Positive start for Greek, Italian, Slovenian intraday coupling

The coupling of the Greek, Italian and Slovenian intraday markets took a positive first step yesterday with a successful trial. According to Greek energy exchange sources, the transition from local intraday auctions (LIDAs) to regional intraday auctions (CRIDAs) covering the three countries was successfully completed.

Two complementary CRIDAs have been staged without any problems, while a third session is scheduled to take place early today.

The first CRIDA session ended with electricity price levels at 149.64 per MWh, 14.31 percent below the LIDA auction level recorded a day earlier. The initial CRIDA session’s transactions represented a total electricity amount of 2.53 GWh.

As a result of the market coupling, intraday market transactions will no longer be limited to domestic restrictions but will also utilize the capacity of the Greek-Italian grid interconnection left over once electricity import and export activity, through day-ahead markets, has been completed by the two neighboring countries.

Utilization of the grid interconnection’s leftover capacity will offer greater flexibility to suppliers, producers and self-supplying consumers.

The coupling of the Greek, Italian and Slovenian intraday markets represents a first step towards European intraday market unification.

It is planned to be followed, on March 8, by Greece’s entry into the European Cross-Border Intraday Market (XBID), offering continual intraday market transactions, via Italy and Bulgaria.

Greece tables hedging fund plan to soften energy crisis

Energy minister Kostas Skrekas has proposed the adoption of a temporary hedging mechanism by EU member states as a means of easing the burden of increased electricity costs on consumers.

The minister’s proposal, which would enable funds to be drawn from the Emissions Trading System through extraordinary auctions offering additional carbon emission rights or prepayment of potential ETS revenue, was tabled at a meeting of EU energy ministers in Ljubljana yesterday.

The ministers assembled in search of a solution to counter the relentless rise in carbon emission right costs.

Skrekas’ proposal is similar to household mitigation measures recently announced by the Greek government for which electricity subsidies will be financed by revenues generated at carbon emission right auctions, through the Energy Transition Fund.

According to estimates by Greek officials, a sum of between 5 and 8 billion euros will be needed to cover the EU’s overall energy support needs this coming winter. Distribution of this amount to member states would take into account respective electricity consumption levels, heating needs and GDPs.

At the Ljubljana meeting, Greece, Spain and Italy were the only member states to propose the adoption of EU-wide measures as an effort to restrict the effects of the energy crisis, seen worsening for households and businesses this coming winter.

 

EU ministers to meet on carbon emission costs, causing alarm

The EU’s energy ministers plan to meet in Ljubljana Wednesday in search of a solution to counter the relentless rise in carbon emission right costs, which, for some time now, have reached elevated levels that hang as a dark cloud over energy consumers, hundreds of suppliers and Europe’s energy transition strategy, breeding increasing Euroscepticism.

Carbon emission rights have been stuck at levels of no less than 60 euros per ton, prompting allegations of manipulation.

Last week, the European Commission submitted to European Parliament the EU’s more ambitious climate-change package, “Fit for 55”, aiming for a 55 percent reduction of carbon emissions by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. It is planned to lead to ETS mechanism revisions.

In response to accumulating messages of alarm from energy consumers and industrial enterprises from all over the continent, European MPs, at Wednesday’s meeting, are expected to push for stricter ETS rules.

Until now, governments of EU member states have been left to act independently for support measures whose extent is being determined by the capabilities of state budgets.

In Italy, the government, facing electricity cost increases of 40 percent, is lowering taxes linked to electricity bills. In France, low-income households stand to receive increased energy-cost coupon amounts, currently worth 150 euros annually.

The situation is far more dramatic in the UK. To date, seven electricity suppliers, under growing market pressure, have disrupted their operations, forcing over 600,000 customers to seek new suppliers. Bulb, one of the UK’s biggest electricity suppliers, serving 1.7 million customers, is on the verge of bankruptcy. A merger with a rival player is seen as the likeliest solution for this company.

 

IPTO, Terna to co-develop second Greece-Italy subsea link

Greek power grid operator IPTO and Italy’s Terna have agreed to join forces for the construction of a second subsea cable grid interconnection to reinforce the market coupling of the two countries.

The chief executives of the two operators, IPTO’s Manos Manousakis and Terna’s Stefano Donnarumma held talks in Rome earlier this week, reaching a decision to co-develop the project through a joint venture, sources informed.

Officials in Greece and Italy consider this project, a 200-km cable offering a transmission capacity of between 500 and 1000 MW, will contribute to further RES growth in both markets, while also boosting activity in their target-model energy exchange markets.

The EU has just revised its climate change targets, increasing its RES energy-mix target for 2030 to 40 percent from the previous goal of 32 percent.

First stage of Greek-Italian grid link feasibility study completed

The final stage of a four-step feasibility study being conducted by power grid operator IPTO and Italy’s TERNA for a second subsea cable grid interconnection linking the Greek and Italian systems is expected to be ready at the end of this year, according to a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the two operators. The first of the four feasibility study stages has been completed.

IPTO and TERNA, according to the MoU, are examining the prospect of developing yet another grid interconnection, via a subsea cable, for additional capacity of between 500 and 1,000 MW.

This range is also stated in the operator’s ten-year network development plan covering 2022-2031 as the capacity boost required for the Greek-Italian grid interconnection.

This need, as pointed out in IPTO’s ten-year network development plan, was pointed out in ENTSO-E studies looking into requirements for a reinforced European Transmission Network.

The grid link between Greece and Italy needs to be reinforced to enable electricity price convergence between the two countries, according to this study.

The positive impact of a second grid interconnection for further coupling of the two markets was highlighted by energy minister Kostas Skrekas in an article for Greek Energy 2021, an extensive energy-sector publication prepared by the energypress team for a tenth year in succession.

According to Skrekas, target model Greek electricity prices have equaled Italian-zone price levels for about half the time. This period would have been more extensive, but the existing infrastructure’s capacity limits  prevented further price convergence, the minister noted.

The remainder of hours showed grid-link saturation, highlighting the need for a new line, he added.

EastMed alliance broadens, eight countries express support

Support for the EastMed pipeline, planned to transport natural gas from offshore Levantine Basin gas reserves in the southeast Mediterranean to Greece and further into Europe, is growing in numbers with an initial Greek-Israeli-Cypriot alliance promoting this project now joined by five additional partners, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Serbia and North Macedonia.

Energy ministers representing these eight countries forwarded a letter of support for the EastMed project to the European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson late last week, Greece’s energy and environment minister Kostas Skrekas has told local media.

The pipeline, to be developed by IGI Poseidon SA, a 50-50% joint venture between Greek gas utility DEPA and Italian gas utility Edison, is planned to cover a 1,470-km distance.

IGI Poseidon plans to develop EastMed all the way to Italy via Cyprus, Crete, the Peloponnese, mainland Greece and Epirus, the country’s northwestern flank.

This latest move, bringing the eight energy ministers together for the joint letter, was initiated by Skrekas, Greece’s energy minister, sources informed, following an initiative taken two months earlier by his Israeli counterpart Yuval Steinitz to organize a joint virtual conference involving ministers of all eight countries.

In their letter to Simson, the EU energy commissioner, the eight ministers highlight the importance of EastMed, noting the project promises to contribute to the wider region’s energy security and offer benefits to consumers as a result of increased competition and reduced natural gas price levels.

Regional gas interconnections, including the Greek-Bulgarian IGB, Bulgarian-Serbian IBS, Bulgarian-Romanian IBR and the Romanian-Hungarian IRH would be utilized to extend EastMed’s reach, the letter notes.

Greece and North Macedonia are currently planning a new gas pipeline interconnection whose Greek segment is being promoted by gas grid operator DESFA.

IPTO seeking active role in Cyprus, Israel, Egypt grid interconnections

Power grid operator IPTO is seeking an active role in the grid interconnections to link Greece with Cyprus and Israel, as well as Egypt, the company’s chief executive Manos Manousakis told yesterday’s Power and Gas Supply Forum, an online event staged by energypress.

Responding to questions as to whether IPTO is considering to acquire an equity stake in these projects, Manousakis noted that the operator’s role is to ensure the interoperability of the Athens-Crete and Crete-Cyprus power grid interconnections, a commitment made by the Greek government back in October, 2019.

The European Commission, engaged in ongoing exchange with IPTO in an effort to understand the level of maturity of these grid interconnection projects and, primarily, the interoperability of its systems, has mentioned that Brussels would be interested in the equity involvement of a European TSO, Manousakis informed.

Other priorities at IPTO include upgrading and expanding Greece’s grid interconnections with neighboring countries, which would boost cash flow in the domestic energy market through electricity exports, the chief executive noted.

A tender for the development of the local segment of a second transboundary grid interconnection linking Greece and Bulgaria, from Nea Santa, northeastern Greece, to Bulgaria’s Maritsa area in the south, will be completed this year, Manousakis informed.

New interconnections with Albania and North Macedonia are also being examined at present, he noted.

In addition, IPTO is close to signing a cooperation agreement with Italian operator TERNA for the development of a second Greek-Italian grid interconnection.

Furthermore, plans for an upgrade of the Greek-Turkish interconnection, a project linking the European and Turkish transmission systems, are also maturing, the IPTO chief informed.

 

 

Greek market coupling with Bulgaria scheduled for May 11

Greece’s next market-coupling step, a day-ahead market link with Bulgaria, following an equivalent step with Italy in December, is scheduled to take place on May 11 as part of a wider effort by Europe’s Nominated Electricity Market Operators and Transmission System Operators for a single European day-ahead market.

Preceding trial runs, started on March 16 and planned to take place until April 30, must be successfully completed before the Greek-Bulgarian day-ahead market link is given the green light for its launch.

Automatic energy flow from the more expensive to the less expensive electricity market is expected to initially prompt a slight reduction in domestic wholesale electricity prices.

Greater price convergence between the Greek and Bulgarian markets is expected to be achieved with the introduction of a second transmission line running from Nea Santa, northeastern Greece, to Bulgaria’s Maritsa area in the south. This second line promises to greatly boost transmission potential between the two countries.

The additional transmission line was originally slated for launch in 2023, but swift progress from the Bulgarian side has increased the likelihood of an earlier delivery, mid-way through 2022, according to Greek power grid operator IPTO’s ten-year development plan (2022-2031), forwarded for public consultation at the beginning of this year.

Until now, Bulgaria has clearly been the dominant electricity exporter in trading with Greece, but this role is expected to be reversed as of 2023 because Greek electricity prices will be relatively lower, according to ICIS, a specialized news portal covering energy and related domains.

Brussels reiterates call for single energy, water authority

The European Commission has reiterated, in latest contact with the energy and environment ministry, a recommendation for the establishment of a single Regulatory Authority for Energy and Water as an independent monitoring body with a broadened task range, including regulation of rules for investments, management and pricing of water, especially drinking water, energypress sources have informed.

This time around, the recommendations by Brussels come as part of a strategy promoting the development of a circular economy and sustainable growth.

The European Commission was prompted to readdress the issue as it believes the existence of 120 or so municipal water supply and sewerage companies around the country – each applying their own and inexplicable, to a certain extent, pricing policies – does not contribute to rational water management.

Single regulatory authorities supervising the energy and water sectors have already been established in many EU member states, including neighboring Italy.

This country’s initiative was discussed, among other topics, at a meeting yesterday between energy minister Kostas Skrekas and Italy’s Ambassador to Greece, Patrizia Falcinelli, sources noted.

The establishment, in Italy, of a single regulatory authority for energy, water and wastewater has led to impressive social and economic benefits, the Italian diplomat is believed to have informed the Greek minister during their meeting.

The energy ministry is reportedly working on a plan designed to broaden the tasks of RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, sources informed, stressing finalized decisions had yet to be taken.

Market coupling with Bulgaria expected by early May

Market coupling to unify the Greek and Bulgarian day-ahead markets, representing a second step for the participation of Greek wholesale electricity markets in a pan-European unification of markets through the target model, is planned for late April or early May, sources have informed.

The forthcoming step was preceded by market coupling between Greece and Italy, unifying, as of December 15, the day-ahead markets of the two countries through a single price coupling algorithm, EUPHEMIA (Pan-European Hybrid Electricity Market Integration Algorithm). It calculates energy allocation, net positions and transboundary electricity prices.

Greece’s market coupling with Bulgaria promises to create an even broader trading platform for market participants, sector officials noted. Besides bilateral contracts for energy imports and exports, market coupling will also facilitate automatic energy flow from the higher-priced country to the lower-priced country.

To date, Greece has clearly been an energy importer in its transboundary energy trading relationship with Bulgaria. It remains to be seen if this will be maintained under the new conditions.

Once market coupling of the Greek and Bulgarian day-ahead markets has been accomplished, Greece’s next step towards unification with European energy markets will be to link its intraday market with that of Italy, a step expected by next summer, through the implementation of complementary regional intraday auctions (CRIDA).

Further ahead, a third step, balancing market coupling through two European platforms, MARI (Manually Activated Reserves Initiative) and PICASSO (Platform for the International Coordination of Automated Frequency Restoration and Stable System Operation), is planned for the second half of 2022.

 

Day-ahead market prices unusually low despite crisis conditions

Though the balancing market and its various problems since November’s launch of new target model markets may have been the focus of attention of late, irregularities have also troubled the day-ahead market, necessitating a closer look, officials have stressed.

This need was first pointed out by Alex Papalexopoulos, one of the architects of the country’s electricity system, who observed that the day-ahead market has shown signs of offers being systematically submitted at levels below actual cost. He said market dumping was taking place, referring to offers submitted by lignite-fired units.

These concerns have now also been raised by Dinos Benroubi, head of energy supplier Protergia’s electricity and gas divisions, as well as Antonis Kontoleon, the chief official at EVIKEN, Greece’s Association of Industrial Energy Consumers.

At a time of crisis, high electricity demand and calls on industrial producers to hold back on energy consumption, day-ahead market prices remain very low and full-scale electricity exports are taking place towards Italy, Kontoleon noted during a panel discussion at Athens Energy Dialogues, a conference held yesterday.

Protergia’s Benroubi took the issue a step further by noting that RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, must implement a monitoring mechanism for the day-ahead market, as, despite serving as a base for the target model’s functioning, it is displaying irregularities.

Greek-Italian market coupling boosts transaction efficiency

The Greek-Italian electricity market coupling of day-ahead markets, launched on December 15 as part of the target model, is living up to its expectations as a safety valve facilitating optimal electricity flow between countries.

The initiative, operating through a single price coupling algorithm, EUPHEMIA (Pan-European Hybrid Electricity Market Integration Algorithm), which calculates energy allocation, net positions and transboundary electricity prices, has run smoothly since its launch over a month ago.

Greek-Italian transboundary electricity transactions admittedly enjoyed a high level of maturity prior to the introduction of market coupling, courtesy of reliable price forecasts by participants for the Greek and Italian markets.

A grid interconnection, in the form of a 163-km, 400-kV voltage and 500-MW capacity subsea cable, has been in service since 2002.

However, the market-coupling initiative has taken the efficiency of these transboundary Greek-Italian electricity transactions to a higher level as auctions allocating grid interconnection capacities are no longer required.

Since the mid-December coupling of the Greek and Italian energy markets, electricity has constantly flowed from the market offering lower prices to the higher-priced market, proving this market system’s ability to utilize interconnections to their fullest.

Market coupling of the Greek and Bulgarian day-ahead markets is planned to follow, its launch scheduled for spring.

An increased number of interconnected electricity markets promises to give the Greek wholesale electricity market a regional role. However, transboundary grid interconnections will need to be upgraded if this is to be achieved.

Greek-Italian market coupling, soon, target model’s next step

Domestic market players and officials are eagerly awaiting to see how the target model’s next stage, Greek and Italian day-ahead market coupling, scheduled for December 15, will influence wholesale electricity prices.

Wholesale electricity prices in the day-ahead market and, especially, the balancing market, have escalated since the target model launch in Greece a month and a half ago.

Greece’s market coupling with Italy will be a crucial step as it promises to take Greece to the essence of the target model effort, namely gradual unification of national energy markets – electricity and gas – into one common European market.

Once market coupling is established between Greece and Italy, energy will flow from the country with lower energy prices to the higher-cost country – to the extent permitted by grid interconnection capacities – until price discrepancies have evened out.

All preliminary work for next week’s Greek-Italian market coupling launch has been successfully completed. An ongoing dry-run procedure involving simulated trading will continue until December 12.

The market coupling launch, three days later, is on schedule, the Greek energy exchange has informed RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

Market coupling of Greece and Italy’s balancing markets will take place at a latter date, while Greek-Bulgarian market coupling is planned for early in 2021.

New market dry-run testing to end this week, target model launch on Nov. 1

The dry-run testing procedure for market systems ahead of the forthcoming target model launch, scheduled for November 1, will be finalized at the end of this week, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, the energy exchange and power grid operator IPTO have jointly decided.

Dry-run testing of the day-ahead, intraday and balancing markets began on August 3 to test their limits and operating ability ahead of the target model’s launch, aiming for market coupling, or harmonization of EU wholesale markets.

Market coupling, to increase competition and lower wholesale energy prices, will ultimately lead to energy union, the EU strategy seeking to offer consumers secure, sustainable, competitive and lower-cost energy.

All domestic parties involved, as well as the energy ministry, have ascertained the Greek launch will take place on November 1 following previous delays.

Even during these final days of simulated testing, day-ahead market prices have, at times, continued to display discrepancies with Day-Ahead Schedule price levels.

This has been attributed to the absence, from dry-run testing, of many traders who participate in the Day-Ahead Schedule, meaning the price levels of the two situations are based on different data.

Though balancing market prices have improved considerably as the simulated testing has progressed, following discrepancies, conclusions cannot be made until actual market conditions come into effect.

Meanwhile, public consultation by RAE on a market monitoring mechanism and a market surveillance mechanism for the new markets is due to be completed next Monday.

The market monitoring mechanism will seek, through structural and performance indicators, to evaluate levels of concentration and the market power of each participant, while the market surveillance mechanism will focus on identifying and combating strategies detrimental to competition.

The next step, once the new markets are launched, will be to market couple, initially with the Italian market, by the end of the year, followed by the Bulgarian market, in the first quarter of 2021, Greek energy minister Costis Hatzidakis recently informed.

 

 

Extraordinary conditions push SMP as high as €105 per MWh

Extraordinary conditions resulting from coinciding temporary closures of various power facilities, both in Greece and abroad, have pushed up the System Marginal Price, or wholesale electricity, to levels of as much as 105 euros per MWh, as was the case yesterday.

Four domestic gas-fired power stations – Enthes (Elpedison), Heron CC, Lavrio IV and Protergia – were out of order yesterday, for different reasons.

Problems beyond the Greek border have made matters worse. Bulgaria’s 1,000-MW Kozloduy nuclear power plant is currently out of order. The Greek-Bulgarian line serves as a transit route towards North Macedonia as a line linking Bulgaria and North Macedonia is out of order. So, too, is a line linking Greece with Italy.

Power stations that rarely operate, such as an open-cycle Heron unit, needed to be called into action as a result of the problems on these various fronts. Their necessary contributions pushed the SMP to far higher levels.

Three power utility PPC lignite-fired power stations, Agios Dimitrios II and III and Melitis, along with PPC’s gas-fired power stations Aliveri V, Lavrio V, Komotini, Megalopoli V, as well as units run by the independent energy firms Heron, Thisvi and Corinth Power, all needed to be called into action to cover the grid’s needs.

The market appears to have normalized for today. SMP levels are down to relatively satisfactory levels, averaging 44.49 euros per MWh, primarily as a result of significant RES contributions, covering more than 50 percent of the overall demand, 123.993 GWh.

The lignite-fired power stations used yesterday – Agios Dimitrios II and III and Melitis – will remain closed today.

TAP’s commercial launch now on the final stretch

The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project, to enable the delivery of Caspian gas to destinations throughout southeastern, central and western Europe, is almost ready for its commercial launch, four years after construction began and 17 years after its first feasibility study was conducted.

The project, running from the Shah Deniz gas field in Azerbaijan, will represent the EU’s main alternative route for natural gas, greatly contributing to the end of the continent’s dependence on Russian gas, supply security and intensified competition.

The TAP project will begin operating at a capacity of 10 billion cubic meters, annually.

Greece was the first of the project’s host countries to complete its segment of construction work, a 550-km stretch across northern Greece, from Evros’ Kipoi area in the northeast to Ieropigi in the Kastoria province, at the Greek-Albanian border.

Just days ago, Greece’s energy ministry approved the operation of the project’s Greek segment, running from Evros to Rodopi, Xanthi, Kavala, Drama, Serres, Thessaloniki, Kilkis, Pella, Imathia, Florina, Kozani and Kastroria.

Authorities of the project’s two other host nations, Albania and Italy, will soon grant their respective operating permits, sources informed.

The project’s commercial launch is expected to take place close to the final quarter this year, the energy ministry has announced.

The Greek and Italian gas grid operators, DESFA and Snam, respectively, will need to prepare their national grids so that natural gas quantities can reach consumers via TAP, sources added.

 

Local gas-fueled generation up in response to high-cost power imports

Higher electricity prices in neighboring countries, increasing the cost of electricity imports, have prompted power utility PPC to capitalize on the situation and operate its gas-fueled power stations at maximum capacity for satisfactory market prices.

In recent days, PPC’s natural gas-fueled units have covered between 35 and 40 percent of electricity demand.

Yesterday, the power utility’s gas-fueled power stations covered 40 percent of electricity demand at a price of 42.6 euros per MWh for ten hours.

Independent producers covered 19 percent of electricity demand at a price of 64.4 euros per MWh for one hour.

Electricity imports covered 14 percent of electricity demand for a price of 51.7 euros per MWh over 11 hours.

Renewable energy sources covered 24 percent of electricity demand yesterday, while the decreased lignite input continued on its downward trajectory, contributing 3.6 GWh.

In Bulgaria, the wholesale electricity price was 53.14 euros per MWh. In Italy, it was 51.93 euros per MWh. Romania registered a price level of 51.7 euros per MWh. The price in Serbia was 49.91 euros per MWh.

Greece, Egypt sign EEZ agreement, Turkey reacts

A Greek-Egyptian agreement signed yesterday to designate an exclusive economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean between the two countries, an area containing promising oil and gas reserves, “confirms and secures the continental shelf and EEZ rights and influence of our islands,” declared Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias.

The agreement, co-signed by Dendias with Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry in Cairo, takes Greek-Egyptian relations to a new level of closer ties, Dendias noted.

“The agreement with Egypt is within the framework of international law, respects all concepts of international law and the law of the sea and good neighbourly relations, and contributes to security and stability in the region,” Dendias said.

The agreement between Greece and Egypt is the complete opposite of an illegal, invalid and legally groundless memorandum of understanding between Turkey and Libya, now nullified, he pointed out.

Greece is determined to establish EEZ agreements with all other neighboring countries, always within the framework of international law and the law of the sea, Dendias noted, citing yesterday’s Greek-Egyptian agreement and an agreement in June with Italy.

The Greek agreement with Italy, on maritime boundaries that established an EEZ, resolved longstanding issues over fishing rights in the Ionian Sea.

Turkey responded to yesterday’s Greek-Egyptian agreement by notifying it has scheduled a live-fire military exercise at a sea area between the Greek islands Rhodes and Kastelorizo for August 10 and 11.

Rescue talks for Prinos, Greece’s only producing field, making progress

Talks between Energean Oil & Gas and officials at the energy and economy ministries for a solution to rescue offshore Prinos, Greece’s only producing field in the north, are making progress, sources have informed.

Heightened Turkish provocations in the Aegean Sea over the past few days – the neighboring country sent a survey vessel into Greece’s EEZ – and greater US presence in the wider southeast Mediterranean region, are two developments that have injected further urgency into the Prinos field rescue talks.

The east Mediterranean is at the core of geopolitical developments that promise to create new political and energy sector conditions.

US oil corporation Chevron, America’s second-biggest energy group, has joined fellow American upstream giant ExxonMobil in the east Mediterranean with a five billion-dollar acquisition of Noble Energy.

This takeover by the California-based buyer adds to the Chevron portfolio the gigantic Leviathan gas field in Israel’s EEZ, as well as the Aphrodite gas field, situated within the Cypriot EEZ and estimated to hold 4.5 trillion cubic feet.

It also offers Chevron prospective roles in the East Med pipeline, to supply Europe via the Leviathan field, and Egypt’s LNG infrastructure, all elevating the petroleum group into a dominant regional player.

Israel and Cyprus recently ratified the East Med agreement, as has Greece, while Italy appears to be examining the prospect.

In another regional development, the Total-ENI-ELPE consortium is preparing to conduct seismic surveys at licenses south and southwest of Crete, and an environmental study southeast of Crete has been approved by Greek authorities. Also, oil majors with interests in Cyprus’ EEZ have planned a series of drilling operations for 2021.

Meanwhile, Turkey, trespassing into both Greek and Cypriot EEZ waters, consistently cites a memorandum recently signed with Libya as support for its actions, as well as its refusal to sign the UN’s International Law of the Sea treaty, strongly disagreeing with an article that gives EEZ and continental shelf rights to island areas.

Greek government officials are well aware that closure of the Prinos field amid such precarious conditions would lead to major consequences, not just economic and social, as would be the case under normal conditions, but also geopolitical.

Poseidon overland section plan kept alive, PCI status sought

IGI Poseidon, a 50-50 joint venture between Greek gas utility DEPA and Italian energy operator Edison, is keeping alive the development prospects of an overland Greek segment, across northern Greece, for its Poseidon pipeline, to cross the Ionian Sea for a Greek-Italian link.

DEPA and Edison have submitted an application to the European Commission for PCI status concerning the overland section of Poseidon, enabling EU funding support, sources informed.

The Poseidon pipeline’s onshore segment, planned to stretch 760 km across northern Greece, from Kipous in the northeast, to Florovouni-Thesprotia, in the country’s northwest, before crossing the Ionian Sea all the way to Otranto, on Italy’s east coast, is considered an extension of the EastMed gas pipeline plan to link Greece, Cyprus and Israel.

Poseidon’s onshore segment could be used to transport natural gas from east Mediterranean gas reserves to Balkan markets.

The Poseidon pipeline’s overland section can also be expected to be linked to the Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas pipeline, another project involving IGI Poseidon.

The Greek-Italian Poseidon pipeline has been incorporated into a trilateral agreement signed by Greece, Cyprus and Israel for the EastMed pipeline. This pact was ratified in Greek Parliament last month.

Greece, Cyprus and Israel recognize the overland section of the Poseidon pipeline as a project of national significance.

Capacity of the Poseidon pipeline has been increased to 15 bcm from an original capacity of 8 bcm, while a further capacity boost to 20 bcm is planned.

 

Electric vehicles bill to include production line incentives

A draft bill being prepared by the government to promote growth for Greece’s embryonic electric vehicle sector will not only include incentives for buyers and users but also producers, energypress has been informed.

Producers establishing production lines for electric vehicle parts, including batteries, transformers and recharging units, will be offered incentives in the form of lower tax rates and reduced social security system contributions for employees, the sources said.

However, eligibility for these incentives will be conditional and require producers to establish their production facilities in either northern Greece’s west Macedonia region or Megalopoli in the Peloponnese, both lignite-dependent local economies headed for decarbonization.

The incentives are expected to include subsidies of between 4,500 and 5,000 euros for purchases of zero or low-emission electric cars, approximately 1,000 euros for electric scooters and 800 euros for electric bicycles.

Government officials plan to submit the draft bill on electric vehicles to Parliament in June.

Besides seeking to promote industrial development in current lignite areas, the master plan will also aim to make the most of early interest expressed by foreign investors.

One of these, Tesla, has, for months now, expressed interest to the Greek government for development of a fast-recharge network at Greece’s highways, a project budgeted at 10 million euros. This project is envisioned as part of a wider plan stretching from Portugal to Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

Electricity imports up, gas-fueled power stations running non-stop

A significant drop in gas prices, especially LNG, as well as the availability of particularly lower wholesale electricity prices in neighboring countries have prompted major changes to the country’s Day Ahead Schedule.

Electricity imports via interconnections with Bulgaria, Italy, North Macedonia and Turkey have risen to represent just under 30 percent of overall consumption.

Demand for an even greater level of imports during certain time periods has not been met as a result of infrastructure capacity limits.

Renewable energy generation, also making considerable contributions to the grid’s needs, has, at times, exceeded 30 percent of total consumption.

Gas-fueled power stations operated by independent producers are now operating around the clock, not just during peak hours, as had previously been the case. Offers by these units are now very competitively priced.

Gas-fueled power stations are currently covering over 30 percent of total consumption and lowering wholesale prices.

On the contrary, power utility PPC’s production is covering smaller amounts of daily electricity consumption. The utility’s contribution, currently slightly over 10 percent, primarily stems from its lignite-fired power stations.

Thessaloniki RSC autonomy threatened by ACER plan

A Regional Security Coordinator (RSC) for electricity in southeast Europe formed by Greece’s power grid operator IPTO with its Romanian and Bulgarian peers, Transelectrica and ESO-EAD, respectively, before Italy’s grid operator also joined and a decision was reached to establish Thessaloniki as its headquarters, is in jeopardy of losing is independence and operating as a subsidiary of a centralized unit covering all of Europe.

This plan has been proposed by ACER, Europe’s Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators, energypress sources have informed.

More specifically, ENTSO-E, the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity, had proposed a plan entailing the establishment of four regional centers, prompting the partnership between Greece, Bulgaria and Romania.

However, ACER now supports that new regulations call for a more coordinated solution that considers all of Europe as one security operational region. Particular regional needs could be dealt with through subsidiaries, according to ACER.

A decision is expected in April. The ACER proposal has alarmed Greek authorities as its adoption would undermine efforts made by IPTO, Greece’s power grid operator, the energy ministry and RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, to establish an independent center.

Italy’s Snam, Italgas face off in DEPA Infrastructure sale

Snam, Italy’s gas grid operator, and Italgas, the neighboring country’s biggest natural gas distribution company, have emerged as rivals, despite sharing common interests, in a Greek privatization offering a full stake in DEPA Infrastructure, a new entity formed by Greece’s gas utility DEPA.

The Snam group holds a 13.5 percent stake in Italgas. Also, the two companies have a common key shareholder, CDP Reti, holding a 28.98 percent stake in Snam and a 26.05 percent share of Italgas.

The showdown between Snam and Italgas could end up leaving both bidders out of the DEPA Infrastructure privatization, whose deadline for first-round expressions of interest expires today following a slight extension.

The participation of both players in the DEPA Infrastructure privatization would represent a violation of the sale’s terms, privatization fund TAIPED has already pointed out following a related query.

Fully aware of the situation, Snam has sought a solution. The Italian firm could form another consortium as it had done for the sale of Greek gas grid operator DESFA. Snam led a consortium, Senfluga, joined by Fluxys and Enagas, for the acquisition of a 66 percent stake of DESFA.

Two major US funds, KKR and Blackrock, as well as Australia’s Macquarie, are among the field of players tipped to submit expressions of interest today. Two other funds, both undisclosed, one from China, the other from the Middle East, could also participate. Additional entries have not been ruled out.

Athens wants greater French hydrocarbon engagement

The government wants France’s Total to play a more active role in Greek offshore hydrocarbon exploration, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis made clear during a meeting in Paris yesterday with the French group’s chief executive Patrick Pouyanné.

The potential of Greece’s hydrocarbon market, including offshore licenses south and southwest of Crete held by a Total-led consortium – it also features Exxon Mobil and Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) – was the main focus of yesterday’s meeting.

Processing of seismic data collected from the Cretan offshore blocks has provided strong evidence of a deposit sharing similar attributes to Egypt’s Zohr gas field. However, this needs to be proved in practice. French officials have remained cautiously optimistic as they await initial drilling operations for a clearer picture.

Total’s plans for exploration within the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone, specifically at Block 8, for which Total shares a license with Italy’s Eni, were also discussed yesterday.

Turkish drillship Yavuz has sought to engage in illegal exploration activities in this area. French officials do not intend to intercept any Turkish moves at this stage but are expected to do so if the exploratory rights of Total and Eni are disputed once the companies decide to start exploring the area.

 

Greece looks to build on Italian East Med interest at Cairo event

Energy minister Costis Hatzidakis will be looking to build on yesterday’s interest expressed by Greek gas grid operator DESFA’s main shareholders – Snam, Enagas and Fluxys – in the planned East Med gas pipeline project, especially Italy’s Snam, when he meets with regional counterparts at the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum in Cairo, an event encouraging collaboration on gas trade in the region.

The energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Italy, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority are scheduled to participate at the Cairo event.

Snam chief executive Marco Alvera expressed particular interest in the East Med gas pipeline at a meeting yesterday involving Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the chiefs of the Italian company’s DESFA partners, Enagas and Fluxys.

Snam’s interest in the prospective East Med gas pipeline, to carry natural gas from Cypriot and Israeli fields to the EU via Italy, follows that of Energean and represents further investor confidence in the sustainability of the pipeline as it possesses commercial appeal for gas producers in the east Mediterranean as well as gas sales.

Participants at the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum are hoping the event is upgraded into a transboundary organization for gas cooperation. If an agreement on a forum charter is achieved, a signing ceremony will take place in Cairo tomorrow.

Besides participating at the forum, Hatzidakis, Greece’s energy minister, has also lined up meetings with his Cypriot, Israeli and Egyptian counterparts, Giorgos Lakkotrypis, Yuval Steinitz and Tarek el-Molla, respectively, for talks on the next steps needed to develop the East Med pipeline.

In addition, Hatzidakis will discuss prospective electricity grid interconnections between Greece and Egypt and also meet with Italy’s economic development minister Stefano Patuanelli, responsible for the country’s energy portfolio, who recently forwarded a letter of support for the East Med project to his Greek counterpart.

East Med pipeline to upgrade geostrategic role of participants

The EastMed Pipeline Agreement, a trilateral deal signed by the energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus and Israel in Athens yesterday with the leaders of all three countries in attendance, includes provisions for measures to protect and safeguard the pipeline project, sources have informed.

Other details in the agreement, fundamental to the region’s energy developments, include a regulatory and licensing framework facilitating the project’s development, common tax rules, as well as terms enabling the entry of new members and transmission of additional natural gas quantities from existing or new gas fields, including south of Crete, should any new deposits be discovered in the region.

The agreement upgrades the geostrategic roles of Greece and Cyprus and is a crowning achievement for the three-way cooperation established between the two countries and Israel, noted Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

The 2,000-km pipeline is planned to carry between 10 to 20 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Europe via the three countries and Italy.

Addressing the heightened Turkish provocation of late, the Greek leader noted that the pipeline does not pose a threat for any side, adding regional cooperation is open for all provided rules of good neighborliness and international law are respected.

Following up on the recent commencement of production at the Leviathan gas field off the coast of Israel, the EastMed Pipeline Agreement establishes Israel as a key energy player in the region, stressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The project promises to offer major collective benefit for the three countries involved as well as the wider region, noted Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.

Earlier yesterday, Greek gas utility DEPA and Energean Oil & Gas, active in the wider Mediterranean region, signed a Letter of Intent at the energy ministry through which DEPA will be able to purchase natural gas quantities from Energean, extracting at Israeli gas field licenses.

DEPA, in a company announcement, described the Letter of Intent as a major first step for the East Med project’s commercial viability.

Trilateral East Med agreement set to be signed in Athens today

The energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus and Israel are set to sign a trilateral agreement in Athens this afternoon for the development of East Med, a natural gas pipeline to carry gas to Europe via the three countries and Italy.

The pipeline, planned to measure 2,000 km and offer a capacity ranging between 10 to 20 billion cubic meters, promises to reinforce the Greek-Cypriot-Israeli alliance amid times of heightened Turkish provocation in the region.

Italian economic development minister Stefano Patuanelli, responsible for the country’s energy portfolio, has forwarded a letter of support for the project to Greek energy minister Costis Hatzidakis.

The Greek minister will sign the East Med agreement today with Giorgos Lakkotrypis and Yuval Steinitz, his Cypriot and Israeli counterparts, respectively. Italy is also expected to eventually join the partnership for this project.

Just hours before this signing ceremony, planned for 15:45, Greek gas utility DEPA and Energean Oil & Gas, active in the wider Mediterranean region, will sign a Letter of Intent at the energy ministry.

Importantly, this agreement promises to pave the way for a first commercial agreement reserving natural gas quantities ahead of the East Med pipeline’s construction, as DEPA will commit to purchasing natural gas quantities from Energean, extracting at Israeli gas field licenses. These quantities will represent approximately 20 percent of the East Med pipeline’s initial capacity.

The development prospects of East Med were recently propelled by a decision from IGI Poseidon, a 50-50 joint venture involving DEPA and Italy’s Edison, to accelerate the completion of all pending issues needed for the project’s maturity.

An upcoming East Med Gas Forum, to take place in Cairo January 15 and 16 with participation from the energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, should help add further dimension to the alliance.

The East Med pipeline, planned as a complementary route to other projects in the wider region, stands as the most mature component of an EU plan entailing the development of an energy corridor to connect new energy sources in the east Mediterranean with European markets, including the southeast European market.

 

East Med, IGB, Alexandroupoli FSRU upgrading Greek role

Three major energy projects of international dimension, the East Med and IGB natural gas pipelines, as well as the Alexandroupoli FSRU (Floating Storage Regasification Unit), all once seeming distant prospects, are now gradually turning into a close reality.

Their development promise to transform Greece into an energy hub and upgrade the country’s geopolitical standing in the fragile southeast Mediterranean and Balkan regions.

The leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Israel are set to sign a trilateral agreement for East Med, to carry natural gas to Europe via these countries and Italy, at a meeting in Athens on January 2. The transmission capacity of this project, measuring 2,000 km, will range between 10 to 20 billion cubic meters. Italy is also expected to eventually join the partnership for this project.

Its development prospects have been further propelled by a decision from Poseidon, a 50-50 joint venture involving Greek gas utility DEPA and Italy’s Edison, to accelerate the completion of all pending issues needed for the project’s maturity.

The trilateral agreement promises to further bolster ties between Greece, Cyprus and Israel amid a period of heightened regional intensity. Turkish provocation has escalated. An East Med Gas Forum to take place in Cairo January 15 and 16 with participation from the energy ministers of Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority should help expand the alliance.

The Greek-Bulgarian IGB gas pipeline is expected to have begun operating far sooner, in July, 2021. DEPA holds a 25 percent stake in ICGB, the consortium overseeing the IGB project, whose initial capacity will be 3 bcm. Through this pipeline, DEPA plans to supply the Bulgarian market with Azeri gas hailing from the TAP route, and, as a result, break, for the first time, the existing Russian monopoly in the neighboring market.

The IGB will not only be fed by TAP, running westwards across northern Greece for Azeri supply to Europe. The Alexandroupoli FSRU to be anchored off coastal Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, will also feed the IGB, enabling an alternative gas supply source for Bulgaria, other east European countries, and Ukraine.

DEPA is also involved in this project. The gas utility has just decided to acquire a 20 percent stake in Gastrade, the company developing the FSRU project in Alexandroupoli.

Leading Washington officials have expressed their support for the East Med, IGB and Alexandroupoli FSRU projects. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will be seeking confirmation of this backing on an upcoming official trip to the US from President Donald Trump himself.

 

DEPA, Edison firm on East Med amid Turkish provocation

Italy’s Edison, part of the Poseidon consortium formed with Greek gas utility DEPA for the development of the East Med gas pipeline – planned to transport natural gas from Israeli and Cypriot fields to the EU via Greece and Italy – has decided to accelerate pre-construction procedures following escalating provocation from Turkey, energypress has reported.

A decision was reached at a recent Poseidon meeting in Milan to assign all needed project studies, financially backed by the EU, within the next two months for swifter completion of preliminary procedures, and, by extension, the project itself, a 2,000-km pipeline.

Greece’s energy minister Costis Hatzidakis and his Israeli counterpart Yuval Steinitz reiterated their support for the project at a recent meeting.

Turkey, seeking to block the project, recently reached a maritime border agreement with Libya, which EU leaders are set to reject as invalid, insisting the pact interferes with the rights of other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Hristodoulidis has received reassurances from Israeli government officials that the country is not involved in talks with Ankara for the development of an alternative gas pipeline, according to a Cypriot newspaper report. Israel remains committed to the East Med plan, it added.

DEPA’s Poseidon stake will be transferred to the Greek gas utility’s division for international projects. DEPA is being split ahead of its upcoming privatization.