Committee checking relevance of DEPA gas auction measure

The Competition Committee is conducting research to determine whether gas auctions that have required gas utility DEPA to make available minimum gas amounts to suppliers for fairer competition are still necessary amid the liberalized market.

The committee imposed these gas auctions on DEPA in 2014 when the utility was dominating Greece’s natural gas market under completely different market conditions.

Much has changed since the sector’s liberalization. A total of 7 gas importers and 25 retail suppliers are now active in the Greek market.

The study was prompted following a request by DEPA. As part of the process, the competition committee is consulting gas companies as well as RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, before deciding if the gas auctions should be abolished.

According to sources, RAE pointed out that, given DEPA’s greatly reduced market share – less than 40 percent in 2019 and the first half of 2020 – the measure’s maintenance, without any benefits for the utility in exchange, offers rival gas companies an advantage.

RAE supports that any such measures must be universally imposed on all gas suppliers based on certain criteria, such as market share levels.

In addition, price levels at the DEPA gas auctions are deemed too high by players, limiting buying interest.

At the time of the gas auction measure’s introduction, in 2014, DEPA was obligated to offer other players 10 percent of the annual gas amount it was importing. This figure was gradually increased, reaching 17 percent in 2018.

Greek law initially required any gas wholesaler with a market share of more than 60 percent to make gas quantities available to other traders through auctions. This level was reduced to 40 percent in 2018.

DEPA’s EPA Attiki takeover a competition woe, officials react

Unfavorable results produced by gas utility DEPA’s most recent gas release auction, which sparked a surge in prices and severely limted amounts made available to independent suppliers, have sparked protests by market officials over a recent Greek competition committee decision approving DEPA’s acquisition of a 49 percent share held by Shell in their EPA Attiki supply venture, covering the wider Athens area.

The agreement gives DEPA, already holding a 51 percent stake, full control of the EPA Attiki supply firm and threatens to keep independent players out of the retail gas market.

The threat had been raised during Greek competition committee hearings ahead of the agreement’s local approval. Officials who opposed the DEPA-Shell agreement warned it would prompt market competition complications but were told EPA Attiki was headed for privatization as part of the DEPA sale.

However, the DEPA sale has been held back by a series of deferrals. It could take many more months to stage. During this time, retail gas market competition will remain subdued.

Despite the warnings and market issues now emerging, the Greek competition committee offered a swift and unconditional approval the DEPA-Shell agreement.

DEPA’s gas release auctions were introduced as a structural plan to promote market competition and reduce the gas utility’s market dominance.

The main power utility PPC secured the biggest amounts at DEPA’s most recent gas release auction. The gas amounts left for independent players were also severely restricted by substantial purchases from EPA Attiki, now fully controlled by DEPA.

Commenting on the resulting set up, one market official described the situation as DEPA selling gas quantities intended for independent players to itself.

Authorities are now expected to scrutinize the issue.

Engie imports gas from north for Heron, Gazprom not involved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Heatwave, unfavorable factors prompt energy crisis meeting

The country’s grid capacity is set to be seriously tested for the first time this summer over the next few days when temperatures around the country are forecast to soar to levels of at least 37 degrees Celsius, which is sure to prompt widespread and heavy use of air conditioning systems and lead to a surge in electricity demand.

This anticipated early-summer heatwave will coincide with a combination of unfavorable temporary factors limiting electricity generation.

A crisis team comprised of RAE (Regulatory Authority for Energy), DEPA (gas utility), DESFA (gas grid operator) and IPTO (power grid operator) officials will convene for an emergency meeting today, energypress sources informed, to discuss energy supply as the heatwave nears.

The LNG terminal at the Revythoussa islet off Athens is currently closed for expansion work, now in progress. The Greece-Italy interconnection linking the grids of both countries is temporarily closed until June 21 for maintenance work. The anticipated increased reliance on air conditioners during the heatwave will require greater electricity output from the country’s gas-fueled power stations. Also, higher electricity prices in regional markets have prompted local traders, lured by the higher prices, to increase Greek electricity exports to the north.

Participants at today’s emergency meeting will seek solutions ensuring the grid’s ability to meet heightened electricity demand over the next few days.

CO2 emission right costs have risen over the past three months, especially in May, while fuel and natural gas price levels have also climbed to remain at elevated levels.

These developments have sharply increased prices of electricity futures markets contracts both in Germany, guiding European developments, and in regional markets impacting Greece, namely Hungary, which shapes prices in Balkan countries interconnected with Greece, as well as Italy, a key market also interconnected with the Greek grid.

In Germany, wholesale electricity prices rose by approximately 10 euros per MWh in a month. In Italy, current electricity futures contracts concerning delivery in July are being established at levels of around 75 euros per MWh.

These regional price increases are already impacting the Greek market, where the System Marginal Price, or wholesale price, averaged 56.33 euros per MWh in May. June contracts are being established at 59 euros euros per MWh.

RAE and the country’s operators see all these factors as severe warnings which prompted the need for today’s meeting.







DEPA seeks gas auction revision, committee meeting today

A request by DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, for gas auction revisions that would not require the firm to take into account supply price increase and reduction requests when setting its gas auction starting prices, will be examined at a Competition Commitee meeting today.

This term is based on a competition committee decision reached in 2014 that was fine-tuned last year by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

DEPA is still awaiting a court hearing for a case filed by the gas company in response to an upward price revision request made by Turkey’s Botas in 2008. This hearing, in Sweden, is expected to take place by the end of this year.

DEPA believes that the acceptance of its gas auction revision request would positively impact the Greek gas market’s overall adjustment to the European framework and should not make its gas auctions less attractive for participants.

The DEPA request needs to be settled as soon as possible as the corporation’s annual gas auction covering amounts for 2018, revised to offer buyers 60 percent of the gas utility’s total domestic supply from 17 percent last year, was originally scheduled to take place today.

The auction, whose date will be reset, needs to be staged before customers place their annual gas amount orders to DEPA for next year.


EVIKEN raises gas auction transparency concerns

EVIKEN, the Association of Industrial Energy Consumers, has raised concerns claiming a lack of transparency in gas auctions held by DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation.

The fears were raised in a letter forwarded to the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition.

DEPA has agreed to take on staging the auctions, offering increased natural gas amounts to the market as a means of generating competition, after committing to demands made following research conducted by an independent gas market authority.

In its letter, EVIKEN advised that a list of prospective auction participants should be published prior to auctions and, as a follow-up, results detailing orders and quantities made by participants must also be made available as a means of protecting transparency standards.

The association noted that the procedures observed in the just-introduced NOME auctions in the electricity market should be used as a model reference.

The NOME auctions, introduced in October, are intended to provide third parties with access to PPC’s low-cost lignite and hydropower sources as a measure to help break the utility’s market dominance.

Market players set for series of gas and electricity auctions

Important market-changing auctions planned to take place in the natural gas and electricity markets over a period of just a few weeks have players poised and ready for action.

An upcoming auction to be staged this Friday by DESFA, the natural gas grid operator, offering capacities at the Greek-Bulgarian border, ranks as the most interesting of all as it will be the first such session.

According to the results of a public consultation procedure published by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, M&M Gas, a venture involving Motor Oil Hellas and the Mytilineos corporate group, as well as Prometheus Gas, representing Gazprom and the Kopelouzos group, both showed interested in the DESFA auction and its details.

During the public consultation procedure, M&M Gas was critical of the imminent DESFA auction’s terms and model, describing the approach as one that “creates obstacles for the interconnection’s opening to new users and the development of competition.”

Following the DESFA auction, parent company DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, is scheduled to stage an auction on December 13, offering gas amounts for the first quarter of 2017. This session will also be interesting as it represents the first to be staged since the recent bailout-required increase of DEPA’s gas release, the percentage of natural gas offered by the corporation to the market through auctions.

Beyond the natural gas market, procedures are already underway for the next ‘disruption’ management auction, scheduled for December 28, according to sources. IPTO, the power grid operator, has requested that interested parties register their maximum sustainable capacities for 2017 by December 16.

The ‘disruption management’ mechanism enables major industrial enterprises to benefit from electricity cost savings in exchange for shifting energy usage to off-peak hours whenever required by the operator.

Also, the second NOME auction, coming as a follow-up to the inaugural session in October, is expected to take place in early January. An electricity amount equivalent to 12 percent of the grid’s total amount in 2016 will be offered.

The just-introduced NOME auctions are intended to provide third parties with access to main power utility PPC’s low-cost lignite and hydropower sources as a measure to help break the utility’s market dominance.



DEPA gas amount offered at annual auction fully absorbed

Participants absorbed the full gas amount offered at today’s annual DEPA (Public Gas Corporation) natural gas auction, a session that drew particular interest as a result of the recent bailout measure requiring the corporation to gradually double its gas release, the gas amount the corporation supplies to the market through its auctions, from 10 percent to 20 percent by 2021, in order to generate market competition.

Bidders put in a solid and competitive showing. M&M Gas, a Mytilineos Group and Motor Oil Hellas wholesale venture, absorbed virtually all the amount offered in the auction’s second part.

Gas suppliers purchased the majority of the gas amounts offered.

According to sources, a first gas amount of 2,428,043.015 MWh offered in 50,000 units of 48.561 ended 0.50 dollars per MWh over the starting price of 954.60 dollars.

A second amount of 1,456, 825.809 MWh offered as 50,000 units of 29.137 MWh ended 1.10 dollars over the starting price of 572.77 dollars.

According to sources, besides M&M Gas, other auction participants included Heron, Elval, Cedalion, EPA Attica, EPA Thessaloniki and EPA Thessaly.


Disagreements expressed in gas release public consultation

Companies and various agencies that participated in a public consultation procedure focused on the formula determining the starting price at DEPA (Public Gas Corporation) gas release auctions have raised objections to a number of the plan’s details, announced by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

The objections primarily concern a DEPA proposal for post-corrections of the finalized starting price as well as the inclusion of an extra charge for the provision of flexibility.

Essentially, the disagreements strike at the core of the proposals forwarded by DEPA, which, in a recent energypress report, called for administrative costs included in the price-setting procedure to be incorporated into the auction starting price.

DEPA’s next annual gas auction is scheduled to take place on November 18.

In the public consultation procedure, EVIKEN, the Association of Industrial Energy Consumers, described the adoption of rules providing increased transparency as essential.

M&M Gas, a wholesale trading venture involving the Mytilineos Group and Motor Oil Hellas, in its intervention, noted that the formula determining the weighted average cost of supply is based on estimates concerning DEPA’s long-term supply and not the real conditions as revised for every three-month period.

DEPA’s natural gas auction postponed by 10 days

The next DEPA (Public Gas Corporation) natural gas annual auction, planned for November 8 following a previous postponement, will be rescheduled for November 18 as a result of additional time required by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, to examine proposals forwarded by the corporation as well as other sector officials, through a public consultation procedure, on the formula determining the auction starting price, energypress has been informed.

As part of the country’s bailout agreement, Greek officials have agreed to gradually double DEPA’s gas release, the gas amount the corporation supplies to the market through its auctions, from 10 percent to 20 percent by 2021, in order to generate market competition.

A 16 percent gas release figure has been set for 2017, followed by 17 percent in 2018, 18 percent in 2019 and 20 percent in 2021.

According to sources, DEPA’s proposals have been favorably received by RAE officials.



Energy prior actions met, power surcharge hike avoided

Two pending energy-sector prior actions needed by Greece for the disbursement of a bailout subtranche of 2.8 billion euros have been fulfilled, energypress sources informed late last night, but details have remained under wraps.

It appears that repeated meetings between energy ministry officials and the creditor representatives, especially the European Commission, have led to agreements for the renewable energy (RES) special account’s deficit, managed by LAGIE, the Electricity Market Operator, and the natural gas proportion to be offered by DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, to suppliers through its gas auctions.

Despite the lack of any details at this stage, it is considered certain that a hike to the RES-supporting ETMEAR surcharge included on electricity bills – as a means of eliminating the RES special account deficit – has been avoided.

The country’s lenders appear to have taken a step back on the pressure applied for such a surcharge increase and are prepared to wait for the RES special account’s deficit to be wiped out by the end of 2017 and not in June of the same year, as was intitially requested.

This compromise indicates that the lenders now consider Greece’s new RES framework, ratified in the summer, as a legitimate and sustainable solution following previous doubts.

As a result, electricity suppliers will cover the RES special account’s deficit biggest amount. Supplier contributions will be based on their respective electricity market shares, meaning that PPC, which currently controls 89 percent of Greece’s retail electricity market, will be chiefly responsible for as long as it dominates the market.

The two sides also appear to have reached a compromise deal for the DEPA gas release issue. The lenders had initially demanded that the Greek natural gas corporation double its proportion of gas offered to suppliers through its auctions from 10 percent to 20 percent as a move intended to intensify competition. An agreement for a level of about 16 percent is believed to have been reached for 2017, while this figure is expected to be gradually increased until 2020.

Greek officials looking for alternative gas market options

Greek government officials will seek to table an alternative proposal to the country’s creditor representatives for a comprehensive plan that could fully liberalize Greece’s natural gas market with openings for new suppliers. Talks aiming to settle pending energy-sector prior actions required by the bailout agreement will continue today.

The country’s lenders are pushing for a Greek commitment to a substantial increase of gas amounts auctioned off by DEPA, Public Gas Corporation, for suppliers, the objective being to break regional monopolies maintained by the corporation’s EPA gas supply subsidiaries. Although not formally stated, the creditors want a doubling of the gas release.

Greece’s energy ministry has argued that a major increase in the gas offered by DEPA through its auctions would inevitably devastate the corporation, controlled by the Greek State with a 65 percent stake. This concern has prompted a search for alternative paths towards the Greek gas market’s full liberalization.

Greek officials contend that gas release arrangements elsewhere in Europe do not demand that gas amounts offered by utilities to wholesalers and suppliers, through auctions, exceed 10 percent of overall supply. Denmark is the exception, while the figures in other European countries range between 5 and 7 percent. Greece’s lenders have called for a 20 percent figure.

DEPA’s destabilization would cause wider problems of geopolitical dimension in Greece’s energy plans. DEPA is participating in major infrastructure projects such as the IGB Greek-Bulgarian Interconector, a key part of the EU’s energy security policy, to be achieved through greater diversification.

The Greek government is expected to table its alternative gas market liberalization proposal during today’s talks. Alternatives could involve the establishment of new markets, including spot markets, as well as a percentage reduction of the industrial sector’s involvement in the gas auctions and greater participation rights for suppliers.

This latter option would certainly spark strong protest from the industrial sector.

Busy auction month, covering gas and electricity, for industry

The current month is an active one for the country’s industrial sector as major-scale energy consumers prepare for a DEPA (Public Gas Corporation) auction next week, to ensure their gas needs, as well as the next “disruption management” auction, expected late September.

The “disruption management” auctions, introduced earlier this year, offer capacities to major industrial enterprises, enabling them to benefit from electricity cost savings in exchange for shifting energy usage to off-peak hours whenever required by the operator.

The upcoming DEPA auction, covering the year’s fourth quarter and scheduled for September 13, will offer a natural gas amount of 310,815.258 MWh in 50,000 units, each measuring 6.216 MWh. Participants need to have settled outtanding debt or made payback arrangements. The DEPA gas auctions are included in the list of gas market bailout requirements.

The “disruption management” auction, staged by IPTO, the power grid operator, is scheduled for September 26. The previous session, covering May 1 to September 30, was held in late April.

To date, three “disruption management” auctions have been staged since the measure’s late-February launch. A second session was held in late March and a third in May.

The measure has proven effective to date as many industrial enterprises have been able to offer “disruption management” services to the country’s grid, reducing their energy costs.

Virtually all of the market’s main players took part in the previous auction. The auction prices reached 47,600 MW for short-term services and 48,600 MW for long-term services.

DEPA gas auction participants dispute quarterly amounts offered

DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, has announced it will stage its next gas auction for quantities to suppliers and industrial enterprises concerning the first three-month period of 2016 on December 15.

A total of 269,450 MWh will be offered in 50,000 volume units, each measuring 5.389 MWh, at this upcoming quarterly DEPA auction.

According to energypress sources, participants have raised questions about the quantities DEPA plans to offer through its quarterly auctions. In an agreement with the local competition committee, the corporation has committed itself to offering 60 percent through annual auctions and 40 percent through quarterly auctions.

DEPA offered 1,980 GWh through its recent annual auction, meaning that amounts of 330 GWh would need to be offered at the corporation’s quarterly auctions in 2016 if the 60-40 ratio is to be maintained, as agreed to with the local competition committee.

Participants have noted that, based on the auction figures announced by DEPA, the annual auction represents 65 percent of DEPA’s annual total, leaving 35 percent for the quarterly auctions in 2016.

Participants noted the discrepancy, based on the corporation’s agreement with the local competition committee, could add further pressure on prices at the quarterly auctions. Overwhelming interest was displayed by bidders at the recent annual auction, staged slightly less than a month ago.

Pipelines, new LNG station to top visiting Kerry’s agenda

The prospect of US supply of LNG to the Greek market and the wider area through an agreement to include development of a terminal station in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, will be a key item on the agenda of US Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Athens for meetings with leading local officials today.

Kerry is scheduled to hold two separate meetings, both early in the day, with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.

The Syriza-led coalition’s energy policy has taken a realistic turn ever since the political party’s second election victory this year, in September, as was marked by a recent visit to Athens by Amos Hochstein, the US Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs.

Swifter progress has been achieved on the TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline) plan, leading to an agreement with the TAP consortium over pending issues ahead of the now-imminent construction of the pipeline to carry Azeri natural gas into Europe. Increased activity intended to push forward procedures for the development of the Greek-Bulgarian (IGB) pipeline has also been noticed.

The US is interested in supplying Europe with LNG shale gas. Greece and Croatia, among others, are planned to serve as distribution points in this initiative. Work is underway to increase the capacity of Greece’s exisiting LNG terminal station in Revythoussa, an islet in the Saronic Gulf, close to Athens. The construction of a second Greek LNG station in Alexandroupoli is of even more crucial importance to the US supply plan for Europe. The facility would be connected to the IGB pipeline and, besides Greece, would supply American LNG to the Bulgarian market as well as other countries in the region, all currently heavily dependent on Russian gas.

The US firm Cheniere is preparing a gas export plan for 2016. An announcement by Kerry on the issue during the current visit is possible.

Cheniere, the Copelouzos Group, and DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation, are currently engaged in talks on the development of the Alexandroupoli LNG station and reportedly making swift progress. DEPA appears to be abandoning a plan for a terminal station in Kavala.

Kerry arrives in Athens following a stopover in Nicosia for talks focused on the Cyprus issue. The US official was originally scheduled to visit Athens last month but developments in Syria prompted a change of plan.

The uncertainty prompted in the wider region by the current Russian-Turkish standoff following the recent downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkish forces, as well as the wider impact of the recent Paris attacks, are also expected to be included on today’s agenda.

The Greek government will also expect support from the US Secretary of State in its effort to be granted national debt relief.



EPA gas supply firms, industrialists at odds over DEPA gas auction rights

EVIKEN, the Association of Industrial Energy Consumers, and the country’s EPA regional gas suppliers are at odds over their respective participation rights in gas auctions staged by DEPA, the Public Gas Corporation.

The opposing sides have been locked in battle over their participation rights ever since the local competition committee increased the amount of gas quantities that may be offered by DEPA through its auctions from 10 percent to 15 percent of its total amount. The increase was made a month and a half ago.

EVIKEN, representing industrial consumers, insists the participation of EPA gas supply companies in the auctions severely restricts the amount of gas that may be bid on by industrial enterprises. EVIKEN is also pushing for DEPA’s percentage of gas offered through the auctions to be at least doubled.

At the other end, the EPA gas suppliers argue the auctions are meant to serve as a tool to generate competition in the supply market and, as a result, industrial enterprises should not be entitled to participate.

If the government wants to help reduce energy costs for industrial enterprises it can do so through other means, such as the “disruption management” plan – to enable energy cost savings for major-scale industry in exchange for shifting energy usage to off-peak hours whenever required by IPTO, the power grid operator – now being prepared for the electricity sector, and lower special consumption taxes (EFK) on gas, the EPA gas suppliers contend.

Responding to an energypress question, a competition committee official noted it is not a priority at present to increase the percentage of gas amounts that may be offered by DEPA through its auctions beyond 15 percent. “This will be decided depending on developments and the market’s needs,” the official commented.

Last August, industrial consumers with annual consumption levels in excess of 2.2 GWh gained the right to take part in the DEPA auctions, previously restricted to industrial units consuming 100 GWh or more.

The limit on orders that may be placed by participants at the DEPA auctions has been reduced to 15 percent of the total quantity on offer, down from 25 percent, to prevent major suppliers from securing greater natural gas amounts as a means of depriving new participants from securing sizeable amounts.

EPA Attiki, supplying the wider Athens area, argues the current trading regulations are unfair. Corporate groups linked to tax file numbers of various companies under their wings can end up bidding for orders of well over the 15 percent limit imposed on each company, EPA Attiki argues, while, in its case, it cannot bid for an order of more than 15 percent as it is not part of a coprorate group.

The next DEPA auction is scheduled for late in the year and concerns supply for the first three-month period of 2016.