Athens outage risk still high as fires burn close to key facility

Authorities remain on edge as the southern front of a fire in Kryoneri, northeast of Athens, could impact a pivotal high-voltage facility in the nearby Agios Stefanos area and severely lessen power supply throughout the capital.

Should the Agios Stefanos unit be damaged by the fires, the wider Athens area will fully depend on another facility, Koumoundourou, for power supply, but it would not suffice to cover electricity demand for the entire city.

Three key grid circuits in Athens are functioning, preventing extensive power outages or scheduled regional disruptions, but the Kryoneri fire is keeping power grid operator IPTO on alert, sources at the operator have informed in a latest update provided today.

Athens has faced elevated power-outage risk this week amid the persisting heatwave conditions. Generation has been sufficient to cover extraordinarily high electricity demand, but fires north of the capital regained momentum yesterday, raising fears of infrastructure damage and prompting authorities to evacuate towns.

Windy weather forecast for today, following numerous days of extreme heat, adds to the challenge as fires could spread.

The directions the fires could take, if they are not subdued, will determine whether authorities will implement a schedule disrupting electricity supply in specific regions to ease the pressure on the grid.

Over fifty fire fronts were burning in various parts of the country late last night.

 

Grid faces new challenge today as heatwave persists

The country’s grid stands to face yet another major challenge today as electricity demand could climb to a new record level, driven up by the sustained heatwave conditions, projected to reach levels of between 40 and 42 degrees Celsius.

Power grid operator IPTO projects electricity demand will reach 10,835 MW, which would be a new all-time high, following yesterday’s level of 10,662 MW.

Natural gas-fired power stations operated by power utility PPC and independent producers will once again contribute dominantly, exceeding 43 percent, according to energy exchange data.

PPC’s combined-cycle Lavrio IV will return to action today following the replacement of technical components at the unit, according to IPTO’s schedule for the day.

The overall input of renewable energy units is expected to rise marginally today, compared to previous days, and cover 16.5 percent of demand.

Electricity imports are also expected to cover 16.5 percent of demand today.

Lignite-fired power stations, including Megalopoli IV, back following repairs, are expected to represent 14.46 percent of the energy mix.

Major-scale hydropower facilities should cover a little over 9 percent of electricity demand.

The government’s crisis management team expects generation will reach required levels and, furthermore, could be boosted by greater output at wind-energy facilities as a result of stronger winds that have been forecast for today.

On the other hand, the prospect of stronger winds is unfavorable for firefighters seeking to subdue a number of fire fronts. Also, the risk of new fires is also higher. In such an event, the grid, under extreme pressure over the past ten days amid the sustained heatwave, would surely suffer further damages.

Distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO crews are continuing efforts to restore power supply in fire-hit Varybobi, north of Athens. The northern section of Evia, northeast of Athens, and Pyrgos, northwest Peloponnese, have also been affected by power supply cuts as a result of fires in the regions.

Consumption record expected, industry on switch-off standby

Electricity consumption today is expected to exceed yesterday’s level of 10,700 MWh, a ten-year high, and reach close to 11,000 MWh, which would represent an all-time high, as the prolonged heatwave peaks.

Industrial consumers are awaiting switch-off orders from power grid operator IPTO. Up until yesterday, they had yet to receive such instructions, but a number of industrial enterprises have already switched off voluntarily, while Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has urged consumers to exercise restraint in electricity consumption.

Authorities are placing their hopes for grid sufficiency in strong summer breezes forecast for Thursday that should cool temperatures and significantly boost generation through the country’s wind energy facilities.

Though still too early to judge, the grid appears to have stood up to the heatwave’s challenge so far. Minor technical issues and brief outages in various parts of the wider Athens area, Larissa, central Greece, and Agrinio, in the northwest, have been reported.

Authorities remain on edge as the resilience of a largely outdated grid remains uncertain amid daily consumption levels of 9,000 to 10,000 MWh for days on end.

Lignite-generated input is playing a crucial role. It covered between 16 and 18 percent of consumption yesterday. Power utility PPC’s lignite-fired Megalopoli III power station, which has been sidelined for months as part of the country’s decarbonization phase-out plan, operated most of the day yesterday.

 

Energy minister calls emergency meeting, heatwave set to peak

Energy minister Kostas Skrekas is due to visit power grid operator IPTO’s control center in Athens today for an emergency meeting he has ordered to deal with grid sufficiency issues raised by the prolonged heatwave conditions, expected to become even more acute during the week.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will participate in the emergency meeting along with the head officials of RAE, the Regulatory Authority of Energy, power grid operator IPTO, distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, and power utility PPC.

The grid is expected to face unprecedented conditions in coming days as electricity demand peaks to reach record levels, prompted by the extreme weather conditions.

The energy ministry has already urged the public to exercise restraint in electricity consumption over the next few days as a means of helping the pressured grid cope with the heatwave’s demands.

The energy minister also staged an emergency meeting yesterday morning with officials of the aforementioned energy sector companies.

Electricity demand today is expected to peak at 9,600 MW, at around 9pm, well over the average peak of 8,115 MW in the first half of 2021.

Imports, lignite, technical issue avoidance key to grid stability

The role of electricity imports, mobilization of power utility PPC lignite-fired power stations that have been sidelined for months, such as Megalopoli III, and unexpected technical failures at grid infrastructure and power stations are three key factors that will determine the performance of the country’s grid over the next few days, during which the ongoing heatwave conditions are forecast to peak and reach temperatures of as high as 45 degrees Celsius.

Power grid operator IPTO has already asked PPC to mobilize the Megalopoli III power station, a 250-MW unit headed for withdrawal and out of action over the past nine months as a result of grid saturation at the network in the Peloponnese.

But the extreme electricity demand has forced this unit’s return, highlighting the grid’s continuing dependence on lignite-fired generation during times of extreme need.

Over the past few days, lignite-based electricity has represented 16 percent of the country’s overall generation.

As for electricity imports, Greece, ideally, will need to import a few hundred MW from North Macedonia, Bulgaria and Turkey. The import potential from these sources is limited to between 1,400 and 1,500 MW annually.

A new interconnection to link Nea Santa, northeastern Greece, with Bulgaria’s Maritsa area in the country’s south, designed to double the grid interconnection capacity between the two countries, will not be ready before mid-2022.

The demand response system, compensating industrial consumers when the TSO (IPTO) asks them to shift their energy usage (lower or stop consumption) during high-demand hours, so as to balance the electricity system’s needs, is another tool that could be activated to save and re-channel approximately 1,000 MW.

Grid to rely on lignite units amid extreme weather for 2 more yrs

The country’s grid sufficiency will rely on power utility PPC’s high-polluting and high-cost, for the utility, lignite-fired power stations for at least a further two years whenever extreme temperature fluctuations are experienced, as was the case last week, on Friday, when the heatwave pushed demand up to 9,258 MW, as well as Wednesday, when demand rose to similar levels.

PPC’s group of old lignite-fired power stations will need to keep offering solutions until at least 2023 during extreme weather conditions, be they heatwaves or snowstorms, a situation that will need to be seriously taken into account by the committee responsible for the new National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP).

The committee will stage its first meeting today to begin preparing the new 2030 NECP. Many uncertain factors still remain.

According to the existing NECP, now being revised, new natural gas-fired power stations offering a total capacity of 1,650 MW, plus Ptolemaida V – a lignite-fired unit to be converted to a natural gas-fired unit in 2025 for an eventual capacity of 1,000 MW – will need to be launched by 2030.

The new NECP will anticipate greater RES penetration by 2030 than the existing NECP. The existing plan expects renewable energy sources to cover 62 percent of overall electricity demand by the end of the decade, whereas the new NECP will increase this level to 72 percent.