New gas project support to end, aid until 2029 for conversions

EU funding support for new natural gas and oil-related projects is expected to end soon, but will remain available over a transition period until December 31, 2029 for natural gas projects and gas transportation and storage infrastructure conversions catering to hydrogen, natural gas and biomethane needs before ultimately serving as hydrogen transportation and storage facilities, exclusively.

The council of EU energy ministers accepted Trans-European Energy Networks (TEN-E) regulation revisions incorporating these funding support changes at a meeting in Luxembourg.

The revisions, designed to help the EU achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, are planned to be implemented in 2022, if ratified.

The revisions also include measures designed to offer sustained protection for market competition and energy supply security.

The proposed revisions identify 11 priority energy corridors and three thematic priority areas for projects of common interest funded through the Connecting Europe Facility (2021-2027).

DESFA participating in talks for European Hydrogen Backbone

Greek gas grid operator DESFA is one of the participants in early talks for the establishment of a European Hydrogen Backbone, along with 22 fellow operators representing a total of 21 countries.

A latest report, published last month, notes that this network of pipelines can cover a total of 11,600 kilometers by 2030, to service emerging hydrogen markets, and 39,700 kilometers by 2040, with prospects for further expansion beyond this date.

Total investments estimated between 43 and 81 billion euros will be needed to develop the 39,700 kilometers of the hydrogen network pipelines.

Upgrades of existing pipeline networks, to enable the transportation of hydrogen, will account for 69 percent of the investment cost, while the other 31 percent concerns the development of new pipelines.

According to the plan, Greece’s two main industrial hubs, Athens and Thessaloniki, will be linked, by 2040, to the new hydrogen pipelines, to run alongside existing gas infrastructure. Alternatively, an upgrade of the existing gas pipelines, also seen as an option, will depend on market conditions.

Ptolemaida V gas conversion board decision end of June

Power utility PPC is moving swiftly towards a finalized investment decision on a fuel-conversion plan for its prospective Ptolemaida V facility in northern Greece, to begin operating as a lignite-fired power station in 2022 before converting, a few years later, to a natural gas-fired facility equipped with infrastructure also enabling the use of hydrogen.

PPC’s chief executive Giorgos Stassis will present the plan to the company board at a meeting scheduled for the end of June, when it is expected to be approved, sources informed.

The plan will include schedules and financial studies for the conversion of Ptolemaida V, Greece’s last lignite-fired power station in development.

The PPC board is expected to stick to its plan of operating Ptolemaida V as a lignite-fired power station until 2025, instead of 2028, as was initially planned, before making the fuel switch to natural gas.

The country’s ambitious decarbonization targets and rallying CO2 emission right prices, currently at lofty levels ranging between 40 and 44 euros per ton, prompted Stassis, the CEO, to hasten PPC’s withdrawal of lignite units.

Ptolemaida V will be loss-incurring as a lignite-fired facility, the chief executive told analysts, responding to questions, during a recent presentation of the company’s financial results.

PPC also plans to increase the production capacity of Ptolemaida V to 1,000 MW from 660 MW. The facility will be flexible, possessing the ability to swiftly increase output from 300 to 1,000 MW within 30 minutes to an hour.

The facility’s fuel conversion cost is estimated at 250 million euros, sources have informed.

Stassis told analysts Ptolemaida V will be competitive even without support from the Capacity Remuneration Mechanism (CRM), being sought by the government from the European Commission as support for flexibility.

 

Energy investment activity rising, focus on RES projects, energy transition

Investment activity in the domestic energy sector is rising with major deals being negotiated, the main focus being on renewables and the energy transition, participants at yesterday’s Delphi Economic Forum made clear.

This activity promises significant growth for all RES technologies, even the more innovative, such as offshore wind farms and energy storage units.

Major energy players are moving to capitalize on opportunities that are emerging as the country pushes ahead with its decarbonization effort. Also, investor talks concerning domestic and international partnerships, the latter promising to secure expertise in sectors such as offshore wind farms, are in progress.

Power utility PPC, moving ahead with RES investments, aims to have launched projects with a total capacity of 1.5 GW by 2023. The utility’s redevelopment plan for the country’s two lignite-dependent regions, Ptolemaida, in the north, and Megalopoli, in the Peloponnese, is in progress.

PPC plans to invest 3.4 billion euros on RES project development in these regions, and an upgrade of their distribution networks, Konstantinos Mavros, chief executive of PPC Renewables, a PPC subsidiary, told the forum.

PPC is also expected to establish partnerships facilitating its entry into the offshore wind market. In addition, the company also aims to have formed a joint venture with German power company RWE by the end of summer for development of RES projects totaling 2 GW.

Elsewhere, energy company Mytilineos is also preparing a strategic alliance with a major international group for its entry into the offshore wind farm sector.

Mytilineos is also close to completing, this year, a major post-lignite investment in natural gas-fueled electricity generation. In addition, the company plans to develop 300 MW in wind farms and 1.5 GW in solar farms over the next two years.

Furthermore, Mytilineos plans to develop 20 energy storage projects, each with 50 MW capacity, by utilizing its immense knowhow gained in this field through involvement in such projects abroad.

Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) is preparing RES and digital transition projects and will concurrently focus efforts to reduce carbon emissions and develop more eco-friendly products, including biofuels and hydrogen.

The Copelouzos group is nearing an investment decision on the development of a natural gas-fueled power station in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece. A decision is expected this summer. The group is currently engaged in talks with neighboring North Macedonia’s power utility for its possible entry into this project as a minority partner.

As for networks, power grid operator IPTO has planned numerous projects as part of a ten-year investment plan worth five billion euros. The operator anticipates new RES project penetration of 17 GW, a forecast exceeding the National Energy and Climate Plan’s goals.

DEDDIE/HEDNO, the distribution network operator, has put together a 3 billion-euro investment plan for the two next regulatory periods, each four years long. Projects include network undergrounding, service upgrades and improvement, new technologies, as well as grid digitalization projects.

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.

 

EBRD: Green projects in Greece a priority, RES-based economic recovery

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is strongly interested in Greek energy market investments, Andreea Moraru, the bank’s head of Greece and Cyprus, has stressed in an interview with energypress.

The EBRD official spoke extensively on significant investment opportunities being created by the energy transition.

Since 2015, the EBRD has invested over four billion euros in Greece, participating in numerous major projects, Moraru informed, noting its recent support for power utility PPC, an investment worth 160 million euros, one of the bank’s largest, to cover customer payment volatility following the outbreak of the pandemic, exemplifies EBRD’s strong support for Greece.

The full interview follows:

What is the role of the EBRD compared to that of other banking institutions? 

The EBRD is a development bank committed to furthering progress towards ‘market-oriented economies and the promotion of private and entrepreneurial initiative. Our role is to be complementary to the commercial banks, to work alongside them and to support them.

Αdditionality is among the founding principles underlying our work and the particular support and contribution that the EBRD brings to an investment project which is not available from commercial sources of finance. Alongside transition and sound Banking, it is one of the three founding principles underlying our work. By ensuring that we are additional in everything we do, we ensure that our support for the private sector makes a contribution beyond that available on the market and does not crowd out other private sector actors.

Whenever we consider financing a project, we analyze whether similar financing can be obtained from private sector local banks or non-banking institutions.

Many of our markets are relatively high risk, and the private sector will only lend for short periods of time or at such high rates as to make the project unfeasible. For major new projects in the field of infrastructure, for example, longer-term financing may not be available on reasonable terms or conditions. This is where the EBRD fits in.

Additionality can also be non-financial in nature, where EBRD’s interventions contribute to better project outcomes that would not have been required or offered by commercial financiers. This can include the provision of comfort to clients and investors by mitigating non-financial risks, such as country, regulatory, project, economic cycle or political risks. Additionality may also be derived from the EBRD’s involvement in helping projects and clients achieve higher standards than would have been required by the market, such as through sharing its expertise on better corporate governance or above ‘business as usual’ environmental or inclusion standards.

Do you consider the energy sector in Greece to be suitable to contribute to the development and reconstruction of the Greek economy? For what reasons?

Absolutely. In general, the EBRD’s vision for the energy sector is of a partnership between industry, governments and consumers that delivers the essential energy needs of societies and economies in a manner that is sustainable, reliable and at the lowest possible cost.

In Greece the energy sector is embarking upon its biggest transformation yet, moving away from its reliance on lignite (c. 20% of total electricity production in 2019) to renewables and a smaller fleet of significantly less carbon intensive gas generating units. The NECP aims to achieve reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than 55% by 2030 compared to 2005, planned to be achieved through: (i) decommissioning of all 4 GW of lignite-fired generation capacity by 2028 (3.4GW by 2023), (ii) 8.7 GW of new renewable generation capacity to added by 2030, reaching a total of 19 GW, and (iii) 2 GW of new gas generation capacity added for system support and security. The country remains committed to implementing the NECP as planned despite the negative impacts the CV19 crisis is expected to have on the Greek economy in 2020 and beyond.

Greece’s withdrawal from coal is a fundamental transformation that will create substantial sector and social challenges with the following broad implications: (1) constructing large volumes of low carbon generating capacity in order to ensure energy security in an increasing electrified economy, (2) reengineering the country’s transmission and distribution networks to reflect the additional penetration of distributed, intermittent renewable energy, and (3) addressing the social and economic impacts of the closure of a major part of its existing energy infrastructure, i.e. ensuring a just and inclusive transition.

We have supported many energy projects so far, especially renewables, working together with leading companies, such as GEK Terna, Mytilineos and HELPE among others.

A recent milestone is our support for the largest renewable energy project in Greece and the largest solar energy project in south-eastern Europe to date, the new solar park in Kozani. In 2017, we also approved a framework committing up to €300 million to finance renewable energy investments in the country.

The main reasons why this sector is important for the development of the Greek economy and thus our participation, is first to help the decarbonization of the country and the transition to a greener economy, as well as to strengthen local linkages and regional integration.

What is the EBRD’S philosophy about its presence in the Greek economy and especially in the energy sector?

In Greece in particular, supporting sustainable energy and infrastructure is among our top priorities. In fact supporting sustainable energy and infrastructure is one of the pillars of the newly approved country strategy. Our investment strategy in the energy sector going forward will aim at further liberalization and diversification of the energy market focusing on renewables and increased renewable energy capacity and a more diversified energy mix to promote decarbonization of the economy. EBRD could support a second phase of feasible renewable energy projects with project preparation / technical assistance and financing (biomass and biogas plants, use of waste heat in greenhouses for high value-added agriculture, electricity storage facilities, green hydrogen production plants and other forms of energy storage.

We see that it’s challenging to meet EU climate goals in Greece and our goal is to support the country with that. Our approach and philosophy is in line with the National Energy and Climate Plan and we are very glad the Greek government is committed to close all lignite plants. We need to keep this momentum, despite the current Covid-19 crisis, and turn the country greener.

One good example is our recent support for PPC (DEI). This has been one of our largest investments (€160 million) and the first time we supported the public sector in Greece. This facility supports PPC’s working capital needs at a time of customer payment volatility following the outbreak of the crisis. It also strengthens the resilience of the electricity sector as a whole by ensuring the stability of essential utility supplies and maintaining the momentum towards decarbonization.

What are the characteristics of private companies that could apply to be supported by the EBRD?

When we consider financing a project we analyze different aspects, such as how it supports the green economy, if it promotes women or youth inclusion, if it can enhance the competitiveness and resilience of the Greek economy etc. We look at the financial strength of the project as we operate according to sound banking principles. We cannot finance companies in certain sectors like defence-related activities, tobacco, substances banned by international law or gambling facilities.  As I have already mentioned, we also need to be additional.

We work in a wide range of sectors, from energy, infrastructure, manufacturing, property, tourism, agriculture to trade and financial institutions. We also support SMEs with business advice, know-how transfer and trainings.

What are your conclusions from your cooperation so far with Greek companies and institutions?

We’re very proud of all our projects in Greece so far. Since commencing our operations in 2015, the Bank has invested more than €4 billion in the country, helping respond to the financial crisis. Against a turbulent political and economic backdrop, the EBRD helped stabilize the financial sector, support private companies through export-oriented growth and lay the foundations for greater private sector participation in critical energy and infrastructure projects that have also strengthened regional integration.

We faced several challenges because of the financial crisis, but this was expected and was exactly the reason why we came to the country. Our main conclusion is that Greek companies have strong potential and very talented workforce, who we’re glad to be working with. The COVID-19 pandemic has abruptly interrupted Greece’s steady recovery, but we’re confident that the country can build back better.

We have an excellent cooperation with the Greek Government whom we are supporting on a number of initiatives.  In late 2020, the EBRD joined forces with the Ministry of Development and Investments of Greece to establish a new public-private partnership (PPP) preparation facility cooperation account, following a request from the Greek authorities. We are also working close with the Ministry of Finance on development of a capital market strategy, a project supported by DG Reform.

What are your plans for the new year?

We will focus on supporting the recovery of the Greek economy, by helping with the immediate needs of the Greek businesses because of coronavirus, as well as with their long-term growth plans. Green projects, including in the energy sector, will be our priority, but we’ll also be active in other sectors. We’ll continue supporting the banking sector, too.

Do you consider the investment risk in our country increased after the great economic crisis and in the light of the current crisis due to a pandemic?

The financial crisis had a strong impact on Greece, but we recognize that the Greek economy had started recovering and growing in the recent years. It’s true that COVID-19 containment measures are likely to depress economic output and cause particular disruption to the tourism industry, reversing the economic recovery and hindering investments in the near term, not only in Greece, but also in most countries. There are still many things that need to be improved in the country to attract more investors, but we don’t consider the investment risk much higher than it used to be. The Greek economy can recover after the pandemic.

 

Tenaris, Edison, Snam unite for hydrogen-based steelmaking project

Tenaris, Edison and Snam have signed a letter of intent to launch a project aimed at decarbonizing Tenaris’s seamless pipe mill in Dalmine, northern Italy, through the introduction of green hydrogen in some production processes, the companies have announced.

The project, which is part of a broader initiative known as “Dalmine Zero Emissions”, promises to launch the first industrial-scale application of hydrogen in Italy to decarbonize the steel sector.

Tenaris, Edison and Snam will collaborate to identify and implement the most suitable solutions for the production, distribution and use of green hydrogen at the Tenaris mill, contributing their skills to invest in the best available technologies.

The project looks to generate hydrogen and oxygen through an approximate 20 MW electrolyzer that will be installed at the Dalmine plant and to adapt the steelmaking process to use green hydrogen instead of natural gas.

The initiative may also include the construction of a storage site for the accumulation of high-pressure hydrogen and the use of oxygen, locally produced through electrolysis, within the melting process. The development of the project would significantly reduce CO2 emissions related to electric arc furnace steel.

After the initial test, the three companies will evaluate whether to expand the collaboration to other stages of the production process, therefore extending the use of hydrogen.

The broader “Dalmine Zero Emissions” initiative was launched by Tenaris together with Tenova and Techint Engineering & Construction to integrate green hydrogen in steelmaking from the electric arc furnace steel and in the downstream processing of the Dalmine mill.

Michele Della Briotta, President of Tenaris Europe and CEO of TenarisDalmine, noted: “The ‘Dalmine Zero Emissions’ project is our latest initiative launched by Tenaris in Italy to improve our environmental footprint, after the investments and projects for the protection of air quality, for energy efficiency, for the reduction of raw materials consumption, for the increase of the content of recycled material in our products and for the enhancement and reuse of our by-products. Through the ‘Dalmine Zero Emissions’ project’, together with qualified partners, we are starting the energy transition of the Dalmine plant, placing ourselves at the forefront of sustainability in the steel sector.”

Nicola Monti, CEO of Edison, commented: “With this agreement, Edison launches a path to support the decarbonization of industrial sectors that are key to the national economy, thus contributing to the achievement of the energy transition objectives set at a national level in the PNIEC and at a European level in the Green Deal. The renewable energy produced by our plants and the technological solutions available to us can concretely contribute to the development of a new and important national value chain, which in the coming decades will accompany the evolution of the economic and production system towards climate neutrality.”

Marco Alverà, CEO of Snam, remarked: “Green hydrogen can represent the ideal solution to decarbonize some key industrial sectors, in particular to produce zero-emission steel in the long term. Today’s agreement, which features three companies active along the entire value chain, is a first step to achieving this important goal. Thanks to its technologies and infrastructure, Snam acts as one of the enablers of the hydrogen supply chain, to contribute to the fight against climate change and the creation of new development opportunities, in line with national and European strategies.”

The implementation of the project will be governed by separate agreements negotiated between the parties in compliance with the legal and regulatory framework.

New minister, just appointed, has issues to resolve in 2021

Kostas Skrekas, just appointed new energy minister as part of the government’s cabinet reshuffle, in place of Costis Hatzidakis, who has headed the ministry for a constructive year and a half, faces a series of pending energy-sector matters that remained unresolved in 2020. They need to be addressed as soon as possible. Developments and conditions this year will be pivotal for these matters.

Skrekas was previously deputy minister for agricultural development and food.

Also in 2021, a year during which takeovers and mergers are seen occurring in the retail electricity and gas markets, rivals will continue battling for market share gains. The target model’s launch two months ago has brought about new conditions, strengthening the positions of vertically integrated suppliers.

The need for a normalization of the target model’s new markets stands as the energy ministry’s most pressing task at present. A sharp rise in wholesale electricity prices as a result of soaring balancing market costs has deeply unsettled the market, impacting the standings of non-vertically integrated suppliers, as well as industrial enterprises and consumers, who face rising bills.

Market coupling with Bulgaria’s day-ahead market, scheduled to take place within the first three months of the new year, is the next step of the target model, a procedure designed to harmonize EU energy markets and promote competition.

New energy-intensive industrial tariffs also need to be set soon. Though essentially a matter concerning state-controlled power utility PPC and Greece’s industrial players, the cost of industrial energy is crucial for Greek industry, carrying particular political and economic weight.

Also, Greece has little time left in its negotiations with Brussels for a framework to offer third parties access to PPC’s lignite-based generation. This issue is no longer as crucial as it once was because the country’s lignite output has been drastically reduced. Even so, it remains important for independent suppliers.

A number of energy-sector privatizations could be completed this year. Gas utility DEPA’s two new entities, DEPA Infrastructure and DEPA Commercial, electricity distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, and a tender for a tender for the development of an underground natural gas storage facility (UGS) in the almost depleted natural gas field of “South Kavala” in northern Greece are all on this year’s privatization list.

In renewable energy, the ministry needs to take decisions within the first few months to clarify terms regulating the sector. RES investment interest is currently high. Steps still need to be taken in an ongoing effort to simplify RES licensing procedures, while a legal framework must be established for energy storage, offshore wind farms and hydrogen use.

 

Brussels unveils electricity, hydrogen project conditions for PCI status

The European Commission has just unveiled new criteria that need to be met by energy infrastructure projects concerning the electricity, and now, also hydrogen, sectors for Project of Common Interest (PCI) status.

Brussels presented these details as part of its wider plan concerning the financing and development of energy infrastructure. The European Commission will commit annual investments of 50.5 billion euros in the effort to meet 2030 climate-agreement targets.

Electricity transmission projects will need to increase trans-boundary capacities between EU member states by at least 500 MW, according to one of Brussels’ new criteria for PCI status, enabling favorable EU funding.

In energy storage, projects will need to offer capacities of at least 225 MW to secure their PCI status.

Smart meter installations must involve transmission and/or distribution operators of at least two EU member states and represent at least 5,000 users either producing or consuming 300 GW per year, including at least 20 percent from renewable energy sources.

As for hydrogen, projects must facilitate trans-boundary transmission between EU member states or boost storage capacities at borders by at least 10 percent.

‘Clear prioritization towards renewable-hydrogen solutions essential’

Council of the European Union
Rue de la Loi 175
Brussels, 8 December 2020

Honorable Energy Ministers,

The signatories of this letter urge you to place renewable hydrogen solutions at the core of the Hydrogen Council Conclusions that you are set to adopt this month.

The EU Hydrogen Strategy acknowledges, without ambiguity, that renewable hydrogen produced from 100% renewable electricity through electrolysis is the most sustainable solution for delivering the Green Deal. The EU must put all resources and political will in making this renewable-based hydrogen competitive with conventional hydrogen solutions before 2030.

Becoming a global leader in renewable hydrogen cannot be achieved without bold commitments. The European renewable success story was built on a clear political framework and targeted support schemes to spearhead innovation and accelerate economies of scale. In less than a decade wind and solar became the most cost-competitive sources of new power generation.

To replicate this success in renewable hydrogen, signatories urge the Member States to commit to an ambitious regulatory framework. One that accelerates renewables deployment, scales up the production of electrolysers “made in Europe,” and supports technological breakthroughs increasing the efficiency and competitiveness of renewable hydrogen solutions.

The primary driver of this revolution is direct electrification and the further uptake of renewable electricity by 2030. The EU must recognise the need for new, hydrogen-related renewable installations in the review of the Union’s binding renewable energy target by 2030. This will ensure Europe builds upon the benefits of direct electrification which is today the most competitive decarbonisation solution for most of energy uses, while securing the capacities needed to produce renewable hydrogen at scale.

The second driver is innovation. Europe must significantly increase the efficiency and competitiveness of its electrolyser technologies. To achieve this, there is no time to waste in transition investments. The EU needs to channel available funds, from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, Horizon 2020 and Green Deal calls towards such future-proof technologies. They will reduce Europe’s reliance on fossil fuel and accelerate the competitiveness of renewable hydrogen solutions even before 2030.

The third driver is the roll-out of the right electricity and hydrogen infrastructure. In the short-term while renewable-based hydrogen solutions are upscaling volume production, Europe must prioritise the faster modernisation of its electricity grids and streamline investments into hydrogen infrastructure with a prime focus on the local production and use of renewable-based hydrogen, to meet specific needs from ’hard to abate’ sectors. Repurposing of existing pipelines should not be an objective per se, to avoid investments in stranded assets and unnecessary costs for EU citizens.

A clear prioritisation towards renewable-hydrogen solutions is essential to provide investment certainty and unlock the significant investments needed by 2030. By making the appropriate choices and placing renewables at the core of Europe’s future energy system, Europe can lead the way in the global energy transformation and become a global leader in renewable hydrogen. Our companies stand ready to deliver this vision.

Enel to boost hydrogen capacity over next decade, CEO tells forum

Enel Group CEO Francesco Starace, speaking at the recent European Hydrogen Forum, a major event gathering industry leaders, policy-makers, government representatives as well as the research community, noted the company intends to boost its green hydrogen capacity over the next decade.

“We are developing green hydrogen projects in Spain, Chile and the United States, and we have plans together with Eni for their refineries as well as with Snam and other players for other applications in Italy,” Starace noted during the Panel discussion. “We are very happy about the path the European Commission is taking towards the decarbonization of European society. This is something that, for us, is within reach and requires an acceleration in renewable investment. Furthermore, there are sectors like the cement, fertilizer and chemical industries, as well as transport by sea or air that cannot be fully electrified and need green hydrogen if we want to achieve a fully decarbonized society going forward. For these sectors, green hydrogen can truly be the answer to decarbonization. Technological development, however, is just in the initial phase and we have to accelerate its pace and study its evolution carefully in order to avoid mistakes in capital allocations and bets in solutions that need to be tested before large investments are put to work.”

In the hydrogen segment, the Enel Group plans to grow its green hydrogen capacity to over 2 GW by 2030. Enel plans to integrate electrolyzers with renewable plants producing electricity for direct sale and ancillary services to support further renewable penetration in the grid, with green hydrogen also being sold to industrial customers.

The European Hydrogen Forum, which is one of the highlights of the European Hydrogen Week, was been jointly organized by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW) and the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), in partnership with Hydrogen Europe and Hydrogen Europe Research.

The first edition of the European Hydrogen Week, a fully digital series of events held between November 23 and 27, was dedicated to the essential role of hydrogen in fulfilling the EU’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

The week of events was launched by the European Commission and FCH JU in order to match the ever-growing interest in hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, alongside marking the adoption of the EU Hydrogen Strategy in July.

 

 

 

DEPA Commercial invites RES companies for collaboration

DEPA Commercial, one of two new entities formed by gas utility DEPA for its upcoming privatization, has invited renewable energy companies with existing production units or advanced projects to express interest in prospective collaborations.

DEPA Commercial is aiming to transform into an energy company with emphasis on green energy activities, chief executive Costas Xifaras has noted.

According to sources, DEPA Commercial is looking to develop a RES portfolio totaling 240 MW.

Related investments at DEPA Commercial are expected to reach 120 million euros, the company head has stated.

DEPA Commercial, interested in both solar and wind energy projects, is looking to acquire RES production licenses and, especially, mature-stage projects, sources informed, adding the company is seriously considering takeovers.

For the time being, DEPA Commercial does not intend to partner with energy groups active in the RES market as well as the company’s privatization procedure.

Besides its plan to expand into the RES market, DEPA Commercial, currently developing major LNG projects, is also exploring the possibility of entering the hydrogen sector.

PPC green plan includes pumped storage, hydrogen, old generator use

Power utility PPC’s green-energy plan represents a key part of the company’s new business plan, along with a newly adopted customer-oriented approach and the digital transformation of production and distribution networks, deputy chief executive Giannis Kopanakis has pointed out during a speech at the 3rd Athens Investment Forum.

PPC’s green energy plan will be based on decarbonization, through a gradual withdrawal of the corporation’s lignite-fired power stations, and RES market penetration, the deputy noted.

Telethermal need coverage, development of large-scale solar energy farms at former lignite mines, and investments in energy storage, biomass, hydrogen and other new technologies all feature in the transition plan for lignite-dependent local economies, Kopanakis told the conference.

As for energy storage, PPC, besides batteries, also intends to develop pumped-storage systems at depleted lignite sites, appropriate for use as small-scale reservoirs.

The development of hydrogen producing facilities, also included in the PPC plan, will greatly depend on decisions concerning the fuel mix the corporation’s new Ptolemaida V power station will run on beyond 2028.

PPC also plans to utilize existing mechanical equipment of lignite-fired power stations either closed or headed for closure through use at other company facilities. Generators at old power stations are planned to be converted into condensers for grid voltage stability. Such systems will be needed as a result of the sharp increase in RES stations.

PPC’s investment plan, budgeted at 2.2 billion euros, is expected to create at least 900 permanent jobs as well as 3,000 temporary positions, for the construction of new projects, Kopanakis said.

 

JTF plan includes 16 post-lignite projects budgeted at €2.5bn

The total cost of sixteen investment proposals concerning the decarbonization of Greece’s lignite-dependent areas included in the country’s Just Transition Fund plan, just released by the energy ministry for public consultation until October 31, is estimated between 2.3 and 2.5 billion euros.

The plan, offering project description and cost details, includes eleven proposals for west Macedonia, in northern Greece, and five proposals for Megalopoli, in the Peloponnese.

The proposals for west Macedonia include 2-GW solar farm projects by power utility PPC.

The power utility is currently developing a 230-MW solar farm budgeted at 133 million euros.

A Solaris Bus & Coach project for a RES-based hydrogen unit budgeted at one billion euros is also among the eleven proposals for west Macedonia, as is a 250-MW energy storage project by Eunice, to cost 280 million euros.

The five Megalopoli proposals included in Greece’s JTF plan include PPC solar farms with a capacity of 50 MW and budgeted at 250 million euros; a pharmaceutical production facility to cost 90 million euros and create 400 jobs; a smart-technology livestock and animal feed farm budgeted at 40 million euros; a theme park for entertainment and educational purposes to cost 40 million euros; as well as other public-sector investments worth 30 million euros.

 

 

 

DEPA Commercial to enter RES field, starting with 200-MW goal

DEPA Commercial, the new entity emerging from gas utility DEPA, will enter renewable energy production as part of the company’s transformation from a gas to energy company, its administration has decided.

The firm has already held talks with green energy players with the aim of involving DEPA Commercial in solar and wind energy projects about to enter the construction stage or already being constructed, sources informed.

An initial objective for the accumulation of a green-energy portfolio comprising approximately 200 MW has been set by the company, sources added.

Careful steps are being taken in the RES sector, Dr. Konstantinos Karagiannakos, the company’s Coordinating Director of Trading Activities, recently noted.

Having lost a steady and reliable market share in gas distribution, a sector that guaranteed DEPA annual profit of about 25 million euros, DEPA Commercial is now eyeing new activities and revenues from domains that offer more consistency than trade, entailing higher risk.

Besides the RES sector, DEPA Commercial’s lower-risk approach has also led to an interest in the prospective Alexandroupoli FSRU in northeastern Greece.

The company is also broadening its activities to cover gas supply for the industrial sector and customers in areas without gas networks, through small-scale LNG and remote CNG solutions, as well as the gas-run vehicle market through the development of a nationwide network of refueling stations.

In addition, the company is also making plans to enter eco-friendly alternative fuel markets such as hydrogen and biomethane.

 

DEPA Commerce 5-year business plan includes turn to RES sector

Gas company DEPA Commerce’s five-year business plan for 2020-2024, containing investments estimated at 200 million euros, aspires to broaden the company’s interests by also incorporating renewable energy projects totaling 200 MW, either through independent development or acquisitions of mature plans.

Privatization fund TAIPED and the energy ministry are expected to approve the DEPA Commerce business plan within July.

DEPA Commerce was formed by gas utility DEPA as a new entity for its privatization procedure.

Besides RES projects, the DEPA Commerce business plan also includes hydrogen and biomethane projects, as well as electromobility initiatives.

The company’s expansion of business activities is expected to lead to greatly increased EBITDA and profit figures.

Once finalized and approved, the DEPA Commerce five-year business plan will be included in the due diligence package for prospective bidders.

Just Transition Fund excludes support for all gas projects

The EU’s Just Transition Fund, takings its cue from the European Investment Bank, has left natural gas projects of its funding list, noting it will not provide financial support for any investments concerning production, processing, distribution, storage or consumption of fossil fuels.

This exclusion creates issues for all the country’s natural gas projects, big or small, which authorities would have wanted to be supported by the Just Transition Fund.

They include a power utility PPC plan for a combined gas-fueled cooling, heat and power plant in Kardia, northern Greece, for coverage of the west Macedonia region’s telethermal needs, announced by the energy minister Costis Hatzidakis just days ago.

Other Greek project plans such as the Alexandroupoli FSRU and the development of an underground natural gas storage (UGS) facility at a virtually depleted offshore gas field south of Kavala have already been rejected by the EIB, unless hydrogen is incorporated into their plans to convert them into eco-friendly projects.

Natural gas, emitting approximately half the amount of CO2 produced by coal, also spills out methane, an undesired greenhouse gas.

Climate protection advocates insist new natural gas units could end up operating for decades, which would threaten the EU objective for zero emissions by 2050.

Hydrogen factor needed for financing of South Kavala UGS

Development of an underground natural gas storage facility (UGS) in the almost depleted South Kavala offshore natural gas field will require a solution incorporating hydrogen into the investment, estimated between 300 and 400 million euros, which would categorize the project as eco-friendly and facilitate European Investment Bank financing.

As has been made clear by the energy ministry, Greek privatization fund TAIPED, currently conducting a cost-benefit analysis, will need to consider this prospect and plan for a storage facility holding hydrogen or a mix of this fuel with natural gas. Installation of carbon-capture and storage technology may also be helpful.

The EIB will stop financing conventional natural gas projects as of 2022. The bank may exempt from this rule projects limiting their emissions to 250 grams per KWh of energy produced.

This emission limit can only be achieved if natural gas is mixed with hydrogen, a prospect requiring higher-cost technologies but aligning the UGS with EU policies for full decarbonization in Europe by 2050.

The privatization fund has just launched an international tender for the South Kavala UGS in an effort to achieve EU funding for the project before a crucial EU funding deadline expires.

As a Project of Common Interest, this UGS is eligible for funding through the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility, vital for the investment’s sustainability. However, investors behind the project will need to submit their CEF application by the end of 2020.

The UGS South Kavala is intended to serve as energy infrastructure that will enhance supply security in the Greek market as well as  southeastern Europe.

 

Gas firms look to hydrogen for maintenance of EU funding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Solar-based hydrogen output considered for Ptolemaida PVs

The government and its energy ministry are considering a solar-based hydrogen production initiative through major-scale photovoltaic facilities planned at state-controlled power utility PPC’s lignite fields in northern Greece’s Ptolemaida area, on the way out as a result of Greece’s decarbonization plan.

Discussions for solar-based hydrogen production are still at an early stage. However, if pursued, the initiative would be launched in the Ptolemaida area, until now a lignite-dependent local economy.

Major-scale photovoltaic facilities such as a 230-MW project being planned by PPC in Ptolemaida, as part of a wider 2-GW initiative for the region, are considered ideal for solar-based hydrogen production, requiring considerable amounts of energy.

Solar-based hydrogen production utilizes photovoltaic (PV) cells in combination with water electrolysis. The resulting hydrogen can be stored and used to reproduce electricity whenever needed by the grid.

Current electricity production costs linked to this technology are high. However, technological developments such as the mass production of electrolytes could lower power production costs and lead to economies of scale, making such an investment feasible.

Greece is already taking part in a European initiative looking to promote hydrogen production. Germany, preparing to take over the EU’s rotating presidency from Croatia in July, appears determined to push ahead with hydrogen production initiatives.

Operators must plan hydrogen projects to seek PCI funds

Greece’s network operators need to pursue projects concerning the development of networks designed to carry and distribute hydrogen, the new clean fuel whose rise is leading to major changes.

Companies such as Greek gas grid operator DESFA, gas utility DEPA and distributors will need to include hydrogen-related projects in their next network development programs. Hydrogen projects are expected to be eligible for favorable EU funding.

A fortnight ago, EU energy commissioner Kadri Simon informed European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy that a new regulation for projects of common interest (PCI) will place emphasis on hydrogen networks, carbon capture, domain bridging, storage batteries and smart networks.

In addition, a German government official recently declared that hydrogen will become the new gasoline, noting Germany will play a leading role in its overall development.

Quite clearly, national governments and major energy companies around Europe are working to establish hydrogen as a key fuel in the adjustment needed to achieve decarbonization goals.

In Greece, network operators will need to seize the opportunity and plan hydrogen projects eligible for a share of the EU’s PCI funds.

 

 

Gov’t to hasten hydrogen market development amid investment interest

Procedures leading to the establishment of Greek hydrogen market appear set to progress faster than expected, the government’s strategic decision for greater renewable energy penetration of the energy market, investment interest and Germany’s upcoming EU presidency being catalysts. The government will aim to implement related regulatory framework by July.

Hydrogen tariffs, sector support, technical prerequisites for the infusion of hydrogen into the natural gas network, as well as the determination of maximum mix levels for the two fuels are among the issues included in the new framework, to be accompanied by a sustainability study on related facilities.

Feasibility studies examining the level of competitiveness of such infrastructure as well as costs do not exist at present. They need to be conducted so as to enable authorities to determine the number of units that can enter the Greek market.

Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) has publically expressed interest to develop the country’s first hydrogen refueling station for vehicles. Greek utility DEPA and Italy’s Snam have also expressed interest. Snam reiterated its interest at a New Year company event staged yesterday by Greek gas grid operator DESFA. Snam is a main shareholder, along with Enagas and Fluxys.

A recent McKinsey study commissioned by Snam for the Italian market showed that hydrogen can cover 23 percent of domestic energy demand in 2050 amid a 95 percent decarbonized market.