Energy managerial posts held by women below global average

Have you ever imagined how your world would look like if one morning you woke up and 8 out of 10 women you knew had been replaced by men?

Diversity and inclusion has been the subject of increasing interest and attention over the years. The emergence of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the rise of the Environmental, Social and Governance performance as a key driver of shareholder support, along with a growing body of evidence demonstrating the benefits of increased gender diversity have all contributed to that. Diversity has also been a major discussion point for the energy industry, which is widely regarded as one of the least gender diverse markets internationally.

While the case for change toward greater gender diversity in the energy industry is strong, the matter seems to have been overlooked in Greece. Acknowledging this gap, the Greek Energy Forum (GEF), always committed to promote the principles of diversity and inclusion, embarked upon a new initiative ‘Diversify Greece – Gender Balance’. The aim of this initiative has been the development of a platform which will foster dialogue and share international best practices, all the while driving the empowerment of women through the promotion of role models of women and men active in supporting the principles of diversity and inclusion in the energy sector.

A first step toward the achievement of this goal has been the development of a quantitative and qualitative study undertaken by the GEF team in order to develop a better understanding of the current baseline of the gender balance in Greece. The findings of this study have not been very encouraging so far, with women being significantly underrepresented in the energy industry, and especially at higher echelons. Speaking of the latter, which is this year’s UN theme for the International Women Day, GEF Gender Balance findings show a mere 12% representation of women in top management positions in the Greek energy sector, significantly lower than the already low global average of the industry which stands at 17% (with developing countries also included in the calculation). These are significant discrepancies, especially when we consider that women make up almost half of the total labour force in the Greek economy. Just imagine how your world would look like if one morning you woke up and 8 out of 10 women you knew had been replaced by men. This is the reality that we are observing in the energy market in Greece.

Digging a little deeper into the data, the representation of women in Greek corporations where there is some form of state participation seems to be higher, at 15%, potentially driven by certain hiring practices and preferences, compared to the private sector where the presence is just at 9%. A striking finding has been the fact that, in almost half of the companies in the sample, top management roles have been exclusively comprised of men, while almost half of the women in senior management positions have non-Greek origin. The latter is also the case for the two only women in the sample that occupy the position of CEO/Chairman. Another noteworthy point has been the fact that half of the women identified in the sample (50%) are mentioned as members of management boards without a particular role assigned, with the second most popular position being that of the general advisor/director (25%). While these are very interesting facts that confirm the poor presence of women in the Greek energy sector, the GEF Gender Balance team has also communicated a short survey to all public and private companies involved in the Greek energy industry aiming to give a clearer picture of the situation across all levels.

Of course, one cannot help but wonder why the representation of females remains meagre, especially at higher level positions. While there is still no single convincing explanation for that, one could potentially look for the answer into a combination of factors. Most of the times, the usual suspect has been the low presence of females in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) academic disciplines, where most of the jobs associated with the energy sector usually fall under. However, in Greece, the picture seems to be better, with the percentage standing at 40%, compared to the global average of around 25%.

Several international initiatives have been established on an international level over the past decade which have been very successful in promoting the diversity principles. Similarly, many of the international energy companies have started reporting publicly their gender balance and pay data and have launched initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion, not only in terms of gender, but also race and sexual orientation. Government support has also gone a long way in driving this change through targeted legislation (i.e. UK requires all private and voluntary-sector employers with 250 or more employees to publish data on their gender pay gap).

However, despite the efforts and the fact that there seems to be plenty of room for the industry to clearly communicate its breadth of opportunities and attract more female candidates, it will take time to get the equation right as we are starting from a very low base. Also, the challenge will be to maintain meritocracy all the way and get the gender diversity properly achieved as we do not wish to create positive discrimination.

The GEF Gender Balance team, led by Dr Valentina Dedi with the active involvement of Mary Mavrokapnidou, Dr Angelos Gkanoutas-Leventis, Eleni Sotiropoulou, Melissa Vrapi, Nikolas Trikeriotis and Christine Daskalopoulou, is doing its outmost to promote it within the activities of GEF, while remaining committed to use its voice, influence and energy in trying to promote the matter in all its shapes and forms.

Considering the great support and interest that the GEF initiative has received, it seems that the issue of diversity does not only sit very closely in the GEF team’s hearts, but it is also receiving a wide recognition. However, the challenge of driving impactful change on this front requires a collective effort to be successful. Anyone, interested in the GEF Gender Balance activities and in contributing to the team’s efforts to bring change forward, can contact the team via the email


Natural gas in Greece: The bridge to decarbonization

Authors: Dr Valentina Dedi, Head of Global Operations, Greek Energy Forum; Panagiotis Mavroeidis-Kamperis, Associate, Greek Energy Forum

Last December, in alignment with the European Union (EU) legislation, Greece submitted a revised version of its 10-year National Plan for Energy and Climate (NEPC) to the EU Commission. The “fairly well-developed” document, as quoted in the summary of the Commission’s assessment, set out an ambitious roadmap for specific national energy and climate objectives to be met by 2030, committing the country to the bloc’s wider pledge to a clean energy transition.

Of the key targets outlined in the document, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions was the main element of the NECP structure, with the Greek government targeting a reduction of more than 42% compared to 1990 levels. The lignite phase-out commitment was another key objective set in the plan, aiming at putting a complete end to the use of lignite in Greece by 2028. The increase of renewables’ share in the country’s total energy consumption to 35%, up from about 13% currently, was further included.

To work toward the achievement of those targets in this relatively ‘short’ timeframe, it seems imperative that Greece uses all its available tools. Natural gas, considered as by far the cleanest fossil fuel, can play its part in this transition process. The role of gas as a bridge to decarbonization has been advocated for a long time, especially that of fuel switching primarily from coal.

The revived momentum

Natural gas penetrated the Greek energy market in 1986. The introduction of gas at that time was seen not only as a way of diversifying energy sources in the country, which would lead to reduced oil dependency, but it would more importantly give Greece the opportunity to establish itself in the European energy map. Moreover, gas would help the country to improve its environmental credentials in accordance with the EU regulations.

Despite the positive momentum during the first years of its inception, natural gas maintained a minor share in the Greek energy market, at about 0.2%, till 1996, with its use mainly limited to power generation. Gas started gaining some ground in the market over the following decade or so, especially after the commissioning of the first LNG terminal in Revythoussa in 2000, which was followed by some initial efforts for the liberalization of the market, but its consumption soon stalled as the country was entering into a decade-long economic crisis. As of today, one could argue that natural gas, with a market share of just 13% of total energy demand, never met those initial aspirations.

A number of recent developments, though, seem to have revived its growth prospects, facilitating its contribution to the country’s broader decarbonization efforts. After Greece’s emergence from the final bailout program in 2018, the investment climate has seen signs of improvement, with gas being among those feeling the benefits. The long-delayed privatization of the state-owned gas distribution network was finally materialized, with the stake majority being sold to a consortium of three major European natural gas transmission companies. A few months later, in January 2019, the European Investment Bank (EIB) agreed on the financing of the construction of a new LNG bunkering vessel in Greece, which is expected to be a first-of-its kind in the broader Eastern Mediterranean region, further pledging to the transformation of Greece into a regional hub.

Abundance and affordability

The latest domestic developments have coincided with a situation of global abundance and affordability, especially following the US shale revolution which brought in new supplies and added downward pressure to global gas prices. Also, the country’s geographical position to resource-rich areas makes it another determining factor for the fuel’s affordability in the country as transportation – either by pipeline or as LNG – takes a relatively high share of the delivered cost.

The country currently receives gas indirectly from Russia, with a capacity of 6.8 bcm per annum. In 2018, the expansion of Revythoussa LNG import terminal was also finalized, increasing capacity by 50% and adding another 8.3 bcm per annum to the market. Some 2 bcm per annum of Azeri gas delivered through the Trans-Antriantic Pipeline (TAP) have further been booked for Greece’s domestic market, expected to commence in mid-2021. Supplies of up to 2.6 bcm per annum could be further added through the Alexandroupolis Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU) (Alexandroupolis LNG) based on the bidding offers following the completion of the binding phase of the market test in March 2019.

With potential supplies reaching up to 19 bcm per annum over the next few years, Greece would gain access to a sufficiently deep gas market, able to cover current gas demand by factor of more than 3. The projected depth of the Greek gas market, in turn, would increase price competition domestically, favoring the wider deployment of natural gas in the country.

Fuel Switching

The bigger prospect of natural gas as a key fuel in the decarbonization is in fuel switching (lignite-to-gas), leaving significant prospects for CO2 emissions savings. Lignite, a domestically produced form of coal, has been the backbone of the country’s power generation for many decades now, as well as the main source of heat for industry and buildings.

According to the IEA, on average, coal-to-gas switching reduces emissions by 50% when producing electricity and by 33% when providing heat, which could be translated to total CO2 emissions savings of about 10% in today’s power and heat sectors in Greece. By switching from lignite to existing gas-fired plants, there is a potential to reduce around 4% of the country’s total CO2 emissions.

In 2019, lignite power plants supplied a fifth of the total power generation after recording a substantial drop of 4.5 TWh from 2018 levels on higher CO2 prices, in tandem with increasing generation from wind, decreasing continental gas prices and slightly higher net imports (Figure 3). However, about 10 TWh of lignite power generation are still to be eliminated by 2028, requiring alternative sources to step up their production to substitute it. Natural gas can be the fuel that can compensate for the lost lignite production with the existing gas-fired plants. Even in the extreme scenario where all lignite production is terminated in a single year, domestic gas supplies can still successfully cover the baseload demand. That would require about 25 TWh of gas-fired production, which would see gas-fired utilization rates of existing plants increasing to 60% till 2022 and 50% afterwards following the construction of the new 826MW Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) station in the country.

Gas can also contribute to less carbon in the heating segment, mainly in the residential sector where a further penetration of about 30% is estimated by the Regional Distributor System Operators (DSO) in areas connected to the main gas grid such as Thessaloniki, Attiki (wider Athens area) and Thessalia by 2025. Industrial gas demand seems to have reached a peak with a rather stable demand projected over the next decade or so. 

A quick win

With a global and domestic abundance of natural gas, a high price competitive market is expected, creating a favorable scenario needed for the wider natural gas development in Greece. A projected bullish trajectory of CO2 prices in Europe is further expected to facilitate the transition to gas as higher CO2 prices will add financial burden on lignite power plants.

Switching between fossil fuels, on its own, does not provide a long-term answer to climate change, especially considering the country’s privileged position in the potential growth of its renewable capacity. However, given the time it takes to build up new renewables and with the increasing penetration of renewables creating a greater volatility due to the lack of a stable and predictable production, natural gas represents a potential quick win for emissions reductions in the medium-term.

Mytilineos wins GEF energy company of the year prize

The Mytilineos corporate group Group has been awarded the Energy/Hydrocarbons Company of the Year prize, one of seven awards offered by the Greek Energy Forum, an exchange platform for energy sector professionals, at its annual GEF Energy Awards, held for a second time, at an event just staged at London’s prestigious Cass Business School.

Energean Oil & Gas CEO Mathios Rigas picked up the Energy Influencer prize.

ELPE (Hellenic Pegtroleum) took the Social Responsibility prize.

The Smart Islands Initiative, aiming to drastically increase RES production on Greek islands, won an Energy Innovator prize; Kantor Management Consultants was awarded the Energy Consultancy/Services of the Year prize; Gaslog, an international LNG carrier, took the Maritime Services of the Year prize; and the Eunice Energy Group won the Green Energy prize.

Greek Energy Forum was founded in 2013 and its GEF Energy Awards established in 2016 as a biennial event to recognize and award organizations, enterprises and personalities inspiring others through exceptional work and valuable contributions to the energy and hydrocarbon sectors of the east Mediterranean.

The prizewinners of all categories were voted by an independent prize committee comprised of internationally renowned industry players not linked to the GEF.

The committee, in alphabetical order, was comprised of Panos Kelamis, CEO, Cyprus Hydrocarbons Company; Stavros Kokkinis, General Manager Shipping & Products Trading, Shell Trading; Yanos Michopoulos, Managing Director, Authentix, former Country Manager Greece & Cyprus; Michael Tamvakis, Professor of Commodity Economics & Finance, Cass Business School; Petros Tratskas, Senior Originator, ENI Trading & Shipping; Ioannis Tsipouridis, General Manager at R.E.D Pro Consultants and former President of Hellenic Wind Energy Association; and Rikard Skoufias, Energy Consultant, former Country Manager Greece of TAP.



Greek Energy Forum joins EU workgroup of natural gas experts

The Greek Energy Forum (GEF), an international non-governmental organisation operating as a network for Greek energy professionals, has been inducted into the UN Economic Commission for Europe’s Workgroup of Natural Gas Experts, as an official member, GEF has announced in a statement.

The UN, as is widely known in the energy industry, consistently supports global initiatives for the promotion of sustainable energy and, within this context, has established a group of gas experts in order to support the achievement of the targets recently agreed to at COP 21, the Paris Global Summit on Climate Change.

The Greek Energy Forum’s addition to the group will allow the forum’s members to offer specialized and rich expertise with the aim of helping the UN workgroup determine the best policies that may boost the penetration of natural gas in the energy mix.

More specifically, the forum will join two United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) taskforces. The first, Taskforce A, aims to determine the best policy practices on the role of natural gas in the increasing uptake of renewable energy in the ECE Region and also help achieve the objective of providing energy access to all ECE Region members. In addition, as a member of Taskforce B, the Greek Energy Forum will seek to offer Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) guidance for optimal policies.

These taskforces are manned by representatives of national governments, national and intergovernmental regulatory bodies, non-governmental organisations, energy companies and academic institutions across the globe.

Just days ago, on April 21 and 22, the third session of the Group of Gas Experts in UNECE was held at the UN Headquarters in Geneva (Palais De Nations).

Greece and the Greek Energy Forum were represented by the GEF chairman, Alexandros Lagakos, who was also invited to attend as a guest speaker.

Lagakos presented an update on the progress and the ongoing steps towards the development of southeastern Europe into an efficient regional gas market. In particular, he analysed the impact of the ongoing and planned infrastructure projects (interconnections, storage) in the region, the progress of hydrocarbon exploration and extraction tenders, as well as the prospects of the addition of new sources into the Balkan region’s gas supply mix.