PPC’s second voluntary exit plan this year achieves 85% success rate

Power utility PPC’s second voluntary exit program offered to employees this year has achieved a success rate of 85 percent, convincing 465 staff members to sign up, from a target group of 550.

Applicants needed to meet two prerequisites for this latest PPC exit program. Firstly, applicants must be on the way to turning at least 55 years of age by December 31, 2020. Secondly, they needed to have already qualified for pension rights before applying for the exit plan.

Without the pension right criterion, the program would have applied to a far broader group of as many as 1,700 employees at PPC units around the country.

PPC is believed to be satisfied with the course of its voluntary exit plan this year. The tally of voluntary exits this year is seen reaching 1,200, over an initial estimate of 1,000.

Employees who sign up for the program each receive compensation packages totaling 35,000 euros.

The power utility is expected to keep downsizing. According to last year’s business plan, PPC is aiming for a workforce reduction of 4,500 employees by 2023.

PPC, turning to green energy, has scheduled to shut down its Kardia III and IV and Megalopoli III lignite-fired power stations in 2021, followed by Agios Dimitrios I and II in 2022. Megalopoli III could be withdrawn sooner than planned, the company recently announced.

Ministry proposal seen ending PPC lignite monopoly case

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Telethermal plan for the north enables faster lignite unit exits

Power utility PPC’s prospective combined cooling, heat and power plant in Kardia, northern Greece, will be designed to operate both independently and in connection with Ptolemaida V and provide telethermal needs to the regional provincial cities Ptolemaida and Kozani, seen as vital coverage that will enable the power utility to withdraw lignite-fired units, cost-incurring facilities, sooner than planned.

Ptolemaida V, a new facility nearing its launch and planned to remain as the power utility’s last lignite-fired power station, will spare PPC’s other lignite-fired units in the region from telethermal responsibilities.

This overall plan was agreed to yesterday by the government, municipal authorities, PPC and gas grid operator DESFA.

Ptolemaida V, when operating, will provide necessary telethermal energy through pipelines to the Kardia CCHP unit, which, in turn, will offer heating.

Even when Ptolemaida V is not generating electricity, the prospective Kardia CCHP unit, to run on natural gas, will be able to function independently and offer telethermal needs to residents in the region.

Authorities are pushing for the Kardia unit’s completion and launch by 2022, admitting that it could take until 2023.

PPC’s Amynteo unit set to shut down, temporary closure for Kardia

Power utility PPC’s Amynteo and Kardia lignite-fired power stations in Greece’s north are both planned to cease operating at the end of this month, but the Kardia unit is scheduled to restart in October to cover the area’s telethermal needs, running between October and May.

Despite its closure, the Amynteo unit will be placed on stand-by – along with power grid operator IPTO – for possible electricity contributions between June 20 and August 20, when electricity demand peaks in Greece as a result of the tourism season. This, however, is seen as a highly unlikely prospect this summer given the severe impact of the coronavirus pandemic on electricity demand and the tourism industry.

A joint ministerial decision that had been tabled by former energy minister Giorgos Stathakis offered both the Amynteo and Kardia facilities 32,000-hour operating extensions, meaning they are entitled to operate until May, 2021.

However, state-controlled PPC, taking into consideration the current government’s ambitious decarbonization plan, has opted to withdraw Amynteo on April 30, it has informed RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, and IPTO. The government is aiming for a withdrawal of all existing lignite-fired units by 2023.

PPC and union group Genop are currently engaged in talks concerning the futures of the 400 or so workers employed at the power utility’s Amynteo facility. Some 250 are stationed at the power station and 150 work the mines.

Some of these workers could be transferred to PPC’s Kardia and Agios Dimitrios units, while others will head for retirement, according to one proposal, energypress has been informed.

Voluntary exit programs will also be offered, especially for Amynteo staff.

The Kardia facility workers could be transferred to the Agios Dimitrios facility between the end of this month and the new thermal season, in October, when they are expected to return to the unit.

 

PPC working on withdrawal plan for lignite power stations

Power utility PPC’s newly appointed administration is preparing to commission a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) to determine the order of lignite-fired power station withdrawals, as well as a follow-up plan for workers stationed at these facilities and related telethermal issues.

The withdrawal of old lignite-fired power stations represents a key part of the wider restructuring plan at PPC, under financial pressure and in need of a reshape.

The CBA is part of a new business plan being prepared by PPC for presentation around the end of the year.

Polluting levels of lignite-fired power stations will be a key factor in the order of withdrawals. State-controlled PPC’s Amynteo and Kardia units, operating virtually illegally following dubious extensions granted by the previous government’s energy ministry, are expected to be placed at the top of the withdrawal list.

The withdrawal of lignite units promises to represent a key bargaining tool in the energy ministry’s forthcoming negotiations in Athens with European Commission officials on electricity market reforms and the market position of PPC, still the dominant retail player on the strength of distorted terms not taking into account actual market conditions. These talks are expected to commence September 16.

The closure of older power stations could represent a last chance for PPC to keep alive its hopes of developing Ptolemaida V, a lignite-fired power station investment budgeted at 1.4 billion euros.

Talks between Greek officials and the European Commission aimed at boosting the country’s impetus towards a post-lignite era are already underway, sources informed.

 

Kardia lignite mine temporarily shut amid road bypass complications

A lignite mine in Kardia, northern Greece, located close to power stations operated by the power utility PPC, has been temporarily closed down as a result of licensing problems concerning the development of a road project required as a bypass.

Mining activity at Kardia, in a direction towards Pontokomi, has reached an old highway linking Ptolemaida and Kozani. A bypass is needed to cover a section of the Ptolemaida-Kozani highway that needs to be closed for mining activity to continue.

Workers at the Kardia mine were ordered to stop all mining activity on August 15. A large number of workers have been forced to take leave until the end of this month.

In September, Kardia morning-shift workers will return to the site to perform maintenance work on equipment and facilities. Others will be transferred to a mine at Mavropiyi for a two-month period. This mine has been understaffed.

The Kardia lignite mine will remain closed until the end of October, LKDM, the West Macedonia Lignite Center, a member of the power utility PPC group, announced in mid-August.

Ministry talks with Brussels on lignite unit closures underway

Negotiations aiming to accelerate Greece’s transition towards a post-lignite era, through the closure of old power stations, appear to have begun between the energy ministry’s leadership and the European Commission.

Measures requiring the withdrawal of old power stations as a solution for breaking power utility PPC’s dominant market position are also expected to be discussed and implemented.

A plan by the previous Greek government to sell PPC’s Meliti and Megalopoli power stations proved futile, prompting the new administration’s energy minister Costis Hatzidakis to talk of costly units negatively impacting the utility’s financial results.

European Commission officials, due to visit Athens for talks on September 16, have included on their agenda the need to discuss PPC’s disinvestment schedule.

The withdrawal of older PPC units could represent the last chance to keep alive the utility’s plan to develop Ptolemaida V, a prospective lignited-fired power station budgeted at 1.4 billion euros, sources noted.

Rising CO2 emission right costs will soon make many PPC units unsustainable, sources told energypress.

Besides Amynteo and Kardia, the withdrawal plan is expected to also include other units. Details will be discussed at the upcoming talks between Athens and Brussels officials.

In moving to withdraw lignite-fired units, the energy ministry will also aim for the cancellation of legal action taken against Greece at the European Court for PPC’s lignite monopoly. The lignite unit closures would restrict the utility’s dominance in production and, by extension, supply of this energy source.

Greek officials will also be looking to offset the inevitable negative impact of lignite unit withdrawals on local economies, including the west Macedonia region in Greece’s north, where livelihoods depend on lignite.

Energy ministry officials will also present the plan for closures as a measure seeking to limit PPC’s financial losses.

 

Ministries to extend Kardia unit time limits, EC stance unclear

The energy and economy ministries are set, any day now, to deliver a joint ministerial decision offering an operating time extension for the main power utility PPC’s lignite-fired Kardia III and IV power stations from a current 17,500-hour limit to 32,000 hours.

The decision will not make specific reference to the Kardia facility but will note that an operating extension to 32,000 hours will be permitted for units offering telethermal services to surrounding regions.

For quite some time now, energy ministry officials have been negotiating the matter with the European Commission but it remains unclear if Brussels will offer its  consent for the two Kardia unit extensions.

This specification frames Kardia III and IV and satisfies a long-standing request by residents of Ptolemaida, in the country’s north, for a lifetime extension of the units as the wider region’s heating depends on them in the winter.

Energy minister Giorgos Stathakis and state-controlled PPC’s chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis had both promised residents, power station employees and local MPs that an extension would be granted.

The government recently called for snap elections on July 7.

More recently, the energy ministry has expressed increased confidence of an approval despite the strict terms of the EU’s debarbonization policy.

 

 

 

Infringement procedures for PPC units ‘launched by Brussels’

The European Commission has begun infringement procedures against Greece in reaction to the main power utility PPC’s decision to continue operating its Amynteo and Kardia lignite-fired power stations, Kostas Skrekas, the main opposition New Democracy party’s shadow energy minister told yesterday’s Power & Gas Supply Forum in Athens, attributing his disclosure to a Brussels source.

The two power stations, among the Greek system’s oldest and least efficient, have been able to keep operating as a result of respective 17,500-hour lifeline extensions granted by the European Commission.

This additional time has now been exhausted by the Amynteo facility and is close to running out for Kardia, whose extension ends in May.

The Greek government and state-controlled PPC have disregarded these limits and decided to increase Brussels’ extension to 32,000-hour extensions for both power stations, a move that has not been accepted by the European Commission.

Amynteo and Kardia are continuing to operate amid highly inefficient conditions, exhausting more efficient gas-fueled power stations operated by both PPC and private-sector electricity producers, Dinos Benroubi, the energy division head at the Mytilineos group, supported at yesterday’s forum.

Given the typically slow bureaucratic procedures in Brussels, the time-extension issue surrounding the two PPC units promises to represent yet another challenge for the country’s next administration, set to emerge no later than October when national elections are due.

Minister promises lifeline extension for PPC’s Kardia power station

The main power utility PPC’s Kardia power station in northern Greece’s Kozani area will continue to operate beyond May, when the facility’s EU-approved 17,500-hour lifespan expansion is due to expire, a union group leader has contended following talks with energy minister Giorgos Stathakis, mindful of upcoming elections.

The government has agreed to strict European Commission withdrawal terms for the Kardia unit.

One of the Kardia power station’s units, Kardia III, has just 13 days of operating time remaining.

In comments to local media, Moschos Moschou, the head of PPC’s Spartakos union group, representing workers employed in electricity production, has assured that a lifespan extension beyond May would be granted to Kardia as part of Greece’s effort to meet energy sufficiency and energy security requirements.

Moschou and the energy minister also discussed the lifeline extension of another PPC unit, Amynteo, given an additional 32,000 hours from the previous 17,500.

PPC has already received four different Amynteo environmental upgrade proposals from the Mytilineos, Copelouzos, Peristeris and Intrakat groups. No agreements have been reached.

Private-sector investors will need to participate in any Amynteo power station upograde, the energy minster told Moschou, according to the union leader.

 

 

 

PPC’s Kardia power station set for closure, minister to tell

The main power utility PPC’s 1,250-MW capacity power station in Kardia, northern Greece, launched back in the 80s, is headed for closure, beginning in November with the withdrawal of two units, followed by the closure of the facility’s remaining two units next April or May, as the energy ministry has decided not to pursue an operating extension permit from the European Commission for the four units.

The remaining operating hours granted by Brussels, following lignite limit related exemptions, for all four Kardia units will expire during the aforementioned periods.

Energy minister Giorgos Stathakis has summoned Syriza party MPs holding seats in Greece’s west Macedonia region, representatives of the PPC union Genop, as well as regional authority Thodoros Karypidis to a meeting tomorrow, during which the decision will be officially announced and discussed.

The development marks the beginning of a clean-energy policy for Greece.

A definite plan on the futures of 400 employees at Kardia I, II, III and IV as well as approximately 800 workers stationed at associated mines has yet to be announced. However, at this preliminary stage of the upcoming closure, it appears Kardia power station employees will be transferred to other units with vacancies, while some of the miners will remain at their posts for coal supply to other power stations.

A voluntary retirement plan by PPC for Kardia station and mine workers approaching retirement age cannot be ruled out. This plan could also be offered at other utility units.

PPC intends to seek an operating extension for its Amynteo power station, also in the country’s north, through an environmental upgrade included in an investment plan. A plan for a possible partnership with a private-sector investor is also being considered.

 

Kardia IV unit repaired, dwindling operational time left a concern

The main power utility PPC’s Kardia IV power station unit in the country’s north is now up and running again following the completion of repair work to damages caused last January. The damage left the facility sidelined for six months.

Kardia IV was relaunched just a few days ago following extensive testing at full capacity, measuring 305 MW.

Russian company Power Machines was hired by PPC as a technical consultant for the unit’s repair. An old turbine needed to be repositioned as part of the repair process.

The unit’s return is expected to cover the telethermal needs of the nearby provincial city Ptolemaida next winter. The city’s telethermal needs depend on the Kardia power station’s units  III and IV.

The Kardia IV lignite-fired unit has approximately 9,500 hours of operational time remaining, while Kardia V has 12,000 to go before withdrawal.

An application submitted by PPC and local official to the European Commission for an extension to the power station’s life span has yet to be approved.