Prinos rescue plan may offer Greek State stake in Energean Oil & Gas SA

A government rescue plan for Prinos, Greece’s only producing oil field, in the country’s offshore north, will offer the Greek State a small stake in Energean Oil & Gas, the field’s operator, and provide state guarantees for 75 million euros in financing needed by the company in 2020 and 2021 for investments included in its business plan, according to well informed sources.

The government is believed to be just days away from announcing its finalized rescue plan for Energean’s Prinos field, hit hard by the pandemic and lower international oil prices, factors that have impacted the global upstream industry.

Greek government officials are currently discussing the Prinos rescue plan with the European Commission, whose approval will be required. Though alterations to the aforementioned solution cannot be ruled out, good news on the rescue plan appears imminent.

Energean Oil & Gas recently published a business plan that lists interventions needed for Prinos’ rescue as well as the field’s sustainability over the next 15 years. The plan’s measures include actions to reduce emissions and drastically reduce the company’s environmental footprint.

Energean has invested approximately 460 million euros at Prinos during the company’s 13 years of operations at the field, including 50 million euros between last September and May, to avoid the closure of offshore and related onshore facilities. Some 270 jobs have been protected.

Prinos field rescue effort now at the finance ministry

A government effort to rescue offshore Prinos, Greece’s only producing field, in the north, is now in the hands of the finance ministry following preceding work at the energy ministry, sources have informed.

The field, like the wider upstream industry, has been impacted by the pandemic and plunge in oil prices.

Deputy finance minister Theodoros Skylakakis is now handling the Prinos rescue case following the transfer of a related file from the energy ministry.

According to the sources, three scenarios are being considered. A financing plan through a loan with Greek State guarantees appears to be the top priority. A second option entails the utilization of an alternate form of state aid. The other consideration involves the Greek State’s equity participation in the Prinos field’s license holder, Energean Oil & Gas.

The European Commission will need to offer its approval to any of these options as they all represent forms of state aid.

Energy ministry sources have avoided offering details but are confident a solution is in the making.

EU recovery fund compromise cuts into JTF for lignite end

A significant contraction of the Just Transition Fund that has resulted from a major compromise deal just reached between the EU’s north and south for a huge post-coronavirus recovery package has raised questions about the decarbonization effort’s financing and ability to progress smoothly.

A sum of 30 billion euros initially planned by the European Commission to be offered to lignite-dependent EU members states for their transition to cleaner energy will be cut to 10 billion euros.

A variety of post-coronavirus recovery sub-funds have been reduced in size, including the JTF, established to support Europe’s decarbonization process.

Prior to the compromise deal, a European Commission proposal had been made to increase the JTF amount for the EU’s lignite-dependent members to 40 billion euros from an initial sum of 7.5 billion euros.

Subsequently, Greece now stands to receive a few hundred million euros for its  decarbonization policy following an earlier estimate for a sum of 1.7 billion euros. The loss for Greece is worth approximately one billion euros.

The recovery package talks over the past few days saw a split between nations hardest hit by the virus and “frugal” members who were concerned about costs.

The deal centers on a 390 billion-euro program of grants to member states hardest hit by the pandemic. Italy and Spain are expected to be the main recipients.

It is the biggest joint borrowing ever agreed by the EU. Summit chairman Charles Michel described it as a “pivotal moment” for Europe.

 

First demand response auction in July, TFRM validity to get extra month

The energy ministry, anticipating the European Commission’s imminent approval of Greek government proposals for a demand response mechanism and a transitory flexibility remuneration mechanism (TFRM), has signed related ministerial decisions so that the mechanisms, vital tools for industrial energy costs, can be implemented immediately once Brussels has given the green light.

Official approval of the plans by the European Commission is expected within the next few days.

Power grid operator IPTO has been informed by the ministry so that it can prepare the first demand response auction, seen taking place within July. IPTO announced a registration procedure yesterday, setting a July 23 deadline for applicants.

The TFRM’s validity is expected to run for an additional month, compared to the initial term agreed to by Athens and Brussels, to make up for its delayed delivery.

Over the past few days, Greek authorities have needed to respond to numerous questions forwarded by Brussels officials, seeking explanations and clarification on both the demand response and flexibility mechanisms.

 

Ministry awaiting Brussels nod for demand response, TFRM

The energy ministry, anticipating the European Commission’s approval of Greek government proposals for a demand response mechanism and a transitory flexibility remuneration mechanism (TFRM), has decided to sign related ministerial decisions, possibly even today, so that the mechanisms can be immediately implemented once Brussels has given the green light.

Though the two sides have come closer on the mechanisms, it still remains unclear when the European Commission will go ahead with its approval.

Over the past few days, government officials have needed to respond to a series of questions from Brussels, seeking explanations and clarification on details concerning both mechanism plans.

The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition is treating both mechanism proposals as one package.

Domestic energy-intensive industries are urgently awaiting the package’s approval in the hope that Greek power grid operator IPTO can stage a demand response auction before July is out.

Under terms agreed to so far, IPTO will be permitted to offer up to 800 MW through demand response auctions, down from 1,030 MW allowed through the preceding plan.

Also, the demand response mechanism will be made accessible to a greater number of companies, including smaller players, through a reduction of a consumption lower limit.

In addition, the demand response mechanism is expected to be valid for a one-year period, not two years, as was requested by EVIKEN, the Association of Industrial Energy Consumers.

The TFRM is expected to be divided into two stages, the first running until the launch of target model markets, scheduled for September 17, under the same terms that applied for a mechanism that expired in March, 2019.

The TFRM’s second stage is seen running from the launch of the target model until a permanent flexibility mechanism is introduced. Its capacity is expected to be drastically reduced to 750 MW from 4,500 MW. Remuneration levels are also expected to drop.

 

ENTSO-E pledges for climate-neutral, resilient, innovative European recovery

The Green Deal represents an unprecedented energy and societal transition with a massive deployment of large-scale renewable sources, innovative low carbon technologies, deeper electrification, new electrical uses, and energy system integration. ENTSO-E welcomes the European Commission’s strategy to gear all policies towards achieving a climate-neutral, resilient and innovative EU. The European TSOs stand ready to do their part to help the green recovery.

During the COVID-19 crisis, TSOs have demonstrated their unfailing solidarity and entire commitment to deliver electricity to all EU consumers and vital services. This unprecedented crisis should not deter EU and national Governments to deliver on the Green Deal as it is core to the European economic recovery. For the green recovery to be a success, ENTSO-E recommends EU policy makers to:

1/ recognize the key-enabling role of electricity TSOs in the energy system integration. As system operators, grid planners & developers, and as market facilitators, TSOs can drive Europe’s energy ecosystem towards a “system of interconnected systems” starting with the development of a multi-sectorial approach to grid planning and anticipatory investment for both onshore and offshore networks.

2/ put electrification at the heart of EU decarbonization policies. Electricity is the dominant vector for clean energy and the electricity transmission network will play a central role in achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

3/ invest in low-carbon and fit-for-purpose infrastructures and their digital “twins”. Investing in the adequate extension of the transmission network and in the “cyber physical” power system delivers value for the whole society in terms of competitiveness, resilience and sustainability. Innovation is essential and especially in areas that will help most the transformation materialize.

4/ ensure a smooth recovery of the whole electricity value chain. The lockdown measures impacted the whole electricity sector. Risk of shortage in strategic value chains and of critical materials should be monitored and addressed. This is also about strengthening Europe’s industrial and strategic autonomy.

Investing in the transmission grid helps move the energy transition forward and concretely supports Europe’s economic recovery by generating direct and indirect revenues throughout the planning and building phase, and by reducing price differentials between regions and the overall energy costs. Policy makers’ and stakeholders’ support is needed to overcome barriers to the needed extension and upgrading of the transmission power network, notably when it comes to facilitating the permitting process.

ENTSO-E and its members are committed to put their expertise at the service of decision makers to turn the EU Green Deal into reality and believe that these recommendations will contribute to the climate-neutral, resilient and innovative recovery of the European economy.

Pumped-storage project support plan delivered to Brussels

The energy ministry has delivered to the European Commission, for approval, a special support framework proposal concerning a 680-MW pumped-storage hydroelectricity project planned by GEK TERNA in Amfilohia, western Greece.

The project has been on the EU’s list of Projects of Common Interest (PCI) since 2012, while its studies have received Juncker Plan financing.

The total budget of the project, planned to generate 816 GWh annually, is expected to exceed 500 million euros.

Pumped-storage hydroelectricity allows energy from intermittent sources, such as solar, wind and other renewables, or excess electricity from continuous base-load sources, including coal, to be saved for periods of higher demand.

Also, pumped-storage hydroelectricity is a technology that promises major  support for domestic value-added sectors as its investments concurrently create thousands of jobs, boost public revenue, tax collections and social security fund contributions, besides resolving energy issues.

Cyprus wants unchanged cost agreement for link with Crete

Though a new application submitted by EuroAsia Interconnector, a consortium of Cypriot interests, to the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility for funding support concerning an electricity grid interconnection project to link the Greek and Cypriot systems has yet to be examined or reciprocated by the European Commission, Greece and Cyprus have already begun talks on how to divide the remainder of the project’s costs not covered by the CEF.

The Cypriot side, which took the initiative for these talks, appears determined to ensure that Greece will stick to its share of the cost under the terms agreed to when the project also included the Athens-Crete link as part of a wider plan to interconnect the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli systems.

EuroAsia Interconnector head the wider Greek-Cypriot-Israeli plan. Greek power grid operator IPTO withdrew the Athens-Crete segment and is now working on it as a national project. IPTO is aiming for swifter progress on this section, urgently needed to resolve Crete’s pressing energy sufficiency issues.

Cyprus’ Regulatory Authority for Energy, RAEK, has forwarded to its Greek counterpart RAE a text presenting its cost-related views. RAEK wants to ensure that a Cross Border Cost Allocation agreement signed by the two sides late in 2017 for the Greek-Cypriot link, running from Crete to Cyprus, remains valid, despite Greece’s withdrawal of the Athens-Crete section.

According to the CBCA agreement, Cyprus will take on 63 percent of the cost of the Crete-Cyprus link and Greece will be responsible for the other 37 percent, under the condition that 50 percent of the total cost will be covered by EU funds, through the CEF.

The Crete-Cyprus interconnection is budgeted at 1.5 billion euros, meaning Greece’s share will be approximately 280 million euros.

This amount will be incorporated into IPTO’s accounts and need to be recovered through network surcharges included in consumer electricity bills, seen as a delicate matter by the Greek government.

Greek authorities have yet to respond to RAEK’s initiative as they await news from the European Commission on the CEF request.

‘Energy ministry policies crucial in effort to revitalize economy’

The energy ministry’s policies promise to play a pivotal role in the challenge faced by the government to revitalize the national economy following lockdown, energy minister Costis Hatzidakis has noted in an article featuring in GREEK ENERGY 2020, the energypress team’s latest annual publication covering the Greek energy sector.

Action is already being taken by the ministry through a decisive energy-sector agenda that aims for growth and is fully aligned with the European Green Deal, now a key economic growth tool throughout Europe, the minister notes.

New financial tools such as an EU recovery fund, worth 750 billion euros, according to a European Commission proposal, are designed to help the EU achieve its goal of transition towards a zero-emission economy through support for the gradual elimination of fossil-fuel dependence, RES growth and energy savings, the minister writes.

Greece is ready to make the most of this EU support package, effectively an additional NSRF funding program for the country promising capital worth around 32 billion euros, in order to achieve sustainable green-energy growth, according to Hatzidakis.

Besides decarbonization and RES development, other aspects incorporated into the energy ministry’s wider plan include:  electromobility growth; a third Saving at Home subsidy program for domestic energy-efficiency upgrades; reforms for greater competition, transparency and more attractive price offers in the energy market; reduced industrial energy costs; and energy-sector privatizations, the minister notes.

 

Crisis’ impact on Prinos looked at, Energean up against time

The energy ministry has turned to specialized consulting firm assistance for a detailed analysis on the pandemic’s financial impact on the Prinos offshore oil field in northern Greece, the country’s only producing field at present.

The energy ministry’s secretary-general Alexandra Sdoukou, handling the matter on behalf of the ministry, is currently holding talks on a daily basis with officials at Energean Oil & Gas, the field’s license holder.

The company wants emergency government support amid the extraordinary market conditions, energypress sources have informed.

The two sides are believed to be closely examining related data to determine the extent of the financial damage, for this project, due to the plunge in international oil prices, prompted by lower demand amid the widespread lockdown.

Energean Oil & Gas has invested 50 million euros between September, 2019 and May to keep production flowing at Prinos, an aging field, sources noted.

Sustainability is becoming a growing challenge at this venture, employing a workforce of approximately 270 employees, market authorities have noted. A cutdown in operating costs is seen as essential.

A cash injection for “Epsilon”, a fresher field in the area also licensed to Energean, could be made as a support for the company. Another option may entail financial support by the Greek State in exchange for a stake in Energean. Alternatively, state guarantees could be offered for a bank loan.

The finance ministry is also expected to become involved in the Prinos rescue effort. Much work lies ahead before any decisions can be reached. These will require European Commission approval.

Ministry preparing for Brussels demand response, TFRM approvals

Anticipating the European Commission’s approval of government proposals for a demand response mechanism and a transitory flexibility remuneration mechanism (TFRM), the energy ministry is preparing ministerial decisions for immediate signing once Brussels has given the green light.

These decisions will need to be signed by Greek officials before the two mechanisms can be implemented. The ministry is preparing the ground to have both mechanisms launched as soon as possible.

Brussels and Athens have reached an agreement on the mechanisms, prompting the energy ministry to deliver a finalized version of the demand response plan to the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition, ahead of this mechanism’s reintroduction.

The energy ministry expects power grid operator IPTO to be able to stage its first auction for demand-response capacities in July.

According to the agreement reached with Brussels, IPTO will be permitted to auction demand response capacities of up to 800 MW, below the previous limit of 1,030 MW.

Also, a greater number of participants will be eligible as enterprises with capacities of at least 2 MW will be able to take part, down from 3 MW in the previous mechanism. Troubled nickel producer Larco will not be excluded.

In addition, the new mechanism will run until September 30, 2021, not for two years as had been requested by EVIKEN, the Association of Industrial Energy Consumers.

As for the TFRM, it will remain valid until the implementation of a permanent CAT mechanism, which the energy ministry expects to launch in March, 2021.

The TFRM will be divided into two stages, the first running until the launch of target model markets, scheduled for September 17, under the same terms that applied for a mechanism that expired in March, 2019.

The TFRM’s second stage will run from the launch of the target model until a permanent flexibility mechanism is introduced. Its capacity is expected to be drastically reduced to 750 MW from 4,500 MW. Remuneration levels are also expected to drop.

Gas firms look to hydrogen for maintenance of EU funding

Natural gas distribution and trading companies around Europe, including Greece, are turning to eco-friendly hydrogen in an effort to overcome European Commission financing prohibitions, following 2021, for fossil fuel-linked pipelines and other infrastructure.

Greece’s gas grid operator DESFA and gas utility DEPA are currently seeking ways to secure financial support for projects through EU funding and the European Investment Bank.

Converting these investment plans into eco-friendly projects by turning to hydrogen, a RES-generated fuel, is one alternative.

DESFA, counting on the experience of its main shareholders, Snam, Fluxys and Enagas – the trio’s Senfluga consortium controls the operator with a 66 percent stake – is examining the prospect of transmitting hydrogen through the national gas grid, the Greek gas grid operator’s chief executive Nicola Battilana told the four-day Delphi Economic Forum, ending tomorrow.

This DESFA investment plan could be revealed as part of the operator’s next ten-year business plan, now being put together.

DEPA chief executive Kostas Xifaras also spoke of the opportunities offered by hydrogen. The Greek gas utility and its Italian partner Edison are believed to be open to the prospect of establishing partnerships with third parties for hydrogen transmission through the prospective East Med pipeline.

Hydrogen has the potential to play a key role in energy transition and climate-change objectives, noted Aristotelis Chantavas, head of Enel Green Power Hellas.

Representatives of eight EU member states, Greece, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, among them Greek deputy energy minister Gerassimos Thomas, recently stressed the significance of maintaining EU funding support for natural gas projects.

 

New EU support plan to boost energy-sector investments

The decarbonization plan, a third round of the Saving at Home subsidy program for energy efficiency upgrades at buildings, the electric vehicle market growth effort and renewable energy-hydrogen development are seen capturing the lion’s share of energy-sector funds expected to be made available to the country through a wider European Commission support package proposal entitling Greece to 32 billion euros, plus funds from the new National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) covering 2021 to 2027.

Over ten billion euros could end up being absorbed for investments in these four sub-sectors, according to enerypress sources.

The energy ministry, taking this prospective influx into account, is now shaping preliminary energy-sector plans to comprise part of a wider government plan.

An upcoming series of energy-sector privatizations are being attached to these plans as the increasing importance of energy as a growth tool promises to intensify Greek and foreign investment interest.

According to latest estimates, the amount Greece will be entitled to through the European Commission’s Just Transition Fund, designed to support regions impacted by the EU’s decarbonization policy, now stands at 1.7 billion euros. The new Brussels support package could more-than-triple this amount, according to some early estimates.

Also, the third round of the Saving at Home energy efficiency upgrade program, estimated at 350 billion euros, could now end up reaching a level of about one billion euros as a result of the new Brussels support plan.

 

Flight reconnections, geopolitics key for IPTO sale rescheduling

Rescheduling details of a privatization plan for the sale of an additional stake in power grid operator IPTO will depend on the restart of the Athens-Beijing flight route, the reestablishment of face-to-face contacts blocked by the pandemic, as well as a reduction in geopolitical tension between China and the west.

IPTO’s strategic partner State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC), holding a 24 percent stake in the Greek operator, has expressed interest to boost this share. The Chinese company maintains first-offer rights in the event of a further sale.

Skillful diplomacy will clearly be needed to overcome any EU and US objections to an increased SGCC share in IPTO. Video conferences would prove insufficient. Greek foreign ministry officials will need to make at least one trip to China for related talks.

Greek governmnent officials intend to travel to Beijing for work on various matters following the summer, sources informed energypress. Bilateral issues have accumulated during the several months of lockdown. Many cancelled meetings need to be rescheduled.

More crucially, in the lead-up, the Greek side will need to prepare for these Beijng meetings by working through related matters with officials in Brussels and Washington.

Monitoring mechanism ‘needed prior to target model markets’

A monitoring mechanism enabling RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, to protect target model electricity markets from abusive, non-competitive behavior by electricity producers, must be ready before target model markets are launched, the European Commission has stressed in its latest post-bailout report on the Greek economy.

Legislation ratified by the Greek government late in 2019 strengthened RAE’s powers by giving it authority to raid company offices and impose fines for abusive behavior.

The crucial role of the monitoring mechanism has also been pointed out in Greece’s revised National Energy and Climate Plan.

The monitoring mechanism, to collect data from power grid operator IPTO and the Greek stock exchange, will be able to identify wholesale trade irregularities.

The European Commission report projects Greece’s target model will be launched in the third quarter of this year, beyond a June 30 target date. The pandemic has negatively impacted the delivery date of a trading platform by General Electric.

Earlier this week, market officials contended that a launch of spot markets at the Greek energy exchange is not possible until September, rejecting IPTO claims of an earlier target model start within August.

Brussels recognizes EVIKEN case on excess distribution surcharges

An ongoing effort by EVIKEN, the Association of Industrial Energy Consumers, calling for natural gas distribution operators to return excess surcharges to industrial consumers has – for the first time since the case’s launch four years ago – been recognized by the European Commission and included in its latest report on the Greek economy.

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, will reach a decision imminently, within May, according to the Brussels report.

EVIKEN launched its case in June, 2016. Industrial consumers were charged excess gas distribution surcharges for a 16-month period beginning in August, 2015.

EU law was breached by legislation ratified to enable the excess surcharge, upped to 4 euros per MWh, universally, regardless of company profile. This placed major-scale industrial producers under pressure.

A decision on this overcharging case has remained pending since 2016 despite wide recognition of the violation authorities at all levels, from RAE to the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy.

RAE, over an extended period, has needed to respond to rigorous questioning from the DG-Energy on various aspects concerning the matter.

RAE is now expected to calculate the precise excess surcharge amount that needs to be returned by operators to industrial consumers through an offsetting of accounts.

“Our case may have been forgotten if it weren’t for the DG-Energy leadership’s decisive intervention that prompted RAE to overturn all the unsubstantiated legal interpretations by natural gas distribution operators,” noted Antonis Kontoleon, the head official at EVIKEN.

Pricing, distribution pending in PPC lignite access case

Despite definite progress confirmed in a latest Brussels report, Greece still needs to resolve two pending issues concerning pricing and distribution in a long-running antitrust case with the European Commission over state-controlled power utility PPC’s lignite monopoly, which Brussels demands must be opened up to third parties.

Brussels insists on the sale of tailor-made electricity packages to electricity suppliers and industrial enterprises, adjusted accordingly to meet their respective needs. Pricing details must also be worked out.

The antitrust case has dragged on over the past decade or so. The European Commission wants it closed by the end of this year.

In the lead-up, a market test needs to be staged with the participation of all interested parties, the intention being to test in practice the proposal described in the Brussels report.

The plan envisions a mechanism designed to offer PPC’s rivals access to a share of the utility’s lignite-based generation. The extent of this access will be correlated with the progress of the power utility’s decarbonization effort.

Transparent, competitive procedures, as well as lignite access to smaller-scale suppliers, must be assured, the Brussels report notes.

The Greek government and the European Commission are currently discussing the market test’s details.

 

Brussels grants Athens demand response, TFRM extensions

The European Commission has granted extensions for Greece’s demand response mechanism and transitory flexibility remuneration mechanism (TFRM), according to sources well-informed on the negotiations. They have dragged on for over seven months.

The development promises to offer energy-intensive industries and electricity producers crucial support given the period’s adverse conditions. Both mechanisms are vital for energy-cost savings.

The agreement also paves the way for the establishment of a permanent Capacity Remuneration Mechanism (CRM). The energy ministry plans to assemble a special committee comprised of various electricity market officials for work on the CRM details.

Greece’s demand response mechanism and transitory flexibility remuneration mechanism (TFRM) had both expired – the former three months ago and the latter in March, 2019.

Both mechanisms were extended by Brussels despite Greece’s pending implementation of the target model, now behind schedule.

Suppliers also given lignite access by DG-Comp agreement

The Greek government and European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition appear close to reaching an agreement that would give the country’s independent electricity suppliers access to state-controlled power utility PPC’s lignite-based production through a transitional mechanism running until 2023, when most of the utility’s lignite units are expected to cease operating.

This prospect comes hot on the heels of an agreement between Athens and Brussels enabling extensions of Greece’s demand response mechanism and transitory flexibility remuneration mechanism (TFRM).

PPC has monopolized Greece’s lignite sources and generation, but an agreement offering lignite access for all would open the door for independent suppliers as well as industry.

For quite some time, the DG-Comp has criticized PPC for not complying with a European Court decision requiring lignite access to third parties.

Settlement of the lignite dispute would leave just one pending energy-sector matter, the target model’s implementation.

Talks between Athens and Brussels on Greece’s energy sector matters have dragged on for at least seven months.

Athens and Brussels also appear to have drawn closer for an agreement on how lignite-based electricity will be priced.

Brussels concerns delay flexibility remuneration mechanism

A government proposal for a transitory flexibility remuneration mechanism (TFRM) is being delayed by European Commission concerns, holding back progress despite a legislative initiative taken by the energy ministry to hasten the approval process.

The Greek government forwarded its flexibility mechanism proposal to the European Commission in December, requesting it remains valid over a transitional period. The request has obviously prompted concerns in Brussels, as suggested by an ongoing question-and-response procedure.

Many EU member states no longer use TFRMs. Prior to the request in December, Greek officials had informed the European Commission that flexibility in the country would be remunerated through the Target Model, once it is implemented, not separately.

Approval by Brussels is needed before Greece’s energy ministry can issue a ministerial decision formalizing the transitory mechanism.

The energy ministry, in an effort to limit the overall delay, has attached a related legislative revision to a wider draft bill covering environmental matters, now headed for parliament.

Otherwise, the ministry would need to submit a separate legislative revision to parliament once Brussels has given its green light. Such a course would further delay the mechanism’s implementation.

IPTO, Ariadne roles for Crete link project clarified to avoid complications

Power grid operator IPTO, guided by consultants and legal experts, has prepared a concession agreement clarifying the roles of the operator and its subsidiary firm Ariadne Interconnection in the development of the Athens-Crete electricity grid interconnection. This is needed to avoid future complications in Brussels.

The concession agreement makes clear Ariadne Interconnection’s involvement in the venture is limited to the development stage, noting the subsidiary firm will not maintain any operational or management interests once the project is delivered to IPTO for operation.

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has warned that any managerial involvement in the project by a company such as Ariadne Interconnection, not a certified operator like its parent company, will lead to complications at the European Commission and could delay the project, to be developed as a national project, not a PCI project promising EU funds.

RAE’s concerns are made more acute by the prospect of Ariadne Interconnection’s prospective split from IPTO as part of a procedure to offer a minority stake to third parties. Ariadne Interconnection is currently a fully-owned IPTO subsidiary.

Clarification on the project roles of IPTO and Ariadne Interconnection will enable Ariadne Interconnection to seek minority shareholders.

IPTO has noted a 40 percent stake of Ariadne Interconnection will be offered to investors to help finance the project without the burden of bank loans.

State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC), IPTO’s strategic partner with a 24 percent stake, has expressed an interest to acquire a 20 percent stake in Ariadne Interconnection.

Target model schedule checked at virtual meeting today

Leading energy sector authorities and European Commission officials will stage a virtual conference today, instead of a face-to-face meeting in Athens, to examine whether Greece’s commitment to a June 30 launch of the target model and energy exchange markets – next-day, intra-day and balancing markets – can be strictly adhered to amid the extraordinary conditions prompted by the coronavirus epidemic.

Representatives of Greece’s energy ministry, the energy exchange, power grid operator IPTO and RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, will take part in today’s teleconference with European Commission officials.

All market terms have already been approved by Brussels.

Finalized decisions on various formulas to be applied, such as the proportion of production each producer will be permitted to offer through contracts, are expected by the end of April.

A May 15 deadline for a full-scale trial run of all the market’s systems has been set.

Industrial sector needs delayed demand response mechanism

The country’s energy-intensive industrial enterprises are keen to accept a solution that would also offer independent electricity suppliers access to power utility PPC’s lignite-based generation, acknowledging that delays in the government’s ongoing negotiations with the European Commission on across-the-board lignite issues will consequently delay Brussels’ approval of Greece’s request for an extension of the demand response mechanism, a key energy-saving tool for the industrial sector, and threaten the sustainability of a number of producers.

EVIKEN, the Association of Industrial Energy Consumers, recently informed the energy ministry of its position in writing.

Greece’s lignite-issue negotiations with the European Commission have dragged on for some time. Athens has received a list of new questions after responding to a dense set of previous questions.

The government’s proposal for an extension of the demand response mechanism was forwarded to Brussels late December following lengthy consultation with European Commission officials to ensure its details would be aligned with Brussels’ directives.

Even so, Greece’s industrial enterprises have been left without the support of demand response mechanism since February 7. Worse still, a new measure promising to reduce the cost, for industry, of a RES-supporting ETMEAR surcharge, has yet to be implemented.

As a result, certain industrial sectors, namely steel and cement, have slid further in terms of competitiveness while, in some cases, sustainability and job maintenance are also at stake.

Pundits believe Brussels has bundled together all of Athens’ pending energy sector issues.

Energy bill payments may fall by up to 50%, suppliers warn

Energy bill payments could plunge by as much as 50 percent, supply firm representatives have told highly-ranked energy ministry officials during a teleconference yesterday, the second in a few days.

The session, headed by the energy ministry’s deputy Gerassimos Thomas and secretary-general Alexandra Sdoukou, was staged to address details of a new mechanism plan promising State guarantees to banks so that they, in turn, can offer loans with favorable terms to energy supply firms.

Energy suppliers, heavily impacted by the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, expressed concerns about the currently adverse market conditions and ongoing deterioration.

The government’s intervention will aim to prevent a knock-on effect in the market and ensure shareholders of listed firms that a safety net does exist.

The administration plans to legislate its plan for a support mechanism once it has been approved by the European Commission, the two ministry officials told the teleconference participants.

Brussels ‘attaching unresolved market issues to target model’

Greece’s unresolved energy market issues, including demand response and flexibility mechanism requests, appear to have been bundled up into one package by the European Commission as it waits to see if the country will honor its commitment to launch the target model this summer, sources believe.

Brussels has held back on approving a demand response mechanism extension request and CATs rewarding flexibility. Sources believe the European Commission will maintain delay tactics, through ongoing correspondence, until the summer.

The Greek government forwarded a request for a demand response mechanism extension of two years in late December before presenting the plan in Brussels the following month.

The presentation prompted an extended period of correspondence between the two sides that ended up requiring Greece’s energy ministry to respond to a lengthy list of questions. The ministry’s responses to these questions were forwarded two weeks ago. Athens is now awaiting news from the European Commission.

New lignite access proposal offered ahead of Brussels talks

Electricity suppliers could be granted access to power utility PPC’s lignite-related electricity production until 2023, when all the utility’s existing lignite units are scheduled to have been withdrawn, according to a new proposal forwarded by Greek authorities to the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition, energypress sources have informed.

The energy ministry delivered this transitional mechanism proposal to Brussels last week after a previous plan appears to have been blocked.

The initial proposal, delivered last December, called for the formation of an SPV by the country’s energy-intensive industrial enterprises to be supplied satisfactory electricity amounts from PPC’s lignite-fired power stations.

However, this proposal appears to have been rejected by Brussels as it focused entirely on industry and excluded retail suppliers, seen as a breach of competition rules because it would not help further open up Greece’s electricity market.

The new Greek proposal is expected to serve as the basis of a new round of talks with the European Commission, scheduled to begin around mid-March. It remains unclear if the new proposal stands a chance of being approved by Brussels competition authorities.

Brussels officials, for quite some time now, have made note of Greece’s failure to comply with a European Court ruling on lignite access for third parties, directly linking this shortcoming with the country’s commitment to a retail electricity market share contraction target at state-controlled PPC to a level of less than 50 percent this year.

The European Commission wants alternative measures implemented between now and 2023 as a result of Greece’s failure to sell PPC lignite units and unilateral termination of NOME auctions.

Lignite end’s socioeconomic hurdles stressed in EC report

Greece will face socioeconomic challenges as a result of the government’s decision to gradually shut down the country’s lignite units in the northern region of west Macedonia and Megolopoli, in the Peloponnese, for a climate-neutral economy by 2050, the European Commission has noted in a report delivered as an addition to its post-bailout report on the Greek economy.

Some 27,000 jobs could be lost in both areas, according to the report, delivered as an additional chapter intended to serve as basis for talks between Brussels and Athens on Greece’s transition towards a lignite-free era.

The two sides are already negotiating funding details from the Just Transition Fund, expected to financially support a new growth plan for west Macedonia and Megolopoli between 2021 and 2027.

Also, the Greek government has assembled an interministerial committee tasked with shaping a post-lignite plan for the west Macedonia and Megolopoli areas, both lignite-dependent local economies. The committee will deliver a plan by June, according to the energy ministry.

In its latest report, Brussels highlights the significance of lignite for the local economy and community of west Macedonia, whose population numbers 280,000, especially Kozani, representing more than half this figure with a population of 150,000.

“The [country’s] biggest mines and most lignite-fired power stations are located in this area. Lignite-based electricity generation is its most significant economic sector, representing over one-third of the area’s GDP,” the report notes.

An estimated 5,500 jobs at the lignite mines and power stations are directly threatened, while a further 20,000 jobs are indirectly threatened, the report’s authors added.

The west Macedonia region is already burdened by one of the highest unemployment rates (31% according to 2016 data) of all the EU’s lignite areas, the report notes. The region’s GDP per capita fell from 86 percent to 59 percent of the EU average between 2009 and 2017, it adds.

Over 100,000 residents are linked to telethermal systems for lignite power station-based domestic heating, the report also highlights. The replacement of lignite units in the area is one of the challenges that must be dealth with, it adds.

As for Megalopoli, the lignite sector is by far the most significant economic activity in this Peloponnesian region of 6,000 residents, the report notes. Some 1,600 jobs are at risk of being lost here, it adds, which takes the overall tally of jobs on the line, including in west Macedonia, to just over 27,000.