Unclear EU stance on Moscow’s ruble payment demand for gas

The European Commission appears to be deliberately maintaining an unclear stance on Moscow’s demand for natural gas supply payments in the ruble currency, an in-between position that presently enables European companies to abide by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s related decree without breaching EU sanctions imposed on Russia.

Yesterday’s EU council meeting of energy ministers for a common European stance on Russia’s ruble-currency payment demand for Gazprom natural gas failed to produce an agreement, instead maintaining the ambiguity that has hovered in recent weeks.

European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson reiterated that payments for Russian natural gas in the ruble currency would represent a violation of European sanctions on Russia, and, as a result would not be accepted. However, she did not offer specific advice on how European companies should make their payments for Russian natural gas when the next round of payments are due. Simson ascertained that clearer directions would soon be issued, without specifying when.

Italian minister for Ecological Transition Roberto Cingolani has allegedly supported that European companies must be given the ability, at least temporarily, to conform to Russia’s payment demands, according to a Politico report.

However, the Italian government has denied that Rome is preparing to make ruble-currency gas payments to Russia, describing the Politico reports as misleading.

 

 

 

Talks in progress for Italy’s East Med gas pipeline entry

Talks are in progress for Italy’s official entry into the East Med gas pipeline project, a prospective 2,000-km pipeline planned to carry natural gas to Europe via Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Italy, energypress sources have informed.

Greece, Cyprus and Israel signed an agreement for the project’s development in 2020, without Italy’s participation, as the country’s government at the time, citing environmental issues, had reacted against the project reaching its shores.

Italy’s current Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, recently stressed that the East Med gas pipeline needs to be pursued as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The project has now gained political support in Italy, through a resolution issued in parliament urging the government to co-sign the transboundary agreement, energypress sources informed.

Italy has revised its stance on the East Med project as a result of a recent EU-27 decision to drastically reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian natural gas.

Italy could officially announce, in May, its intention to co-sign the East Med agreement, sources informed.

FSRU at LNG terminal, Italy storage, lignite use decided

Energy minister Kostas Skrekas has staged an emergency meeting with the country’s crisis management team to establish measures that would need to be implemented should Russia decide to disrupt its natural gas supply to Europe.

Gas grid operator DESFA will need to deliver a cost-benefit analysis to the ministry by tomorrow on a plan entailing the addition of an FSRU at the Revythoussa islet LNG terminal, just off Athens, as a capacity-boosting move.

In addition, the operator has until Tuesday to report back to the ministry on the progress of its talks with Italy’s SNAM aiming to reserve storage capacity at the neighboring country’s underground gas storage (UGS) facilities.

DESFA must also update its estimate on additional LNG shipments that would be required in Greece if Russia disrupts its natural gas supply to Europe.

Gas company DEPA Commercial, Greece’s biggest gas importer, is closely monitoring the availability of LNG shipments in international markets in order to secure additional shipments, if this is deemed necessary.

Furthermore, power utility PPC will forward, by Tuesday, to the energy ministry, its annual lignite extraction plan for continual operation of its available lignite-fired power stations.

 

 

 

 

Europe on edge, tested by Putin’s ruble payment demand

Tension in Europe has risen with signs of disorientation emerging over Russian president Vladimir Putin’s demand for ruble-currency payments to cover Russian natural gas supply.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz, according to Moscow, initially agreed on this payment term for Russian gas supply, but this was swiftly denied by the chancellery.

Italian prime minister Mario Draghi abruptly rejected Putin’s ruble-based payment plan for Russian gas supply, while Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki has called on Europe to impose an embargo on Moscow and follow his country’s example by stopping all Russian energy imports until the end of the year.

Europe is on high alert. Reliance on Russian energy reaches as high as 80 percent in Austria. Germany’s dependence on Russian energy is also high, at 55 percent.

Both countries have taken steps for gas rationing over the payment stand-off with Russia, fearing, like all of Europe, a halt in energy deliveries from Russia because of the dispute over payments.

Robert Habeck, Germany’s federal minister for economic affairs and climate action, has called on citizens to use electricity as moderately as possible.

Should Putin take the dreaded step and cut energy supply to Europe, distribution of existing natural gas reserves, as well as supply from non-Russian sources, will need to be prioritized, with preference for hospitals, power stations and crucial industries, needed to avoid economic collapse.

If European governments are forced to announce a state of emergency, an electricity rationing plan will need to be implemented for all households. The UK was forced to adopt such an extreme measure, for fuel, during the oil crisis in 1973.

In Greece, a halt in Russian natural gas supply would stop economic activity in just a few days. The country’s daily gas consumption reaches approximately 200,000 MWh, of which 115,000 MWh is supplied by Russia.

Additional LNG shipments in April; the mooring of an FSRU at the Revythoussa islet LNG terminal, just off Athens, for a capacity increase; full-capacity generation at the country’s lignite-fired power stations; as well as an agreement with Italy to ensure storage capacity at the neighboring country’s gas storage facilities, for strategic reserves, are all necessary steps ahead of next winter.

It remains to be seen if Russia’s war on Ukraine will carry on into summer and require extreme measures, or end soon, to the relief of all.

The TTF gas exchange ended trade yesterday at 118 euros per MWh. Wholesale electricity prices in Greece today are at 222.38 euros per MWh.

In comments offered during yesterday’s opening day of the two-day Power & Gas Forum staged by energypress, Pantelis Kapros, Professor of Energy Economics at the National Technical University of Athens, estimated that natural gas prices, even if the war were to end now, will average between 50 and 70 euros per MWh this year.

 

 

 

Sweden’s OX2 buys 500-MW RES portfolio, eyeing further moves

Swedish company OX2 has acquired wind and solar energy projects in Greece with a total capacity of 500 MW, a development that serves as a reminder of the steadily growing interest of European and international investors in the country’s RES market.

OX2 already possesses an extensive past in the Greek market, having collaborated with local companies to develop RES projects offering a total capacity in excess of 4 GW, the Swedish company has pointed out.

Further details on the deal’s seller, or sellers, have not been disclosed, but it is understood OX2’s acquisition concerns projects that are currently at different stages of development in various parts of Greece.

The Swedish company is preparing to assemble a team in Greece comprised of personnel from the Greek market as well as employees already with the company, sources have informed energypress.

OX2 plans to also examine further investment opportunities in the Greek market and is eyeing offshore wind farm, energy storage and hydrogen-related investments, a top-ranked company official has told energypress.

“Greece is a very interesting market for OX2. Approximately 20 percent of energy consumed is imported and 15TWh of lignite-fired power will be replaced by 2028,” noted Paul Stormoen, chief executive officer at OX2. “The country has strong sources, serious prospects for development of green energy projects, and plans to install over 5 GW in solar units and more than 3 GW in wind units by 2030. OX2 is aiming for a long-term presence and can accelerate the energy transition by utilizing its high expertise in the development of RES projects,” he continued.

Last year, OX2 formed subsidiaries in Romania and Italy and also developed a solar energy hub in Spain. The company is active in ten European markets.

 

South Kavala UGS tender’s final round not until early summer

The final round of privatization fund TAIPED’s tender for a prospective underground natural gas storage facility (UGS) at the almost depleted natural gas field of “South Kavala” in the Aegean Sea’s north will not be held until early this summer following a latest deadline extension by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, on consultation regarding the facility’s business pricing framework, sources closely following the project’s developments have informed energypress.

Prior to this deadline extension, the overall procedure was delayed by several months as a result of a disagreement between RAE and gas grid operator DESFA over supplementary investments that would enable the country’s grid to cater to the needs of the UGS.

Consultation for UGS pricing framework proposals and other details, including DESFA’s ten-year development plan, was to expire on March 14, but RAE has offered participants an extension until March 30.

It is believed RAE’s text forwarded for consultation has been deemed far from satisfactory by prospective investors. If no changes are made, the tender could fail to produce a result, despite its long duration.

Such a prospect threatens to leave Greece as Europe’s only country without a single UGS for many years to come.

Elsewhere, EU member states are rushing to fill their UGS facilities ahead of next winter, following an order issued by the European Commission as part of a plan to drastically reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian gas.

The EU has a total of 170 UGS facilities, offering a total capacity of 4.2 trillion cubic metres. Germany tops the list with 60 facilities that represent 42 percent of the continent’s UGS capacity. France follows with 16 UGS facilities, Italy has 13 functional facilities and 7 under construction, while Romania has 8 UGS facilities and Bulgaria one.

 

 

Athens, Europe’s south hoping for brave crisis decisions

Athens, along with other EU administrations, especially in Europe’s south, will be hoping for a brave European response to the energy crisis’ exorbitant prices at this week’s summit of EU leaders, scheduled for March 24 and 25.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has joined forces with his counterparts from Italy, Spain and Portugal ahead of this week’s summit. The four leaders are hoping action, rather than just good intentions, as expressed by Europe’s north during an unofficial meeting a fortnight ago, will be taken.

That session highlighted a lack of agreement on the issue of a Eurobond as a common solution to help consumers in Europe cope with extremely higher energy prices.

Some analysts believe long negotiations could be needed at the forthcoming summit, as was the case in 2020, when European leaders worked for five days to eventually approve the Recovery and Resilience Facility as a means of helping economies bounce back from the impact of the pandemic.

Other analysts fear US president Joe Biden’s participation in the concurrent EU-NATO conference will overshadow talks for energy market intervention, postponing needed action for a next session.

 

 

EU south, uniting, anticipates drastic energy cost measures

Europe’s south is pushing for drastic European Commission action in the hope that soaring energy prices can be countered as the endurance of consumers in less robust European economies continues to diminish,  prompting fears of an increase in unpaid receivables, energy company closures, even social unrest, if prices do not de-escalate within the next few months.

The European Commission, gearing up for its next summit, on March 24 and 25, is believed to be preparing to present a series of measures intended to tackle skyrocketing energy prices.

If decisive, these European Commission measures would be embraced by EU member states, especially in the south. If the measures remain half-hearted, in the hope of favorable market developments during spring, they will prompt disappointment, possibly even rebellion, within the EU.

The leaders of Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal plan to meet in Rome either this week or next to establish a common line ahead of the upcoming EU summit.

The precise nature of the European Commission’s upcoming measures has yet to be disclosed. Wholesale natural gas market intervention, with or without price ceilings, as Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has proposed, is a possibility. A detachment of electricity prices from natural gas prices, as proposed by Athens and Madrid, is another possible measure that could be announced by Brussels.

The likelihood of a Eurobond issue to help cover the energy needs of consumers in the EU appears to have faded following recent talk of such a solution.

East Med regains attention as EU reshapes gas strategy

The energy crisis, skyrocketing natural gas prices, and the EU’s new energy policy, aiming to end the continent’s reliance on Russian gas as soon as possible, are developments creating bigger prospects for the East Med pipeline, whose development could upgrade Greece’s role in the energy sector as well as geopolitically.

Importantly, higher gas prices have boosted the feasibility of the East Med pipeline project, a prospective 2,000-km pipeline planned to carry natural gas to Europe via Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Italy, as was supported yesterday by Edison CEO Nicola Monti.

The US withdrew its support for the project in January, citing technical and commercial sustainability concerns. Many analysts have forecast gas price levels will remain elevated for an extended period, which could make East Med a profitable investment for companies that construct and operate the pipeline.

Earlier this week, the European Commission announced its ambitious Repower EU roadmap, prioritizing the search for alternative natural gas sources and supply routes as a means of ending the continent’s reliance on Russian gas.

East Mediterranean gas deposits are well positioned, close to European markets. It remains unclear as to whether it would be more beneficial to transport these gas quantities in the form of LNG or via the East Med pipeline.

Given the bolstered bargaining power of gas producers and LNG exporters, the EU could be better off pursuing a pipeline solution. Also, Shell’s forecast of an LNG shortage in international markets from 2025 onwards should be kept in mind.

Physical delivery limit eased for bigger suppliers, except PPC

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has relaxed, as of 2022, a limit on bilateral agreements established by energy suppliers with market shares in excess of 4 percent, which restricted their physical deliveries to 20 percent of total sales, increasing this limit to 40 percent.

However, RAE has maintained the 20 percent limit for power utility PPC until the end of 2022.

RAE had imposed the 20 percent limit on bilateral agreements since the launch of the target model, before extending the measure through 2021.

Virtually all of the country’s vertically integrated energy suppliers have been subject to the restriction.

RAE, in announcing its revision of the limit, noted that new electricity markets have now been operating for a year, achieving sufficient liquidity in the day-ahead market but not in the futures market.

The authority also pointed out that single day-ahead coupling with the Italian and Bulgarian markets in December, 2020 and May, 2021, respectively, have led to satisfactory price-level convergence with southeast European markets.

Heraklion Port Authority e-welcomes Poseidon Med II

A technical workshop was organized by the Heraklion Port Authority, which participates as a satellite port at the EU co-funded programme. This is the final dissemination event that shared the work to date and milestones of the Action to key stakeholders, seeking their input and comments to the completed activities.

In an atmosphere of consensus that the port should embrace alternative fuels in order to remain both sustainable and competitive, issues like the Presidential Decree on safe LNG Bunkering, training competencies, port manuals and the port’s masterplan to accommodate LNG, were thoroughly addressed.

The virtual event did not focus only on the technical pillars of the Action but moreover shared, with all participants, the basics of LNG as a marine fuel and also the project’s key features and attributes.

Mr. Minas Papadakis, CEO made a reference to the concerns stemming from the proximity of the infrastructure to the populated areas around the port; yet he continued by highlighting the positive impact of the Action on the sound profile of the Port of Heraklion. Mr. Papadakis concluded by expressing his full support to the deliverables of Poseidon Med II and welcomed the next era for LNG as fuel, which he characterised as being ‘far from transitional’ as regards to its application in the maritime transportation sector.

Mr. Stavros Lirintzakis, Project Manager on behalf of the Port of Heraklion, supported the above positions and proudly advised the audience that despite the difficulties, the management of the Port Authority and its stakeholders look forward to welcoming similar projects in the future.

Poseidon Med II project is a practical roadmap which aims to bring about the wide adoption of LNG as a safe, environmentally efficient and viable alternative fuel for shipping and help the East Mediterranean marine transportation propel towards a low-carbon future.

The project, which is co-funded by the European Union, involves three countries Greece, Italy and Cyprus, six European ports (Piraeus, Patras, Lemesos, Venice, Heraklion, Igoumenitsa) as well as the Revithoussa LNG terminal.

The project brings together top experts from the marine, energy and financial sectors to design an integrated LNG value chain and establish a well-functioning and sustainable LNG market.

Europe’s south wants wholesale price to reflect energy mix cost

Greece will align with a French proposal for wholesale electricity prices as a reflection of energy-mix cost, not energy exchange levels, a stance to be adopted by countries of Europe’s south, at a council meeting of European energy ministers today.

France will join forces with Greece, Italy, Romania and Spain, Barbara Pompili, Minister of Ecological Transition, has informed ahead of today’s session, for their presentation of a joint proposal to the EU 27 for wholesale electricity market reforms.

The proposal’s objective will be to offer consumers better protection against excessive price increases as well as stability through the energy transition period.

It remains unclear how the French-led proposal will be received by other EU member state representatives.

Europe’s north, better equipped to handle adverse market conditions as a result of more diverse energy mixes and numerous grid interconnections, enabling greater flexibility, has been less affected by the energy crisis and, subsequently, is not under pressure to seek market reforms.

However, governments around the continent are feeling growing pressure as wholesale price levels appear to be establishing themselves at higher levels, impacting inflation rates around Europe, latest Eurostat figures for November have shown.

In Greece, wholesale electricity prices have held steady at record-breaking levels above 260 euros per MWh over the past few days.

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.