GEK TERNA building vertically integrated energy group

Listed GEK TERNA construction and energy group has further reinforced its position in the energy market following its acquisition of stakes held by Engie and Qatar Petroleum in the Heron energy group.

As a result, GEK TERNA has now gained control of Heron’s energy production and supply activities.

The group’s objectives for an increased installed capacity in RES and conventional electricity generation promise to make GEK TERNA the country’s second biggest energy group, following PPC, the power utility.

Group member Terna Energy aims to increase its installed RES capacity to 3 GW by 2025, while, during the same period, or possibly one year earlier, the group intends to boost its conventional energy production capacity to 1.5 GW.

Heron is equipped with two gas-fueled power stations offering a total capacity of 600 MW, while the company has also announced it will co-develop an 877-MW power station in Komotini, northern Greece, with Motor Oil.

The GEK Terna group, with its subsidiaries Terna Energy in renewable energy, and Heron, for conventional energy production and supply, has created a 4.5-GW portfolio capable of providing electricity products through decarbonized operations.

The listed group has taken a big step into the new era of energy supply through power and purchase agreements (PPAs) as Heron will be able to offer major-scale energy consumers bilateral supply contracts for green and conventional energy.

Unlocking Greece’s offshore wind potential – Challenges, opportunities

Greece’s attempts to develop its untapped offshore wind potential have stalled in the past, but renewed investor interest and government commitment to set up a sound regulatory framework has strengthened its prospects.

By Dimitris Assimakis, Partner, and Minas Kitsilis, Senior Associate, Reed Smith.”

Introduction

Since 2006, Greece has taken several different approaches to the development of offshore wind projects. So far, these policy measures have had few concrete results. Given the present ambitious national energy and climate plan for the period up to 2030, dictating at least a twofold increase of the existing renewable energy capacity, the immediate necessity for new capacity due to the government’s decision to cease the operation of all existing lignite-fired power plants by 2023, as well as the existence of certain impediments to the further development of onshore wind farms, such as the availability of land, the pressure from other activities, such as tourism, and the necessity for the considerable expansion or reinforcement of the grid, offshore wind is expected to start playing an important role in the country’s pursuit of cost-effective and efficient renewable energy prospects.

For several years now other EU coastal countries with significant sea fronts have developed offshore wind projects and so this could certainly be a successful approach for the country with the most extensive coastline among all Mediterranean countries and one of the highest offshore wind potential in the region.

Therefore, aside from certain technical challenges (e.g. steep sea-bed drop-off around mainland Greece and around most of the Greek islands) and foreign affairs policy issues (e.g. territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea), a clear national regulatory framework, which adequately addresses spatial planning, licensing, grid interconnection and economic support issues, is also required in order for offshore wind technology to deliver its significant potentials in the country’s power generation mix.

Ongoing structured public discussions with interested investors and stakeholders as well as recent policy statements from the Greek Ministry of Environment and Energy are expected to result in an offshore wind-specific framework within this year that will enable the exploitation of this valuable renewable energy source also in Greece. Already, major international market players such as Ocean Winds (EDPR and Engie) in cooperation with Terna Energy, the largest renewable power producer in Greece, Iberdrola, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Equinor are actively involved in these discussions, while reportedly other international investors such as Blue Float Energy and Innogy are closely following the developments in the sector. Moreover, local market players such as PPC Renewables, the renewables arm of Public Power Corporation (Greece’s largest power producer and supplier), Copelouzos group and RF Energy are actively engaged in this process. These deliberations are conducted within a very positive momentum for the offshore wind sector, following the recent release of the EU Strategy on Offshore Renewable Energy and the great technological developments in the sector, especially with respect to the imminent commercialisation of large-scale floating wind projects, which seem to be the most proper offshore wind technology for Greece given the depth of its territorial waters.

Past approaches stalled

Until mid-2010 the generally applicable licensing scheme at the initiative of interested investors was also applicable for offshore wind projects’ development, licensing, spatial planning and economic support against transparent and objective criteria and a regulated feed-in tariff through a standardised long term (20 years) power purchase agreement with the energy market operator as offtaker and dispatch priority for the power produced. In this context a large number of licence applications for offshore wind projects were filed with the competent Regulatory Authority for Energy in Greece (RAE).

However, only two fixed-bottom offshore projects were licensed by RAE in 2012, one of an approximately 500 MW capacity offshore the island of Lemnos in the north Aegean Sea and another one of 216 MW capacity offshore the port of  Alexandroupolis in the Thracian Sea. On the other hand, most of the licence applications filed within the period are still pending assessment from RAE with unclear further development options in anticipation of the new offshore wind-specific framework.

Subsequently, in mid-2010 Greece introduced a special centralised planning scheme for offshore wind projects to be rolled out at the initiative of the jointly competent Ministers of finance and economy, maritime affairs, foreign affairs, national defence, culture, tourism, environment and energy by virtue of a new provision introduced into the Renewables Law 3468/2006 (i.e. Article 6A), which rendered the previous open licensing scheme inapplicable for offshore wind projects.

That rather unclear approach entailed the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of potential offshore project sites before the respective projects were licensed by the Minister of Environment and Energy, instead of RAE, and before they were auctioned off for construction through an open public tender process (public works procurement process) against economic exploitation by the successful bidder during the concession period; presumably through some long term power purchase agreement with the energy market operator as offtaker against an agreed feed-in tariff and dispatch priority. Environmental impact assessment (EIA) and further site planning, installation and construction works licensing until the operation period (inclusive) would follow the generally applicable legislation for renewables, except for some special provisions of law for the concession of sea areas in favour of renewable energy projects that would be anyways addressed as above.

This framework also entailed a number of implementing ministerial decisions and presidential decrees that were never adopted as this approach was never actually pursued in spite of a SEA study commissioned to this end by the Centre for Renewable Energy Sources in Greece (CRES) and presented in September 2015.

New approach required │ key issues

Licensing framework – recent developments & challenges ahead

The recent review of the Environmental Licensing Law 4014/2011 in May 2020 (i.e. by virtue of Law 4685/2020) raised certain hopes at it was aimed at simplifying and expediting the environmental licensing of projects of any type, including renewable energy projects, as well as at simplifying the first licensing milestone for renewable energy projects before RAE. Offshore wind projects are qualified as ‘special renewable energy projects’ and may benefit from the above simplified licensing framework as soon as an offshore wind-specific framework is adopted. In effect, this licensing framework reinstates the previous licensing scheme at the initiative of interested investors but ultimately, fails to provide any coherent legal certainty as it does not explicitly repeal the rather problematic provision of Article 6A of Renewables Law 3468/2006 mentioned above.

So although the general environmental licensing and the RES specific licensing framework were improved through the adoption of Law 4685/2020, there was not actually any real value for the offshore wind sector from this legislative process, since two parallel and apparently, inconsistent licensing regimes are currently in place although neither in full force and effect until Greece finally decides whether it will go on with a centralised or a develop-led planning system. Moreover, the licensing framework in place does not really address what will happen with the existing two electricity production licences granted as well as the various licence applications that are still pending assessment under the past licensing scheme.

Apparently, the envisaged new framework should provide for a consistent, coherent and well-structured licensing regime enabling as well the performance of any early development actions from the investors, in the sense that they should be allowed, on the basis of an exclusive right, to enter into a specific sea area in order to perform wind measurement campaigns and preliminary field surveys.

Spatial planning issues

The Special Spatial Planning Framework for Renewables of December 2008 provides for wind power in general and onshore and offshore wind power in particular. Such provisions include generally applicable criteria, limitations and exclusion zones for wind energy and special ones for onshore and offshore wind projects. However, it is commonly admitted that the said framework needs to be reviewed to account for technological developments and acquired experience in spatial planning and deployment of renewables not only in Greece but also in the EU, including current best practices.

The Ministry of Environment and Energy is already working on updating the framework but it will take some time to achieve concrete results due to the technical and SEA studies involved. In addition, it must also be compatible with the regional and other special frameworks for spatial planning that are also under review pursuant to Part A of Law 4417/2016 and most importantly, with the still pending maritime spatial planning for marine areas in Greece according to Part A of Law 4546/2018 (as per the relevant EU Directive 2014/89) for the avoidance of conflicts. An interim solution may have to be sought in this connection as otherwise neither central nor individual planning will be feasible and legally sound against a reasonable time schedule and certain target capacity for offshore wind development by 2030 and beyond.

Sovereign rights and public international law

Greece has reserved the right to exercise all its sovereign rights under Article 3 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to expand its territorial sea beyond six (6) nautical miles, which is the current breadth thereof, up to twelve (12) nautical miles measured from baselines determined in accordance with the UNCLOS. Greece has signed and ratified the UNCLOS by virtue of Law 2321/1995. Recently, by virtue of Law 4767/2021, Greece has expanded its territorial sea to twelve (12) nautical miles in the whole of the Ionian Sea area up to the Cape Tainaron in south Peloponnese, while it is reiterated therein Greece’s sovereign rights to do the same with all other sea areas, including the Aegean Sea, being the area with the highest offshore wind potential.

However, given the historical tension between Greece and Turkey concerning the Aegean Sea, it is rather questionable whether Greece will finally decide to exercise such sovereign rights and expand its territorial sea to twelve (12) nautical miles also in the Aegean Sea, according to the UNCLOS, in the years to come. In this respect, it is reasonably expected that any development of offshore wind projects in the Aegean Sea will need to be limited within the six (6) nautical miles zone. Further, the establishment and delimitation of the Greek exclusive economic zone by means of valid and legally binding agreements with neighbouring states pursuant to the UNCLOS is still pending too, save for the recent agreements with Italy in the Ionian Sea and Egypt in part of the Mediterranean Sea south-east of the island of Crete.

Proper support scheme for offshore wind

The new support scheme for renewables in Greece introduced by virtue of Law 4414/2016 in line with the European Commission’s Guidelines on State aid for environmental protection and energy for the period 2014 – 2020 provides for operating aid to renewables through a technology-specific sliding feed-in premium (FiP) scheme for the vast majority of new projects which is added as a premium to wholesale market revenues and thus tops up their market revenues in order for the operating aid to reach an acceptable level of support measured against a technology-specific reference tariff (RT).

Aside from small scale and experimental projects, since 2017 the RTs are set through competitive bidding processes (auctions) on project basis for the two mature technologies (i.e. onshore wind and solar photovoltaic) in technology-specific and technology-neutral auctions run by RAE. In the event that the wholesale market price of a renewable technology exceeds the applicable RT, the excess is rebated to a special account for renewables kept by the RES operator and aggregator of last resort (DAPEEP) and hence the operating aid contract is a standardised two-way contract for differences (CfD) between the applicable RT (as strike price) and the producer’s revenues from the wholesale electricity market.

The auctions scheme is expected to extend beyond 2020, likely up to 2024 and for a certain overall capacity threshold not in excess of 2.1 GW, in accordance with the relevant statements made by the Minister of Environment and Energy in mid-November 2020.  However, technology-specific auctions for offshore wind or technology-neutral auctions including offshore wind are not likely to be feasible for Greece in this time schedule. In the meantime, previous auctions for renewable electricity have resulted in applicable RTs for onshore wind and solar photovoltaic projects below wholesale market prices for certain time periods. Therefore, alternative revenue structures involving corporate renewable power purchase agreements (PPA) cannot be excluded for onshore wind and solar photovoltaic or offshore wind projects in Greece in common with other countries where such alternatives are already pursued for some years now in the onshore wind and solar photovoltaic sectors, and recently also in the offshore wind sector. However, such structures are hardly suitable or bankable during the early days of a new sector development like offshore wind.

Optionally, individual aid without an auction process is also possible for renewable energy projects (including offshore wind) exceeding 250 MW or clusters of projects exceeding 250 MW and sharing common interconnection with the transmission system according to the said guidelines on State aid and Article 4 para 12 of Law 4414/2016. Individual aid requires prior notification to and approval from the European Commission. An implementing ministerial decision is still pending (para 12 was added to Article 4 of Law 4414/2016 in end-2019) for all renewable energy projects or clusters of such scale and importance for national and EU renewable energy targets, but it is reasonably expected soon. This option is reasonably considered more suitable, especially for floating offshore wind projects, and certainly more bankable at the early stages of any new renewable technology.

Moreover, Greece could consider when developing its national recovery and resilience plan in the context of the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility possible priority actions in order to facilitate the development of offshore wind projects in the country.

Grid connection

However, unlocking the great wind potential of the Greek seas and islands depends on the development of some critical interconnections, some of which are expected in the short to medium term. The anticipated completion of the interconnection of the island of Crete with the high-voltage system in the Athens metropolitan area by 2023 and of all Cycladic islands by 2024 will enable the significant development of new wind power capacity on these islands but also in the sea areas around them covering a significant part of the south Aegean Sea.

Moreover, ADMIE, the Greek TSO, has included in its current ten-year development plan the progressive interconnection of all other major islands in the south-eastern and north Aegean Sea, such as the islands of Rhodes, Kos, Karpathos Lemnos, Lesvos, Samos and Chios by 2029,  covering therefore though such plan the remaining of the Aegean Sea.

ADMIE is actively participating in the discussions held for the formulation of the offshore-wind specific framework and clearly, one of the key issues which need to be addressed therein is the interlink of any offshore wind investment projects with ADMIE’s development plan and its role in the design, construction and financing of the necessary grid expansion and reinforcement works.

Strategic investments programme and offshore wind

Since 2011, Greece has had in place an investments facilitation programme whereby productive investments (private or public ones, foreign or domestic) which generate quantitative and qualitative results of major significance for the national economy (including other criteria on investment budget, employment creation, innovation and sustainability) are qualified by an inter-ministerial committee as ‘strategic investments’ and are entitled to one-stop-shop and fast-track licensing and development procedures, including environmental and spatial planning ones as well as land expropriation related ones and dispute resolution provisions.

Part B of Law 4608/2019 on attracting strategic investments aims at modernising, improving and enhancing the scope of application and the fast-track licensing and development procedures in favour of strategic investments. These new provisions include: special spatial plans on project basis; tax benefits (as individual State aid subject to applicable EU regulations); one-stop-shop and fast-track licensing within 45 calendar days per licence, permit, opinion or approval (subject to special EU law provisions and procedures, e.g. public awareness on environmental matters), and overall within three (3) years from the MoU between the strategic investor and the Minister of Finance and Development on the time schedules and mutual obligations; cash grants for research and development (R&D) projects, and a UNCITRAL arbitration clause for disputes relating to the said MoU. On the other hand, applications for qualification under the new programme can be filed until the end of 2023.

Greece’s strategic investments programme has facilitated to some extent the spatial planning and licensing of a number of investments, mainly in tourism and other commercial sectors including some solar photovoltaic and solar thermal projects of scale and clusters of onshore wind projects. However, it has been limited to licensing aspects thereof and it does not address operating aid or other economic support aspects. Furthermore, it captures urban or onshore (including seashore) spatial planning, but it does not capture offshore aspects and maritime spatial planning that is still pending as described above. Therefore, account taken of the end-2023 current deadline for applications under the new programme, it is yet to be considered in more detail how the new programme for strategic investments in Greece could facilitate offshore wind. A recent positive development though is the special benefit conferred now under the programme to innovative renewable projects, amongst which offshore wind projects, in relation to their priority for grid connection over other projects using more typical renewable energy technologies, such as onshore wind and solar photovoltaic projects.

The way forward    

Experience from other jurisdictions has shown that formulating a comprehensive and appropriate legal framework for offshore wind in any given country is a challenging multi-disciplinary exercise. Structured public discussions with interested investors and stakeholders are ongoing in Greece during and have been for the last couple of years. Specific proposals are also being put forward for public consultation by stakeholders like the Hellenic Wind Energy Association but also from major global offshore wind developers. The Ministry of Environment and Energy has also announced that it will present a legislative proposal for offshore wind by mid-2021 taking into account the particularities of the Aegean Sea and international experience in offshore wind industry and technologies. We are confident that the ongoing process will result in a comprehensive legislative proposal for an offshore wind-specific framework. However, time and planning are of the essence for long lead capital intensive infrastructure investments like offshore wind to materialise within a certain time schedule, e.g. by 2030, on legally sound and commercially sensible and therefore bankable conditions in order to pursue successfully the national and EU energy, climate and environmental policies.

 

Strong market test turnout for DEDDIE sale, 18 players in all

A total of 18 prospective bidders have taken part in a market test staged by Goldman Sachs for power utility PPC’s forthcoming sale of a 49 percent stake in subsidiary firm DEDDIE/HEDNO, the distribution network operator.

The list, forwarded by Goldman Sachs to PPC, includes investors already familiar to the Greek market such as US firm Blackrock, specializing in transportation and energy infrastructure long-term investments; prominent infrastructure funds; as well as many European operators.

France’s Engie and Italy’s Enel, both often linked with the DEDDIE/HEDNO sale, were not among the 18 market test participants, sources informed.

Interestingly, no previous market test staged to gauge interest in the prospective sale of any Greek State asset has generated such a strong turnout.

Authorities behind DEDDIE/HEDNO’s partial privatization hope this more than promising response for the market test will result in intense bidding competition and a higher sale price.

A clear picture on the number and identity of the sale’s participants will become apparent on January 29, the deadline for the procedure’s first round official expressions of interest.

Officials have attributed the strong market test interest to five key factors: the operator’s new regulatory framework; an elevated WACC level of 6.7 percent for 2021 to 2024, well over levels of between 2.5 and 3 percent offered by other European operators; strong confidence in the governance of the country, pivotal for long-term investments; good timing, as, at present, no other network operator in Europe is up for sale; and a massive accumulation of global capital currently available for investment as a result of numerous lockdowns imposed in many parts of the world since March.

The Greek government will aim to complete DEDDIE/HEDNO’s partial privatization in the first half of 2021.

 

Germany’s Next e.GO prepares for electric car plant in Greece

Up-and-coming electric car maker Next e.GO, a German firm recently transferred to Dutch investment group ND Industrial BV, will today present its plan for the development of a production facility in Greece, an investment believed to be worth approximately 100 million euros.

The company’s decision was reached some time ago as a result of Greece’s improved business image abroad, positive market-research results, abundance of low-cost computer programmers and engineers, and, most crucially, the country’s ambitious economic restructuring plan, an initiative to be supported by 32 billion euros stemming from the EU recovery fund.

Talks began several months ago between Greek government and Next e.GO officials, who have already inspected a number of potential sites that could host the company’s investment plan.

Next e.GO, specializing in small, versatile, low-cost vehicles ideal for city use, is looking to set up its venture on a large expanse with access to key roads, railway infrastructure and within close proximity to the airport.

Further details on the investment, including its precise value, the prospective facility’s production capacity, development and launch schedule, as well as the degree to which Next e.GO sees Greece as a base for exports to neighboring countries, are expected to be disclosed at the presentation today.

The presentation will be preceded by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Enterprise Greece, the Greek state’s official agency designed to promote the country’s investment opportunities, and Next e.GO CEO Ulrich Hermann, in the presence of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and other key government members.

The car manufacturer’s flagship model, the e.GO Life, a 1.2-ton vehicle equipped with a 21.5-KW battery and 57-kW engine that was launched in 2018 at a retail price of under 16,000 euros, comes in variations, including the e.GO Life Sport and e.GO Life Cross models. Its distance range reaches 203 km in cities and 139 km on highways.

Other foreign firms considering the Greek market amid growing electromobility interest include the US firms Tesla and Blink, Swedish-Swiss multinational ABB, France’s Engie, as well as smaller producers.

Hybrid car sale forecasts in Greece have exceeded expectations this year, reaching 40 percent of total sales, well over a 20 percent target.

Storengy exits UGS tender, partners seek new operator

France’s Storengy appears to have stepped back from an upcoming tender for the privatization of an underground natural gas storage facility (UGS) at an almost depleted South Kavala offshore natural gas field in the country’s north, energypress understands.

Storengy, a subsidiary of the Engie group, had formed a three-member consortium with Energean Oil & Gas, holder of the South Kavala field’s license, and construction firm GEK-Terna for this tender.

Storengy’s apparent decision to withdraw from the South Kavala tender may be linked to a decision reached two years earlier by Engie for a revision of its international interests and investment plans.

Energean Oil & Gas and GEK-Terna, Storengy’s two partners for the South Kavala tender, remain interested in expressing first-round interest by a September 30 deadline, but to do so, they must find a new partner, a certified gas grid operator, as required by the tender’s regulations.

The two players have subsequently moved closer to gas grid operator DESFA, already eyeing this tender. According to sources, talks between the two sides have commenced. DESFA will need to hold a stake of at least 20 percent in any partnership formed.

Both sides are also believed to be considering other partnership options. Storengy’s withdrawal could also bring in unanticipated European operators.

Investments of approximately 300 to 400 million euros will be needed to develop the South Kavala UGS.

Two, possibly three, bidders for South Kavala UGS license

An upcoming tender to offer an underground natural gas storage facility (UGS) license for the almost depleted South Kavala offshore natural gas field in the country’s north is expected to attract the interest of two, or possibly three, bidding teams.

Interested parties have been given an extension to express non-binding first-round interest. Prospective participants are busy preparing.

The participation of Storengy – a three-member consortium formed by France’s Engie, Energean Oil & Gas, holder of the South Kavala field’s license, and construction firm GEK-Terna – is considered a certainty as this consortium was established in anticipation of this tender.

Greek gas grid operator DESFA, increasingly active, since its privatization, in various projects, including some beyond its more customary operator-related bounds, is seen as another certain bidder for the South Kavala UGS license.

Senfluga, the consortium of companies that acquired a 66 percent stake of DESFA, appears very interested in the South Kavala UGS tender. This consortium’s current line-up is comprised of: Snam (54%), Enagas (18%), Fluxys (18%) and Copelouzos group member Damco (10%).

Though Senfluga’s three foreign partners – Snam, Enagas and Fluxys – are examining the prospect of joining DESFA to express joint interest, separate bids from the two sides are considered likeliest. The main reason for this has to do with certain tender rules that restrict the ability of consortiums participating in the first round to then reshuffle, if needed.

Pricing policy regulations expected from RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, ahead of binding offers, will be crucial to how the tender plays out as these rules will determine the project’s earnings potential and level of bids.

DEPA Infrastructure sale luring bidders, deadline Friday

The government and privatization fund TAIPED are expecting strong investor interest in the full sale of gas utility DEPA’s new entity DEPA Infrastructure, a procedure whose deadline for non-binding expression of interest expires this Friday at 5pm.

Authorities will not offer a deadline extension despite requests for more time, sources informed.

Italy’s Italgas, France’s Engie, Spain’s Reganosa as well as two major US funds, KKR and Blackrock, and, possibly, Australia’s Macquarie, are believed to be among the field of players eyeing the DEPA Infrastructure privatization. Senfluga, a consortium made up of Greek gas grid operator DESFA shareholders, is also considering participating in what should be a last-minute decision following related preparations.

Italgas, Italy’s biggest distribution network operator and third biggest in Europe, is believed to have held talks with fellow Italian company Eni for the acquisition of a 49 percent stake of gas distributor EDA Thess, covering the Thessaloniki and Thessaly areas. This stake is currently held by Eni subsidiary Eni Gas e Luce.

France’s Engie, also eyeing other opportunities in the Greek market, has partnered with Energean Oil & Gas and GEK-Terna with the intention of jointly bidding for an underground gas storage facility to be developed at a depleted offshore gas field in the south Kavala region.

TAIPED, the privatization fund, is offering DEPA’s 65 percent share in DEPA Infrastructure while Hellenic Petroleum ELPE is selling its 35 percent stake.

RAE given 5 months to set Kavala underground gas storage charges

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has been given five months to determine the pricing policy, regulated earnings and WACC for a planned underground gas storage facility at a depleted offshore gas field in the south Kavala region, according to an imminent joint ministerial decision, energypress understands.

The launch date of the project’s tender will depend on funding for project studies through the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) program. This essentially means that the privatization fund TAIPED will need to officially launch the project within the first half of this year to avoid missing out on CEF funds.

The project’s investment cost is estimated at between 300 and 400 million euros.

France’s Engie as well as Energean Oil & Gas and GEK-Terna have formed a three-member consortium named Storengy in anticipation of the tender. DESFA, the gas grid operator, is also expected to participate in the tender.

The project, promising gas storage capacity of 360 million cubic meters, is considered vital for Greece as it will be able to maintain strategic reserves for considerable time periods.

Its development will help boost the performance level and strategic role of the Revythoussa LNG terminal just off Athens, and the prospective Alexandroupoli FSRU in the country’s northeast, as these will be able to supply the wider region greater gas quantities via the IGB and TAP gas pipelines.

The south Kavala project has been classified as a PCI project, offering EU funding opportunities, seen as crucial for the investment’s sustainability, according to some analysts.

DEPA Infrastructure yield, 8.2% + 1.5%, a drawcard for bidders

Though not yet officially announced, a new annual regulated yield for distribution network operators, now set, represents one of the strongest drawcards for the sale of DEPA Infrastructure, a new entity established by gas utility DEPA for privatization.

Prospective bidders engaged in preliminary contact with authorities linked to the DEPA Infrastructure sale ahead of a February 14 deadline for non-binding expression of interest have been told the WACC figure has been set at 8.2 percent plus a 1.5 percent premium if certain investment objectives are achieved.

These objectives include swift network development in areas covered by gas distributor EDA, achievement of pipeline addition goals, specified in kilometers, as well as the development of projects not included in DEPA Infrastructure’s initial development plan.

Prospective participants, including funds, will enter this privatization procedure knowing their investment’s potential yield can reach 9.7 percent, far higher than WACC performances enjoyed by network operators in central Europe.

This higher yield offering has generated all-round optimism for a solid turnout by participants Friday week.

Potential bidders, so far, are believed to include Greek gas grid operator DESFA, France’s Engie, Italy’s Italgas and Germany’s Eon.

Besides European operators, the privatization is also expected to attract a number of funds, seen partnering with operators for the sale’s second round of binding bids.

DEPA Infrastructure has taken under its wings DEPA’s interests in the distribution networks of wider Athens (EDA Attiki), Thessaloniki and Thessalia (EDA Thess) and the rest of Greece (DEDA).

 

Kavala underground gas storage tender in first half of 2020, TAIPED announces

A tender for the conversion of a depleted natural gas field in the offshore South Kavala region into an underground gas storage facility will be announced in the first half of 2020, according to privatization fund TAIPED.

The project, estimated to cost between 300 and 400 million euros, is needed for storage of strategic gas reserves.

Steps that will need to be taken in the lead-up to the tender have just been presented by the privatization fund’s administration, confirming that previous legal complexities have now been resolved.

Two steps are needed. A joint ministerial decision must be issued. Also, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, needs to prepare a regulatory framework offering prospective investors a reliable estimate on earnings they should anticipate, necessary before any binding bids can be submitted.

France’s Engie as well as Energean Oil & Gas and GEK-Terna have formed a three-member consortium named Storengy in anticipation of the tender. DESFA, the gas grid operator, is also expected to participate in the tender.

Ministry amendment to unblock Kavala storage legal complexity

The energy ministry has prepared a legislative amendment needed to overcome a legal complexity that has emerged concerning the development of an underground gas storage facility in the offshore South Kavala region through the utilization of a depleted natural gas field.

The amendment, which could be submitted to parliament today, will not lead to any fundamental changes concerning the project but purely focuses on resolving the legal obstacles obstructing its development, sources informed.

Once ratified, this amendment will pave the way for the publication of a related joint ministerial decision in the government gazette ahead of the asset’s eventual privatization.

Meanwhile, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, needs to prepare general guidelines determining the project’s pricing policy, regulated earnings, WACC level, as well as a minimum capacity level that will need to be kept vacant by the project’s investor for national energy security reasons.

RAE will have three months to prepare the guidelines once the joint ministerial decision has been published in the government gazette.

TAIPED, the privatization fund, has received an amount worth 1.6 million euros from the European Commission’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) to finance engineering studies required for the underground gas storage facility ahead of the privatization tender. This financial development was included in a updated Asset Development Plan (ADP) presented by TAIPED a fortnight ago. The investment’s cost is estimated between 300 and 400 million euros.

France’s Engie, Energean Oil & Gas and GEK-Terna have formed a three-member consortium named Storengy in anticipation of the tender. DESFA, the gas grid operator, is also expected to participate in the tender.

Legal details delay ministerial decision for gas storage facility

A joint ministerial decision concerning the operating regulatory framework for a prospective underground gas storage facility in the offshore South Kavala region has been held back by a latest administrative obstacle.

The decision, prepared by the energy ministry, has been put on hold until legal details are resolved, sources noted.

Despite the emergence of this latest hurdle, the ministry will soon be in a position to clear it, energy minister Costis Hatzidakis announced yesterday.

Meanwhile, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has begun preparing general guidelines to determine pricing policy, adjustable earnings, minimum WACC levels, as well as compulsory vacancy levels that will need to be maintained by the project’s developer as support for national energy security.

Once the joint ministerial decision has been published, RAE will have three months to complete the  framework so that bidders will have its details when the time comes to submit binding offers.

TAIPED, the privatization fund, plans to stage a tender offering the underground gas storage facility within the first six months of 2020.

To be developed at a depleted natural gas field, the underground gas storage facility will offer a storage capacity of at least 360 million cubic meters.

The investment’s cost is estimated between 300 and 400 million euros. France’s Engie, Energean Oil & Gas and GEK-Terna have formed a three-member consortium named Storengy in anticipation of the tender.

DESFA, the gas grid operator, is also expected to participate in the tender.

A total of 642 underground gas storage facilities offering an overall capacity of 333 bcm, approximately 11 percent of global gas consumption, operate around the world. In the EU, 126 such facilities offer a total gas storage capacity of about 80 bcm.

Slight delay, to early 2020, likely for Kavala gas storage tender

A tender for the utilization of a depleted natural gas field in the offshore South Kavala region as an underground gas storage facility appears headed for a slight delay and could be launched in early 2020, instead of late 2019, as a result of a deadline extension, from August 28 to September 9, granted to participants of a preceding tender looking to appoint a technical consultant for the project.

Besides the preliminary tender’s deadline extension, granted by the privatization fund TAIPED, a still-undelivered co-ministerial decision to determine the operating regulations of the storage facility is another matter that has increased the likelihood of a delay in the project’s competitive procedure. Even so, a launch by late 2019 has not been entirely ruled out.

The technical consultant will be tasked with preparing the tender’s details and offering TAIPED advice on the level of appropriateness of the plan to convert the depleted natural gas field into a gas storage facility, its equipment and interconnection needs, and other matters.

France’s Engie, Energean Oil & Gas and GEK-Terna have formed a consortium named Storengy in anticipation of the project’s tender.

 

Kavala underground gas storage tender later this year

A tender concerning the utilization of a depleted natural gas field in the offshore South Kavala region as an underground gas storage facility is expected to be launched by the privatization fund TAIPED towards the end of the year.

The privatization fund has informed the energy ministry on the progress of preparations, energypress sources informed.

A month ago, on July 12, TAIPED launched a tender seeking specialized preliminary services for the project.

The winning bidder of this initial procedure, expiring August 28, will need to prepare the technical details of the project’s eventual tender and offer consultancy to the privatization fund on the prospective underground gas storage facility’s feasibility and demands.

The recently appointed energy minister Costis Hatzidakis has made clear his intent to utilize the depleted natural gas field.

France’s Engie, GEK-Terna and Energean have formed a consortium, named Storengy, in anticipation of the project’s tender.

Greek gas grid operator DESFA is also believed to be eyeing the project, included in the EU’s list of PCI projects.

The project’s budget is estimated at between 300 and 400 million euros, while its storage capacity could end up being anywhere between 360 and 720 million cubic meters, as much as 10 percent of the country’s annual natural gas consumption.

The prospective underground gas storage facility is regarded as infrastructure that will complement – rather than compete against – the country’s existing LNG terminal on Revythoussa, an islet just off Athens, as well as a prospective FSRU in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, helping establish Greece as an energy hub.

PCI hopes for underground gas storage boosted by late effort

NEWS UPDATE: 

Greek energy ministry officials have made a successful last-ditch effort ahead of this Sunday’s elections that boosts the country’s chances of keeping on the EU’s PCI list an underground gas storage facility in the offshore South Kavala region, planned through the development of a depleted natural gas field, energypress sources have informed.

An FSRU in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, will also be on the PCI list, enabling favorable funding terms, the sources added.

Prior to this latest development, energy ministry officials assured that problems concerning the South Kavala project’s place on the PCI list would be overcome, while admitting the project had been negatively appraised by Brussels.

Earlier today, energypress reported: 

A project entailing the development of a depleted natural gas field in northern Greece’s offshore South Kavala region as an underground gas storage facility appears likely to be removed from the European Union’s PCI list, a status enabling favorable funding.

Delays and the country’s early elections appear to have taken their toll and are believed to be key reasons behind the project’s likely removal from the PCI list.

The underground gas storage facility has been negatively reviewed by EU authorities amid procedures leading to the determination of a new and revised PCI catalogue for 2020-2021, energypress sources have informed.

Not all hope has been lost. Final decisions by EU authorities will be reached in October, which gives Greek officials some time to present their case in favor of the project’s PCI-list inclusion.

The asset’s ownership, along with the responsibility for its utilization, have been transferred to the privatization fund TAIPED, which has significantly delayed related initiatives as it obviously does not consider the project to be a top-priority issue.

The project’s budget is estimated at between 300 and 400 million euros, while its storage capacity could end up being anywhere between 360 and 720 million cubic meters, as much as 10 percent of the country’s annual natural gas consumption.

France’s Engie, as well as Terna and Energean, have formed a consortium to bid for the project whenever a tender is staged.

Engie, Terna, Energean join for underground gas storage facility

Three major firms, each specializing in its own respective field, have formed a consortium to seek a contract to develop and operate a depleted natural gas field in northern’s Greece’s offshore South Kavala region as an underground gas storage facility, energypress sources have informed.

Storengy, belonging to France’s Engie group, Energean Oil & Gas, holder of a license for the South Kavala field, and technical firm Gek Terna are the three players joining forces for this contract, to be offered through a tender being prepared by the privatization fund TAIPED.

Greece remains the only country European country without an underground gas storage facility. All others maintain storage facilities covering over 20 percent of their annual natural gas consumption needs. At present, many countries in Europe are planning to develop additional such projects over the next five years.

Underground gas storage facilities play a key role in subduing carbon emissions as a result of the flexibility they offer to renewable energy sources.

Consortium member Storengy is Europe’s biggest developer and operator of underground gas storage facilities. It currently operates 21 such facilities of all types on the continent.

Offering a capacity of between 360 and 720 million cubic meters, or 10 percent of annual natural gas consumption in Greece, the South Kavala underground gas storage facility will require an investment of between 300 and 400 million euros to develop. The project has been granted PCI status by the European Commission, enabling EU funding support.

 

Engie imports gas from north for Heron, Gazprom not involved

France’s Engie has emerged as a new supplier of natural gas to the Greek market through the country’s northern gateway following a gas auction co-staged yesterday by DESFA, Greece’s natural gas grid operator, and its Romanian and Greek counterparts, to offer capacities available at the Romanian-Bulgarian and Bulgarian-Greek gas grid interconnections.

Engie secured a pipeline capacity at the jointly held auction to import natural gas into Greece for electricity generation by the energy firm Heron. Engie, which holds a 25 percent stake in Heron, has been active in Romania’s energy market, especially natural gas, for a number of years.

Though the amount to be imported by Engie, 1,500 MWh per day over a year, is modest, it represents yet another gas import agreement through Greece’s north that does not involve Russia’s Gazprom.

The agreement is competitively priced, compared to Gazprom’s offers, energypress sources informed.

Besides an import agreement involving DEPA, the Greek gas utility, and Gazprom, Russian gas is also imported into Greece through the northern gateway by Prometheus Gas, a joint venture of the Copelouzos Group and Gazprom Export. Prometheus Gas has captured a 20 percent share of the Greek market. The Mytilineos group also imports, buying directly from Gazprom.

The gas amount to be brought into the Greek market by Engie covers the pipeline capacity that was available at the Romanian-Bulgarian interconnection. The capacity at the Bulgarian-Greek interconnection was considerably bigger, amounting to 7,500 MWh per day over a year.

The pipeline capacity offered by the Greek, Bulgarian and Romanian gas grid operators at yesterday’s auction represented an amount that needed to be offered to third parties, according to EU regulations. The auction represented the first ever act of collective trans-boundary trade involving the three countries.

The EU has applied pressure on member states to utilize interconnections and diversify their sources of supply.

 

 

Tender seen for subterranean gas storage unit in the north

The energy ministry and TAIPED, the state privatization fund, are making preliminary  moves leading to an international tender for the development of a subterranean natural gas storage facility in the south Kavala offshore area through utilization of a virtually depleted gas deposit.

The ministry is preparing a ministerial decision that will officially brand the project as an independent natural gas system (ASFA), or private storage facility, a necessary step ahead of the tender. TAIPED is preparing official texts for the tender, which, according to energypress sources, will be announced in the second half of this year and most definitely within the year.

An exploitation license held by Energean Oil – following a series of mandatory extensions provided to keep the facility operational – is due to expire in November.

The project is not only seen as useful but necessary for bolstering the country’s supply security and chances of becoming a regional energy hub.

Details concerning the project’s development and exact role remain undetermined.

Besides moving to declare the depleted deposit as an independent natural gas system, which would lead to the staging of an international tender, authorities have also considered two other options. One entails offering the development rights to Energean Oil, holder of the deposit’s existing operational license. Passing on the subterranean storage facility’s  investment and utilization rights to DESFA, the natural gas grid operator, has also been considered.

The south Kavala gas deposit is still producing small amounts being exploited by Energean Oil. The company had proposed converting the virtually depleted deposit into a natural gas storage facility back in 2010. A related application was submitted by the firm the following year, shortly before control of the facility was passed on to TAIPED for appraisal. A period of indeciveness by the Greek State followed, which led to the project’s removal from the EU’s Projects of Common Interest list. The facility regained its PCI status this year as it is regarded pivotal for energy security in Greece and the western Balkans, while also having potential to support the TAP gas pipeline, now being developed and planned to cross northern Greece.

The south Kavala project’s cost is estimated between 250 and 300 million euros.

French energy group Engie, a successor of GDF Suez, Europe’s oldest energy firm, has expressed an interest in the south Kavala project. Company officials who were part of French president Emmanuel Macron’s delegation for an official visit to Athens last September singled out the south Kavala project. Engie is already present in the Greek market with a 25 percent stake in electricity supplier Heron.

 

 

France’s Engie interested in Kavala gas storage project

French energy group Engie, a successor of Europe’s oldest energy company GdF Suez, has expressed an interest in the depleted south Kavala gas deposit in Greece’s north, expected to be developed as an underground natural gas storage facility.

Company officials were part of a delegation accompanying president Emmanuel Macron on his official visit in September.

Engie officials have already gained an understanding of the Greek energy market as the company maintains interests in independent energy firm Heron, active in electricity generation and supply as well as trade in the natural gas market.

The Engie team apparently singled out the prospective underground natural gas storage facility, sought additional information and, more recently, reiterated their interest.

The Greek government, especially its energy ministry, appears determined to utilize the depleted south Kavala gas deposit in the country’s north as an underground natural gas storage facility.

Its feasibility is strengthened by the prospective Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas system interconnector and extensions to Serbia and Romania.

Engie, a leading player in Europe’s natural gas market, is obviously interested in increasing its role in southeast Europe’s gas market. The French firm controls Europe’s biggest natural gas distribution network, is the continent’s biggest importer, owns Europe’s biggest storage facilities, and supplies 105 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year.

The south Kavala project is seen as essential in Greece’s overall effort to reinforce energy supply security. It would also take further an ambitious plan to establish the country as a regional energy hub.

At present, the government is examining three options. The first is to grant the underground natural gas storage facility’s development to Energean Oil & Gas, holder of the deposit’s exploitation rights, renewed just days ago.

The second option being looked at is to incorporate the underground facility into the national natural gas system with DESFA, the natural gas grid operator, as operator of the investment and its utilization.

The third alternative being considered is to classify the prospective natural gas storage facility as an independent unit and stage an international tender offering its development and exploitation rights.

TAIPED, the state privatization fund, now in control of this specific asset, the energy ministry and RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, are expected to reach a decision within the next few weeks, according to the energy ministry’s secretary general Mihalis Veriopoulos.

The project has been reincluded on the EU’s Projects of Common Interest (PCI) list after being removed two years ago, indicating a wider European interest in the project.