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.