PPC industrial supply deals last act ahead of market share dive

Power utility PPC’s latest supply agreements with industrial consumers, finalized just days ago with steel producer Viohalco, Titan cement and building materials group, as well as all other industrial players, following a preceding deal with Aluminium of Greece, a member of the Mytilineos group, represent, barring unexpected developments, the final act ahead of major market changes that will dramatically reduce the utility’s market share beyond December 31, 2023, when these new high-voltage supply agreements expire.

They are PPC’s last industrial supply agreements offering fixed tariffs. As of 2024, PPC will offer indexed tariff prices that will be pegged to the wholesale electricity market’s monthly clearing price in the day-ahead market.

This change will most likely prompt industrial consumers to seek alternative electricity supply solutions.

Aluminium of Greece has already done so, as it plans to receive electricity from the Mytilineos group’s new natural gas-fired power plant being developed in the Agios Nikolaos industrial zone in Viotia’s Agios Nikolaos area, northwest of Athens, to be direct cable-linked to the Aluminium of Greece facility, as well as through RES production, ending a 60-year association with PPC.

At present, PPC sells an annual electricity amount of between 63 to 64 TWh, of which approximately 5 TWh concern high-voltage electricity. If energy-intensive consumers leave PPC from 2024 onwards, to avoid indexed tariffs, the utility’s electricity sales will drop to between 58 and 59 TWh, and, by extension, its retail market share will contract to about 50 percent from 64 percent at present.

This is the state-controlled utility’s aim as an evenly divided electricity market in which PPC will hold a market share of about 50 percent and the independent suppliers the other 50 percent will end the DG Comp’s frequent interventions over the utility’s excessive retail market share.

The energy ministry is aiming for green-energy power purchase agreements (PPAs) to cover 20 percent of industrial electricity demand by next year.

 

Suppliers united against RAE’s electricity-bill revision proposals

The country’s entire spectrum of electricity suppliers, from power utility PPC, vertically integrated energy groups, to independent suppliers, have all denounced electricity-bill restriction proposals made by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, which wants to offer consumers greater clarity and price-comparing ability, rejecting the proposed measures as outdated and inconsistent with European standards.

Electricity suppliers across the board contend the proposals, which offer less leeway in the shaping of offers, would stifle competition and ultimately increase tariffs for consumers.

In recent months, suppliers have been forced to activate electricity bill clauses as they have battled to cope with the impact of sharply increased natural gas prices in international markets as well as higher carbon emission right costs, all of which has led to elevated costs for consumers.

Supplier representatives, in comments to energypress, noted that RAE should have already taken other forms of action to protect consumers, pointing out systematic checks for misinformation practices, false advertising and unfair commercial policies.

The authority has proposed a 30 percent limit on clause-related increases and decreases; the termination of fixed costs, noting that, unlike tariffs, directly comparable, fixed costs tend to cause consumer confusion as they can run for one-month or four-month periods; the termination of an early-withdrawal clause, to stimulate greater consumer mobility; as well as electricity supply price inspections every three months, the objective being to counter temporary below-cost offers extended by some suppliers to lure customers.

 

Second market test launched for PPC lignite power packages

The European Commission has launched a second and revised market test to measure the level of interest of independent suppliers in power utility PPC’s lignite-generated electricity packages.

Suppliers have received a questionnaire as part of the procedure, staged following a subdued response to a first test in which participants more or less wrote off PPC lignite-generated electricity packages as a measure that could intensify competition in the electricity market. Participants have until July 14 to forward their responses.

A final antitrust agreement was reached at a mid-May meeting in Athens between energy minister Kostas Skrekas and the European Commission’s Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, also Brussel’s Commissioner for Competition.

Some revisions have been introduced to the lignite-based electricity package solution now being tested. The PPC packages would be offered through the energy exchange futures market, not through bilateral contracts with independent suppliers, as was originally proposed.

A second important revision concerns the pricing formula for these packages. It will now be determined through direct negotiation between the buyer and PPC through the futures market, without a market prices floor. Under the previous model, the price of the packages was based on the wholesale price minus a discount.

According to sources, the mechanism offering lignite electricity packages will remain valid until December, 2024, or, otherwise, will expire as soon as the country’s final lignite-fired power station has been withdrawn, if this precedes the aforementioned date.

Given these dates, the output of PPC’s Ptolemaida V, expected to be launched in 2023, initially as a lignite-fired unit before it converts to gas in 2026, will contribute to the lignite electricity packages.

PPC seeking to combine market share loss with hold of good customers

Power utility PPC is preparing to implement a new and aggressive pricing policy whose aim will be to combine a retail market share contraction with the maintenance of reliable customers.

“PPC will lose a share of the market, down to 50 percent from 70 percent, but we aim to keep hold of the good customers,” the power utility’s chief executive Giorgos Stassis has told a general shareholders’ meeting.

A competitive market cannot function properly with the dominant player holding a 70 percent share of supply, the PPC boss noted.

According to a 2021-2023 business plan presented by the chief executive last December, PPC expects to lose approximately 1.4 million customers, reducing the company’s market share to 54 percent by 2023.

Besides holding on to its reliable customers, PPC will also seek to lure punctual customers from rival suppliers.

As part of the effort, PPC is preparing to market a range of new products, including for business-category customers.

PPC, which revised its corporate statute just weeks ago, is also expected to introduce energy-efficiency and PV net-metering services, domains offering tremendous growth potential, noted Stassis, the chief executive.

The company is also modernizing its retail outlets, changes including the development of self-service outlets, the CEO told shareholders.

PPC has already launched new-look outlets in the capital’s Maroussi and Kallithea districts, while further launches, part of the effort to keep reliable customers, are expected early July.

RAE effort for universal supplier cost-clause policy facing delay

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, working on a universal cost-clause policy for all electricity suppliers, to offer consumers greater electricity-bill transparency and price-comparing ability, has extended, until the end of June, a deadline it set for suppliers to deliver related market data details concerning all of 2020 and 2021, until the present.

Independent suppliers, who recently triggered wholesale price-related clauses in electricity bills to protect themselves against elevated wholesale prices, were questioned by the authority and then requested, as early as a month ago, to produce related data but have failed to deliver, instead calling for more time.

Power utility PPC was the first supplier to be summoned for questioning over its decision to trigger a CO2 cost-related clause incorporated into its electricity bills.

RAE had initially planned to stage a public consultation procedure for a universal clause policy within July, after examining the data provided by suppliers, but this plan will now be delayed.

Given the fact that overall business activity slows down severely during the August holiday period, RAE’s proposal is now not expected to be forwarded for consultation any sooner than September.

Taking into account supplier objections expected to surface during the procedure, the new cost-clause policy cannot be expected to be implemented before October.

Consumer complaints over sharp electricity cost increases and lack of transparency in electricity billing have risen considerably in recent times.

Wholesale prices up nearly 20% in first 5 months, retail levels impacted

Wholesale electricity market prices rose by nearly 20 percent in the first five months of the year, official market data provided by power grid operator IPTO has shown.

These wholesale price increases directly impact retail price levels for consumers who have opted for floating-tariff supply agreements linked to wholesale price-related clauses.

The overall cost of electricity in the wholesale market rose 19.1 percent between January and May, from 64.111 euros per MWh to 76.373 euros per MWh.

Electricity prices in the day-ahead and intraday markets rose by 14.1 percent between January and May, from 55.612 euros per MWh to 63.499 euros per MWh, the data showed.

Discrepancy cost nearly doubled during this period, rising from 0.836 euros per MWh to 1.643 euros per MWh.

Power utility PPC, which, until now, has incorporated CO2-price clauses into its electricity bills, has announced it will adopt wholesale price-related clauses in August.

RAE working on common clause policy for suppliers

Following up on its intervention against power utility PPC’s recent decision to trigger a CO2 emission price-related clause for medium and low-voltage consumers, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has now begun questioning independent suppliers over their adoption of a wholesale price-related clause.

The authority, to concurrently investigate the legality of these initiatives, has asked suppliers to forward related data concerning all of 2020 and 2021, up to the present, by the beginning of next week as part of its effort to establish a common clause policy for all suppliers that can clarify the price-comparing ability of consumers.

RAE aims to announce a new set of rules on electricity bill clauses in September, following public consultation, possibly in July.

Once RAE has examined market data expected from independent suppliers, it intends to hold a series of talks with them as of June 21.

PPC, which, just days ago, was asked by RAE to replace its CO2 price-related clause with one linked to wholesale price levels, is doing so, announcing it will also implement a 30 percent discount as of August 5 to offset, as much as possible, a price rise anticipated as a result of its adoption of the wholesale price clause.

PPC adopting wholesale market clause along with 30% discount

Power utility PPC is preparing to replace its CO2 emission right price-related clause with one linked to wholesale electricity market price levels, which, combined with a 30 percent discount, to be applied as an offsetting tool, is ultimately expected to result in a slight overall reduction in electricity bill costs for consumers.

PPC’s new pricing system, set to be implemented on August 5, was adopted following pressure from RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, in its effort to enhance the price-comparing ability of consumers.

Until now, PPC has been the only supplier using a CO2-related clause in its pricing system. All other suppliers have incorporated a wholesale market-related clause into their supply agreements, as protection against increased wholesale costs.

The power utility triggered its CO2-related clause in May in response to rallying CO2 emission right prices, which resulted in electricity bill increases of between 5 and 6 percent for consumers.

This percentage increase in the cost of PPC’s electricity bills is expected to be lowered as a result of the switch to a wholesale market clause and the accompanying 30 percent discount.

PPC asked to replace CO2 clause with wholesale clause

Power utility PPC is facing pressure by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, to replace its CO2 emission rights price clause with a wholesale electricity price clause adopted by all rival suppliers.

PPC’s decision to activate, early in May, its CO2 emission rights clause in response to rallying CO2 emission right prices has prompted regulatory issues, the authority contends.

PPC was asked, late last month, to explain its decision, as part of a series of meetings organized by the authority with all  suppliers.

RAE, demanding detailed data, is examining whether irregularities exist, the legality of these clauses, and if consumers have been misled.

Independent suppliers have also needed to explain their decisions to activate wholesale price clauses included in  supply agreements. Like CO2 emission right prices, wholesale electricity price levels have also risen.

The authority has received numerous complaints by consumers over costlier electricity bills.

PPC’s low-voltage power bills have risen by levels of between two and three euros since its activation of the CO2-related clause.

Though PPC, the dominant retail player, was the last to activate its clause, it was the first to be summoned by RAE.

CO2 emission right prices have persisted at elevated levels of over 52 euros per ton in recent times, peaking with a record high of 56.65 euros per ton on May 14, before easing slightly in recent days. CO2 emission right prices dropped to 50.14 euros per ton yesterday.

 

Medium-voltage suppliers seek higher-priced deal revisions

A sharp rise in medium-voltage energy costs over recent times, resulting from higher wholesale prices, threatens to damage the competitiveness of Greek manufacturers, Antonis Kontoleon, president of EVIKEN, the Association of Industrial Energy Consumers, has told energypress.

Rallying CO2 emission right prices as well as persistently higher prices in the day-ahead and balancing markets have prompted electricity suppliers to seek revised medium-voltage agreements as protection against loss-incurring sales.

Electricity suppliers, maintaining business to business agreements with medium-voltage consumers have increased – by 20 percent compared to just recently – their number of requests forwarded for new supply agreements.

More crucially, suppliers are asking their customers to accept upward price revisions.

In many cases, suppliers have forwarded letters to customers informing that they will no longer be able to service existing supply agreements unless prices per KWh are raised.

Low-voltage consumers also face increased electricity bill costs following the activation, by suppliers, of cost-protection clauses.

Independent suppliers have activated wholesale price-related clauses, incorporated in their supply agreements, while power utility PPC has triggered, for the first time, a CO2 emission rights cost-related clause.

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has summoned PPC’s administration to offer an explanation on this decision, at a meeting today. The authority is also expected to soon summon independent suppliers.

Brussels insists on PPC sale of lignite power packages to rivals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consumers returning to PPC, led by wholesale-linked hikes

Higher wholesale electricity prices, prompting independent suppliers to activate wholesale-cost clauses included in their supply agreements to avoid losses, are tightening up the market by leading disappointed consumers back to the power utility PPC, a clear regression in the effort to establish a broader, more competitive field of players, latest data has indicated.

Consumers opting to leave independent suppliers and return to PPC rose by 56 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the equivalent period a year earlier, market data obtained by energypress has shown.

The number of consumers leaving independent suppliers for any other supplier increased by approximately 40 percent in the first quarter of 2020, the data showed.

This increase in consumer returns to PPC is expected to be reflected in forthcoming market-share data, market officials believe.

Last year, the wholesale market price, represented, at the time, as the system marginal price, ended April last year at 38.02 euros per MWh, whereas this year, in the form of the recently launched target model’s day-ahead market, the wholesale price in April has exceeded 63 euros per MWh.

Increased CO2 emission right costs and elevated TTF and Brent prices are factors that have driven wholesale electricity prices higher. So, too, are higher balancing costs, currently more than double levels of previous years.

Wholesale electricity prices for the next twelve months are seen averaging 89 euros per MWh in the low-voltage category and 79-80 euros per MWh in the medium-voltage category.

PPC, which has never achieved its commitment to lower its market share to less than 50 percent, is offering customers significant discounts at below cost, and, as a result, hampering the market liberalization process and further narrowing the profit margins of independent suppliers, a prominent market official has told energypress.

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has the authority and responsibility to take action against suppliers selling electricity at  below cost and protect consumers against misleading offers, the official added.

Mechanisms, competition on Vestager agenda, here May 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Electricity market shares unchanged in March, imports up

The overall market share of independent electricity suppliers remained unchanged at 34.2 percent in March, without any surprise reshuffling between these suppliers, as power utility PPC held on firmly to its previous month’s 65.8 percent share, a latest monthly report issued by the Greek energy exchange has shown.

Like PPC, the market shares of some independent suppliers remained unchanged in March, compared to the previous month, the report showed.

Mytilineos registered a 7.97 percent market share in March, unchanged from February.

Heron’s market share fell marginally to 6.34 percent in March from 6.38 percent in February; Elpedison’s market share rose to 4.85 percent from 4.79 percent; NRG captured 4 percent, up from 3.89 percent; Watt and Volt fell to 2.58 percent from 2.73 percent; Volterra registered 1.93 percent, from 1.96 percent; Fysiko Aerio Attikis rose to 1.81 percent from 1.75 percent; Volton captured 1.41 percent, from 1.39 percent; Zenith reached 1.41 percent, from 1.36 percent; ELTA’s market share remained unchanged at 0.63 percent; and KEN fell slightly to 0.56 percent from 0.58 percent.

Electricity imports exceeded electricity exports, in terms of volume, the energy exchange report showed.

Also, the number of hours of net imports grew against the number of hours of net exports, the data for March showed.

Suppliers unimpressed by plan ending PPC lignite monopoly

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

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

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

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

Suppliers summoned to explain overdue surcharge transfers

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has summoned power utility PPC and six independent electricity suppliers to hearings for explanations on overdue surcharge amounts they have yet to transfer to three market operators.

The authority had initially requested related data and explanations from suppliers and has now taken a further step by deciding to stage hearings for PPC and two other suppliers, followed by supplementary hearings involving a further four suppliers.

The three market operators, power grid operator IPTO, distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO and RES market operator DAPEEP, will also be called upon by the authority to offer data on the overdue surcharge transfers by suppliers.

According to sources, RAE authorities are examining a variety of surcharges, including network transmission, distribution network and RES-supporting ETMEAR surcharges, up until October, 2020.

These surcharges, included in electricity bills and paid by consumers as part of their electricity bills, must then be handed over by suppliers to respective operators within a specific time period.

Conditions have recently deteriorated for electricity suppliers, primarily as a result of considerably higher wholesale costs since November’s launch of the target model’s new markets.

Electricity suppliers contend that amounts owed to them by the operators outweigh their unpaid surcharges and, as a result, want accounts offset. RAE has rejected this request.

PPC to hold back on CO2 cost clause until at least March 31

Power utility PPC, facing rising CO2 emission costs, will not activate a related clause included in low-voltage supply agreements for protection until at least March 31, energypress sources have informed.

Otherwise, the overwhelming majority of the country’s households would soon be subject to significant electricity cost increases as CO2 emission costs have been on the rise over the past four months or so.

State-controlled PPC’s low-voltage supply agreements have included a CO2 emission clause since November 1, 2019.

Yesterday, carbon emission futures were priced at 32.78 euros per ton, slightly below a level of 35.14 euros per ton in mid-January.

CO2 emission costs have risen consistently since first hitting levels of 29 euros per ton in November, 2020.

According to recent forecasts by ICIS, specializing in commodity pricing, the upward trajectory of carbon emission costs will continue over the next three years, averaging 39.24 euros per ton in 2021, before skyrocketing to levels of 46 euros per ton in 2022 and 50 euros per ton in 2023.

PPC’s CO2-cost clause has already been activated for its medium and high-voltage supply.

The corporation plans to reexamine its CO2 clause freeze for low-voltage consumers beyond March 31.

Contrary to PPC, independent suppliers have incorporated wholesale market price clauses, not CO2 emission cost clauses, into their supply agreements.

Independent suppliers have activated their clauses as a result of higher balancing market costs. Their low-voltage consumers have consequently faced electricity bill increases ranging from 7 to 30 percent.

Balancing market measures this week, cost restraint at €10/MWh

Measures prepared by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, with the aim of restricting offers in the balancing market following sharp price rises since November’s launch of new target model markets, are expected to be implemented this week as soon as the authority’s related decision is published in the government gazette.

To check the effectiveness of the new measures, electricity suppliers, hit hard by higher wholesale prices, have conducted simulated testing by applying the interventions to a considerable number of randomly selected 24-hour periods since the target model’s launch.

According to sources at some electricity supply firms, the testing has shown these measures can contain surcharge cost increases to single-digit figures.

The measures to be implemented any day now will combine to effectively create an upper limit for balancing market prices at levels of approximately 10 euros per MWh, as long as producers continue to exercise restraint when submitting offers, the sources added.

However, levels of approximately 10 euros per MWh remain unsatisfactory as they are many times over the balancing cost’s mandatory pool, ranging between 2 to 3 euros per MWh, the sources stressed.

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.

 

Consumers hit with tariff hikes of over 20% in low, mid-voltage

Sharply higher wholesale electricity prices registered over the past five weeks or so in the energy exchange’s new target model markets have, to a great extent, been quietly passed on by suppliers to consumer tariffs in the household, business and industrial categories, without any related announcements  from suppliers.

Price hikes by electricity suppliers have applied to approximately 35 percent of total electricity consumption, during this period, while tariff hikes have exceeded 20 percent in the low and mid-voltage categories.

In the low-voltage category, suppliers have activated clauses enabling tariff increases when wholesale price levels exceed certain levels.

Very few independent electricity suppliers, both vertically integrated and not, carry fixed-tariff agreements in their portfolios, exposing most consumers to wholesale electricity price fluctuations.

On the contrary, power utility PPC, representing roughly 65 percent of overall consumption, does not include wholesale price-related clauses in its supply agreements, meaning its tariffs have remained unchanged over the past few weeks.

Instead, PPC includes clauses linked to emission right prices in international markets. These have remained relatively steady in recent times.

Even if wholesale electricity prices happen to deescalate in the next few weeks, a likely prospect, some latency should be expected in any downward tariff adjustments by suppliers.

Numerous consumers have lodged complaints with RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, over the tariff hikes by suppliers. Complaints by suppliers against energy producers setting excessively high prices in target model markets have also been made.

Target model balancing cost skyrockets, suppliers on edge

Balancing costs in the electricity market have exceeded rational limits, skyrocketing to 57 million euros in the fifth week of the target model after totaling 71 million euros during the model’s first four weeks of operation.

Stubbornly high price levels in the wholesale electricity market have created perilous conditions that could lead non-vertically integrated suppliers to bankruptcy, while consumers, beginning with the mid-voltage category, now face tariff hikes as a consequence.

Balancing market costs between November 30 and December 6 doubled compared to a week earlier.

Despite energy minister Costis Hatzidakis’ warning of intervention to producers, whose overinflated offers have prompted this ascent, balancing market costs on December 5 and 6 exceeded 20 euros per MWh, well over levels of between 3 and 4 euros per MWh prior to the target model.

The target model, designed to ultimately homogenize EU energy markets into a single unified market, has been pitched by the Greek government as a price-reducing tool.

Though authorities have played down the price ascent of recent weeks, describing it as a nascent target model abnormality that will settle into place and not prompt consumer tariff hikes, suppliers, under severe pressure as a result of sharp cost increases, have called for immediate measures.

Suppliers have warned they will take legal action against all responsible parties in letters forwarded to the RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, the energy ministry and power grid operator IPTO.

RAE held a meeting yesterday with major-scale producers, who defended their actions, according to sources. The authority limited its reaction to proposals, the sources added.

Electricity theft cost gradually shifted to operator DEDDIE

The cost for the market of electricity theft will be gradually shifted to distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, ridding suppliers and, indirectly, consumers, of this financial burden, according to a new formula for the operator’s required revenue established by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

The operator will need to reduce, on an annual basis, its percentage of required revenue covering electricity theft losses until these have been eliminated. If annual electricity theft reduction objectives are not met, then the operator will assume the resulting cost. On the contrary, if these objectives are exceeded, then the operator will keep surplus amounts for the company coffers.

Representing between 4 and 5 percent of overall electricity consumption, electricity theft, a major problem for the Greek market, increased during the recession. The responsibility for its cost had even generated friction between power utility PPC and DEDDIE/HEDNO, the utility’s subsidiary.

New bill arrears rule restricting electricity consumer switches

Several thousand electricity consumers were blocked from switching suppliers in September, a trend that has continued this month, following a rule revision enabling suppliers to stop their customers from switching to rivals if they have not fully settled outstanding energy bills, suppliers have informed energypress.

Distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO implemented the new rule at the beginning of September following a request by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

Though suppliers have sought closer monitoring of outstanding electricity bills linked with consumers preparing to switch companies, the new rule’s level of strictness is believed to even be impeding the mobility of punctual consumers with small and unintentional arrears left to pay.

Suppliers are now concerned about the measure’s impact on competition as even the smallest of bureaucratic obstacles can be enough to deter consumers from switching energy companies.

Consumer switches, both from power utility PPC to independent suppliers and from one independent firm to another, are currently high and would be even higher if the new restriction were not imposed, company officials noted.

Suppliers have protested that the rule revision was not preceded by public consultation.

Electricity consumer switches reach 285,000 in first half

A total of 285,000 households switched electricity supplier in the first half of 2020, while less than one in eight have made the shift over the past five years, retail electricity market data made available to energypress has shown.

Since 2015, when the retail electricity market was essentially liberalized, 986,000 consumers of 7.58 million in total have switched electricity suppliers, the data showed.

This slow movement has kept power utility PPC’s retail electricity market share at relatively high levels. The corporation held a 67.61 percent share at the end of August, the data showed.

Customers who have taken the decision to switch to independent suppliers have also displayed strong loyalty. Just 144,000 electricity consumers have moved on for a second time during the five past years, according to the data.

Of the 285,000 consumers who switched suppliers in the first half, 208,000 left PPC, while nearly 35,000 ended up with a universal supply service provided by the market’s top five suppliers, at higher tariff rates, to households and small businesses rejected by their regular suppliers for unpaid bills.

 

Ministry proposal seen ending PPC lignite monopoly case

Independent electricity retailers would be entitled to lignite-generated electricity supply from power utility PPC at a predetermined price, definitely not below cost for the utility, in quantities constituting 40 percent of each lignite-fired power station’s production, to be distributed to suppliers in proportion to their respective retail electricity market shares, until 2023, when  lignite-fired units are expected to have been phased out as part of the country’s decarbonization plan, according to a finalized proposal forwarded by the energy ministry to the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition a fortnight ago in an effort to resolve a long-running antitrust case.

Energy ministry officials are confident this formula will end the antitrust dispute, now a decade long, concerning’s PPC’s lignite sector monopoly.

Back in 2010, lignite dominated Greece’s energy mix but there is now much less at stake as lignite-fired power stations are being phased out over the next three years.

PPC’s lignite-fired electricity generation dropped 47.8 percent in the first half, diving 70 percent in the second quarter, the utility announced just days ago when presenting its first-half results.

PPC’s lignite-based output totaled 3,000 GWh in the first half and just 756 GWh in the second quarter.

Energy ministry officials believe the Directorate-General for Competition will not resist accepting the Athens proposal as a rejection would take the dispute back to European Court, meaning a case would not be heard any sooner than late-2021. By then, PPC’s lignite-fired power stations Kardia III and IV and Megalopoli III will have all been withdrawn, according to the latest schedule announced by energy minister Costis Hatzidakis earlier this week.

 

PPC, industrial firms begin talks for new supply deals, limits set

Though still at an early stage, talks between power utility PPC and industrial consumers for new electricity supply agreements to become valid once current deals expire at the end of this year, already appear likely to require plenty of negotiating and time if current differences are to be overcome.

PPC has made clear it will not sell electricity at below-cost price levels to any customer. At the other end, industrial enterprises, each negotiating separately with the power utility, insist that a 10 percent price hike agreed to in March, 2019 for a three-year period covering 2018 to 2020 is unjustifiable as electricity production costs have fallen.

Besides price matters, the two sides also disagree on the duration of new deals. Industrialists are pushing for three-year agreements, covering 2021 to 2023, whereas PPC favors a shorter period. Insiders are predicting months of negotiations.

Industrialists are expected to seek quotes from PPC rivals. Vertically integrated energy groups that have secured competitive natural gas prices in recent months are in a position to offer lower electricity tariffs, regardless of fluctuations in the wholesale electricity market.

In July, wholesale electricity prices registered a level of 41.13 euros per MWh, down 34 percent from the equivalent month a year earlier.

Three industrial consumers, the cement producers AGET Heracles and TITAN and Macedonian Paper Mills (MEL), have been involved in talks with independent suppliers for high-voltage contracts.

Flexibility surcharge improper, suppliers complain to Brussels

A CAT surcharge imposed on electricity suppliers to support the flexibility mechanism was adopted without proper consultation via a procedure that was not fully substantiated, ESEPIE, the Hellenic Association of Electricity Trading and Supply Companies, has charged in a letter forwarded to the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition and Directorate-General for Energy.

Consultation on the matter lacked a detailed study by power grid operator IPTO on current flexibility needs, the association protested in the letter, forwarded to the Brussels authorities just weeks ahead of the launch of target model markets in Greece.

The flexibility mechanism’s details are based on a study conducted years ago but current flexibility needs concerning production and demand have since changed drastically, the association noted.

A transitional mechanism is not needed given the current conditions in Greece’s energy market, especially if the pandemic-related drop in electricity demand is taken into consideration, ESEPIE noted. State aid or any other form of support for energy producers offering flexibility is unnecessary, the association stressed.

Suppliers have been asked to cover flexibility-related surcharges, beginning August 15, at a rate of approximately 3 euros per MWh. This is burdening their finances, especially in the mid-voltage market, where heightened competition has severely narrowed profit margins.

Flexibility CATs, it should be noted, do not impact independent, vertically integrated suppliers as the corporate groups they belong to collect the flexibility surcharge payments for their production.

Energy companies actually benefit from the surcharge if their retail electricity market shares are smaller than their shares of production. This is not the case for PPC, whose retail market share is considerably bigger than its share of electricity generation.