Electricity suppliers fear new market rules, to be launched tomorrow, could prompt a sharp increase in the number of consumers shifting from one supplier to another, and, while doing so, leaving behind unpaid electricity bills.
Under the current framework, between 20,000 and 30,000 customers are switching suppliers every month, but suppliers fear the new rules, suspending a wholesale price adjustment clause included in electricity bills, could greatly increase these shifts by breeding greater consumer insecurity.
Suppliers will now need to try and forecast energy exchange price levels for ensuing two-month periods, which has raised fears of further price rises as a safety measure for loss avoidance.
Consumers are entitled to change electricity supplier once a month, without any penalties, to secure the best deals in the market.
Electricity suppliers who have been abandoned continue to be deprived of the right to request power cuts for former customers who have left behind unsettled electricity bills.
RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has given electricity retailers until the end of this month to provide detailed data concerning electricity bills issued for all customers between September 1, 2021 and May 31.
The authority has requested this information to check on tariff charges, whether wholesale price adjustment clauses have been applied in accordance with agreements signed between suppliers and customers, and if government subsidies included in bills have been properly calculated.
RAE considers this inspection necessary as a result of consumer suspicions of charging errors against their interests.
Meanwhile, RAE is also conducting hearings on two separate issues involving twelve electricity retailers. The first issue concerns whether suppliers have notified consumers on time for tariff changes. The second issue being examined is whether supplier tariffs and sale programs are transparent.
The number of low-voltage consumers switching electricity supplier doubled in May, compared to a month earlier, despite the energy ministry’s imminent energy-crisis measures to be introduced July 1, suggesting consumers are panic-stricken and lack composure for a wait-and-see approach.
Latest electricity market figures covering May, still unofficial, showed a further rise in the number of households resorting to the universal electricity supply service, covering the needs of black-listed consumers who have been shunned by suppliers over payment failures.
The number of low-voltage consumers who have resorted to this universal electricity supply service, which also rose in April, by 5,000, now exceed a total of 170,000, May’s unofficial data showed.
By law, the electricity market’s top five suppliers, based on market share, contribute to the universal supply service. Higher tariffs are charged.
RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has officially announced revised guidelines for standardized electricity-bill presentations by suppliers, changes including deadlines set for suppliers and billing layout details.
Though implementation of these terms is not yet compulsory, suppliers are already adopting the changes, driven by a RAE incentive offering them endorsement on the authority’s website.
RAE is aiming for compulsory enforcement of its plan for standardized electricity bills, promising consumers greater transparency and price-comparing ability.
To be endorsed by the authority, suppliers will need to have made all required changes for standardized electricity-bill presentations by July 1.
RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, plans to conduct checks on electricity suppliers towards the end of June to see if its guidelines for standardized electricity-bill presentations have been adopted, sources at the authority have informed energypress.
RAE issued a set of guidelines to electricity suppliers for standardized electricity bills by July 1 as a means of offering consumers greater transparency and the ability to make direct billing comparisons.
Electricity suppliers adopting RAE’s guidelines will be endorsed by the authority on its website, the sources added.
Suppliers are still working on their electricity-bill presentation revisions as they are engaged in ongoing consultation with RAE for clarification of certain details and also require more time to adjust their information technology systems, according to sources.
The country’s electricity suppliers are willing to adopt RAE’s guidelines for electricity bill revisions but have expressed concern over further changes that could eventuate as a result of price-intervention and subsidy policies amid the energy crisis.
The level of electricity bill unpaid receivables is rising as a growing number of households and businesses struggle to keep up with extremely higher energy costs, a detrimental factor for the cash flows of suppliers, who, in turn, are finding it increasingly difficult to relay regulated fees – included in electricity bills – to the market operators.
A growing number of consumers are lodging complaints to RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, over exorbitantly priced electricity bills they are encountering.
The government’s electricity subsidies being offered to consumers as energy-crisis support appear to be insufficient.
The vicious circle of events is challenging the energy market as a whole. In an effort to ease the overall pressure, the government intends to ratify legislation for the implementation of a price ceiling in the wholesale electricity market, but not until the European Commission makes an announcement covering the EU, expected next month.
RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, looking for ways to ease the cashflow pressure felt by electricity suppliers in the energy crisis, is considering to reduce the level of guarantees they need to forward to the country’s operators – power grid operator IPTO, RES market operator DAPEEP, and distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO – by revising a formula that determines these guarantee amounts.
However, certain independent, non-vertically integrated electricity suppliers remain apprehensive, fearing such a move could ultimately further increase the market strength of bigger rivals and push smaller players further aside.
At this stage, RAE is involved in talks with the market operators in an effort to determine if leeway exists for a reduction of the guarantees provided by suppliers.
RAE’s Aggeliki Mourtzikou, Director of the Wholesale Energy Markets Department, told the recent energypress Power and Gas Forum that the authority is moving carefully so that any intervention does not result in the creation of deficit figures whose side effects in the market could outweigh any short-term benefits concerning supplier cashflows.
The number of consumers seeking installment-based payment arrangements for energy bills has risen sharply, severely impacting the cashflow of suppliers.
A rising wave of overdue electricity bills, highlighted by a sharp rise in the number of applications lodged by consumers for installment-based payments, is generating anxiety in the energy market as consumers face steep energy cost increases and suppliers battle against tightened cashflows while fearing a reemergence of unpaid receivables.
Consumers are now feeling the accumulative effect of an energy crisis that has lasted seven months and deteriorated since Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine.
Consumer applications for installment-based payments have risen by more than 200 percent since September, 2021, generating fears of a new round of unpaid receivables, which would have a wider impact on the energy market’s stability.
The extent of the problem will become clearer in April when electricity bills are issued for consumption in March, a month during which wholesale electricity prices have skyrocketed to levels of approximately 300 euros per MWh as Russia’s war on Ukraine rages.
Many energy consumers who have so far managed to remain punctual with their payments could struggle to meet risen energy costs, energy company officials have informed energypress.
Prior to the energy crisis, the country’s annual electricity consumption of 55 TWh cost a total of nearly 3 billion euros, based on an average wholesale electricity price of 50 euros per MWh, several times below the current level of roughly 300 euros per MWh. If sustained throughout 2022, this price level would result in a national electricity bill of nearly 14 billion euros for the year.
A sum estimated at one billion euros, which should, by now, have been transferred by the Greek State to energy suppliers as compensation for subsidies they have offered to households and businesses on its behalf, remains trapped in the coffers of DAPEEP, the RES market operator, as a result of rule ambiguities and errors, sources have claimed in comments to energypress.
This amount, planned to cover subsidy-related payments made by electricity and natural gas suppliers for January, February as well as March, is stuck at DAPEEP as three ministerial decisions issued last month, which define the framework for electricity and gas bill subsidies offered to household consumers, businesses and farmers, as well as subsidy clearance procedures enabling payments to suppliers, contain ambiguities and mistakes, the sources told energypress following its related report on payment delays faced by energy suppliers.
As a result of these ministerial decisions, DAPEEP has been called upon to check whether subsidy amounts covered by suppliers from their own funds on behalf of the Greek State are correct, the sources said.
In essence, the operator has been asked to cross-examine whether consumers who were subsidized were eligible for the support, restricted to primary residence only, and whether other eligible parties ended up not receiving subsidies.
DAPEEP is not in a position to perform this task alone as the RES market operator needs to cross-examine its figures with those of DEDDIE/HEDNO, the distribution network operator, and IPTO, the power grid operator, for which it does not have access, the sources explained.
The level of state subsidies to be offered to household and business consumers for electricity and natural gas in March will remain unchanged compared to February, a support measure worth 350 million euros for the month, sources have informed.
Energy suppliers have already been informed of the decision, reached by the energy ministry.
As a result, household consumers will receive electricity subsidies worth 39 euros per month for consumption up to 300 kWh, only for primary places of residence.
Low-income households eligible for social residential tariffs (KOT) stand to receive electricity subsidies worth 51 euros per month.
Monthly subsidies for non-household consumers, including businesses, farmers and professionals, will remain at the level of 65 euros.
As for natural gas, household consumers stand to receive state subsidies of 20 euros per MWh plus that much more from the gas company DEPA Commercial. Businesses will receive 20 euros per MWh.
According to sources, energy suppliers have yet to be compensated by DAPEEP, the RES market operator, for subsidies offered in January and February, on behalf of the Greek State. Subsidies offered by the Greek State over the two-month period were worth a total of 700 million euros.
DAPEEP sources have ascertained that the sum owed by the operator to energy suppliers will be covered either late this week or early next week.
This delay has increased the cashflow strain felt be energy suppliers, now facing even greater pressure following last week’s invasion of Ukraine by Russia, a development that has sparked a further rise in energy prices.
RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has informed the country’s electricity suppliers it plans to start publishing monthly reports listing suppliers who do not owe electricity-bill surcharge amounts to operators as well as suppliers who owe such amounts but have reached settlement arrangements through installment programs.
Electricity suppliers were informed of this initiative, based on a RAE board decision reached on February 10, in a letter forwarded by the authority.
Through this initiative, RAE aims to pressure electricity suppliers into relaying electricity-bill surcharges to operators on time.
A number of electricity suppliers have fallen behind on these surcharge relays, which highlights the growing pressure faced by the energy market, as a whole, amid the energy crisis. Cashflow has tightened up for suppliers, facing steep wholesale prices, and an increased number of consumers are struggling to meet energy bills.
The situation has officials worried that a new wave of unpaid receivables is in development.
Certain electricity suppliers and market officials have reacted against the RAE measure, noting it will create far bigger problems rather than the ones it seeks to resolve.
The country’s electricity market has been left without rules preventing consumers with power bill arrears from switching suppliers as a deliberate tactic to avoid payments.
A regulatory framework that would prevent consumers with arrears from switching suppliers has yet to be ratified, despite many months of deliberation.
Also, suppliers are now unable to request electricity supply interruptions for departing customers with arrears as a result of a revision made earlier this month to a related online platform managed by distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO.
Sector officials have warned the absence of regulations offering suppliers protection against consumers with arrears could lead to a drastic increase in the number of consumers switching from one supplier to another, without repercussions, as a means of avoiding payments.
The energy ministry, which has hesitated to act, has been in possession of a related proposal from RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, for several months now, following three rounds of consultation staged by the authority, the most recent round held eight months ago.
Distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO is preparing to reiterate a warning to RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, highlighting unpaid receivables owed to the operator by the country’s electricity suppliers, owing, according to sources, more than 120 million euros.
The operator is expected to deliver a letter to the authority within the next few days that will provide details on respective amounts owed by suppliers, identify suppliers who are allegedly breaching payment rules on a regular basis, and also inform on the action the operator is preparing to take.
This latest warning from DEDDIE/HEDNO will be the second to be delivered to RAE this month. The operator had issued a first warning last October, while the issue was still nascent.
According to market regulations, RAE has the power to remove suppliers from the country’s registry of suppliers if they do not meet their financial obligations.
Smaller suppliers could find themselves in trouble as January’s further increase in electricity price levels could prompt a greater number of payment delays by consumers and, by extension, payments of surcharges by suppliers to operators.
At present, suppliers, both vertically integrated and not, are under cash-flow pressure as they anxiously await electricity bill payments by consumers.
Electricity suppliers have had to cover a total of 575 million euros in subsidies offered by the government to consumers for January and February, while, according to sources, the energy ministry has promised to provide this amount to suppliers by the end of the month.
This delay has further increased the pressure on suppliers, forced to deal with significantly higher operating costs as they are spending bigger amounts for wholesale electricity purchases, severely impacting liquidity. Wholesale electricity prices have quadrupled compared to a year ago.
Repeating previous requests, electricity suppliers have once again urged the energy ministry to deliver the relevant subsidy amounts, which will stem from the Energy Transition Fund.
The pricing policies of suppliers have varied, largely based on assumptions, as the government has delayed offering details on its latest electricity subsidy package. A universal package for all low-voltage consumption was terminated as of January.
A study conducted by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, following an energy ministry request, has shown overall market confusion as well as inconsistencies in the level of subsidies offered by suppliers to consumers. Some subsidies were lower than what they should have been and others higher.
Many consumers have criticized the energy ministry for poor management of the support measures.
Electricity suppliers fear the emergence of a new wave of unpaid receivables over the next couple of months as an increasing number of consumers, pressured by sharply higher energy prices, are applying for installment-based payback arrangements and delaying payments.
A clearer picture on the energy crisis’ impact on the unpaid receivables figures of suppliers will emerge by the end of February, when payment records for consumption over the four-month period covering October to January will have been established.
Government compensation payments to suppliers for electricity subsidies offered to consumers, in an effort to ease the cost burden, have been slow, which, combined with delayed payments of electricity bills by consumers, has led to a cash-flow squeeze for suppliers.
Many consumers in both the household and business categories, whose energy costs this January roughly doubled compared to a year ago, are only partially covering electricity bill amounts. Energy costs for bakeries, specifically, have increased more than fivefold compared to a year earlier.
Electricity suppliers will be receiving a third installment covering government electricity bill subsidies offered to consumers in the final quarter of 2021, they were informed yesterday during a video conference with energy minister Kostas Skrekas and Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) chief executive Athanasios Dagoumas.
Natural gas retailers will also be receiving a sum covering retail discounts offered in October and November, it is believed.
A fourth installment covering electricity subsidies offered by the government for consumption in December will not be paid until mid-way through next year, it has been previously reported.
A new electricity billing format shaped by RAE, intended to offer consumers greater transparency and price-comparing ability, was also discussed during yesterday’s video conference. RAE has informed suppliers that it will forward today details clarifying certain electricity bill formatting specifications, sources informed.
A legislative revision prepared by the energy ministry will be designed to spare suppliers of having to pay interest on overdue amounts owed to operators as a result of unpaid receivables.
Suppliers will only need to pay interest on overdue amounts owed to operators in cases where court verdicts have ruled for the inclusion of interest payments.
The amendment concerns payments by power suppliers to power grid operator IPTO, distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO and DAPEEP, the RES market operator.
The country’s competition committee is conducting a market inquiry that requires all electricity retailers, 18 in total, to respond to an extensive series of questions concerning their low-voltage supply activities by the beginning of the new year.
The committee questions include questions on company revenues generated by low-voltage sales during 2020 and 2021, for all consumer categories, namely households and small businesses.
The companies have also been requested to provide details on low-voltage products offered, fixed-tariff offers, frequency of tariff revisions, as well as the average life of new products offered.
A number of questions also concern details on tariff adjustment clauses applied by suppliers to electricity bills.
The inquiry does not presume suppliers have been engaged in non-competitive practices, the competition committee has pointed out.
Energy supply companies stand to receive compensation worth a total of 600 million euros within the next few days to cover subsidized energy support offered by the government to consumers between September and December, sources have informed.
An additional amount of 100 million euros will also be offered to energy suppliers early in the new year to offset increased energy subsidies for December, announced by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Saturday. All these funds will stem from the Energy Transition Fund.
Energy suppliers and producers have been severely impacted by the energy crisis’ higher prices in the wholesale gas and electricity markets.
Suppliers have needed to dig deeper into company coffers to pay greater amount for wholesale electricity needed to cover consumer needs, while producers have been forced to pay more for wholesale gas required for generation.
Increasing wholesale electricity prices, appearing likely to rise to levels of between 330 and 340 euros per MWh in in January, according to energy exchange indications, threaten to place increased pressure on both consumers and electricity suppliers.
Suppliers are reaching cash-flow limits as they have been forced to temporarily cover December’s electricity-bill subsidies offered by the government to consumers before they are compensated in June next year.
The government has so far covered subsidies offered to households for the months of September, October and November this year, leaving December’s subsidy cost for suppliers, until they are compensated midway through 2022.
Given December’s increased electricity consumption, suppliers estimate they will need to temporarily cover between 40 and 45 percent of the government’s four-month subsidy program cost for consumers.
This increased pressure is seen as a major threat for energy market stability if some of the suppliers, already struggling with narrower profit margins in the energy crisis, are unable to cope with yet another burden.
Given the persistence of higher energy prices, the government is believed to preparing further subsidy support, under revised terms, for household consumers in the first quarter of 2022.
Electricity suppliers have just received a second installment compensating them for subsidies offered to low-voltage consumers in November, after receiving a first installment on November 19, which covered electricity-bill subsidies for September and October.
All low-voltage tariffs with adjustment clauses, to curb wholesale price increases, have been offered a subsidy increase to 13 cents per KWh for consumption up to 300 KWh, which works out to 39 euros per month.
The latest compensation payment made to suppliers covers November, meaning they will need to cover the cost of December’s subsidies with their own capital, until the month’s compensation payment is delivered. It is not expected until June.
Sector officials estimate December’s compensation payment delay will require them to temporarily cover between 40 and 45 percent of the subsidy’s overall cost from September to December.
Electricity and natural gas suppliers, anticipating that customers may struggle to cover exorbitant energy bill costs amid the current energy crisis, are adapting to the conditions and appear prepared to offer personalized debt settlement options to customers despite facing cash-flow issues of their own.
Suppliers are preparing to offer customized monthly installment options to customers, based on their financial profiles, energypress understands.
According to electricity market officials, payment records by customers remain unaffected for the time being, despite the sharp increase in tariffs.
Energy suppliers have faced growing cash-flow pressure as a result of rising wholesale prices, to unprecedented levels.
The energy ministry has announced support packages for electricity suppliers, expected by the end of the year.
Electricity suppliers are set to receive a deposit amount totaling 165 million euros from the state’s Energy Transition Fund as compensation for their reduced revenues to result from subsidized electricity bills offered to consumers by the government for September and October as part of the overall effort to tackle the effects of the ongoing energy crisis.
Suppliers also stand to receive a 228 million-euro sum for electricity subsidies concerning November, while a 235.5 million euro-euro sum for December subsidies will be offered in 2022.
These sums will be divided up for electricity suppliers based on their market shares on August 31, 2021. Some corrections and revisions could be needed in 2022.
The subsidy plan announced by the government concerns a total of 7.6 million low-voltage household and business electricity connections.
Energy-intensive industrial producers strongly oppose an energy ministry plan to change the status of a RES-supporting ETMEAR surcharge included in electricity bills from a regulated to competitive fee by having it incorporated into the pricing policy of suppliers, EVIKEN (Association of Industrial Energy Consumers) sources have informed energypress.
The industrial producers have cited two key reasons for their disapproval. Firstly, changing the ETMEAR surcharge into a competitive component of supplier pricing policy would terminate the ability of industrial consumers to receive related compensation as, based on EU state aid directives, compensation is permitted for regulated charges but not competitive charges.
In addition, industrial consumers oppose an ETMEAR status change as a new energy exchange platform promises to offer strong incentive for new RES units to participate in competitive procedures to secure agreements with energy suppliers. This essentially means that fewer, if any, RES units will remain available for bilateral agreements with industrial producers, who are counting on such arrangements for an urgently needed reduction of energy costs in the medium term.
The resilience of manufacturers is already being seriously tested by recent energy price increases brought about by the energy crisis.
The energy ministry is working on a plan to change the status of a RES-supporting ETMEAR surcharge included in electricity bills from regulated to competitive by having it incorporated into the pricing policy of suppliers, the objective being to reduce the burden of this surcharge for consumers.
The initiative represents part of the ministry’s wider effort to restructure the RES special account, remunerating renewable energy producers.
The anticipated reduction of the ETMEAR level is expected to be offset by revenues that will be generated by green certificates to be auctioned off by DAPEEP, the RES market operator, a plan taking its cue from a formula adopted in a number of EU member states, including the Netherlands and Poland.
Green certificate revenues could reach as much as 600 million euros per year, energypress sources informed.
Under the new system, suppliers will need to purchase a minimum number of green certificates in proportion with their sales, securing a revenue source for the RES special account.
DAPEEP will no longer need to collect revenues from consumers, instead collecting from suppliers through the new mechanism.
A sharp rise in balancing market costs, which have reached 20 euros per MWh, comes as an additional headache for suppliers and the industrial sector, already facing exorbitant wholesale electricity costs amid the energy crisis.
Balancing costs have risen since the end of September, from 12.25 euros per MWh to 20.04 euros per MWh for the week covering October 11 to 17.
This upward trajectory further increases the cost of electricity for industrial consumers and non-vertically integrated suppliers at a time when market clearing prices have skyrocketed.
On Monday, when renewable energy dominated grid input with a 48 percent share of the country’s energy mix, the market clearing price eased to 189.30 euros per MWh before bouncing back up to 218.06 euros per MWh yesterday and 205.6 euros per MWh today. The average wholesale price for October is currently at 200.3 euros per MWh.
Should the balancing cost settle at the currently heightened level of approximately 20 euros per MWh, domestic industrial players will face even greater sustainability challenges, while retail electricity prices will rise further.
Suppliers and industrial enterprises are troubled as, under the current energy market conditions, there is no leeway for an increase in the balancing cost, which, even at previous lower levels of around 10 euros per MWh, was one of Europe’s highest.
Overdue payments owed by energy suppliers to the country’s market operators have been on the rise since summer, now exceeding 350 million euros, a development that has prompted the government to consider implementing an installment-based payment schedule as part of the solution.
The sharp increase in wholesale electricity prices over recent months has had a severe affect on the cash flow of suppliers, putting them under major financial pressure.
However, it should be pointed out that the majority of this 350 million-euro amount owed by suppliers to operators concerns the power utility PPC and includes a considerable amount owed from long before the current energy crisis.
Power grid operator IPTO, distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, and RES market operator DAPEEP are all owed sums by the country’s suppliers.
RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, is now considering a three-part solution entailing: provision of letters of guarantee by suppliers to the operators, to prevent any further rise of the debt owed; immediate deposits covering 50 percent of amounts owed, either in cash or through bank guarantees representing equivalent amounts; and settlement of the remaining 50 percent through an installment-based schedule of between 8 to 12 payments, depending on respective agreements.
Energy suppliers have commended the government’s subsidy support package for electricity bills, stating the initiative is headed in the right direction, but, on the contrary, disapprove government intervention offering support to state-controlled gas supplier DEPA Commercial that will enable the company to absorb 15 percent of the natural gas cost increase.
This support offered to DEPA Commercial affects competition and the market’s overall functioning, rival gas suppliers protested. “DEPA Commercial may be a state-controlled company but this does not spare the firm from having to comply with free market and competition regulations,” a rival company official remarked. “The government’s move raises competition issues,” the official added.
As for the electricity bill subsidies, these will protect consumers from having to carry the entire burden of the surge in prices, while, on the other hand, suppliers will benefit from some cashflow relief as they will be requiring greater capital amounts at present and in the mid to long term, suppliers added.
The energy ministry is preparing a legislative revision for its recent antitrust agreement with the European Commission, requiring state-controlled power utility PPC to make available lignite-fired electricity packages to rival suppliers.
The antitrust agreement, already launched by PPC and designed to break its lignite monopoly, requires the utility to offer quarterly lignite-fired electricity packages from September 10, 2021 to December 31, 2024, if still needed.
Details in the plan forbid PPC to conduct back-to-back agreements with rival suppliers, or sale and repurchase of lignite quantities.
According to the plan, PPC, from the fourth quarter of 2021 until 3Q in 2022, must offer rival suppliers lignite-generated electricity quantities representing 50 percent of generation in the corresponding quarters a year earlier.
The upcoming legislative revision will spare PPC from needing to split away lignite divisions into two new companies for subsequent sale, as had been stipulated by legislation ratified by the country’s previous administration.
All existing lignite facilities in Greece are expected to have been withdrawn by the end of 2023, according to the country’s decarbonization plan.
The ongoing surge in wholesale electricity prices, now over 204 euros per MWh, a new record level, has astonished even the most seasoned company managers.
“The day-ahead market price surge to such levels has prompted great uncertainty as to what lies ahead,” one highly ranked official at a vertically integrated energy group told energypress
Responding to the wholesale market’s latest record-breaking level, an official at another energy group active in production and supply told energypress that suppliers are now recalculating their pricing policies from scratch.
Without a doubt, the electricity supply market has entered unchartered territory as the upward trajectory in prices, sparked by an unfavorable combination in international markets, appears to be unstoppable.
Company officials have admitted they have no choice but to pass on the majority of the price increase to their customers.
Some companies are cutting back on big discount offers extended to attract customers.