Brussels insists on PPC sale of lignite power packages to rivals

Power utility PPC must soon start offering rival suppliers portions of its lignite-based electricity production, as specified in an antitrust agreement, despite subdued interest by possible buyers expressed in a February market test, the European Commission insists.

The subject, which has remained stagnant for months following slow development over the past 13 years or so – ever since legal action was taken against PPC in 2008 over its lignite monopoly – will be one of the topics to be discussed at a meeting today between energy minister Kostas Skrekas and the European Commission’s Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, also Brussel’s Commissioner for Competition.

Given Brussels’ insistence, the energy ministry has devoted considerable time over the past few weeks to shape a lignite electricity sale plan, based on a January agreement between the minister and the country’s creditor institutions, that could finally settle the dispute.

The January agreement calls for the sale of energy packages, either quarterly or annually, representing, in 2021, 50 percent of the previous year’s lignite-based production.

The percentage of PPC’s lignite-based electricity quantities to be offered to rival suppliers in 2022 and 2023 should be reduced to 40 percent of the previous year’s output, according to the agreement.

These amounts are seen as insufficient to make any real impact on the retail electricity market’s standings.

Other issues to be discussed at today’s meeting between Skrekas and Vestager include Brussels’ support for a grid back-up model as part of a wider Capacity Remuneration Mechanism (CRM). Athens favors a separate Strategic Reserve Mechanism to remunerate units that are made available by electricity producers for grid back-up services.

Skrekas is also striving to establish a mechanism that would subsidize RES producers for power purchase agreements (PPAs) with energy-intensive industrial enterprises.

Energy storage subsidy program in 1Q next year

A competitive procedure to offer 200 million euros in subsidies for energy storage projects is planned to take place in the first quarter of 2022, energy minister Kostas Skrekas has told the 6th Delphi Economic Forum, making clear the ministry’s determination to utilize as swiftly as possible funds being made available for energy storage through the national recovery plan, dubbed Greece 2.0.

In the lead-up, the energy ministry intends to invite investors interested in participating in the procedure to submit investment plans in autumn.

The procedure will be based on a related framework, describing the conditions and terms, to require the European Commission’s approval.

The subsidy program will financially support energy storage installations to offer capacity totaling hundreds of MW, the minister told the forum.

The Greece 2.0 national recovery plan, to carry funds expected to be worth a total of 450 million euros, will also be used to support the development of pumped storage stations.

Investors have expressed tremendous interest in the development of energy storage units. RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has received a large number of production license applications for various RES technology units.

Since 2019, RAE has received a total of 98 applications for energy storage units, pumped storage facilities and hybrid stations, representing a total of 8,213 MW, which, along with a prospective pumped storage station set for development by Terna Energy in Amfilohia, northwestern Greece, will reach 8,893 MW.

To date, RAE has granted licenses for the majority of these applications, while 34, representing 4,519 MW, still need to be processed.

 

DESFA’s Alexandroupoli FSRU entry on Vestager agenda

The European Commission’s pending approval of gas grid operator DESFA’s acquisition of a 20 percent stake in Gastrade, the company established by the Copelouzos group for the development and operation of the Alexandroupoli FSRU, a floating LNG terminal planned for Greece’s northeast, is expected to be on the agenda of an Athens meeting this Thursday between energy minister Kostas Skrekas and the European Commission’s Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, also Brussel’s Commissioner for Competition.

The Greek government considers the Alexandroupoli FSRU to be a pivotal energy supply source for Greece and the EU.

Gastrade’s other participants are awaiting Brussels’ approval of the DESFA entry so that they can go ahead with an investment decision and commence its development.

European Commission approval of DESFA’s participation in the Alexandroupoli FSRU is necessary as the company is the operator of Greece’s gas grid and, by acquiring a 20 percent of Gastrade, would also gain entry into an independent gas system.

The DG Comp’s endorsement of the DESFA entry is seen as a formality following Brussels’ recent approval of the entry of Bulgaria’s Bulgartransgaz as a fourth member of the Gastrade consortium, also with a 20 percent stake.

Brussels favors uniting Strategic Reserve Mechanism, CRM

The European Commission is supporting the incorporation of a grid back-up model as part of a wider Capacity Remuneration Mechanism (CRM), energypress sources have informed.

A Greek government proposal for a separate Strategic Reserve Mechanism remunerating units made available by electricity producers for grid back-up services – an idea that has been backed by the energy ministry for quite some time now – does not appear likely to be approved by the European Commission, latest online talks between technocrats in Athens and Brussels have indicated.

Under the Strategic Reserve Mechanism, power utility PPC and all other electricity producers opting to withdraw units from the market for back-up services, would be remunerated for sidelining these units for periods determined by IPTO, the power grid operator.

Instead, the European Commission has tabled a proposal for the establishment of a single system that would include both a Capacity Remuneration Mechanism and a Strategic Reserve Mechanism, as two distinct components, respectively remunerating units active in the market and those maintained as reserves and used only when IPTO requires their services.

Athens and Brussels technocrats are holding these mechanism talks ahead of a forthcoming visit to Athens by the European Commission’s Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, also Brussel’s Commissioner for Competition, scheduled for May 13.

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.

 

Mechanisms, competition on Vestager agenda, here May 13

Energy minister Kostas Skrekas intends to present his case for the introduction of five support mechanisms encouraging energy-sector investments in Greece’s ongoing transition towards carbon neutrality to the European Commission’s Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, also Brussel’s Commissioner for Competition, on the occasion of the official’s upcoming visit to Athens, scheduled for May 13.

Vestager will be in the Greek capital with an agenda featuring two pending competition issues concerning state-controlled power utility PPC.

Greece has faced charges for PPC’s monopoly of the country’s lignite sources but an agreement was reached to end the case by introducing a mechanism offering the power utility’s rivals access to lignite-generated electricity.

A market test for this mechanism was completed some time ago but failed to attract any real interest from rival suppliers.

The percentage of lignite-based electricity made available by PPC, initially set at 50 percent of total lignite-fired output and then lowered to 40 percent, is viewed, by third parties, as too small for any real gains.

The second PPC-related matter to be discussed during Vestager’s visit concerns a recently initiated investigation by Brussels seeking to determine whether the power utility has engaged in activities impeding market competition.

Private-sector investors are pushing for a capacity remuneration mechanism (CRM) in order to go ahead with the development of natural gas-fueled power stations, needed as Greece heads towards a post-lignite era. Skrekas, the energy minister, has repeatedly said a CRM will be launched in June.

The minister also supports a strategic reserve mechanism to compensate PPC’s lignite-fired power stations, still needed for back-up services but nowadays loss-incurring as a result of higher CO2 emission right costs.

In addition, the government is seeking compensation for the premature closure of PPC’s lignite-fired power stations and related mines, being phased out until 2023.

The minister also supports a support framework for hybrid units on non-interconnected islands combining RES electricity generation and energy storage.

Skrekas is also striving to establish a mechanism that would subsidize RES producers for power purchase agreements (PPAs) with energy-intensive industrial enterprises as well as suppliers selling to major-scale consumers.

 

Greek enterprises face April 27 date for hydrogen project proposals

Leading Greek energy players are gearing up to participate in a European Commission effort concerning the development of the continent’s first major investments in eco-friendly hydrogen production, a key aspect in Brussels’ decarbonization drive.

Interested parties face an April 27 deadline to submit proposals concerning a number of categories, including PCI-supported sustainable low-emission hydrogen production, the emphasis placed on RES-generated hydrogen.

The White Dragon project, as it has been dubbed, has brought Greece’s biggest industrial corporations closer, as they prepare to jointly bid for project categories Brussels will subsidize in the context of the Hydrogen Europe program.

The White Dragon project provides for investments of 2.5 billion euros in electrolytic hydrogen production by means of solar energy from photovoltaic parks with a capacity of 1.5 GW. They are planned for northern Greece’s west Macedonia region, a lignite-dependent economy.

Gas utility DEPA, gas grid operator DESFA, petroleum group Motor Oil, the Mytilineos group, Terna, Hellenic Petroleum ELPE, Polish company Solaris, as well as the Demokritos National Center for Scientific Research and the Center for Research and Technology Hellas (CERTH) are taking part.

The hydrogen to be produced will be used for district heating, fuel to be exported via the Trans Adriatic Pipeline, and as fuel for large vehicles such as lorries and buses.

 

Transitional plan for Cretan small-scale link sent to Brussels

Technical and other preparations are now being made to enable Crete’s imminent small-scale power grid interconnection, to the Peloponnese, to cover, for the time being, approximately 30 percent of the island’s electricity needs.

The energy ministry has forwarded to the European Commission its proposal for a transitional model concerning Crete’s participation in the target model’s new wholesale markets.

Also, the energy ministry has prepared a draft bill needed for the transfer, to power grid operator IPTO, of distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO’s assets on Crete. This will enable IPTO to assume responsibility for the island’s small-scale interconnection.

Normally, when grid links for non-interconnected islands are carried out, IPTO takes on the responsibility of their electricity networks. However, Crete, Greece’s biggest and most populous island, represents a much bigger interconnection project that is being developed over two stages. The project’s second stage, to reach Athens, is anticipated in 2023.

The transitional plan, shaped with the assistance of consultant Reed Smith, includes the sale, by power utility PPC, DEDDIE/HEDNO’s parent company, to IPTO, of a 150-kV transmission line on Crete, running from Hania to Lasithi, based on decisions reached by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, concerning management of Crete’s grid for the island’s small-scale interconnection.

The transitional model, to expire once the island’s full-scale interconnection has been completed, will allow Crete to purchase electricity transmitted through the small-scale interconnection at the target model’s new wholesale markets.

EastMed alliance broadens, eight countries express support

Support for the EastMed pipeline, planned to transport natural gas from offshore Levantine Basin gas reserves in the southeast Mediterranean to Greece and further into Europe, is growing in numbers with an initial Greek-Israeli-Cypriot alliance promoting this project now joined by five additional partners, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Serbia and North Macedonia.

Energy ministers representing these eight countries forwarded a letter of support for the EastMed project to the European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson late last week, Greece’s energy and environment minister Kostas Skrekas has told local media.

The pipeline, to be developed by IGI Poseidon SA, a 50-50% joint venture between Greek gas utility DEPA and Italian gas utility Edison, is planned to cover a 1,470-km distance.

IGI Poseidon plans to develop EastMed all the way to Italy via Cyprus, Crete, the Peloponnese, mainland Greece and Epirus, the country’s northwestern flank.

This latest move, bringing the eight energy ministers together for the joint letter, was initiated by Skrekas, Greece’s energy minister, sources informed, following an initiative taken two months earlier by his Israeli counterpart Yuval Steinitz to organize a joint virtual conference involving ministers of all eight countries.

In their letter to Simson, the EU energy commissioner, the eight ministers highlight the importance of EastMed, noting the project promises to contribute to the wider region’s energy security and offer benefits to consumers as a result of increased competition and reduced natural gas price levels.

Regional gas interconnections, including the Greek-Bulgarian IGB, Bulgarian-Serbian IBS, Bulgarian-Romanian IBR and the Romanian-Hungarian IRH would be utilized to extend EastMed’s reach, the letter notes.

Greece and North Macedonia are currently planning a new gas pipeline interconnection whose Greek segment is being promoted by gas grid operator DESFA.

IPTO seeking active role in Cyprus, Israel, Egypt grid interconnections

Power grid operator IPTO is seeking an active role in the grid interconnections to link Greece with Cyprus and Israel, as well as Egypt, the company’s chief executive Manos Manousakis told yesterday’s Power and Gas Supply Forum, an online event staged by energypress.

Responding to questions as to whether IPTO is considering to acquire an equity stake in these projects, Manousakis noted that the operator’s role is to ensure the interoperability of the Athens-Crete and Crete-Cyprus power grid interconnections, a commitment made by the Greek government back in October, 2019.

The European Commission, engaged in ongoing exchange with IPTO in an effort to understand the level of maturity of these grid interconnection projects and, primarily, the interoperability of its systems, has mentioned that Brussels would be interested in the equity involvement of a European TSO, Manousakis informed.

Other priorities at IPTO include upgrading and expanding Greece’s grid interconnections with neighboring countries, which would boost cash flow in the domestic energy market through electricity exports, the chief executive noted.

A tender for the development of the local segment of a second transboundary grid interconnection linking Greece and Bulgaria, from Nea Santa, northeastern Greece, to Bulgaria’s Maritsa area in the south, will be completed this year, Manousakis informed.

New interconnections with Albania and North Macedonia are also being examined at present, he noted.

In addition, IPTO is close to signing a cooperation agreement with Italian operator TERNA for the development of a second Greek-Italian grid interconnection.

Furthermore, plans for an upgrade of the Greek-Turkish interconnection, a project linking the European and Turkish transmission systems, are also maturing, the IPTO chief informed.

 

 

Crete-Athens grid link omitted from Greek RRF proposal

A grid interconnection to link Crete with Athens has been omitted from a national plan containing 112 projects for which financial support will be sought through the European Commission’s Recovery and Resilience Facility.

It was the energy sector’s only surprise omission from the government’s plan for RRF support, to be submitted to Greek Parliament within the next few days for ratification before being forwarded to the European Commission.

Even so, progress of the Crete-Athens grid interconnection project, vital for Crete’s energy sufficiency without reliance on high-cost local power stations, will not be affected by the decision as a number of other financing options remain available, authorities have stressed.

These include the National Strategic Reference Framework and the Just Transition Fund.

The national RRF plan was discussed at a cabinet meeting yesterday ahead of its presentation, planned for tomorrow.

A proposal for a 200 million-euro injection into the RES special account, facing deficit territory, has been included in the national plan.

Other key features of the plans are: the country’s energy efficiency upgrade program for homes, businesses and public buildings; the decarbonization plan; installation of smart meters; upgrade and undergrounding of transmission lines; as well as development of electric vehicle recharging infrastructure.

Energean Prinos field support to include State participation

A financial support plan for upstream company Energean’s Prinos field, south of Kavala, just announced by the European Commission, will be comprised of a state-guaranteed commercial loan of 90.5 million euros for the group’s domestic subsidiary, plus a supplementary loan of 9.5 million euros from the Greek State. Greek Parliament still needs to approve the plan.

As part of the plan, the Greek State will appoint a representative to the Board of Directors of the company to monitor the utilization of this financing.

Also, the financial support terms for Energean’s Prinos field, under pressure in recent years as a result of deteriorated market conditions, include a series of key guarantees for the Greek State.

Besides Energean’s bank loan, to be repaid, with interest, to the participating bank, the company’s domestic subsidiary will also need to pay related fees to the Greek State for the latter’s provision of the loan guarantee enabling the company to borrow.

The financial support will be provided until December 31, 2021, will be used to cover Energean’s investment and working capital needs over the next 12 months, and will have a maximum duration of 8 years, according to the terms.

According to Energean sources, activities at the Prinos field in 2019 and 2020 resulted in losses totaling 120 million euros. Despite an improvement in oil prices, a lack of finances for investment has led to a further reduction in output at Prinos, which is expected to lead to a further loss this year, estimated at 40 million euros.

The financing support plan will ensure the completion of development at the Epsilon deposit, which Energean considers essential to ensure ongoing operations of Prinos, along with the implementation of administrative and organizational restructuring planned by the company with the aim of reducing operating costs and moving ahead with a series of new projects.

PPC compensation mechanism, market test talks at crucial stage

The European Commission is expected to show its cards next week on Greece’s quest for lignite compensation mechanisms supporting power utility PPC and the results of a market test concerning the utility’s availability of lignite-produced electricity to third parties.

These issues are expected to be discussed in detail by energy ministry and Directorate-General for Competition officials during a virtual meeting next week, following correspondence as well as a virtual meeting, on March 8, between energy minister Kostas Skrekas and the European Commission’s Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, also Brussel’s Commissioner for Competition.

State-controlled PPC has requested a strategic reserve mechanism for its lignite-fired power stations, still needed but nowadays loss-incurring as a result of higher CO2 emission right costs, as well as compensation for its premature closures of these units, currently being phased out until 2023.

All still appears to be vague on PPC’s market test for third-party access to its lignite-based electricity. The test was completed some time ago, failing to attract any real interest from rival suppliers.

The percentage of lignite-based electricity made available by PPC, initially set at 50 percent of total lignite-fired output and then lowered to 40 percent, is viewed, by third parties, as too small for any real gains.  Brussels has yet to comment on the market test’s result.

 

Brussels reiterates call for single energy, water authority

The European Commission has reiterated, in latest contact with the energy and environment ministry, a recommendation for the establishment of a single Regulatory Authority for Energy and Water as an independent monitoring body with a broadened task range, including regulation of rules for investments, management and pricing of water, especially drinking water, energypress sources have informed.

This time around, the recommendations by Brussels come as part of a strategy promoting the development of a circular economy and sustainable growth.

The European Commission was prompted to readdress the issue as it believes the existence of 120 or so municipal water supply and sewerage companies around the country – each applying their own and inexplicable, to a certain extent, pricing policies – does not contribute to rational water management.

Single regulatory authorities supervising the energy and water sectors have already been established in many EU member states, including neighboring Italy.

This country’s initiative was discussed, among other topics, at a meeting yesterday between energy minister Kostas Skrekas and Italy’s Ambassador to Greece, Patrizia Falcinelli, sources noted.

The establishment, in Italy, of a single regulatory authority for energy, water and wastewater has led to impressive social and economic benefits, the Italian diplomat is believed to have informed the Greek minister during their meeting.

The energy ministry is reportedly working on a plan designed to broaden the tasks of RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, sources informed, stressing finalized decisions had yet to be taken.

Energean upbeat on support prospects for Prinos, 4-year extension granted

Upstream company Energean has received promising feedback from the finance and energy ministries in its effort to secure an EU support package to protect the sustainability of its offshore Prinos field, the country’s only producing unit, in the North Aegean.

The government has relayed that it is cautiously optimistic of a favorable outcome in its support-package application submitted to the European Commission.

Brussels appears to be concluding its exchange with Greek government officials handling the issue and could soon offer its approval, sources informed.

The effort has lasted nearly nine months from the time Greek government officials submitted a support request accompanied by Energean’s Prinos business plan, worth nearly 75 million euros.

The time taken in Brussels has been attributed to this essentially being the EU’s sole case concerning a support request in the hydrocarbon exploration sector.

Meanwhile, EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, has granted Energean Oil & Gas, a member of the Energean Group, a four-year extension, until March 19, 2025, for exploration activities aiming to identify new fields in the Prinos and South Kavala areas, following a request submitted by the company.

European CEO Alliance backs ambitious climate strategy

100 billion euros of investment to decarbonize their companies by 2030, a gradual introduction of a cross-sector CO2 price and ambitious phase-out dates for coal: These are some of the key points of ten top managers from the energy, transport and technology industries issued in a joint position paper. Thereby, the leading European CEOs are calling for far-reaching climate protection measures at the occasion of the seventh international climate strike on Friday, March 19, 2021.

The ten business leaders Björn Rosengren (ABB), Thierry Vanlancker (AkzoNobel), Francesco Starace (ENEL), Leonhard Birnbaum (E.ON), Ignacio Galán (Iberdrola), Søren Skou (Maersk), Christian Klein (SAP), Henrik Henriksson (Scania), Jean-Pascale Tricoire (Schneider Electric) and Herbert Diess (Volkswagen) are members of the “CEO Alliance for Europe’s Recovery, Reform and Resilience”.

This CEO Alliance formed in 2020 against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic and the historic decisions on the European Green Deal. Their common goal is to make the EU the world’s leading region for climate protection while unlocking investments, driving innovations in tomorrow’s technologies and creating future-proof jobs.

The top managers published a joint position paper with ambitious proposals. They state: “We firmly believe that the EU Green Deal and Next Generation EU will put Europe’s innovation and business ingenuity to the service of the global climate cause, will kick-start a wave of investments into sustainability and resilience and will create future-proof jobs across the EU.”

The CEOs encourage European policy makers to take bold steps towards climate neutrality such as “continuing to pursue a standardized cross-sector CO2 price” and “setting end-dates for carbon-intense technologies”.

The CEO Alliance considers itself an “Action Tank”, working together in concrete joint projects: Cross-EU charging infrastructure for heavy duty transport, integration of EU Power systems, digital carbon footprint tracking, sustainable healthy buildings, e-buses for Europe, green hydrogen value chain and rapid build-up of battery production.

The aspiration of the top managers is to work with their companies across sectors to find practical solutions for effective climate protection. In doing so, they strive for an ongoing constructive dialogue with the EU Commission. In a digital meeting just days ago, the Executive Vice President of the Commission Frans Timmermans and the CEOs discussed the progress on the implementation of the Green Deal and the interim status of the Alliance’s joint projects.

Executive Vice-President Timmermans stated: “Making Europe climate neutral by 2050 is a huge challenge. The European Commission will propose legislation to put sectors like transport and energy on the right track. Our long term plan includes investment in charging infrastructure, battery production, renovation and renewable energy production. The NextGeneration EU recovery fund will help make this possible. Our goal is not any transition, it’s a just and fair transition, leaving no one behind. I welcome the CEO Alliance’s commitment to Europe’s green recovery and share their conviction that their companies have what it takes to build a sustainable future.”

 

 

 

 

 

Ministry seeks recovery fund aid for west Macedonia gas pipeline

Development of a high-pressure gas pipeline in west Macedonia, in the country’s north, which would enable the country’s gas grid to be extended to the area, is among the energy ministry’s proposals for EU recovery fund inclusion.

Though still too early to tell if this project will become eligible for financial support through this fund, it should be pointed out that the European Commission is generally hesitant about backing natural gas-related projects.

The project’s inclusion, or not, in a national recovery and resilience plan being prepared by a special energy-ministry committee, currently filtering proposals by this ministry and other ministries, stands as a crucial test that could determine whether the west Macedonia gas pipeline project will become eligible for EU recovery fund support.

A national plan’s finalized list is expected within the next few days before it is forwarded, by early April, to the European Commission, whose approval will be needed.

The energy ministry is also seeking 300 million euros through the recovery fund for the redevelopment of the power utility PPC’s mining areas in west Macedonia, a lignite-dependent economy.

Regardless of whether the west Macedonia high-pressure gas pipeline plan will qualify for EU recovery fund support, gas grid operator DESFA appears determined to move ahead with the project, budgeted at 110 million euros and constituting part of the country’s decarbonization strategy.

The new National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) could serve as an alternative financing source, while DESFA will also consider company cash reserves and a bank loan if necessary.

 

DG Comp motives for restart of older PPC probe unclear

The European Commission has brought back to the fore a Directorate-General for Competition investigation of power utility PPC and power grid operator DEDDIE/HEDNO over market dominance abuse, despite major market changes that have taken place since 2017, when the probe began.

The direction the investigation’s restart remains unknown. Negotiations between Greece and Brussels for new mechanisms being negotiated could be impacted, some pundits suspect.

Also, the government and state-controlled PPC are currently seeking compensation for the power utility’s need to keep lignite-fired power stations and related mines operational for grid sufficiency needs.

No findings of the investigation’s first round have been released. The probe included raids by DG Comp officials, both local and Brussels-based, of the PPC and IPTO headquarters in Athens that lasted several hours, resulting in confiscations of USB flash drives, documents and hard drives.

PPC’s then-administration, in an announcement at the time, informed that the raid concerned a check on the utility’s “supposed” abuse of market dominance in the wholesale market for electrical energy produced from 2010 onwards.

Prior to the investigation, Brussels suspected levels of the wholesale electricity price – known as the System Marginal Price (SMP), at the time – were being manipulated by PPC through its lignite and hydropower facilities.

In 2017, PPC held an 87 percent share of the retail electricity market and 57 percent of overall electricity generation, now down to approximately 67 and 39 percent, respectively.

Four years ago, PPC’s lignite facilities still dominated the corporation’s portfolio and the energy exchange and new target model wholesale markets did not exist.

The current market setting bears little resemblance to back then. Lignite has regressed into an unwanted, loss-incurring energy source that is being phased out by PPC until 2023, while the energy market is undergoing drastic transformation, as was acknowledged by the European Commission Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, also Brussels’ Commissioner for Competition, in an announcement yesterday.

 

Recovery fund subsidies worth €400m for energy storage units

The energy ministry plans to allot 400 million euros of EU recovery fund money to the development of central electrical energy storage units. A related proposal by the ministry is headed for inclusion into the national recovery plan.

The aforementioned sum will be used to subsidize energy storage projects and will be made available to investors through a mechanism whose details are still being negotiated by government and European Commission officials.

Once the mechanism has taken final shape it will be forwarded to Brussels’ Directorate-General for Competition and Directorate-General for Energy for approval from both, necessary ahead of its implementation.

Though further details on the prospective support mechanism remain unknown, its subsidies are expected to be offered through a competitive procedure promoting selected projects.

At this point, developments have indicated both central energy storage technologies – pumped hydroelectric energy storage and accumulators (battery units) – will be eligible for subsidy support.

A study on central energy storage conducted by the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) for RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has shown that a combination of these two technologies is the optimal solution, as each covers different needs.

Crete’s small-scale grid link headed for April completion

A second subsea cable needed for the grid interconnection to link Crete and the Peloponnese has been installed, with just a trial run by power grid operator IPTO now required for the completion and launch of the project, to cover approximately 30 percent of the island’s electricity transmission needs.

IPTO is aiming to conduct its trial run by the end of April. The Cretan interconnection project will eventually be complemented by a larger-scale link to Athens.

A trial run of the Crete-Peloponnese project’s first subsea cable has already been completed with success.

Despite various obstacles raised by the pandemic, work on this project has progressed swiftly, promising to soon end Crete’s energy isolation.

A variety of records have been set along the way. The Crete-Peloponnese subsea link, covering a 174km distance, is now the world’s longest subsea AC power connection, as well as the longest underwater high-voltage cable connection. Reaching up to 1,000 meters in depth, this subsea installation is also the world’s deepest high-voltage link.

A transitional hybrid model for Crete’s participation in target model energy markets – covering production and consumption and to be applied until the island’s full-scale grid interconnection to Athens is completed – is expected to be approved by the European Commission’s Directorate for Energy. The hybrid model’s regulatory framework is now ready and will soon be delivered to Brussels by the energy ministry.

EC examining compensation bid for PPC lignite closures

The government, determined to ensure compensation for state-controlled power utility PPC over its decision to prematurely close down its lignite-fired power stations, is seeking a solution through the European framework of options, an energy ministry announcement has informed.

The Greek State has submitted a compensation request to cover extraordinary costs related to the premature closure of four PPC lignite mines and lignite fired power stations, the ministry’s announcement noted.

European Commission Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, also Brussels’ Commissioner for Competition, has informed that the Commission views favorably the Greek initiative for a premature closure of these lignite facilities and is now examining the legal grounds of the compensation request, the energy ministry’s announcement added.

The Greek government wants compensation for PPC as the utility’s outgoing units have potential for a longer life, meaning PPC is being deprived of further earnings through these facilities.

A successful Greek compensation bid could also help cover extraordinary costs linked to the restructuring of lignite-dependent local economies.

The energy ministry is basing Greece’s compensation bid on a recent European Commission decision approving 52.5 million euros for the Netherlands as compensation for the premature closure of its Hemweg coal-fired power station.

The Netherlands has implemented law forbidding the use of coal for electricity generation beyond January 1, 2030.

IPTO study backing PPC lignite compensation bid soon to EC

The energy ministry is preparing to forward to the European Commission a power grid operator IPTO study that underlines the ongoing necessity of the country’s lignite-fired power stations for grid sufficiency.

The IPTO study was requested by energy minister Kostas Skrekas to bolster a compensation request submitted to Brussels by state-controlled power utility PPC as a result of the grid’s ongoing need for lignite units, nowadays loss-incurring facilities due to elevated CO2 emission right costs.

PPC, Greece’s sole operator of lignite units, plans to phase out its lignite units over the next three years as part of the country’s decarbonization strategy.

The energy ministry expects to forward the IPTO study to the European Commission within the next fortnight. Greece is seeking compensation for PPC through a support mechanism for as long as these lignite units remain in use.

Last week, the European Commission began examining whether a similar German compensation request complies with EU rules and should be approved.

European Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager suggested that the German plan theoretically complies with Europe’s green energy agreement and its goals.

“Within this context, our role is to safeguard competition by ensuring that compensation for premature withdrawal [of lignite units] is kept to a minimum,” Vestager commented. “The information available at this point is not sufficient to judge.”

EU hesitation to the German plan concerns a number of aspects, including the duration of the compensation period.

PPC seeks IPTO support for EC lignite compensation request

Power utility PPC wants power grid operator IPTO to provide a statement declaring whether the power utility’s lignite-fired power stations, nowadays loss-incurring units as a result of elevated carbon emission right costs, are still necessary for the achievement of grid sufficiency, the utility’s objective being to gain support for a lignite compensation request submitted to the European Commission, not to immediately shut down its lignite units, sources have informed.

Brussels has been examining the PPC compensation request for months, initially as part of a package incorporating the European Commission’s lignite antitrust case against Greece, and more recently, following settlement of the latter, as a separate issue that has dragged on.

Throughout the entire period, officials in Greece have needed to respond to extensive Brussels questioning over PPC’s compensation request. Most recently, the European Commission is reported to have informed PPC, by email, that it would deliver a decision as soon as possible, once all information has been processed.

PPC, in its letter to IPTO, informs that it would be prepared to shut down the lignite units now if the operator considers them unnecessary for grid sufficiency as they are the cause of losses on a daily basis.

The power utility has planned a phaseout of its lignite facilities over the next three years, as part of the country’s decarbonization effort.

IPTO, in a grid-sufficiency study covering 2020 to 2030, conducted within the framework of the National Energy and Climate Plan, has stressed the period between 2021 and 2024 will be crucial as a result of PPC’s planned phaseout of lignite-fired power stations.

Subsequently, the grid’s sufficiency will depend on how soon three new gas-fueled power stations with a capacity totaling 2,150 MW – PPC’s Ptolemaida V, and units being developed by Mytilineos and TERNA – will be ready for launch, IPTO’s NECP-linked study noted.

Barriers, restrictions affecting power, gas market liberalization

Greece’s retail electricity and gas markets are moving towards full liberalization, but, in the course, needing to overcome major barriers and restrictions, a European Commission report for 2020 has highlighted.

Despite the progress made, obstacles in four key areas continue to obstruct the entry of new players in the country’s electricity and gas markets, the report noted.

Disincentives of regulatory nature, market inequalities, entrepreneurial and procedural barriers, as well as customer inaction were identified as the four key areas that need to be dealt with if full liberalization of the electricity and gas markets is to be achieved, the report found.

On the regulatory front, proposals offered by the European Commission focus on the need for a consistent framework offering long-term stability and security for market players.

Market surveillance and monitoring by authorities needs to be effective and accurate to prevent unfair competition behavior by market players, it added.

On market entry, the report recommends actions that would enhance the procedure’s reliability and uniformity.

As for customer immobility, signifying a market still not fully mature, the European Commission report proposes the provision of improved information to customers before supply agreements are signed, greater transparency, better price-comparing ability, as well as mechanisms protecting consumers against unprincipled actions by suppliers.

Weather effects lend credibility to PPC lignite compensation bid

The impact of last week’s heavy snowfall around Greece, prompting power outages in various areas, northern parts of Athens being hardest hit, has added credibility to state-controlled power utility PPC’s compensation bid to the European Commission for its need to keep using lignite-fired power stations.

Had IPTO, the power grid operator, not ordered the grid entry of PPC’s lignite-fired power stations, nowadays a high-cost option, widespread blackouts amid the adverse weather conditions would have been inevitable, making matters far worse, including at economic and political levels.

IPTO officials have stressed the country continues to need PPC’s lignite-fired power stations until their production capacity is gradually replaced by cleaner gas-fueled power stations. These are: PPC’s Ptolemaida V; a unit being developed by the Mytilineos Group in Viotia, northwest of Athens; and Terna’s prospective unit in Komotini, northeastern Greece, still at the planning stage.

The period between 2021 and 2024 will be crucial for the country’s power generating sufficiency as a result of the planned withdrawal of existing lignite-fired power stations, a related IPTO study has shown. The system’s sufficiency will depend on how swiftly the aforementioned gas-fueled power stations, totaling 2,150 MW, can be up and running.

If the planned completion dates for these three projects are maintained then there will be no reason to delay the withdrawal schedule of lignite-fired power stations, sources pointed out. The grid entry of PPC’s Ptolemaida V and Mytilineos’ Viotia unit, without the Terna unit, would suffice to cover the capacity gap to be left by the withdrawn lignite units, these sources added.

However, any delays in the completion of the new power stations could prompt Greek officials to request more time from the European Commission for the withdrawal of lignite-fired units, the sources said.

Second flexibility CATs auction cancelled due to lack of interest

A second and final auction offering flexibility CATs through a transitional mechanism that was endorsed last summer by the European Commission has been cancelled following insufficient interest displayed by gas-fueled producers, who deemed capacity amounts on offer were too small.

Authorities officially attributed the cancellation to a delayed ministerial decision that was needed for the second auction’s staging. But the lack of interest shown by producers with gas-fueled units in their portfolios was at the heart of the matter.

Some sector officials have contended that, given the limited capacities offered, the cost of participating in this second auction may have outweighed any prospective financial benefits.

The transitional mechanism’s second flexibility CATs auction was planned to cover the period running from January 1 to March 31.

According to regulations set for this transitional mechanism, flexibility auctions needed to be staged within the first seven working days in the month following the month of the balancing market’s launch.

Given that the balancing market was launched on November 1, as part of the target model launch, the second auction for flexibility CATs should have been staged by December 7, and, furthermore, a ministerial decision was due by November 7.

Offers submitted by the operators of gas-fueled power stations and hydropower stations fully covered a total capacity of 4,500 MW that was made available at the transitional mechanism’s first flexibility auction, held on October 29. Its flexibility services covered the period running from November 1 to December 31.

Suppliers unimpressed by plan ending PPC lignite monopoly

Independent electricity suppliers have remained unimpressed by measures taken to end stare-controlled power utility PPC’s exclusive access to lignite, noting resulting lignite-generated electricity amounts offered to third parties are too small to bring about changes to competition.

The country’s independent suppliers had until yesterday to respond to a 15-question questionnaire forwarded by the European Commission as part of a market test on the effectiveness of the measures, recently agreed on between Brussels and new energy minister Kostas Skrekas.

Certain respondents explained that low-priced lignite electricity purchases, even at levels well below day-ahead market price levels, would not offer benefits as they cannot offset extremely higher wholesale electricity prices, pushed up by increased balancing market costs.

Some of the vertically integrated suppliers, not facing problems by the wholesale price shifts, noted the measures would end the prospects of a futures market operating at the energy exchange any time soon.