EBRD: Green projects in Greece a priority, RES-based economic recovery

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is strongly interested in Greek energy market investments, Andreea Moraru, the bank’s head of Greece and Cyprus, has stressed in an interview with energypress.

The EBRD official spoke extensively on significant investment opportunities being created by the energy transition.

Since 2015, the EBRD has invested over four billion euros in Greece, participating in numerous major projects, Moraru informed, noting its recent support for power utility PPC, an investment worth 160 million euros, one of the bank’s largest, to cover customer payment volatility following the outbreak of the pandemic, exemplifies EBRD’s strong support for Greece.

The full interview follows:

What is the role of the EBRD compared to that of other banking institutions? 

The EBRD is a development bank committed to furthering progress towards ‘market-oriented economies and the promotion of private and entrepreneurial initiative. Our role is to be complementary to the commercial banks, to work alongside them and to support them.

Αdditionality is among the founding principles underlying our work and the particular support and contribution that the EBRD brings to an investment project which is not available from commercial sources of finance. Alongside transition and sound Banking, it is one of the three founding principles underlying our work. By ensuring that we are additional in everything we do, we ensure that our support for the private sector makes a contribution beyond that available on the market and does not crowd out other private sector actors.

Whenever we consider financing a project, we analyze whether similar financing can be obtained from private sector local banks or non-banking institutions.

Many of our markets are relatively high risk, and the private sector will only lend for short periods of time or at such high rates as to make the project unfeasible. For major new projects in the field of infrastructure, for example, longer-term financing may not be available on reasonable terms or conditions. This is where the EBRD fits in.

Additionality can also be non-financial in nature, where EBRD’s interventions contribute to better project outcomes that would not have been required or offered by commercial financiers. This can include the provision of comfort to clients and investors by mitigating non-financial risks, such as country, regulatory, project, economic cycle or political risks. Additionality may also be derived from the EBRD’s involvement in helping projects and clients achieve higher standards than would have been required by the market, such as through sharing its expertise on better corporate governance or above ‘business as usual’ environmental or inclusion standards.

Do you consider the energy sector in Greece to be suitable to contribute to the development and reconstruction of the Greek economy? For what reasons?

Absolutely. In general, the EBRD’s vision for the energy sector is of a partnership between industry, governments and consumers that delivers the essential energy needs of societies and economies in a manner that is sustainable, reliable and at the lowest possible cost.

In Greece the energy sector is embarking upon its biggest transformation yet, moving away from its reliance on lignite (c. 20% of total electricity production in 2019) to renewables and a smaller fleet of significantly less carbon intensive gas generating units. The NECP aims to achieve reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than 55% by 2030 compared to 2005, planned to be achieved through: (i) decommissioning of all 4 GW of lignite-fired generation capacity by 2028 (3.4GW by 2023), (ii) 8.7 GW of new renewable generation capacity to added by 2030, reaching a total of 19 GW, and (iii) 2 GW of new gas generation capacity added for system support and security. The country remains committed to implementing the NECP as planned despite the negative impacts the CV19 crisis is expected to have on the Greek economy in 2020 and beyond.

Greece’s withdrawal from coal is a fundamental transformation that will create substantial sector and social challenges with the following broad implications: (1) constructing large volumes of low carbon generating capacity in order to ensure energy security in an increasing electrified economy, (2) reengineering the country’s transmission and distribution networks to reflect the additional penetration of distributed, intermittent renewable energy, and (3) addressing the social and economic impacts of the closure of a major part of its existing energy infrastructure, i.e. ensuring a just and inclusive transition.

We have supported many energy projects so far, especially renewables, working together with leading companies, such as GEK Terna, Mytilineos and HELPE among others.

A recent milestone is our support for the largest renewable energy project in Greece and the largest solar energy project in south-eastern Europe to date, the new solar park in Kozani. In 2017, we also approved a framework committing up to €300 million to finance renewable energy investments in the country.

The main reasons why this sector is important for the development of the Greek economy and thus our participation, is first to help the decarbonization of the country and the transition to a greener economy, as well as to strengthen local linkages and regional integration.

What is the EBRD’S philosophy about its presence in the Greek economy and especially in the energy sector?

In Greece in particular, supporting sustainable energy and infrastructure is among our top priorities. In fact supporting sustainable energy and infrastructure is one of the pillars of the newly approved country strategy. Our investment strategy in the energy sector going forward will aim at further liberalization and diversification of the energy market focusing on renewables and increased renewable energy capacity and a more diversified energy mix to promote decarbonization of the economy. EBRD could support a second phase of feasible renewable energy projects with project preparation / technical assistance and financing (biomass and biogas plants, use of waste heat in greenhouses for high value-added agriculture, electricity storage facilities, green hydrogen production plants and other forms of energy storage.

We see that it’s challenging to meet EU climate goals in Greece and our goal is to support the country with that. Our approach and philosophy is in line with the National Energy and Climate Plan and we are very glad the Greek government is committed to close all lignite plants. We need to keep this momentum, despite the current Covid-19 crisis, and turn the country greener.

One good example is our recent support for PPC (DEI). This has been one of our largest investments (€160 million) and the first time we supported the public sector in Greece. This facility supports PPC’s working capital needs at a time of customer payment volatility following the outbreak of the crisis. It also strengthens the resilience of the electricity sector as a whole by ensuring the stability of essential utility supplies and maintaining the momentum towards decarbonization.

What are the characteristics of private companies that could apply to be supported by the EBRD?

When we consider financing a project we analyze different aspects, such as how it supports the green economy, if it promotes women or youth inclusion, if it can enhance the competitiveness and resilience of the Greek economy etc. We look at the financial strength of the project as we operate according to sound banking principles. We cannot finance companies in certain sectors like defence-related activities, tobacco, substances banned by international law or gambling facilities.  As I have already mentioned, we also need to be additional.

We work in a wide range of sectors, from energy, infrastructure, manufacturing, property, tourism, agriculture to trade and financial institutions. We also support SMEs with business advice, know-how transfer and trainings.

What are your conclusions from your cooperation so far with Greek companies and institutions?

We’re very proud of all our projects in Greece so far. Since commencing our operations in 2015, the Bank has invested more than €4 billion in the country, helping respond to the financial crisis. Against a turbulent political and economic backdrop, the EBRD helped stabilize the financial sector, support private companies through export-oriented growth and lay the foundations for greater private sector participation in critical energy and infrastructure projects that have also strengthened regional integration.

We faced several challenges because of the financial crisis, but this was expected and was exactly the reason why we came to the country. Our main conclusion is that Greek companies have strong potential and very talented workforce, who we’re glad to be working with. The COVID-19 pandemic has abruptly interrupted Greece’s steady recovery, but we’re confident that the country can build back better.

We have an excellent cooperation with the Greek Government whom we are supporting on a number of initiatives.  In late 2020, the EBRD joined forces with the Ministry of Development and Investments of Greece to establish a new public-private partnership (PPP) preparation facility cooperation account, following a request from the Greek authorities. We are also working close with the Ministry of Finance on development of a capital market strategy, a project supported by DG Reform.

What are your plans for the new year?

We will focus on supporting the recovery of the Greek economy, by helping with the immediate needs of the Greek businesses because of coronavirus, as well as with their long-term growth plans. Green projects, including in the energy sector, will be our priority, but we’ll also be active in other sectors. We’ll continue supporting the banking sector, too.

Do you consider the investment risk in our country increased after the great economic crisis and in the light of the current crisis due to a pandemic?

The financial crisis had a strong impact on Greece, but we recognize that the Greek economy had started recovering and growing in the recent years. It’s true that COVID-19 containment measures are likely to depress economic output and cause particular disruption to the tourism industry, reversing the economic recovery and hindering investments in the near term, not only in Greece, but also in most countries. There are still many things that need to be improved in the country to attract more investors, but we don’t consider the investment risk much higher than it used to be. The Greek economy can recover after the pandemic.

 

EBRD reports close to €800 million investment in Greece in 2020

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) stepped up its investments in Greece in 2020 to address immediate needs caused by the coronavirus pandemic and to create the foundations for a recovery with a focus on building back better economies.

Continuing its support for the Greek economy in 2020, the Bank made €797 million new investments in 17 projects, compared to €571 million in 13 projects in 2019, putting Greece in the EBRD’s top five countries of investment last year. 

Andreea Moraru, EBRD Director for Greece, said: “We are very proud to contribute to the robust response of the Greek economy to the crisis, supporting the recovery, helping local businesses with their needs and facilitating the transition to greener economic activities.” 

The Bank provided a senior unsecured loan of up to €160 million power utility PPC. The facility will support PPC’s working capital needs at a time of customer payment volatility following the outbreak of the crisis. It will also strengthen the resilience of the electricity sector as a whole by ensuring the stability of essential utility supplies and maintaining the momentum towards decarbonization. 

The EBRD also stepped up its efforts to help the Greek private sector by investing €57.5 euros in GEK TERNA’s successful issuance of a seven-year €500 million bond. GEK TERNA S.A. is the holding company for a group active in concessions, renewable energy, thermal energy and construction, incorporated in Greece. 

This issuance was the largest bond transaction to be listed to date on the Athens Stock Exchange and the first corporate issuance in the country since the outbreak of the pandemic. The proceeds will be used to refinance secured commercial loans with longer tenors and reduced financing costs, enabling a corporate transformation that will optimize the capital structure of GEK TERNA. 

Facilitating the transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy, EBRD launched its just transition initiative linking the transition to a low-carbon economy with inclusive economic development. One of the first projects under this approach was the Bank’s €75 million investment in the successful Eurobond tap issuance by Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE), in support of a new solar photovoltaic plant in Greece, the largest solar energy project in south-eastern Europe to date. 

The total funds of €100 million raised will enable ELPE to finance the construction of 18 solar photovoltaic (PV) plants with a total installed capacity of 204 MW in Kozani, western Macedonia, the country’s most coal-dependent region. The solar park will be built close to existing coal-fired power plants that are being phased out and is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 320,000 tons annually.

In addition, the EBRD invested €50 million in the first senior preferred (SP) green bond issuance by the National Bank of Greece (NBG), combining support for capital market development and for the green economy in Greece. It was the first green bond issuance by a Greek bank and the first SP instrument to be issued by a Greek financial institution. 

Together with other investors, the EBRD invested in a €186.4 million securitization transaction of automotive leases, originated by Olympic Commercial and Tourist Enterprises S.A. (Avis), the leading car leasing company in Greece and master franchisee of the global car rental company Avis Budget Group.  

The transaction was an important milestone for the Greek securitization market as it was the largest issuance by a non-bank originator and the first auto lease asset-backed security transaction in the country with a sustainable and green element. 

Part of the proceeds will be used by Avis for the replacement of its existing fleet with lower CO2 emissions, electric and hybrid vehicles, helping the company to reduce its diesel footprint.

In late 2020, the EBRD joined forces with the Ministry of Development and Investments of Greece to establish a new public-private partnership (PPP) preparation facility cooperation account, following a request from the Greek authorities. 

The EBRD will manage the facility, which will provide high-quality, client-oriented project preparation, training and advisory services, policy support and institutional strengthening activities related to the infrastructure sector in Greece. The Ministry will fund the activities of the facility with €20 million. The project pipeline will mostly be in the social infrastructure sector (education and health), sustainable urban infrastructure, and water and waste management.

Keeping vital trade flows going, the Bank provided a €20 million factoring facility to ABC Factors under its Trade Facilitation Program (TTP). Building on the EBRD’s cooperation with Alpha Bank, the parent company of ABC Factors, the facility will enable the factoring subsidiary to further expand its portfolio of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and local corporate clients by providing funding for domestic and international factoring transactions. Greece remains the EBRD’s most active country under TFP, with close to €320 million trade transactions in 2020.  

In 2020, the EBRD started 41 new advisory projects with Greek SMEs in various areas, such as strategic and business planning, marketing and e-commerce, operational efficiency, financial management and digitalization, and delivered five online export training seminars to more than 100 participants. Donor funding from Greece, as well as from the European Union through the European Investment Advisory Hub of the European Investment Bank, has been crucial. 

Papoutsanis, a leading Greek manufacturer of soap and liquid cosmetics, became the first Greek firm to join the EBRD’s Blue Ribbon program, which combines business advice and finance for companies that stand out for their market leadership and high-growth potential. 

Furthermore, the Board of Directors of the EBRD approved a new strategy for Greece, which will guide the bank’s investment and policy engagement in the country during the next five years. 

The EBRD responded to the coronavirus pandemic with record investment of €11 billion in 2020 through 410 projects. This represents a 10 per cent increase in annual business investment relative to 2019, when the bank provided €10.1 billion to finance 452 projects.

Upstream projects awaiting Greek State reassurances

Local and foreign upstream companies holding exploration and production licenses for hydrocarbon reserves on Greek territory, offshore and onshore, are awaiting Greek State reassurances for their ventures following a cabinet reshuffle that has resulted in a change of leadership at the energy ministry, bringing in Kostas Skrekas in place of Costis Hatzidakis.

Oil companies, delaying investment plans as a result of the pandemic and lower oil prices, are waiting for a vote of confidence from the Greek State, market sources insist.

The fall in oil prices, currently at levels of about 50 dollar a barrel, may have halted upstream investments internationally, but, nevertheless, this is a good time for resolving bureaucratic obstacles and preparing local communities for prospective exploration efforts that promise to contribute to job creation and economic recovery.

Four upstream investment plans are currently either at an advanced stage in terms of prospective drilling or at preliminary exploration stages.

Of all four plans, Energean’s license for Katakolo, western Greece, is at the most mature stage. Public consultation on an environmental impact study concerning this project’s drilling requirements was completed in December, 2019. The regional authority for western Greece has offered its approval. Even so, a year later, the energy ministry has yet to deliver its decision on the environmental study.

A license for the Gulf of Patras field, held by Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) and Edison, is also at a mature stage. The partners requested, and were granted, an extension for the start of drilling at this field. EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, granted the pair a further 15 months, until January 23, 2023, to facilitate their preparations.

Sources have attributed this additional time to a lack of appropriate regional port facilities, needed to facilitate the installation of equipment required for drilling. ELPE and Edison had previously been given another extension, until October, 2021.

On another front, a partnership comprising Repsol and Energean has until April to start a second stage of exploration activities at its Ioannina block in northwestern Greece. Local community approval is needed. The government needs to take action on the issue.

A fourth upstream project carrying geopolitical weight concerns licenses held by a consortium made up of Total, ExxonMobil and ELPE for offshore fields west and southwest of Crete. Though company representatives recently informed Crete’s regional authorities that seismic surveys are planned to begin towards spring, there have been no further updates or any signs of action.

North Macedonia eyeing 25% stake in Alexandroupoli gas facility, PM says

North Macedonia may participate with a 25 percent stake in a natural gas facility in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, that promises to offer a production capacity double the size of the country’s gas shortage, totaling 2 GWh, North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has told state broadcaster Alsat.

Also, bureaucratic procedures concerning the development of a natural gas pipeline from Greece to North Macedonia are close to being completed, while talks with Okta, a Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) subsidiary, for a relaunch of the company’s oil pipeline running from Thessaloniki to Skopje are continuing, Zaev noted.

The North Macedonian leader also expressed an interest for the country to participate as a shareholder in the company to develop the Alexandroupoli FSRU, noting the country plans to utilize natural gas for all state facilities as “American LNG is far cheaper”.

The Alexandroupoli FSRU is expected to facilitate supply of American LNG to the Balkan region.

ELPE lockdown impact fears expressed amid poorer conditions

Hellenic Petroleum ELPE chief executive Andreas Siamissis has expressed fears of the latest lockdown’s impact on fuel consumption, which he will believes will be considerable, during a presentation of third quarter results to analysts.

Narrowed refining margins, which dropped to historic lows during the third quarter, combined with a drop in demand, resulted in unprecedently difficult conditions, ELPE officials noted.

However, rays of hope have emerged for an imminent improvement in refining margins, they added.

Elpedison, ELPE’s joint energy venture with Italy’s Edison, registered a strong power generation performance, up 31 percent in the nine-month period, aided by competitively priced LNG for its production units, company officials informed.

Electricity sales rose by 5 percent, while operating profit reached 43 million euros, from 15 million euros a year earlier.

As for the natural gas market, the commercial activity of gas utility DEPA, in which ELPE holds a 35 percent stake, increased in the third quarter.

DEPA – whose two new entities, DEPA Commercial and DEPA Infrastructure, are both headed for privatization in a procedure that is expected to be completed by March, 2021 – reported a 3Q volume-based sales increase of 48 percent. Its EBITDA figure moved up to 18 million euros, up from 6 million euros a year earlier.

ELPE’s list of imminent RES projects has more-than-doubled compared to last year, the company officials informed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

ELPE seeking greater North Macedonia market share

Hellenic Petroleum ELPE, aiming to capture a bigger share of the North Macedonian market, is currently negotiating for extrajudicial solutions that would enable the reopening of a company oil pipeline linking Thessaloniki with Skopje.

In an effort to help resolve this issue, ELPE has proposed a series of RES investments in the neighboring country as well as a conversion of its Okta refinery into a petroleum products hub facilitating distribution to the western Balkans.

December will be a crucial month for the negotiations between ELPE and North Macedonia as a verdict is scheduled to be delivered on an ELPE compensation request for 32 million dollars for a breach, by the neighboring country, of contractual obligations concerning minimum supply amounts between 2008 and 2011.

The North Macedonian oil market is dominated by two Russian companies, Gazprom and Lukoil, both gaining further ground. Gazprom supplies fuel products to North Macedonia via Serbia and Lukoil does so from Bulgaria.

US officials, seeking to inhibit the dominance of Russian energy firms in North Macedonia, have intervened to help resolve the country’s differences with ELPE.

Just days ago, a meeting on ELPE’s effort to reopen the oil pipeline was held in Thessaloniki during an official visit to the city by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. US government officials, Greece’s energy minister Costis Hatzidakis and North Macedonian government deputies participated.

For quite some time now, Washington has made clear its stance aiming to limit Europe’s energy dependence on Russian companies and, as a result, is promoting the ELPE oil pipeline as an alternative supply route into North Macedonia.

 

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.

 

ELPE negotiating reopening of North Macedonia oil pipeline

Hellenic Petroleum ELPE, Greek government and North Macedonian officials have begun talks aiming for the reopening of an oil pipeline linking ELPE’s Thessaloniki refinery with the company’s Okta refinery in the neighboring country through an extrajudicial settlement by the end of the year.

The issue was discussed at a meeting in Thessaloniki yesterday, held on the sidelines of a visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

At the meeting, the ELPE and North Macedonian government officials appeared keen on achieving an out-of-court settlement, sources informed.

The Greek petroleum group is seeking compensation of 32 million dollars for a breach, by the neighboring country, of contractual obligations concerning minimum supply amounts between 2008 and 2011.

ELPE has already won an older case, on the same issue, at the International Court of Arbitration in Paris for compensation worth 52 million dollars. This verdict was delivered in 2007, three years after the case was filed.

The Greek and North Macedonian sides, encouraged by the US, agreed to form a committee to work, until mid-October, on a solution that could enable the oil pipeline to reopen following a seven-year interruption, sources informed.

The officials have set a deadline to reopen the pipeline by the end of the year, sources added.

ELPE has completed all technical work needed for the oil pipeline’s relaunch, sources said. The pipeline’s use in place of oil tankers would offer drastic transportation cost cuts.

The ELPE officials updated North Macedonia’s government officials on the company’s investment plan for the neighboring country, sources said. It is believed to include RES investments and a conversion of ELPE’s Okta facilities into a petroleum products hub that would serve the western Balkans.

ELPE is already present in Serbia and Montenegro and is now targeting the markets of Albania and Kosovo for supply of ready-to-use petroleum products.

The oil pipeline stopped operating in 2013 after ELPE deemed its Okta refining activities were no longer feasible. The 213-km pipeline has a 350,000-metric ton capacity.

Until 2013, the pipeline was used to transfer crude oil from ELPE’s Thessaloniki refinery to the Okta unit in Skopje.

Greek energy minister Costis Hatzidakis chaired yesterday’s meeting, which involved the participation of secretary-general Alexandra Sdoukou; deputy minister for economic diplomacy Kostas Fragogiannis; ELPE president Giannis Papathanasiou; ELPE chief executive Andreas Siamisiis; North Macedonian government deputies Liupko Nikolovski and Fatmit Bitikji; the country’s economy minister Kreshnik Bekteshi; US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Francis Fannon; and the US Ambassador to North Macedonia Kate Marie Byrnes.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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).

 

DEPA Infrastructure VDR open, DEPA Commercial data soon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rescue talks for Prinos, Greece’s only producing field, making progress

Talks between Energean Oil & Gas and officials at the energy and economy ministries for a solution to rescue offshore Prinos, Greece’s only producing field in the north, are making progress, sources have informed.

Heightened Turkish provocations in the Aegean Sea over the past few days – the neighboring country sent a survey vessel into Greece’s EEZ – and greater US presence in the wider southeast Mediterranean region, are two developments that have injected further urgency into the Prinos field rescue talks.

The east Mediterranean is at the core of geopolitical developments that promise to create new political and energy sector conditions.

US oil corporation Chevron, America’s second-biggest energy group, has joined fellow American upstream giant ExxonMobil in the east Mediterranean with a five billion-dollar acquisition of Noble Energy.

This takeover by the California-based buyer adds to the Chevron portfolio the gigantic Leviathan gas field in Israel’s EEZ, as well as the Aphrodite gas field, situated within the Cypriot EEZ and estimated to hold 4.5 trillion cubic feet.

It also offers Chevron prospective roles in the East Med pipeline, to supply Europe via the Leviathan field, and Egypt’s LNG infrastructure, all elevating the petroleum group into a dominant regional player.

Israel and Cyprus recently ratified the East Med agreement, as has Greece, while Italy appears to be examining the prospect.

In another regional development, the Total-ENI-ELPE consortium is preparing to conduct seismic surveys at licenses south and southwest of Crete, and an environmental study southeast of Crete has been approved by Greek authorities. Also, oil majors with interests in Cyprus’ EEZ have planned a series of drilling operations for 2021.

Meanwhile, Turkey, trespassing into both Greek and Cypriot EEZ waters, consistently cites a memorandum recently signed with Libya as support for its actions, as well as its refusal to sign the UN’s International Law of the Sea treaty, strongly disagreeing with an article that gives EEZ and continental shelf rights to island areas.

Greek government officials are well aware that closure of the Prinos field amid such precarious conditions would lead to major consequences, not just economic and social, as would be the case under normal conditions, but also geopolitical.

Ministry OKs environmental study for blocks south of Crete

Energy minister Costis Hatzidakis has approved a strategic environmental impact study concerning an offshore area south of Crete in preparation for tenders to offer exploration and production licenses for two blocks covering most of the island’s width.

Giannis Basias, the former head official at EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, went ahead with the strategic environmental impact study last August to clear the way for government authorities to stage tenders for licenses and also spare  winning bidders of needing to wait for pending issues to be resolved before they can begin their exploration efforts.

In addition, it is believed EDEY took swift action for the environmental impact study covering the offshore area south of Crete in response to interest expressed by oil majors.

The two offshore blocks south of Crete measure a total of 33,933 square kilometers and cover all four prefectures spread across the island.

These vacant blocks are situated next to two blocks southwest and west of Crete that have already been licensed out to a three-member consortium headed by Total with ExxonMobil and Hellenic Petroleum as partners.

The eastern flank of these two blocks is intruded by a corridor defined in a recent Turkish-Libyan maritime deal.

The Greek energy ministry’s approval of the strategic environmental impact study for south of Crete is not linked to Turkey’s heightened provocations in the Aegean Sea, ministry officials told energypress.

The environmental study’s approval means this offshore area is now set for tenders and also sends out a signal of readiness to the international upstream industry, the ministry officials explained.

Just days ago, the newly appointed EDEY administration and the energy ministry’s secretary-general Alexandra Sdoukou met with officials of Total, operator of the consortium holding the two licenses southwest and west of Crete. Seismic surveys for these blocks will be completed by March next year, the Total officials appear to have promised.

DEPA Commerce sale may change gas, electricity markets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Six Greek heavyweights among DEPA Commercial contenders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Seven bidders through to DEPA Commercial sale’s final round

The Board of Directors of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF), during today’s meeting decided, that seven interested parties meet the criteria to participate in Phase B (Binding Offers Phase) of the tender process for the acquisition of 65% of the share capital of DEPA Commercial (Trade) S.A., with an option of acquiring the total of its issued share capital by virtue of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between DEPA S.A. shareholders, HRADF and Hellenic Petroleum S.A. (HELPE), the development fund has announced in a statement.

The prequalified interested parties to participate in Phase B of the tender are (in alphabetical order):

  1. C. G. GAS LIMITED
  2. Consortium HELLENIC PETROLEUM SA & EDISON INTERNATIONAL HOLDING N.V
  3. Consortium MOTOR OIL HELLAS CORINTH REFINERIES SA & PPC SA
  4. GEK TERNA SA
  5. MET HOLDING AG
  6. MYTILINEOS SA
  7. SHELL GAS BV

Following the signing of the relevant Confidentiality Agreement, the prequalified interested parties will receive the documents of Phase B (Binding Offers Phase) and will grant access to the virtual data room (VDR), where data and information related to DEPA Commercial S.A. are uploaded, the statement added.

 

 

 

 

DEPA Trade sale short list this month, sooner than expected

Privatization fund TAIPED is expected to announce its short list of final-round qualifiers in a tender offering a stake of at least 65 percent, possibly even 100 percent, of DEPA Trade – a new entity formed by gas utility DEPA as part of its privatization – within the next few weeks, far sooner than expected.

Deteriorated international investment conditions have prompted fears of a slower sale procedure.

The privatization fund, now close to finalizing its appraisals of nine first-round bids, has requested clarification from participants.

The DEPA Trade privatization was expected to drag well behind that of DEPA Infrastructure, seen as a lower-risk sale effort offering investors regulated earnings, but the two privatization efforts now appear likely to move ahead almost concurrently, or a few weeks apart.

A list of six final-round qualifiers in the DEPA Infrastructure sale was announced a week ago. Authorities are aiming to complete this sale towards the end of the year.

As for DEPA Trade, this entity promises the winning bidder an immediate advantage in Greece’s natural gas market as more than 200,000 customers around the country will be gained.

DEPA Trade’s wholesale gas trading activity is another appealing factor, despite the fact that it shrunk to 40 percent of the market’s total last year, as the growing southeast European market offers huge potential.

DEPA Trade’s nine first-round bidders are: C.G GAS LIMITED; MET HOLDING AG; POWER GLOBE LLC; SHELL GAS B.V.; VITOL HOLDING B.V.; GEK TERNA; HELLENIC PETROLEUM (ELPE) & EDISON INTERNATIONAL HOLDING N.V. consortium; MOTOR OIL HELLAS & GREEK POWER UTILITY PPC (consortium); MYTILINEOS.

 

Turkish-Libyan MoU ‘ignores’ International Law of the Sea

A Turkish-Libyan Memorandum of Understanding emphatically ignores article 121 of the International Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982), which recognizes Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf rights for island areas, and overlooks the existence of Crete, Karpathos, Kasos, Rhodes and Kastellorizo to carve out approximately 39,000 square kilometers of Greek territory south of Crete for Libya, petroleum geologist and energy economist Dr. Konstantinos Nikolaou, a former member of the board at the Cyprus Hydrocarbons Company, has pointed out in an analysis, spelling out the dangers of Turkey’s provocative behavior in the region.

Turkey misappropriates the continental shelf and EEZ associated with Crete, Karpathos, Kasos, Rhodes and Kastellorizo in the east Mediterranean, he noted on the MoU, submitted by Turkey to the UN in an effort to make gains at Greece’s expense.

Hydrocarbon licenses for plots south and southwest of Crete that have been awarded by the Greek State to Total, ExxonMobil and ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum) and published in the Official Journal of the European Union, set a precedent that backs the positions of Greece, whose division of the area is based on International Law of the Sea guidelines, Nikolaou highlighted.

Turkey is using its state-run petroleum corporation TPAO as a tool to exercise foreign policy for territorial gains, Nikolaou added.

Natural gas discoveries in the east Mediterranean serve as a major driving force behind the actions of Turkey, whose energy sector is import-dependent, he pointed out.

DEPA Trade, Infrastructure sales delayed for after summer

The final rounds of privatization procedures for DEPA Infrastructure and DEPA Trade, two new entities formed by gas utility DEPA to facilitate its sale, will be postponed until after summer as a result of the pandemic’s impact on global economic activity and investments, pressuring asset values, sources have informed.

Investors are being offered the Greek State’s 65 percent stake and Hellenic Petroleum ELPE’s 35 percent share of DEPA Infrastructure and DEPA Trade.

However, the privatization fund TAIPED, combining its efforts with the energy ministry and RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, intends to press ahead with a June launch of a privatization procedure for a depleted offshore gas field south of Kavala planned to be developed as an underground gas storage facility.

An appraisal of first-round offers submitted by nine investment teams for DEPA Infrastructure and that many more for DEPA Trade is expected to be completed within June.

Barring unexpected developments, TAIPED should announce its list of finalists for both sales next month. This will be followed by the opening of a virtual data room facilitating due diligence procedures for both companies.

DEPA Infrastructure bidder shortlist expected end of month

A shortlist of second-round bidders for DEPA Infrastructure, a new entity formed by gas utility DEPA ahead of its privatization, is anticipated towards the end of May, while the cut for DEPA Trade bidders, the utility’s other new division being privatized, could be announced a month later, government sources have informed.

DEPA Infrastructure, whose earnings are regulated by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, is less vulnerable to the impact of the pandemic, which is not the case for DEPA Trade, fully exposed to market forces.

“We will not rush, for any reason, to take action that would lead us to much lower offers than the prices we are seeking,” Aris Xenofos, president of the privatization fund TAIPED, told Reuters yesterday.

Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC) levels set for network operators by RAE before the coronavirus crisis emerged offer protection to certain privatizations against the global economic uncertainty, government sources told energypress.

Though absolute safety can never be assured, DEPA Infrastructure, whose WACC level has been set at around 7 to 8 percent, is less susceptible to financial volatility compared to other companies on Greece’s privatization list.

DEPA Trade, Hellenic Petroleum ELPE, and power grid operator IPTO – its earnings are regulated but the company is listed through IPTO (ADMIE) Holding – are all far less resilient.

‘Firm steps for privatizations but pandemic’s impact considered’

Decisive steps are being taken for Greece’s energy-sector privatizations, representing two thirds of the country’s overall privatization program, but the pandemic’s impact on international markets will not be neglected, energy minister Costis Hatzidakis has pointed out in an interview with Greek daily To Ethnos.

There is no need to rush a plan to reduce the Greek State’s stake in Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) as this sale is not one of restructuring character, the minister noted.

A government decision to sell stakes in DEPA Infrastructure and DEPA Trade, two new entities emerging from a split at gas utility DEPA, is moving ahead as planned, Hatzidakis informed.

First steps have been taken to reduce, below 51 percent, the Greek State’s share in power grid operator IPTO, “but this does not mean we will proceed tomorrow morning,” he said.

State-controlled power utility PPC is preparing terms of an international tender for the sale of at least 49 percent of distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, a subsidiary, the minister said. This procedure is scheduled to commence in the third quarter of this year, he added.

Greek upstream investments suspended, oil crisis hits hard

The current oil crisis, prompted by a Saudi-Russian price war and lower demand amid the coronavirus pandemic, comes as the latest setback for the upstream sector. The oil price slide, during which prices have plummeted to levels as low as 25 dollars per barrel, had added to the strain already felt by investors as a result of excessive bureaucracy in the Greek market.

Upstream players, troubled by the overall uncertainty, are believed to have suspended their investment plans despite a mild market rebound over the past few days, lifting oil prices to levels between 33 and 34 dollars per barrel.

Energean Oil & Gas’ Katakolo license off western Peloponnese and the Gulf of Patras license, co-owned by Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) and Energean, rank as Greece’s two most mature upstream projects.

An environmental study for the Katakolo license has not yet been approved by the energy ministry. Even if it had, Energean would not move ahead with the venture under the existing market conditions. Current oil price levels would simply not cover investment costs.

Just before Christmas, investors behind the Gulf of Patras license were given an 18-month extension to begin drilling at this project, taking the date to June, 2021. Regional port facilities had been deemed insufficient by the consortium. All activity for this investment has also been suspended, sources informed.

DEPA Trade sale’s PPC-Motor Oil union, Shell return surprise

The privatization of DEPA Trade – a new entity established by gas utility DEPA – offering the Greek State’s 65 percent stake in a procedure whose deadline for first-round offers expired yesterday, produced two surprises. Firstly, Shell reemerged in the country’s gas market following a withdrawal less than two years ago. Secondly, in an unanticipated move, power utility PPC teamed up with Motor Oil for a joint bid.

Shell departed from the Greek natural gas market in July, 2018 by selling its 49 percent stakes in gas supplier EPA Attiki and gas distributor EDA Attiki, both covering the wider Athens region, to DEPA.

Shell received a total of 150 million euros, 39 million for its 49 percent stake in EPA Attiki and 111 million euros for its 49 percent stake in EDA Attiki.

The company’s reemergence can be primarily attributed to an interest in DEPA’s long-term contracts with Gazprom, Sonatrach and Botas, with an eye on the wider Balkan and southeast European regions, sources said.

PPC and Motor Oil decided to join forces for the DEPA Trade sale as a result of the failure of both to secure slots for 2020 at gas grid operator DESFA’s LNG terminal on the islet Revythoussa, just off Athens. PPC holds a 30 percent stake in its partnership with Motor Oil, sources informed.

Following its Revythoussa failure, PPC has been more aggressive in a market test for the Alexandroupoli FSRU, expiring today. PPC wants to secure a capacity at this prospective unit in the country’s northeast as the company is determined to have LNG access. A successful bid in the DEPA Trade sale would bolster this position.

Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) and Edison did not submit a joint bid for DEPA Trade through Elpedison, their joint venture for Greece’s retail energy market, as had been speculated. Instead, they are believed to have made separate bids. The two had not shaped a common action plan in the event of a successful DEPA Trade bid, sources said. However, the establishment of a new joint venture by the two firms at a latter stage, specifically for DEPA Trade, cannot be ruled out.

The country’s planned privatizations, including DEPA Trade, face likely delays as a result of the coronavirus pandemic’s repercussions. The progress of these sales will depend on the course of the pandemic.

DEPA Trade’s first-round bidders forwarded their offers on-line and must follow up with deliveries of official documents by April 24. The evaluation of first-round offers is not expected to begin any sooner than April 25.

DEPA Trade offers due today, at least 7 players interested

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fuel price plunge pressuring refineries, opportunities seen

The plunge of international crude oil prices is impacting Greek refineries and local fuel trade, while, worse still, market forecasts are impossible to make, even for the short term.

Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) and Motor Oil, Greece’s two refinery groups, are being tested by the fall of Brent prices to levels of around 30 dollars per barrel. Highlighting this challenge, unleaded 95 octane fuel prices have dropped to less than 1,000 euros per cubic meter (including surcharges before VAT) for the first time in many years.

This represents a drop of more than 100 euros compared to prices on March 9, dubbed “Black Monday” as it was the worst day in markets since the financial crisis, a result of the outbreak of the oil price and output level war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, along with the coronavirus spread’s impact on demand.

The drop in prices is seen continuing. Domestic fuel demand is falling as a result of the Greek government’s broadened enforcement of restrictive measures aiming to contain the coronavirus spread. Local transportation needs have subsequently dropped dramatically, while the only other viable option left for Greek refineries, exports, has been canceled out by plunging fuel demand internationally. Borders have closed and airlines are limiting flights.

The cost of fuel stocks, purchased at far higher prices, is a big concern for both ELPE and Motor Oil. This cost, however, can be partially offset by opportunities currently available for lower-cost production.

On a more positive note, both refineries reduced their loan servicing costs prior to the crisis. This is particularly so for ELPE as the petroleum group was pressured by high borrowing costs. Motor Oil has traditionally pursued a more conservative borrowing policy.

Both refineries will need to take extremely cautious steps amid these highly unpredictable market conditions, analysts agree.

Energy sector transactions forecast to grow in 2020

Energy sector acquisitions and mergers are expected to represent an increased share of overall transactions this year, according to officials at professional services multinational PwC.

The combined effect of a European turn towards investments for green energy growth and Greece’s decarbonization plan is focusing Greek investment interest on the renewable energy sector, PwC officials pointed out during a presentation of an annual report.

Hellenic Petroleum ELPE’s recent decision to purchase an unfinished 204-MW solar energy park from Germany’s Juwi for 130 million euros, as well as petroleum group Motor Oil’s move to acquire a 47-MW RES project from Mytilineos for 45.8 million euros were highlighted as signs of things to come.

PwC officials also confirmed the interest of major foreign funds for RES investment opportunities in Greece, as was disclosed by energypress earlier this week.

Gas utility DEPA’s privatization of DEPA Infrastructure, a new company entity, will be completed this year, while nine prospective bidders, in the procedure’s preliminary stage, have already emerged to express official interest, PwC officials pointed out.

In 2019, Greece’s energy sector represented 5.8 percent of the country’s total number of takeovers and mergers, transactions worth a total of 4.3 billion euros.

 

ELPE growing internationally, expanding for bigger RES role

Hellenic Petroleum ELPE is increasingly internationalizing with project interests covering a broadened range beyond petroleum, including renewable energy and natural gas, the group’s chief executive Andreas Siamisiis, presenting the group’s future course, has underlined.

ELPE has set a short-term RES installations target of 300 MW by the end of next year, followed by a mid-term goal of 600 MW by 2025.

Renewable energy is expected to be responsible for five to 10 percent of the group’s EBITDA figure in the next five years, ELPE officials have projected.

RES involvement in the petroleum group’s annual EBITDA performances, which, in recent times, have ranged between 600 to 800 million euros, is limited to two million euros.

This EBITDA contribution is soon expected to rise sharply, to a level of 20 million euros, as a result of ELPE’s takeover of an unfinished 204-MW solar energy project, Greece’s biggest, started by Germany’s Juwi close to Kozani in Greece’s north. “This is the first such project. More will follow,” Siamisiis said.

The Kozani solar energy project, Greece’s biggest by far, twenty times the size of the largest of existing units, ranks among Europe’s four biggest solar energy parks.

This investment, totaling 130 million euros, is expected to generate 300 GWh annually. Remaining development and installation work is seen requiring 16 months to complete. The project’s launch is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2021.