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.

 

Suppliers want IPTO to take on part of €45m retroactive charge

Electricity suppliers, reacting to a 45 million-euro retroactive charge handed out by power grid operator IPTO for account discrepancies between November, 2019 and May, 2020, want the operator to accept responsibility for part of this cost and also expect the energy ministry to intervene.

Suppliers have asked for legislative and regulatory initiatives to offer greater transparency in calculations of various market-related accounts.

The operator has already delivered the resulting charges to suppliers, prompting their irritation.

The share of the 45 million-euro total cost for suppliers is proportional to their retail electricity market shares, meaning power utility PPC, the dominant player, has been asked to cover the greatest amount.

IPTO’s retroactive charge resulted from account miscalculations, by the operator, that did not factor in a part of RES output, specifically PV production in the low-voltage category.

The issue has also caused accounting confusion for suppliers, whose financial results for the months of November and December, 2019 – both included in IPTO’s discrepancy calculations – have already been finalized and published.

Entities such as IPTO ought to provide reassurances and solutions, not create ambiguities and problems, suppliers, bracing for further pandemic-related challenges as of September, have complained.

The ministry should intervene and offer market stability if the operator is unable to do so, suppliers asserted.

Electricity consumer complaint and query calls total 3.6m in ’19

Electricity suppliers received a total of 3.6 million query and complaint calls from customers in 2019, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, acting within the framework of its market monitoring role, has determined after requesting such data from suppliers.

The data reflects the heightened level of competition in Greece’s retail electricity market.

Most of these customer calls had to do with disputed billing procedures and clarification. A total of 92.24 percent of calls were made by customers already committed to supply contracts.

More than half of the 3.6 million calls by customers, or 2.02 million, representing 56.19 percent, were received by power utility PPC, the retail electricity market’s dominant player, holding an 84.44 percent share of the market.

The other 43.81 percent of calls, 1.58 million in total, were shared by the country’s independent suppliers, recipients, primarily, of pre-contractual queries by consumers researching market offers ahead of their choices.

Electricity supplier switching by consumers up 89% in 2019

Consumers switching electricity suppliers increased sharply by 89 percent in 2019, a report by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has shown.

A total of 576,436 consumers, 8.5 percent of the 6,783,075 consumers in total, switched suppliers in 2019, up from 4.51 percent in 2018, the report showed.

This sharp rise in consumer switches was attributed to growing consumer confidence in independent electricity suppliers as well as the effectiveness of discounts and various other offers made available by these suppliers to attract customers. Put simply, competition in the Greek electricity market appears to be intensifying.

Household electricity consumers showed the greatest degree of mobility, followed by mid and high-voltage consumers, or businesses and industrial consumers, the RAE report observed.

In the mid-voltage category, 834 business and industrial consumers of 9,071 in total, or 9.19 percent, switched electricity suppliers in 2019, according to the report.

Despite the increased customer mobility, power utility PPC remained dominant in 2019, supplying electricity to 5,694,627 consumers, or 83.95 percent of the 6,783,075 in total, the report showed. In terms of consumption, PPC held a 71.13 percent share, supplying 27.7 million MWh last year.

Independent supplier Protergia, a member of the Mytilineos group, was ranked second in terms of total number of customers in 2019, supplying to 181,232 customers, the report noted.

Elpedison was ranked third with 171,143 customers, followed by Heron (140,812), Watt & Volt (127,364), Zenith (73,968), Volton (69,688), NRG (52,961), Fysiko Aerio (39,881), Volterra (35,748) and KEN (33,997).

A total of 24 independent suppliers are active in Greece’s electricity market.

Industrial consumers preparing to leave long-time supplier PPC

Three of eight industrial groups traditionally supplied high-voltage power by power utility PPC and holding contracts that expire at the end of this year are involved in advanced talks with domestic independent suppliers for new supply contracts, energypress sources have informed.

PPC dominates the high-voltage electricity market with a 97 percent share, but this figure could drop considerably if industrial consumers reach agreements with new suppliers.

Leading cement producers AGET Heracles and TITAN, as well as Macedonian Paper Mills (MEL), are the three industrial consumers involved in talks with independent suppliers for high-voltage contracts, the sources noted.

All three have never before held contracts with any other electricity supplier, but their shifts away from PPC, probably not concurrently, now appear highly probable. Such a development would signal the start of competition in Greece’s high-voltage electricity market.

Lower wholesale prices, which have widened profit margins, as well as lower natural gas prices lowering generation costs at gas-fired power stations operated by independent producers, are key factors behind the likely shifts of industrial consumers to independent suppliers.

Industrial producers, gearing up for the post-coronavirus era, are seeking lower energy costs but are not satisfied with the tariff levels offered by PPC, market officials have noted.

Consumer shifts between independent suppliers at 30%

Roughly 30 percent of electricity consumers shifting from one electricity supplier to another are not moving away from the power utility PPC, as was usually the case up until just a few months ago, but from one independent supplier to another, a reflection of a further increase in competition, to the benefit of consumers, latest market data has shown.

Besides price offers, consumers are now also taking into consideration other factors such as supplier reliability, service standards and provision of supplementary services when choosing suppliers. This broader consideration is seen as a sign of the electricity market’s growing maturity.

Independent suppliers now face bigger bad debt figures as a result of an increase in unpaid receivables prompted by a number of factors, including business closures, consumer departures despite unpaid electricity bills, payment defaults, as well as tax file number changes by consumers seeking escape.

The scale of this undesirable situation for independent suppliers is nowhere near that of the enormous collection problem faced by PPC.

However, the bad debt problem highlights that independent suppliers, as a consequence of their efforts to boost market shares, are now dealing with a growing number of unreliable consumers. It also underlines the market’s tightened cash flow, especially in the business sector, as a result of the pandemic and recession.

Suppliers retroactively charged €45m for IPTO discrepancies

Power grid operator IPTO has retroactively charged electricity suppliers a total amount of approximately 45 million euros for account discrepancies between November, 2019 and April, 2020.

These retroactive charges have annoyed suppliers who have informed the energy ministry’s leadership about the issue and are expecting its intervention for a solution, sources said.

The retroactive charges for each supplier have been calculated in accordance with market shares, meaning power utility PPC, still the dominant retail player, is responsible for the lion’s share of the 45 million-euro amount.

Suppliers and sector associations are preparing to challenge IPTO’s retroactive charges for the six-month period by contending they result from miscalculations that have not factored in RES production, specifically that of roof-mounted solar panels.

The additional retroactive charges are particularly burdensome for medium-voltage traders as profit margins in this sector are extremely narrow and the competition is intense.

The development has caused confusion as financial results for November and December, 2019, two of the six months included in IPTO’s discrepancy calculations, have already been finalized and published.

“Such practices deprive companies of the ability to plan policies and also create business uncertainties in a sector that needs to operate with absolute reliability as it is directly related to millions of consumers,” a top official at one of the independent suppliers told energypress.

 

 

Suppliers resort to legal action against RAE over price clauses

Electricity suppliers may have adjusted price-related clauses included in their electricity bills following a request by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, seeking greater price-comparing clarity for consumers, but some of these suppliers, who consider the authority’s initiative to be an intrusion into corporate pricing policy matters, have chosen to take legal action against the authority.

RAE had asked for a standardized adjustment from electricity suppliers by June 14, but they responded with loose individual interpretations of the guidelines before many resorted to legal action.

When forwarding its clause-adjustment request to suppliers, RAE also asked the energy ministry to adopt its guidelines for official incorporation into the electricity market’s regulations.

According to sources, the energy ministry does not intend to adopt RAE’s recommendations and, instead, has asked the authority to reconsider its guidelines.

Electricity suppliers include clauses in their supply agreements with consumers that enable price revisions to cover cost increases.

Many consumers have complained about the price-related clauses, noting they are included in fine print and confusing.

 

 

One PPC rate for consumption above, below 2,000 kWh

Power utility PPC will continue offering a single tariff rate for consumption levels above and below 2,000 kWh per four-month billing period once the utility’s lockdown-related support package expires on June 26, sources have informed.

During lockdown, PPC offered an 8 percent tariff discount for consumption levels of more than 2,000 kWh per four-month billion period. This offer’s resulting tariff rate, 0.11058 euros per kWh, is being kept.

Prior to the lockdown package’s introduction, lasting three months, PPC customers were charge 0.11936 euros per kWh for consumption over 2,000 kWh. The lower rate also applies for consumption levels below 2,000 kWh.

PPC’s new pricing policy, still undisclosed, is also expected to offer benefits to customers paying their electricity bills on time.

The power utility’s independent rivals are offering like-minded packages. For at least one month now, independent suppliers have offered considerable tariff discounts at par with lower nighttime rates. These offers are valid for new customers as long as payment punctuality is maintained.

Energy costs – natural gas and wholesale electricity prices – fell considerably during the lockdown period, providing suppliers leeway for lower-price offers to customers.

According to the Greek energy exchange, the System Marginal Price (wholesale electricity price) ended May at 34.27 euros per MWh, down from 65.91 euros per MWh in the equivalent month a year earlier, a 48 percent year-on-year drop.

In May, natural gas-fueled power stations were responsible for 50.1 percent of Greece’s overall electricity generation, and RES facilities contributed 38.54 percent.

PPC’s high-cost lignite-fired power stations, once the country’s dominant generating source, contributed just 3.46 percent in May, an 87 percent year-on-year drop.

 

Eurelectric calls for supplier protection against consumer debt

Sector association Eurelectric, representing the common interests of the electricity industry at a European level, has delivered a list of proposals focused on protecting companies against the pandemic’s financial impact.

The association’s proposals include compensation for suppliers as well as their protection against excessive consumer debt resulting from the crisis.

The association recommends the establishment of state support programs to help consumers cover the costs of outstanding electricity bills.

Eurelectric also calls for a monitoring effort to identify possible energy shortages and lack of personnel at energy companies.

The association wants appropriate measures adopted to counter major financial impact anticipated by energy companies as a result of reduced electricity demand and prices. Government measures supporting energy-transition investment plans of companies have also been requested.

Other Eurelectric recommendations include the establishment of a long-term RES plan offering clarity and security for investors.

The association also points out the need for a mechanism designed to recover excessive debt related to the coronavirus crisis.

 

Suppliers seen loosely interpreting RAE clause adjustment request

Electricity suppliers, set to disclose adjustments to price-related clauses included in electricity bills, are expected to offer loose interpretations rather than strictly comply with  related guidelines offered by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

Suppliers, who were given a June 14 deadline to make clause adjustments as a means of simplifying electricity-bill cost analysis and offer comparisons for consumers, have been highly critical of the authority’s guidelines, describing them as an intrusion and restriction on pricing policy.

Some suppliers have even threatened to take legal action against RAE, but this is not possible as the authority’s initiative is a proposal not an order.

Even so, suppliers need to present revisions, based on their respective interpretations of the RAE guidelines that will somehow reflect the proposals. Otherwise, consumers who are aware of the authority’s guidelines could turn against suppliers and file official complaints.

Suppliers, through their interpretations, will, without a doubt, seek leeway that could enable their commercial departments to attract customers.

RAE has asked suppliers to adopt standardized price-related clauses.

Suppliers have reassured they will deliver adjustments in accordance with the RAE recommendations but do not believe the overall effort will improve the ability of consumers to compare competing offers.

PPC rivals awaiting utility’s next pricing move for response

Power utility PPC’s rivals are awaiting the utility’s next pricing-policy move before responding with offers of their own. A specially priced three-month package offered by PPC, the electricity market’s dominant player, to its customers as lockdown relief expires on June 26.

Lower wholesale electricity prices over the past couple of months as well as more efficient facility management by PPC, drastically reducing production from loss-incurring lignite-fired power stations, are two factors expected to enable the utility to keep offering appealing packages to customers, sector experts have told energypress.

An initiative taken by PPC during lockdown to equate usually higher tariff rates for consumption of more than 2,000 kWh with rates for consumption below the aforementioned limit could be an indicator of things to come from the power utility.

The market’s major independent suppliers are believed to have studied all possible scenarios in preparation for their respective responses.

PPC chief executive Giorgos Stassis has made clear the power utility’s intentions to regain part of its lost market share. The utility is expected to target specific customer profiles. In addition, bonus services may also be included in packages.