Blackout threat remains, operator staff shortage exposed

The country’s power transmission and generation systems have met heightened electricity demand prompted by extreme weather conditions, including heavy snowfall around the country over the past couple of days, but the threat of power outages still remains.

The weather system, bringing some of the heaviest snow seen in Greece in years, exposed a personnel shortage at distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, whose medium and low-voltage networks suffered extensive damages caused by collapsing trees.

The operator’s personnel have struggled to cope with the challenge of repairing numerous damaged transmission lines. Approximately 1,000 trees reportedly collapsed onto power lines in Athens, causing power cuts at thousands of homes in the city’s north and east.

Between 500 and 600 experienced technical staff members have left IPTO over the past three years without being replaced, which has left the operator vulnerable to extreme conditions, union members have pointed out.

IPTO crews are currently working around the clock to meet repair demands, while 60 of the company’s technicians stationed in other parts of Greece have been brought into Athens to reinforce crews covering the capital.

Energy minister Kostas Skrekas yesterday visited power grid operator IPTO’s national control center where he was updated on the transmission system’s current situation, electricity generation levels, as well as the operator’s projections for the next few days.

“So far, the transmission system has responded well to the challenges of the Medea storm front,” IPTO’s chief executive Manos Manousakis informed the minister. “But the duration of the extreme weather conditions carries dangers,” he added.

Supply cut orders on the rise, suppliers toughening stance

Electricity suppliers forwarded 360,644 supply cut orders to the distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO in 2019, most of these presumably targeting regular electricity bill dodgers. A total of 227,418 orders were executed, indicating the operator has toughened its stance, data released by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has shown.

Nearly half of these consumers, or 111,298, who had their electricity supply cut by DEDDIE/HEDNO rushed to either fully settle amounts owed or register for installment-based payback programs in order to be reconnected to the network by the operator.

Subsequently, a considerable number of consumers, 116,120 in total, were left without electricity. 

Some of the electricity supply cut orders forwarded by suppliers to the distribution network operator may have been initiated by consumers no longer wishing to be serviced for a variety of reasons, including vacant property. The number of such cases was not specified in the RAE report.

Interestingly, suppliers submitted a total of 310,333 requests to cease representing consumers in 2019. Of these, 280,962 were executed by the operator.

Suppliers made these representation-ending requests in response to delays by the operator to execute supply cut orders for unpaid bills. As a result, unreliable and unwanted consumers were transferred to the country’s universal supply service, offering higher-priced electricity supply as a last resort.

Operator executing electricity cut orders, bad debt swell feared

Distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO has begun executing electricity supply cut orders forwarded by suppliers, especially independent players, moving to protect themselves against a rise in unpaid receivables and potential bad debt.

Many consumers not keeping up with their electricity bill obligations are believed to be financially capable but unwilling to pay. They are suspected of exploiting the pandemic’s extraordinary conditions as their consumption patterns do not reflect those of struggling households.

Over the past few weeks, electricity bill collection figures have fallen by levels of approximately 30 percent, prompting independent suppliers to act now rather than later.

Discount rates and tariff reductions are being offered to customers as support against the lockdown’s stifling effects but electricity bill payment delays cannot be tolerated, company officials have noted.

DEDDIE technicians attempting to execute electricity supply cut orders are in some cases facing resistance, even violent behavior, from disgruntled consumers, it has been reported.





Operator set to execute electricity supply cut orders

Distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO has avoided executing electricity cut orders issued by suppliers since early March, when the coronavirus pandemic’s restrictive measures truly began stifling economic activity in Greece, but this tolerant stance is about to change, beginning this week, energypress sources have informed.

Late last week, DEDDIE officials contacted electricity supply companies to ask if previous power cut orders targeting consumers behind on electricity bill payments remain valid and, if so, whether suppliers still want the operator to pull the plug on them.

In general, suppliers seem to want action but will remain lenient with customers whose bad payment records are strictly linked to the coronavirus-related lockdown. No tolerance is expected to be offered to customers who have been unreliable for extended periods.

Electricity suppliers have accumulated enough data to be able to distinguish between customers directly impacted by the current lockdown and those exploiting the situation to avoid payments, even if financially capable, and, in a number of cases, affluent.

This targeted strategy is expected to be pursued by the independent electricity suppliers as well as power utility PPC, the market’s main player.

DEDDIE has made clear to suppliers that it will bear no responsibility for executions of electricity cut orders.

RAE examining PPC complaint for unexecuted power cut orders

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy is investigating a power utility PPC complaint made against distribution network operator DEDDIE earlier this month, according to which the subsidiary is not fully executing electricity supply cut orders concerning non-punctual consumers.

The authority began digging deeper into the case after DEDDIE officials claimed the operator is fully obeying PPC’s electricity supply cut orders.

PPC has complained the operator’s lack of cooperation is offering protection to tens of thousands of consumers seen, by the utility, as able but not willing to pay overdue electricity bill amounts worth hundreds of millions.

RAE is treating the matter very seriously as PPC has never before made such an official complaint against corporate group member DEDDIE.

According to PPC figures, 7,020 electricity supply cut orders – of 471,403 forwarded in 2018 – remain unexecuted and concern unpaid bills worth a total of 9.8 million euros.

PPC to up collection campaign, high-income customers targeted

Power utility PPC, in financial trouble and desperate to improve its cash flow, is set to intensify its collection campaign for unpaid receivables concerning some 60,000 high-income consumers through the deployment of legal offices and any other available means.

This high-income consumer group, seen as capable but unwilling to meet its electricity bill obligations, owes PPC a total of 800 million euros, half the  unpaid receivables tally in the low-voltage category.

As part of the escalated effort, PPC officials will be provided with weekly progress reports offering details on the collection effort.

PPC wants DEDDIE/HEDNO, the Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operator, to take swifter and firmer action in interrupting power supply to the utility’s debtors.

“The distribution network operator must act faster. We can’t go on begging it to cut power supply to uncooperative customers,” a PPC source told energypress.

In July, PPC’s former boss Manolis Panagiotakis, replaced recently, publically criticized DEDDIE/HEDNO for being ineffective. Just a fraction of 300,000 PPC power-cut orders issued over a year were executed by the operator, he protested.

Operator, spurred by Hydra outage, wants back-up generator rights

Spurred into action by a recent power outage on the island Hydra, DEDDIE/HEDNO, the Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operator, is seeking a revision of current sector regulations in order to acquire the right to possess electricity generators with capacities exceeding a one-MW limit.

The operator’s request was forwarded in a letter to RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

Despite being responsible for the grid’s development and maintenance, as well as electricity supply security, the operator is currently not entitled to possessing back-up generators for emergency supply in the event of electricity supply disruptions.

Instead, DEDDIE/HEDNO needs to turn to the main power utility PPC or any of the private-sector energy companies possessing electricity generation licenses and establish lease arrangements for generators before transfer these units to affected areas.

If the request is approved, the operator intends to follow up by conducting a feasibility study to determine an optimal action plan. Depending on the study’s result, DEDDIE/HEDNO could purchase or rent back-up generators, or opt for a combined solution.

Greek power supply service improving, still behind top EU performers

A report assessing the overall quality of Europe’s power grids and related services ranked Greece 10th for 2016 in terms of the number of planned and unplanned electricity supply cuts, which represents an improvement compared to previous years.

The countries listed above Greece in the planned and unplanned frequency of power cuts category were Slovenia, Malta, Romania, Croatia, Latvia, Ireland, Lithuania, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Greece was listed among nine of 26 EU member states not resorting to incentives and penalties for operators in terms of damage category, frequency and repair time.

On the contrary, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the UK, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden were listed as the countries offering incentives to operators.

Incentives and penalties offered vary from country to country. Most countries do not apply any supply continuity plan at present, while Greece, along with Austria, Luxembourg and Romania, do not plan to do so.

Greece is also missing from the list of EU member states conducting power supply quality inspections.

Certain countries, including the Netherlands, offer consumers compensation amounts that are determined by the duration of unexpected power supply cuts. According to the Dutch compensation system, limited supply cut periods are permitted, but consumers are entitled to compensation for durations exceeding these limits. Other countries, such as Estonia and Romania, go a step further and even compensate preplanned power supply cuts.

Regulations in Greece limit power supply cut compensation to mid-voltage consumers if interruptions exceed 12 hours. Compensation amounts of 120 euros are automatically awarded to consumers in such cases.


PPC collection policy ‘neither relentless nor soft’

The main power utility PPC is neither trumpeting a relentless electricity supply cut campaign nor pursuing social policy, the utility’s chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis has declared, responding to a reporter’s question on whether consumers owing overdue electricity bill amounts of less than 1,000 euros would continue being safeguarded against power supply cuts.

Panagiotakis, who made his comments from Ptolemaida, northern Greece, a core production region for the utility, explained that 1.13 million consumers owe amounts of less than 500 euros. The sum, amounting to 130 million euros, would, by no means, be given up by PPC, he stressed.

A total of 250,000 PPC clients owe sums of between 500 and 1,000 euros, which amounts to approximately 200 million euros.

“No specific figure has been set as to the number of electricity supply cuts we could carry out. Nor is it not true that we are cutting power supply on a mass scale, or practicing social policy,” the PPC head remarked. “By definition, we are cutting supply to clients who are able to pay but not willing,” he continued.

Panagiotakis indirectly admitted that 85,000 clients owing over 3,000 euros each, for a total sum of 500 million euros, would be targeted through the utility’s heightened collection campaign.

PPC’s unpaid receivables stand as one of the utility’s biggest problems. The board has set itself an ambitious objective of improving its collections record to pre-recession levels.