and Greek power utility PPC, who also joined forces for the DEPA Commerce sale, are moving to expand their consortium for this sale.

Highlight the importance of the DEPA Commerce sale, and its potential to lead to sweeping changes, six major Greek energy companies are involved in the DEPA Commerce sale, a record level of interest for any local energy-market sale in recent years.

Besides the three aforementioned Greek players, Mytilineos, GEK-TERNA and Copelouzos are also vying for DEPA Commerce.

Electricity producers are the market’s biggest gas consumers, which entwines the interests of gas and electricity players.

Six Greek heavyweights among DEPA Commercial contenders

Six major Greek energy market players are among the contenders through to the second round of the DEPA Commercial sale, the biggest domestic turnout for an energy-sector tender in recent years, highlighting the gas market’s significance and prospects over the next decade.

The country’s energy transition plan is aiming for zero emissions by 2030.

Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE), joined by Italian partner Edison, a Motor Oil and power utility PPC partnership, Mytilineos, Gek-Terna and the Copelouzos group are the six Greek contenders, among a list of seven bidding teams shortlisted for the DEPA Commercial sale’s final round, entailing binding bids.

Gas utility DEPA, from which DEPA Commercial has been established for the utility’s privatization, may have lost its monopoly in the natural gas market, but its assets and market share promise the new owner a leading position during Greece’s decade of decarbonization, electric vehicle market growth and drastic reduction in fuel consumption.

As a result, fierce bidding for DEPA Commercial is expected.

The company’s acquisition will provide the new owner with a portfolio of 350,000 customers plus DEPA Commercial’s international supply contracts with Russia’s Gazprom, supplying pipeline gas to the Greek company for years; Algeria’s Sonatrach, supplying LNG; and Turkey’s Botas.

Gas quantities from Azerbaijan have also been reserved by DEPA Commercial via the imminent TAP route.

 

 

 

PPC, Terna, Copelouzos resume talks for Crete RES partnership

Power utility PPC has resumed talks with Terna Energy and the Copelouzos group for a consortium to develop RES projects on Crete, but work is still needed if institutional complications are to be resolved.

The plan’s viability will depend on whether the consortium – if formed – can secure a contract with power grid operator IPTO to ensure a capacity reservation in the prospective Crete-Athens grid interconnection.

Approximately three years ago, Terna Energy and the Copelouzos group decided to merge two respective wind-energy projects covering Crete’s four prefectures, which took their combined capacity total to 950 MW, in order to facilitate an EU funding effort.

PPC also entered the picture just months ago, prior to the pandemic’s outbreak, for talks on the establishment of a three-member consortium. PPC Renewables, a PPC subsidiary, possesses wind-energy capacity on Crete.

The prospective venture planned by the trio entails transmission and sale to the mainland of 1 GW generated by wind-energy facilities. Each partner would hold a 33.3 percent stake in this venture.

 

 

Energy groups pressing ahead with natural gas-fired unit plans

The country’s major energy groups are pushing ahead with investment plans for new gas-fired power stations despite the pandemic’s unprecedented impact on the economy and electricity market.

Mytilineos, a vertically integrated group at the forefront of electricity production and supply, began constructing an 826-MW energy center at Agios Nikolaos in the Viotia area, slightly northwest of Athens, last October and is continuing to press ahead with this project.

Investment plans by other players are also maturing. GEK-TERNA is moving ahead with licensing procedures for a 660-MW unit in Komotini, northeastern Greece. The Copelouzos group is paving the way for a 660-MW facility in Alexandroupoli, also in the northeast, while Elpedison is carrying on with procedures for an 826-MW power station in Thessaloniki.

Copelouzos could partner with an investor for the group’s Alexandroupoli project, sources informed.

All the aforementioned corporate groups are positioning themselves in a new energy landscape being shaped by the dominant role of natural gas in the transition towards renewable energy and cleaner energy sources.

This trend became very apparent during the lockdown in Greece. Natural gas and the RES sector covered 60 percent of domestic electricity demand in March.

Power utility PPC is pushing ahead with its decarbonization program without any backtracking, despite the crisis. This is creating a need for new and modern gas-fired power stations.

Furthermore, Greek energy groups are continuing to eye Balkan markets for prospective electricity exports. Electricity generation in the neighboring region has not been satisfactorily upgraded in recent decades, market officials pointed out.

Vertically integrated groups are also eagerly anticipating a new permanent CAT mechanism.

DEPA Trade offers due today, at least 7 players interested

Five Greek and two international investment groups are expected to submit bids for the DEPA Trade privatization, whose first-round deadline expires today at 5pm.

DEPA Trade was established as a new gas utility DEPA entity for the privatization, offering the Greek State’s 65 percent stake.

Bidders may also submit their expressions of interest online, via email, as a result of restrictive measures prompted by the coronavirus crisis, but will need to follow-up with official documents by April 24. The evaluation of first-round offers is not expected to begin any sooner than April 25.

The local bidders expected to submits bids, all leading energy players, are Mytilineos, GEK Terna, Motor Oil, Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) and the Copelouzos group.

ELPE plans to submit a joint bid in partnership with Edison, possibly through Elpedison, their joint venture for Greece’s retail energy market, sources informed.

The Copelouzos group is also working on delivering a joint offer, with Czech firm KKCG.

Shell is among the foreign companies looking interested, despite its sale, two years ago, of stakes in DEPA gas supply and distribution companies.

Dutch firm Vitol is the other foreign player believed to have been drawn to the DEPA Trade sale. Vitol had reached the final stage of an ELPE sale with Algeria’s Sonatrach as a bidding partner, but the pair ended up not submitting a binding offer.

Expressions of interest in DEPA Trade may also come from Swiss-based Hungarian firm Met Energy Holding, active in natural gas wholesale trade. This firm is already present in Hungary, Croatia, Italy, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey and Ukraine. Qatar’s Power Global is another possibility.

DEPA Trade’s portfolio includes 409,000 customers – households and businesses.

 

Big RES projects on islands to be given IPTO cable access

Investors behind major-scale RES project plans for non-interconnected islands and island complexes, previously granted licenses incorporating the installation of cable interconnections, will now be able to develop their renewable energy facilities and reserve capacities through interconnection infrastructure developed by power grid operator IPTO.

The energy ministry intends to attach a related amendment to a draft bill concerning environmental permits.

Licenses granted to investors in the past for major-scale wind energy farms on non-interconnected islands and island complexes expected investors to install related cable infrastructure for energy distribution.

Such licenses have been granted to the Copelouzos group and Terna for projects on Crete and Iberdrola Rokas for investment plans in the North Aegean.

The new legal framework being prepared by the ministry promises to offer investors greater flexibility as development of interconnection infrastructure will no longer be set as a condition for related RES project licenses.

Instead, investors will be able to reserve capacities through cable interconnections being developed by IPTO. However, investors will need to contribute to the cost of this infrastructure in accordance with their reserved share of the overall capacity.

Alexandroupoli FSRU market test extension until March 10

A second-round market test offering capacity reservations for the prospective Alexandroupoli FSRU has been granted a deadline extension until March 10 to give newly emerged bidders more time to prepare for binding bids.

The Copelouzos group’s Gastrade, heading this LNG venture for Greece’s northeast, is determined to maximize the participation level of bidders and  capacity reservations in order to secure the project’s sustainability.

Besides the capacity reservation total, the duration of reservations is the other crucial factor determining the project’s sustainability. Gastrade would like to see reservations lasting 10 to 15 years instead of shorter periods.

Gastrade officials are confident the market test will produce a favorable outcome and soon propel the project towards construction.

The line-up of the Gastrade-initiated consortium for the Alexandroupoli FSRU appears to have been completed as a five-member team following a decision by Romania’s state-controlled gas company Romgaz to enter with a 20 percent stake. A related contract is expected to be signed within the next few days.

If the Romgaz entry is confirmed, the consortium’s line-up will consist of the Copelouzos group (20%), GasLog (20%), Greek gas utility DEPA (20%), Bulgartransgaz (20%) and Romgaz (20%).

 

 

DESFA wants key role in country’s infrastructure projects

Gas grid operator DESFA, controlled by Senfluga, a consortium formed by Snam, Enagas and Fluxys for their acquisition of a 66 percent stake of the operator in 2018, is determined to play a leading role in all the country’s infrastructure projects as well as Greece’s wider natural gas-related developments.

“We see our role as being that of the leader in Greece’s gas sector and the wider region. We are interested in every gas project and want to be able to claim it. We also have the know-how and strong shareholders to play such a role,” a DESFA official told energypress.

According to sources, DESFA’s emergence as a prospective buyer of DEPA Infrastructure, a new entity established by gas utility DEPA as part of its privatization procedure, prompted officials to slightly extend the sale deadline.

More specifically, Snam, the Senfluga consortium’s chief member with a 54 percent stake, requested a deadline extension for the DEPA Infrastructure as it has yet to decide on its partners for this bidding quest. Enagas and Fluxys each hold 18 percent stakes in Senfluga. The Copelouzos group’s Damco recently joined this consortium, buying a 10 percent stake.

DESFA’s influence is also believed to have persuaded officials to delay a decision on whether to classify the development of a natural gas storage facility at a depleted offshore gas field in the south Kavala region as a national or independent grid project.

Snam, Enagas and Fluxys are part of the six-member Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) consortium.

DESFA, which has signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the Alexandroupoli FSRU, is now seriously considering to acquire a 20 percent stake in this venture, headed by Gastrade.

Other projects being considered by DESFA include a 175 million-euro Cretan LNG terminal that promises to resolve the island’s energy sufficiency concerns, as well as a 57.3-km gas pipeline connection linking the Thessaloniki area with North Macedonia, already included in the operator’s ten-year strategic plan.

 

Improved Gazprom deal raises DEPA in the eyes of investors

Lower-price deals sealed or about to be sealed between gas utility DEPA and its international suppliers are among the factors the government is relying on for a successful privatization procedure of the gas utility, a procedure launched yesterday, beginning with DEPA Trade, one of DEPA’s two new entities formed for the sale.

DEPA is believed to have renegotiated a far more favorable supply deal with Russia’s Gazprom, the Greek utility’s biggest supplier.

Forty percent of DEPA’s natural gas orders from Gazprom will no longer be pegged to fluctuating international oil prices. Instead, this percentage of DEPA’s Gazprom orders will be linked to price levels of Dutch gas trading platform TTF, one of Europe’s biggest hubs. Just days ago, prices at TTF were about half those of pipeline gas. The other 60 percent of DEPA’s orders with Gazprom will remain oil indexed.

This development promises to make DEPA’s supply deals with Gazprom far more competitive. Prospective bidders already appear to be warming to the prospect.

Major Greek corporate groups such as Mytilineos, Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) – already holding a 35 percent stake in DEPA and considering teaming up with its Elpedison partner Edison for the DEPA sale – GEK Terna and Motor Oil are believed to be gearing up for bids. The Copelouzos group’s involvement in the DEPA Trade sale is considered certain – in a partnership with Czech entrepreneur Karel Komarek, holding a key stake in Greek lottery OPAP.

Copelouzos, Terna, PPC in Crete wind energy talks

Power utility PPC is engaged in talks with the Copelouzos and Terna Energy groups for the establishment of a joint venture to operate Cretan wind energy parks with a total capacity of approximately 1,000 MW.

The trio also intends to secure capacity in the Crete-Athens grid interconnection once this project, being developed by power grid operator IPTO, has been completed.

Details being discussed include the prospective stakes each of the three companies in the common venture. An even split of 33 percent each is one of the options being considered.

Two major Cretan wind energy projects being developed by Terna Energy and the Copelouzos group’s Elika were merged in 2017 to simplify their respective financing procedures through the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), commonly known as the Juncker Package.

These wind energy parks, promising an overall capacity of approximately 950 MW, will be developed in four prefectures.

PPC’s involvement, if an agreement with Copelouzos and Terna Energy is reached, could offer the power utility a 330-MW capacity.

Besides the current talks with Copelouzos and Terna Energy, PPC has received over ten partnership offers by Greek and foreign firms over the past few months.

The power utility recently signed three Memorandums of Understanding for strategic partnerships in the renewable energy sector, including one with Masdar Taaleri Generation (MTG) concerning a 300-MW capacity.