PPC, RWE agreement near, aiming for RES joint venture by summer

PPC Renewables, a power utility PPC subsidiary, and RWE, Germany’s biggest power producer, are striving to launch a joint venture by next summer for RES investments in Greece.

The two companies, which signed a Memorandum of Understanding last March in Berlin for exchange of technical knowhow and RES development in Greece, are looking to equally contribute for the establishment of a joint RES portfolio totaling 2 GW.

State-controlled PPC is expected to offer its approval of the agreement between the two companies within the next few days, development and investment minister Adonis Georgiadis told an online New Year event staged yesterday by the Hellenic-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

However, the details of the PPC Renewables-RWE joint venture deal are not expected to be finalized until early February, according to sources.

The two sides have already agreed on the fundamentals of their partnership agreement, RWE’s local representative Giorgos Paterakis confirmed at the aforementioned event, adding that the two companies will soon have further, and more specific, details to announce.

Georgiadis, the development and investment minister, described the forthcoming partnership as one of the country’s two biggest green-energy developments, also naming a pilot electromobility investment planned by another German company, VW, on the Greek island Astypalea.

The two companies are also looking to collaborate on decarbonization.

Decarbonization compensation effort locked in bureaucracy

A Greek decarbonization compensation request forwarded to the European Commission for power utility PPC’s need to keep operating lignite-fired power stations, nowadays loss-incurring units, from 2021 to 2023, has developed into a slow-moving ordeal locked in Brussels bureaucracy.

Though, until recently, the Greek request appeared to be headed towards approval, Brussels officials have since slowed down the case, extensively questioning the claim through a stream of emails to the energy ministry.

State-run PPC is seeking respective compensation amounts of 180, 150 and 200 million euros for the three-year period.

The European Commission has been relentless with its questioning despite appearing to recognize the validity of the Greek compensation request.

The Netherlands and Germany have both received similar decarbonization compensation amounts.

Greece, according to some sources, has not pursued the right strategy as it should have delayed the decarbonization compensation request case until the finalization of an older antitrust case concerning PPC’s lignite monopoly.

Though Greece and the European Commission reached an agreement last October, according to which 40 percent of PPC’s lignite-generated electricity production must be exclusively made available to independent suppliers at a pre-determined price, not below cost, the decision has yet to be implemented.

A market test still needs to be conducted to measure the market’s level of interest in this offer. Given the cost of lignite, independent players may not be interested.

PPC set for solid start in 2021, €400m inflow in coming days

Power utility PPC, in a positive start to the new year, expects to receive, in January, approximately 200 million euros linked to its large-scale securitization agreement reached last summer with international investment company Pimco for unpaid receivables of over 90 days, and, in addition, a 200 million-euro advance payment from the Greek State, by December 31, for public sector electricity consumption throughout 2021.

The amount to be received by PPC from Pimco represents the bulk of a 300 million-euro agreement.

The power utility intends to utilize this amount, along with a 150 million-euro sum received in November for a smaller-scale securitization agreement with JP Morgan, to initiate its investment plan for 2021.

PPC’s securitization deal with JP Morgan, for unpaid receivables of up to 60 days, is worth a total of 200 million euros.

Overall, PPC stands to receive 500 million euros from the two securitization packages. This sum will be reinforced by a 160 million-euro loan secured from the European Bank for reconstruction and Development (EBRD) last month, as well as a portion of the current year’s profit, once older arrears to market operators have been covered.

PPC’s expected collection of 200 million euros by December 31 from the Greek State as an advance payment – at a discount rate – for public sector electricity consumption in 2021 at the country’s ministries, public enterprises, hospitals and local government buildings, represents the first of two installments, or less than half the agreed sum for the year.

The Greek State’s second and final installment for 2021, to PPC, a 390.5 million-euro installment, is due on February 28.

In the previous two years, PPC had received full advance payments from the Greek State covering the entirety of public sector electricity costs for the respective years ahead.

Furthermore, PPC will achieve a cost reduction in 2021 through its closures of three lignite-fired power stations, Kardia III and IV and Megalopoli III.

The company’s anticipated return to capital markets with a bond issue, expected within the first half of 2021, should provide even greater support for the financing of its investment plan.

Decarbonization strategy’s spatial planning enters crucial stage

The country’s decarbonization master plan is entering one of its most crucial stages, the establishment of spatial planning for a just transition, or establishment of new commercial activity in regions to be financially impacted by the country’s withdrawal of lignite units, now underway.

These spatial plans, which will need to be submitted to the European Commission for approval, will determine the speed and success of the overall effort as just transition mechanism funding approval will be based on them.

A just transition mechanism sum of 5 billion euros is expected to be utilized. However, Greek officials will need to present analytical spatial plans detailing the transitions in accordance with the National Energy and Climate Plan. These plans will be incorporated into the EU’s National Strategic Reference Framework funding program.

Power utility PPC, monopolizing the country’s lignite facilities, will obviously be involved in the process. The utility will keep some of the land hosting lignite mines to develop its own investment plans, including solar energy parks.

The lignite-dependent economies of west Macedonia, in the country’s north, and Megalopoli, in the Peloponnese, will need to be completely redeveloped as part of the decarbonization plan.

It remains unclear when Greece’s spatial redevelopment plans will be ready to be submitted to the European Commission. They are not expected to be ready any time before the new year.

Government committee meets for decarbonization master plan

A government committee overseeing the country’s decarbonization master plan is scheduled to meet tomorrow to discuss and approve a funding mechanism concerning the new National Strategic Reference Framework’s just development transition.

The funding mechanism will be applied to manage funds and facilitate investment plans for lignite-dependent areas.

Consultation for the just development transition of Greece’s lignite-dependent area, west Macedonia, in the north, and Megalopoli in the Peloponnese, has been completed. Officials are currently processing the procedure’s comments and observations.

The government’s decarbonization master plan will aim for investments totaling 5 billion euros – both national and EU funds – to restructure the production models of Greece’s lignite-dependent areas and protect their respective employment markets.

The decarbonization plan’s coordinating committee is preparing a draft bill for the implementation of the master plan, whose features include incentives for investment, expected to be ready for Parliament in the first quarter of 2021.

PPC’s upcoming Investor Day event on strength of good news

Power utility PPC plans to go into early December’s rescheduled Investor Day, an online event organized by the corporation for its presentation of an updated 2021-2023 business plan to international analysts, on the back of favorable developments, including yet another profitable quarter, the fourth in a row, as well as new business openings.

PPC had originally planned Investor Day for last March, in London, but was forced to postpone and reshape for an online version as a result of the pandemic’s outbreak.

A year earlier, PPC was struggling, but the succession of positive quarters has lifted the company into a confident higher flyer.

Its updated business plan will feature more specific goals of greater ambition for the three-year period. They are expected to include a RES market share target of between 15 and 20 percent and capacity of over 1 GW, as well as fresh news on the company’s digital transformation, electromobility effort, commercial policy, and, possibly, an even swifter withdrawal plan for the company’s lignite-fired power stations.

Just days ahead of the Investor Day event PPC will announce a series of favorable developments, namely an initial securitization deal collection of 150 million euros; a higher EBITDA figure for yet another quarter; the launch of a privatization procedure to offer 49 percent of distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, a subsidiary; and, on December 1, financial results for the nine-month period, including a profitable third quarter.

PPC is also expected to announce a further workforce reduction plan and employee shifts from lignite units headed for closure. Earlier this year, the power utility reported a 10 percent payroll cost reduction for the first half.

 

PPC awaiting Brussels verdict on lignite unit exit compensation

The European Commission could reach a decision by the end of November on an energy ministry request seeking compensation for state-controlled power utility PPC’s plan to withdrawal lignite-fired power stations ahead of schedule.

The ministry has requested a compensation package of 180, 150 and 200 million euros for 2021, 2022 and 2023, respectively, for the power utility.

European Commission officials are currently closely examining the data and information accompanying the Greek application, energypress sources informed.

At best, a decision could be delivered in approximately three weeks, the sources estimated, adding that the Greek request has been favorably received.

Last May, the European Commission released a 52.5 million-euro compensation package to the Netherlands for the country’s premature closure of its Hemweg coal-fired facilities.

Greek officials had initially sought, quite some time ago, the approval of a cost recovery mechanism for PPC’s lignite-fired units, implemented in Germany as a strategic reserve capacity.

This proved too complex, prompting Greek officials to shift their focus onto the current compensation request for the country’s effort to decarbonize.

The European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager declared, in May, when the Hemweg compensation bid was approved, that EU member states must be compensated for their decarbonization efforts, adding that the Dutch compensation amount does not cause European market distortions.

PPC’s lignite unit losses are reported to have reached 300 million euros last year. The utility is seeking to limit such losses by closing such units sooner than planned.

PPC has announced its Megalopoli III facility will be shut down six months earlier, in the first half of 2021 instead of early 2022. If accomplished, this closure will represent PPC’s second PPC lignite unit withdrawal following Amynteo, closed down in May.

The utility intends to push for a swifter withdrawal of all other lignite-fired units, except Ptolemaida V.

PPC awaiting first securitization deal cash injection this month

Power utility PPC, seeking to financially bolster in anticipation of tougher pandemic-related market conditions, expects, within November, to benefit from an initial collection of approximately 150 million euros following two securitization agreements reached last summer with JP Morgan and Pimco for unpaid receivables.

This forthcoming initial cash injection, expected to eventually reach as much as 200 million euros, concerns a small-scale securitization package, for unpaid receivables of up to 60 days, reached between PPC and JP Morgan early last summer.

PPC then established an additional deal with Pimco for longer-term unpaid receivables of more than 90 days, expected to rake in up to 300 million euros, for a combined securitization total that may ultimately reach 500 million euros.

The power utility expects to receive about 200 million euros from the Pimco deal in December or January. This means PPC should have received a total of about 350 million euros in initial payments from JP Morgan and Pimco by no later than the end of January.

This amount promises to serve as a safety net in the coming months of market insecurity and tightened cash flow, and, in addition, partially fund PPC’s new business plan.

Currently being worked on, and expected to be far more ambitious than a previous version delivered at the end of 2019, PPC’s new business plan should be announced around mid-December.

It is expected to feature swifter RES project development and lignite unit withdrawals, as well as more ambitious electromobility initiatives.

The 500 million-euro securitization amount will certainly be needed for these investments.

Enel boosts 2030 greenhouse gas emission cut target to 80% from 70%

Enel has committed to an 80% reduction in its direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per kWh by 2030, from a 2017 base-year, up from the previous target of 70%, becoming the first major, global, integrated utility to set an emission reduction target consistent with the United Nations pledges to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, as validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), the company has announced in a statement.

“With our commitment to such a drastic reduction in our emissions, we are leading the way in the fight against global warming,” said Francesco Starace, Enel CEO and General Manager. “As we progress along this path, we are working relentlessly to maintain our leadership in the energy transition through an ever-increasing focus on carbon-free activities. We are increasing the share of renewables in our generation mix. We are working with our customers towards energy efficiency and electrification, enabling change through reliable, digitized and resilient grids. A truly innovative and sustainable company is one that does not hold back from embracing change, but strives to lead it.”

Enel’s new SBTi-approved target entails a reduction in the Group’s 2030 direct emission threshold to 82 gCO2eq/kWh from 125 gCO2eq/kWh corresponding to the previous 70% target, which was announced last year.

Enel is contributing to the energy transition by promoting a sustainable business model across its entire value chain. It was one of the first companies in the world to join the SBTi in 2015. The Group is making good progress towards the achievement of the SBTi target as in 2019 its direct GHG emissions per kWh were reduced by more than 36% compared to 2007, and it will continue this trend through major investments in renewables and thermal decommissioning. Through Enel Green Power, which is now the world’s largest private renewable player, Enel currently boasts over 47 GW of installed renewable capacity, exceeding that of thermal sources. Furthermore, the Enel Group is working towards phasing out its coal footprint by 2030. All these activities are expected to lead up to the Group’s full decarbonization by 2050.

Currently, Enel operates the largest private electricity distribution network globally with a grid of more than 2.2 million kilometers for over 74 million end users, of which more than 60% are already digitized. In addition, Enel’s advanced energy solutions business line Enel X is proactively contributing to decarbonize other sectors such as transport, with more than 140,000 public and private charging points for electric vehicles made available worldwide.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body in charge of assessing the science related to climate change, has warned that, in order to limit some of the worst climate impacts, temperature rise must be held to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels on the road to a net-zero future by 2050. Businesses have a critical role to play in order to tackle this global challenge and the SBTi is positioned as the world’s most recognized initiative to champion science-based target-setting as a way of boosting companies’ commitment to supporting the transition to a zero-emission economy.

The SBTi is a collaboration between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).  It provides companies with a pathway to identify how much and how quickly they need to reduce their GHG emissions with the aim to curtail rising global temperatures. Furthermore, the SBTi enables companies to set emission reduction targets consistent with the most ambitious aim of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change: to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

 

PPC to offer lignite-dependent area residents 5% stakes in solar farms

Power utility PPC intends to offer residents of lignite-dependent areas in Greece stakes totaling 5 percent in solar farm projects planned by the company as part of its decarbonization strategy, chief executive Giorgos Stassis disclosed in an interview published by Greek daily Kathimerini yesterday.

PPC plans to develop and operate solar farms with a total capacity of 2.5 GW in west Macedonia, northern Greece, and Megalopoli, in the Peloponnese, both lignite-dependent economies.

Besides creating jobs through these investments, PPC plans to offer locals the opportunity to invest in the power utility by acquiring shares for total stakes of 5 percent, Stassis noted.

Through this procedure, residents will join PPC in its investments and enjoy the exact same returns as the company, he said.

“I want to underline the annual investment return on these investments will range between 8 and 10 percent, at a time when deposit interest rates are almost negative,” Stassis said. The offer will be restricted to decarbonization-area residents, he added.

Commenting on local resistance against prospective RES installations, especially on islands, Stassis noted: “Islanders who, for years, have enjoyed low-cost electricity generated in Megalopoli and Ptolemaida at a cost for the environment and human lives, cannot object turbine installations on islands for production of electricity they will consume now that lignite-fired generation has become ultra-expensive and is being abandoned.”

PPC green plan includes pumped storage, hydrogen, old generator use

Power utility PPC’s green-energy plan represents a key part of the company’s new business plan, along with a newly adopted customer-oriented approach and the digital transformation of production and distribution networks, deputy chief executive Giannis Kopanakis has pointed out during a speech at the 3rd Athens Investment Forum.

PPC’s green energy plan will be based on decarbonization, through a gradual withdrawal of the corporation’s lignite-fired power stations, and RES market penetration, the deputy noted.

Telethermal need coverage, development of large-scale solar energy farms at former lignite mines, and investments in energy storage, biomass, hydrogen and other new technologies all feature in the transition plan for lignite-dependent local economies, Kopanakis told the conference.

As for energy storage, PPC, besides batteries, also intends to develop pumped-storage systems at depleted lignite sites, appropriate for use as small-scale reservoirs.

The development of hydrogen producing facilities, also included in the PPC plan, will greatly depend on decisions concerning the fuel mix the corporation’s new Ptolemaida V power station will run on beyond 2028.

PPC also plans to utilize existing mechanical equipment of lignite-fired power stations either closed or headed for closure through use at other company facilities. Generators at old power stations are planned to be converted into condensers for grid voltage stability. Such systems will be needed as a result of the sharp increase in RES stations.

PPC’s investment plan, budgeted at 2.2 billion euros, is expected to create at least 900 permanent jobs as well as 3,000 temporary positions, for the construction of new projects, Kopanakis said.

 

Roads, buildings, telethermal units among post-lignite ideas

Crucial road and building projects, as well as telethermal units for the Florina, Amynteo, Eordea and Kozani areas in northern Greece are among 116 project investment proposals worth 1.14 billion euros that have been submitted by municipalities, regional authorities and universities to the government’s special transition program for the decarbonization effort.

It is understood that out of the 116 proposals, only those corresponding to objectives set by the government plan, aiming to support employment, social cohesion, entrepreneurship and green energy, among other domains, and which can be completed within the next three years, will be approved.

Energy minister Costis Hatzidakis made reference to the number of investment proposals forwarded and their total worth at a conference last Friday, the Athens Investment Forum, without going into great detail.

The special transition program, scheduled for 2021 to 2023, is being assembled based on the capabilities of the EU’s National Strategic Reference Framework (2014-2020); REACT-EU (Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe), contributing to a green, digital and resilient recovery of the economy; as well as other funds.

Projects worth a total of 250 million euros could be inducted into the special transition program, according to an initial estimate.

PPC’s second voluntary exit plan this year achieves 85% success rate

Power utility PPC’s second voluntary exit program offered to employees this year has achieved a success rate of 85 percent, convincing 465 staff members to sign up, from a target group of 550.

Applicants needed to meet two prerequisites for this latest PPC exit program. Firstly, applicants must be on the way to turning at least 55 years of age by December 31, 2020. Secondly, they needed to have already qualified for pension rights before applying for the exit plan.

Without the pension right criterion, the program would have applied to a far broader group of as many as 1,700 employees at PPC units around the country.

PPC is believed to be satisfied with the course of its voluntary exit plan this year. The tally of voluntary exits this year is seen reaching 1,200, over an initial estimate of 1,000.

Employees who sign up for the program each receive compensation packages totaling 35,000 euros.

The power utility is expected to keep downsizing. According to last year’s business plan, PPC is aiming for a workforce reduction of 4,500 employees by 2023.

PPC, turning to green energy, has scheduled to shut down its Kardia III and IV and Megalopoli III lignite-fired power stations in 2021, followed by Agios Dimitrios I and II in 2022. Megalopoli III could be withdrawn sooner than planned, the company recently announced.

JTF plan includes 16 post-lignite projects budgeted at €2.5bn

The total cost of sixteen investment proposals concerning the decarbonization of Greece’s lignite-dependent areas included in the country’s Just Transition Fund plan, just released by the energy ministry for public consultation until October 31, is estimated between 2.3 and 2.5 billion euros.

The plan, offering project description and cost details, includes eleven proposals for west Macedonia, in northern Greece, and five proposals for Megalopoli, in the Peloponnese.

The proposals for west Macedonia include 2-GW solar farm projects by power utility PPC.

The power utility is currently developing a 230-MW solar farm budgeted at 133 million euros.

A Solaris Bus & Coach project for a RES-based hydrogen unit budgeted at one billion euros is also among the eleven proposals for west Macedonia, as is a 250-MW energy storage project by Eunice, to cost 280 million euros.

The five Megalopoli proposals included in Greece’s JTF plan include PPC solar farms with a capacity of 50 MW and budgeted at 250 million euros; a pharmaceutical production facility to cost 90 million euros and create 400 jobs; a smart-technology livestock and animal feed farm budgeted at 40 million euros; a theme park for entertainment and educational purposes to cost 40 million euros; as well as other public-sector investments worth 30 million euros.

 

 

 

NSRF help for decarbonization until recovery fund is launched

Greece’s decarbonization effort will, for the time being, need to rely on the National Strategic Reference Framework for EU subsidy support until member state objections and disagreements over the pandemic-related Recovery Fund are resolved to enable its launch.

The European Commission and certain member states from eastern Europe, including Hungary and Poland, appear set for a new round of recovery fund negotiations following objections raised over terms set in July.

More affluent member states such as the Netherlands and Finland have made milder complaints, noting the summer agreement’s handout plan is too lenient.

A January 1 start for the recovery plan appears increasingly unlikely as a result of these disputes.

A delay would impact anticipated recovery-fund financial support for pivotal decarbonization efforts in Greece, including related public road projects. Company-funded projects such as solar energy farms to be developed by power utility PPC and Hellenic Petroleum ELPE will not be impacted.

In a worst-case scenario concerning the recovery fund’s date of launch, projects will need to entirely depend on the new National Strategic Reference Framework for subsidy support through a transitional program covering 2021 to 2023, well-informed sources told energypress.

Projects that would be eligible for subsidy support through this transitional program are budgeted at a total of 250 million euros, according to an initial estimate.

They include PPC and ELPE solar energy farm plans; PPC’s Ptolemaida V power station, currently under construction; as well as PPC’s post-lignite investments.

 

Energy ministry seeks recovery fund support for many domains

The energy ministry, seeking to ensure EU recovery-fund support for mature projects in key energy-related domains, has proposed their inclusion in a national plan whose first draft will be submitted by the government to the European Commission this month.

Greece is entitled to approximately 32 billion euros from the EU recovery fund, worth a total of 750 billion euros (390bn in subsidies and 360bn in loans) and established to counter the impact of the global pandemic.

Approximately 37 percent of the recovery funds will be used for green-energy development.

Energy efficiency upgrades of buildings; grid interconnections and RES initiatives, including energy storage; electromobility; nature protection; decarbonization; spatial planning for RES development; solid and liquid waste management; and smart power meter installations, a severely delayed project in Greece, are among the domains the energy ministry wants included in the national plan for EU recovery funds.

The energy ministry has previously sought support for some of these domains through the National Strategic Reference Framework.

A total of 130,000 efficiency upgrades of buildings have so far received subsidy support over a decade-long period through Greece’s Saving at Home program. The ministry is looking to significantly increase this rate to 60,000 upgrades per year through the recovery funds program.

Greece’s energy ministry will also seek recovery fund support for two major electricity interconnections – Crete’s major-scale interconnection,  to link the island’s grid with Athens; and the fourth phase of the Cyclades interconnection – both being developed by power grid operator IPTO.

 

GEK TERNA, Elpedison close to decisions on gas-fueled units

GEK TERNA and Elpedison are expected to announce finalized investment decisions for new gas-fueled power stations with total capacity over 1,400 MW within the next two months, energypress sources informed.

GEK TERNA plans to develop a 660-MW power station at the industrial zone of Komotini, northeastern Greece, while Elpedison, a joint venture involving Hellenic Petroleum ELPE and Italy’s Edison, intends to construct units with a total capacity of 826 MW at the ELPE facilities in Thessaloniki.

These project plans are estimated to be worth a total of at least 600 million euros.

The energy companies have already received energy production licenses as well as other licensing requirements, including environmental permits, for these prospective units, regarded as mature investment plans.

Both companies are awaiting new CAT mechanism details for gas-fueled power stations before finalizing their investment plans. The economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic, plus the anticipation of a second wave, are also crucial factors influencing the thinking behind these investment decisions.

Market capacity exists for new combined-cycle gas-fueled power stations during the energy transition over the next ten to 15 years, electricity market officials insist.

The planned withdrawal of power utility PPC’s lignite-fired power stations over the next three or so years combined with a lack of development in RES energy storage systems offers gas-fueled power generation an opportunity to cover capacity to be lost by lignite-fired power station closures.

A recent BloombergNEF report noted big natural gas-fueled power stations are not necessary. However, market officials point to the National Energy and Climate Plan as proof of the need for such units.

The Mytilineos group is developing an 826-MW CCGT in the Agios Nikolaos area of Boetia, northwest of Athens, with the aim of a launch in late-2021.

Energy transition to boost medium-term gas demand; 6 bcm total expected in ’20

The energy transition is boosting the prospects of an increase in Greek natural gas consumption, which could rise by 2.5 to 3 bcm in the medium term, market experts project.

Pundits expect total gas consumption in 2020 to reach 6 bcm, up considerably from levels registered in 2019, and stabilize at this level in 2021.

Electricity generation is a key factor in the anticipated rise of gas consumption as the withdrawal of lignite-fired power stations should increase the energy-mix share of natural gas to levels of between 30 and 40 percent.

The rise in gas consumption in the short term will greatly depend on the number of new gas-fired power stations to be introduced. For example, a gas-consumption increase of as much as 1.5 bcm is expected if three gas-fired power units with respective capacities of 800 MW are introduced to the system.

Exports are expected to add a further 1 bcm to the market’s size, while small-scale expansion covering the shipping sector and needs of detached areas should add another 500 million cubic meters to consumption.

 

PPC turn to renewable energy backed by BNEF report findings

Wind and solar energy production costs will be lower than those of existing natural gas-fueled power stations by 2025, according to a BloombergNEF analysis on Greece’s electricity market.

The projection vindicates the power utility PPC’s decision to turn to renewable energy, the corporation’s head has indicated.

“The conclusions of the BNEF report are in full agreement with the key pillars of our new strategy,” PPC’s chief executive Giorgos Stassis said.

Installed wind and solar energy capacity will have quadrupled by 2025 compared to present levels, and renewable energy sources will have captured an energy mix share of nearly 50 percent, toppling fossil fuel from its dominant position, even if RES subsidies are not offered for existing technologies such as solar and wind, according to the BNEF analysis.

“The ever-increasing competitiveness of renewable energy sources also confirms, from an economic point of view, our choice to restructure our portfolio and transition our production towards renewable energy sources,” Stassis noted. “By focusing on clean energy, we can achieve a decarbonization of our activities in electricity generation and also reduce the cost of electricity for consumers.”

In addition, the report highlights the important role of consumers as key players in the future energy system, the PPC chief noted.

This supports PPC’s decision to develop a new customer-oriented approach and offer a reinforced portfolio of products and services, using new technologies and digital systems, according to Stassis.

Utilizing lower generation costs offered by wind and solar energy production, PPC will be well positioned for leading roles in other energy sectors, beginning with electromobility, the PPC head supported.

According to the BNEF report, Greece can establish itself as one of the EU’s energy transition leaders.

Lower-cost solar and wind energy production, as well as storage systems, plus increased CO2 emission right costs, are all radically transforming the country’s energy system, the BNEF report noted.

Greece is expected to gain an additional 18 GW in generation capacity by 2030, 67 percent of this increased output represented by wind and solar energy.

No turning back on decarbonization effort, PM stresses

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, speaking at a press conference at the Thessaloniki International Fair, has described the country’s decarbonization effort as personal challenge and one for the government as a whole.

He was responding to questions on whether the plan can be successfully implemented given resistance by unions and local communities at the lignite-dependent regions of west Macedonia in Greece’s north and Megalopoli, in the Peloponnese.

Mitsotakis was critical of any thoughts concerning extended operations at power utility PPC’s lignite-fired power stations, stressing a decision for their gradual withdrawal has been reached as a result of financial and environmental factors.

State-controlled PPC is incurring losses worth hundreds of millions of euros as a result of hefty CO2 emission right costs, he noted.

The Prime Minister informed he would soon visit the west Macedonia region and also launch a 204-MW solar energy farm, Greece’s biggest to date, currently being developed in Kozani by Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE).

 

Ministry proposal seen ending PPC lignite monopoly case

Independent electricity retailers would be entitled to lignite-generated electricity supply from power utility PPC at a predetermined price, definitely not below cost for the utility, in quantities constituting 40 percent of each lignite-fired power station’s production, to be distributed to suppliers in proportion to their respective retail electricity market shares, until 2023, when  lignite-fired units are expected to have been phased out as part of the country’s decarbonization plan, according to a finalized proposal forwarded by the energy ministry to the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition a fortnight ago in an effort to resolve a long-running antitrust case.

Energy ministry officials are confident this formula will end the antitrust dispute, now a decade long, concerning’s PPC’s lignite sector monopoly.

Back in 2010, lignite dominated Greece’s energy mix but there is now much less at stake as lignite-fired power stations are being phased out over the next three years.

PPC’s lignite-fired electricity generation dropped 47.8 percent in the first half, diving 70 percent in the second quarter, the utility announced just days ago when presenting its first-half results.

PPC’s lignite-based output totaled 3,000 GWh in the first half and just 756 GWh in the second quarter.

Energy ministry officials believe the Directorate-General for Competition will not resist accepting the Athens proposal as a rejection would take the dispute back to European Court, meaning a case would not be heard any sooner than late-2021. By then, PPC’s lignite-fired power stations Kardia III and IV and Megalopoli III will have all been withdrawn, according to the latest schedule announced by energy minister Costis Hatzidakis earlier this week.

 

Megalopoli III to exit 6 months ahead of schedule, in mid-2021

Power utility PPC plans to prematurely withdraw its Megalopoli III lignite-fired power station in mid-2021, six months earlier than planned, energy minister Costis Hatzidakis announced yesterday while presenting the government’s decarbonization plan.

A decision was taken to shut down Megalopoli III, in the Peloponnese, ahead of schedule as this facility has operated for a total of just one week since spring, indicating its output is no longer required to secure grid sufficiency.

In his comments to media yesterday, Hatzidakis, the energy minister, highlighted the high cost entailed in operating lignite-fired power stations.

The averages variable cost of lignite-based energy is €0.80 per MWh, well over the System Marginal Price of €0.45 per MWh, according to data presented by the minister.

A 550-MW PPC lignite-fired power station at Amynteo, northern Greece, has already been shut down.

For the time being, no other PPC lignite unit withdrawal plan revisions were reported at yesterday’s news conference.

Kardia III and IV are still planned to be withdrawn in 2021. These will be followed by Agios Dimitrios I, II, III and IV, representing a total capacity of 1,100 MW, in 2022. Their withdrawal will coincide with the entry of a new unit, Ptolemaida V, to offer a 610-MW capacity. It will be launched as a lignite-fired unit before continuing to generate on cleaner fuel as of 2028.

PPC is also scheduled to withdraw 260-MW Megalopoli IV, 290-MW Meliti I and 340-MW Agios Dimitrios V in 2023.

 

Gov’t plans 11 decarbonization investments worth €2.5bn

The government plans to facilitate the post-lignite transition of Greece’s west Macedonia and Megalopoli areas by promoting 11 big investments totaling 2.5 billion euros and also making available, through a six-year plan, national and EU support funds in excess of three billion euros.

This plan, already presented to west Macedonia working groups earlier this week, will be discussed today by a government committee before being presented to media by energy minister Costis Hatzidakis.

Besides the 11 major-scale investments, the plan, intended to reshape the production models of both regions, will also feature tax and financing incentives.

For decades, both the west Macedonia and Megolopoli areas have depended on lignite for economic growth.

The new plan will be based on five key pillars – clean energy; industry, small-scale industry, commerce; smart agricultural production; sustainable tourism; technology and education – for growth and utilization of comparative advantages.

Investment plans include the development of solar farms in west Macedonia and Megalopoli with a total capacity of 2.3 GW; a state-of-the-art gas-fueled power station in west Macedonia; as well as the establishment of electromobility industrial parks in both areas.

The government’s decarbonization plan for the two areas is expected to create 5,100 jobs, directly, and a further 6,400, indirectly.

The government expects to deploy national and EU support funds worth 3.2 billion euros for the overall effort over six years, with the majority of this total, 2 billion euros, to be made available over the first three years (2021-2023).

The plan is expected to be forwarded for public consultation in mid-September.

 

PPC business plan to include more ambitious RES goals

Power utility PPC’s new business plan, to be announced towards the end of the year, will feature a more ambitious transition towards the corporation’s RES objective of between 2,000 and 3,000 MW, as well as bolder steps concerning digital products, the retail electricity market, electromobility and the decarbonization schedule.

PPC, undergoing strategic changes, has decided to present three-year business plans that will be revised annually instead of its customary five-year plans.

This reflects the corporation’s determination to remain connected with rapid developments in the energy sector, capable of outdating business plans announced just a year earlier.

The new PPC business plan, expected in December, will aim for a RES portfolio of 2,000-3,000 MW within two years; swifter digitalization; increased collaboration with the private sector for electromobility development; greater emphasis on cost-reduction synergies; as well as revenue reinforcement through the application of new technologies in all fields.

The business plan will be complemented by a new regulatory framework for PPC’s privatization-headed subsidiary HEDNO, the distribution network operator, as well as European Commission negotiations, crucial for the new generation of retail products.

The new PPC business plan will offer fundamentals for the establishment of a corporation delivering annual operating profit of between 750 and 900 million euros between 2021 and 2023.

A smooth ride is not guaranteed. Fluctuations are possible. Gas and petroleum prices, currently low, will most likely rise over the next few months, PPC’s decarbonization plan represents an enormous challenge, while difficulties and delays in the absorption of amounts from the recovery fund are feared.

For the time being, the market is approving PPC’s approach. The company share has risen 187 percent over the past six months, up from 1.55 euros in March to 4.45 euros yesterday.

 

Rising CO2 right prices signal irreversible post-lignite course

Higher CO2 emission right costs, forecast to rise even further over the next few years, and this trend’s growing cost for power utility PPC’s lignite-fired power stations, highlight the country’s irreversible course towards the post-lignite era.

CO2 emission right costs have climbed to levels of about 30 euros per ton, the highest since 2006, Nikos Mantzaris, policy analyst at The Green Tank, an independent, non-profit environmental think tank, noted yesterday during a presentation of a new report, by the think tank, on Just Transition, the EU policy to end lignite dependence in Europe.

CO2 emission right prices will increase further over the next five years to reach levels of 35 to 40 euros per ton, sector experts have projected, Mantzaris said.

Stricter CO2 emission right regulations to be implemented by the European Commission in 2021 will push prices even higher, Mantzaris supported.

This upward trajectory of CO2 emission right costs is weighing heavy on PPC. Energy minister Costis Hatzidakis has estimated that PPC’s CO2-related costs in 2020 will amount to at least 300 million euros, a repeat of last year.

PPC has already made moves to restrict its lignite-fired generation for the grid. “The downward trend became even steeper following a full decarbonization decision announced [by the government] in September, 2019, which led, in May, 2020, to lignite covering just 6 percent of electricity demand on the grid, a historic low,” according to the latest Green Tank report.

For the first time in seven decades, not a single lignite-fired power station in Greece’s west Macedonia region operated on May 20 this year, while, between June 7 and 9, all the country’s lignite-fired power stations did not operate for 40 hours, the report noted.

 

 

PPC staff left idle by lignite unit closures to be transferred

Power utility PPC employees left idle as a result of the corporation’s planned phaseout of lignite-fired power stations until 2023 will be transferred to other company units and posts, the PPC board has decided.

The company’s leadership anticipates PPC’s two voluntary exit programs this year will end up attracting some 1,200 participants, a figure deemed satisfactory considering the company’s financial figures.

PPC is preparing to launch a second voluntary exit program on September 1. It will concern some 1,700 company employees, of which 500 have already qualified for full pension rights.

The full details of the upcoming voluntary exit offer have not yet been announced but are expected within the next few weeks.

It is known that interested parties will face a September 31 deadline to lodge their applications. Also, the follow-up voluntary exit plan will offer outgoing employees bonus payments of 20,000 euros on top of severance pay worth 15,000 euros.

An initial voluntary exit program offered by PPC earlier in the year drew 702 employees from PPC’s lignite-fired units, slightly below the target figure, prompting company savings estimated at 48 million euros.

EU recovery fund compromise cuts into JTF for lignite end

A significant contraction of the Just Transition Fund that has resulted from a major compromise deal just reached between the EU’s north and south for a huge post-coronavirus recovery package has raised questions about the decarbonization effort’s financing and ability to progress smoothly.

A sum of 30 billion euros initially planned by the European Commission to be offered to lignite-dependent EU members states for their transition to cleaner energy will be cut to 10 billion euros.

A variety of post-coronavirus recovery sub-funds have been reduced in size, including the JTF, established to support Europe’s decarbonization process.

Prior to the compromise deal, a European Commission proposal had been made to increase the JTF amount for the EU’s lignite-dependent members to 40 billion euros from an initial sum of 7.5 billion euros.

Subsequently, Greece now stands to receive a few hundred million euros for its  decarbonization policy following an earlier estimate for a sum of 1.7 billion euros. The loss for Greece is worth approximately one billion euros.

The recovery package talks over the past few days saw a split between nations hardest hit by the virus and “frugal” members who were concerned about costs.

The deal centers on a 390 billion-euro program of grants to member states hardest hit by the pandemic. Italy and Spain are expected to be the main recipients.

It is the biggest joint borrowing ever agreed by the EU. Summit chairman Charles Michel described it as a “pivotal moment” for Europe.

 

Telethermal plan for the north enables faster lignite unit exits

Power utility PPC’s prospective combined cooling, heat and power plant in Kardia, northern Greece, will be designed to operate both independently and in connection with Ptolemaida V and provide telethermal needs to the regional provincial cities Ptolemaida and Kozani, seen as vital coverage that will enable the power utility to withdraw lignite-fired units, cost-incurring facilities, sooner than planned.

Ptolemaida V, a new facility nearing its launch and planned to remain as the power utility’s last lignite-fired power station, will spare PPC’s other lignite-fired units in the region from telethermal responsibilities.

This overall plan was agreed to yesterday by the government, municipal authorities, PPC and gas grid operator DESFA.

Ptolemaida V, when operating, will provide necessary telethermal energy through pipelines to the Kardia CCHP unit, which, in turn, will offer heating.

Even when Ptolemaida V is not generating electricity, the prospective Kardia CCHP unit, to run on natural gas, will be able to function independently and offer telethermal needs to residents in the region.

Authorities are pushing for the Kardia unit’s completion and launch by 2022, admitting that it could take until 2023.

PPC’s Agios Dimitrios I, II, III, IV phase-out starting July 1

Power utility PPC’s four Agios Dimitrios power station units in Kozani, northern Greece will be phased out as of July 1 and should cease operating, completely, well before 2022, when the facilities are officially scheduled to shut down as part of Greece’s decarbonization effort.

At this stage, it appears that Agios Dimitrios I, II, III and IV will only be available in winter to cover telethermal needs. These units will not be used for electricity generation, according to PPC’s new business plan, meaning they will be withdrawn sooner than had been expected.

Contrary to the four Agios Dimitrios units, an emission-limiting desulphurization investment now being completed at Agios Dimitrios V is expected to prolong the life of this unit as the effort’s results should meet EU emission limits.

PPC, responding to an EU directive from 2010 asking producers to inform, by 2013, on how they intended to transform high-polluting facilities, had performed a dry desulphurization process on Agios Dimitrios I, II, III and IV ahead of a June 30, 2020 deadline, but this technique failed to produce the desired results.