Wholesale electricity prices ease as RES input increases

Wholesale electricity price levels are expected to drop to an average of 130 euros per MWh in the day-ahead market today, down 20 percent compared to yesterday, a de-escalation attributed to increased RES input, the energy exchange has informed.

Stronger winds have been forecast, increasing the generation potential of wind energy units.

The maximum price in the day-ahead market today is expected to reach 186 euros per MWh and the minimum price will be 92 euros per MWh.

Natural gas-fired power stations are scheduled to contribute the lion’s share, 40 percent, of the day’s electricity needs, renewable energy sources will contribute 24 percent, electricity imports and lignite-fired power stations will each provide 15 percent, while hydropower facilities will contribute 6 percent.

Electricity demand for the today is forecast to drop by 2.5 percent compared to yesterday.

 

 

Grid faces new challenge today as heatwave persists

The country’s grid stands to face yet another major challenge today as electricity demand could climb to a new record level, driven up by the sustained heatwave conditions, projected to reach levels of between 40 and 42 degrees Celsius.

Power grid operator IPTO projects electricity demand will reach 10,835 MW, which would be a new all-time high, following yesterday’s level of 10,662 MW.

Natural gas-fired power stations operated by power utility PPC and independent producers will once again contribute dominantly, exceeding 43 percent, according to energy exchange data.

PPC’s combined-cycle Lavrio IV will return to action today following the replacement of technical components at the unit, according to IPTO’s schedule for the day.

The overall input of renewable energy units is expected to rise marginally today, compared to previous days, and cover 16.5 percent of demand.

Electricity imports are also expected to cover 16.5 percent of demand today.

Lignite-fired power stations, including Megalopoli IV, back following repairs, are expected to represent 14.46 percent of the energy mix.

Major-scale hydropower facilities should cover a little over 9 percent of electricity demand.

The government’s crisis management team expects generation will reach required levels and, furthermore, could be boosted by greater output at wind-energy facilities as a result of stronger winds that have been forecast for today.

On the other hand, the prospect of stronger winds is unfavorable for firefighters seeking to subdue a number of fire fronts. Also, the risk of new fires is also higher. In such an event, the grid, under extreme pressure over the past ten days amid the sustained heatwave, would surely suffer further damages.

Distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO crews are continuing efforts to restore power supply in fire-hit Varybobi, north of Athens. The northern section of Evia, northeast of Athens, and Pyrgos, northwest Peloponnese, have also been affected by power supply cuts as a result of fires in the regions.

PPC’s hefty lignite costs lend credibility to strategic reserve mechanism request

Grid needs requiring power utility PPC to operate its lignite-fired power stations have cost the company considerably, lending credibility to the country’s request for a strategic reserve mechanism, a study containing revenue and cost details concerning all of Greece’s power stations over the past six months has shown.

This study has been forwarded to the European Commission as a preliminary step in the establishment of a Market Reform Plan being discussed between Athens and Brussels officials.

PPC has called for a sooner-than-planned withdrawal of its lignite-fired power stations as a result of the elevated cost entailed in operating these units, pushed higher by rising carbon emission right costs.

But the grid’s needs, as highlighted over the past few days of heatwave conditions, are preventing PPC from withdrawing lignite-fired units sooner.

Given the situation, the introduction of a strategic reserve mechanism, over a two-year period covering 2021 and 2022, has emerged as an alternative solution. This mechanism would enable PPC to seek compensation for maintaining its lignite-fired power stations on emergency stand-by.

The implementation of a capacity remuneration mechanism (CRM) will, according to Greece’s plan, ensue and offer incentive for new investments in projects such as gas-fueled power stations and energy storage.

The incorporation, into the strategic reserve mechanism, of the demand response system and natural gas-fired power stations is also being considered.

Athens and Brussels officials are striving for a finalized strategic reserve mechanism plan by the end of the year, which would enable its launch at the beginning of 2022.

Second market test launched for PPC lignite power packages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grid to rely on lignite units amid extreme weather for 2 more yrs

The country’s grid sufficiency will rely on power utility PPC’s high-polluting and high-cost, for the utility, lignite-fired power stations for at least a further two years whenever extreme temperature fluctuations are experienced, as was the case last week, on Friday, when the heatwave pushed demand up to 9,258 MW, as well as Wednesday, when demand rose to similar levels.

PPC’s group of old lignite-fired power stations will need to keep offering solutions until at least 2023 during extreme weather conditions, be they heatwaves or snowstorms, a situation that will need to be seriously taken into account by the committee responsible for the new National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP).

The committee will stage its first meeting today to begin preparing the new 2030 NECP. Many uncertain factors still remain.

According to the existing NECP, now being revised, new natural gas-fired power stations offering a total capacity of 1,650 MW, plus Ptolemaida V – a lignite-fired unit to be converted to a natural gas-fired unit in 2025 for an eventual capacity of 1,000 MW – will need to be launched by 2030.

The new NECP will anticipate greater RES penetration by 2030 than the existing NECP. The existing plan expects renewable energy sources to cover 62 percent of overall electricity demand by the end of the decade, whereas the new NECP will increase this level to 72 percent.

Clearing price hits record level, averaging €128.15/MWh

The clearing price at the energy exchange will exceed 130 euros per MWh for 15 hours today, pushing the average price to a record level of 128.15 euros per MWh.

Driven by the heatwave, electricity demand will climb to a 9,044-MW peak at 12.30pm, according to a forecast by power grid operator IPTO.

Four lignite-fired power stations, power utility PPC’s Agios Dimitrios I, II and IV and Meliti, have been recruited to support the grid’s needs today.

In addition, all of the country’s natural gas-fired power stations – PPC’s Aliveri V, Lavrio IV and V, Komotini and Megalopoli V, as well as the independent units Heron, Elpedison Thessaloniki, Elpedison Thisvi, Protergia and Korinthos Power – are expected to operate today.

Overall electricity demand is expected to reach 175,803 MWh. RES output is seen reaching 30,565 MWh, natural gas-fired power station generation should amount to 115,868 MWh, and hydropower production is expected to total 12,824 MWh.

Lignite-fired power stations still operating despite elevated cost

Despite their increased operational cost, power utility PPC’s lignite-fired power stations remain essential, on an occasional basis, to ensure electricity supply security by countering various concerns that may arise, including voltage instability at the grid’s northern section.

Power grid operator IPTO needed to bring into the system one or two lignite-fired power stations throughout most of May, despite the high cost entailed, which would normally keep these units sidelined.

No lignite-fired power stations needed to be used for grid sufficiency on May 13 and 16, as is also the case for today.

The northern section of the country’s grid can be susceptible to voltage instability as a result of the international grid interconnections in the wider area, facilitating exports.

Until recently, northern Greece’s west Macedonia region was the country’s energy epicenter, courtesy of PPC’s extensive lignite portfolio in the area.

Regular use of higher-cost lignite-fired generation has increased price levels in the day-ahead and balancing markets, which, by extension, is increasing costs for suppliers.

PPC’s increased CO2 emissions, when the utility’s lignite-fired power stations are brought into operation, is also directly impacting industrial consumers, who are burdened by the resulting additional cost, passed on by the utility.

CO2 costs have risen sharply of late as a result of rallying carbon emission right costs.

PPC aims for EBITDA repeat of €900m, carbon cut ‘on track’

Power utility PPC is aiming for a repeat of last year’s EBITDA performance in 2021, a level of between 800 and 900 million euros, an objective to be supported by the corporation’s declining lignite-based electricity generation, both in terms of volume and energy-mix percentage, the company’s chief executive Giorgos Stassis has told analysts.

As part of its decarbonization effort, PPC plans to withdraw its Megalopoli III lignite-fired power station within the current year.

PPC managed to restrict its lignite-fired generation to 22 percent of total output in the first quarter this year, down from 44 percent a year earlier.

The utility needed to spend 138.5 million euros on CO2 emission rights in the first quarter, up from 119.7 million euros during the equivalent period last year, at an average cost of 31.7 euros per ton.

CO2 emission right prices have since risen further and currently register between 51 and 52 euros per ton.

Assuming CO2 emission right prices average 47 euros per ton in 2Q – this level could end up being be far higher – and PPC’s lignite-based generation remains at the current level, then the corporation’s carbon-cost outlay for this quarter will reach approximately 205 million euros, a 48 percent increase.

PPC, which recently borrowed through sustainability-linked bonds, committing itself to a carbon emission reduction of 40 percent by 2022, is confident this target will be achieved, the corporation’s administration told analysts.

 

Mytilineos considering new gas-fired power units in Balkans

The Mytilineos group is examining the prospect of developing natural gas-fired power stations in Bulgaria and North Macedonia, seeing investment opportunities, like Greece’s other major energy players, in the Balkan region.

EU members Bulgaria and Romania, as well as non-EU members in the Balkan region, such as Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia, are announcing closures of old coal-fired power stations.

This development is creating investment opportunities as older units being withdrawn will, over the next few years, need to be replaced by new facilities, including natural gas-fired power stations.

A month ago, after receiving equipment for a new gas-fired power station unit in Agios Nikolaos, Viotia, northwest of Athens, Mytilineos informed that the company is examining the prospect of developing a similar combined cycle unit in Bulgaria.

Bulgaria, like Greece, is withdrawing its coal-fired power stations and aims to have completed the country’s decarbonization effort by 2025. The neighboring country will need to replace lost capacity through the introduction of natural gas-fired power stations and RES unit investments.

Extremely higher carbon emission right costs have made the withdrawal of coal-fired power stations a priority for Bulgaria and the wider region, one of Europe’s most lignite-dependent areas.

Greece, Bulgaria and Romania, combined, represent nearly ten percent of the EU’s total lignite electricity generation capacity.

Carbon emission right prices relaxed to 49.26 euros per ton yesterday after peaking at 56.65 euros per ton last Friday, following a months-long rally.

Last week, during a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, North Macedonian leader Zoran Zaev disclosed that his government is discussing the prospect of a new gas-fired power station, in the neighboring country, with Mytilineos.

In Romania, projections for 2030 estimate the installation of 5.2 GW in wind energy units and approximately 5 MW in solar energy units.

Serbia, possibly offering even bigger green energy investment opportunities, aims to replace 4.4 GW of coal-fired generation by 2050. The country is now making plans for 8-10 GW in RES investments.

IPTO warns PPC against Megalopoli III closure this year

Power utility PPC’s Megalopoli III lignite-fired power station must not be withdrawn within 2021 – let alone about now, as the utility had initially planned – for reasons of grid sufficiency, the power grid operator IPTO has advised in a letter forwarded to PPC and RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

IPTO, in its letter, warns against the consequences of two PPC plans, the first, an intention to shut down Megalopoli III by the end of March, and, the second, premature withdrawal of its entire portfolio of lignite-fired power stations by the end of this coming August, or to the extent that is feasible, given grid sufficiency requirements.

Premature withdrawal, this summer, of all the lignite units would result in a capacity shortage measuring approximately 1,000 MW, which would need to be covered by electricity imports, IPTO has warned.

PPC’s chief executive Giorgos Stassis refenced the IPTO letter during yesterday’s Power and Gas Supply Forum, an online event staged by energypress, while commenting on the need to maintain lignite-fired power stations for grid stability, even if these units are now loss-incurring because of elevated CO2 emission right costs.

IPTO does not consent to any lignite unit withdrawals that would be ahead of schedule – based on a PPC plan for 2021 to 2023 – the power utility’s boss stressed during yesterday’s forum.

As a result, Stassis added, PPC will need to be compensated by the European Commission, through a support mechanism proposed by Greek officials, for needing to maintain loss-incurring units.

IPTO, in its letter, reiterated the findings of recent grid sufficiency study, noting that the two-year period from 2021 to 2022, especially the current year, will be crucial. The grid would be particularly exposed to deficiencies if generating capacity is reduced without replacement, the operator warned.

The Mytilineos group plans to launch a new 826-MW combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plant next year. Testing is expected to begin in the fourth quarter this year. Also next year, PPC plans to launch its Ptolemaida V unit, initially as a lignite-fired power station.

Electricity demand falls 9.5% in January amid stricter lockdown

Stricter lockdown measures in January and their impact on business activity prompted a big reduction in electricity demand, down 9.5 percent compared to the equivalent month a year earlier, when lockdown measures had yet to be imposed, according to power grid operator IPTO’s monthly report.

Most of the country’s retailers were forced to disrupt their business activities in January following a period of less stringent retail measures in the form of a click-away service, enabling customers to pre-order and pick up goods from shops by appointment or, this measure’s extension, click-in-shop, permitting customers to enter stores, see and even try products by appointment.

Electricity demand in the high-voltage category was down by 3.3 percent in January compared to the same month a year earlier, the IPTO data showed.

Interestingly, despite the plunge in electricity demand, electricity production increased by 12.9 percent in January, hydropower being the biggest mover with a 221 percent increase, following power utility PPC’s decision to use its hydropower units as a result of elevated water reserves.

The domestic production increase was attributed to a fall in electricity imports and rise in electricity exports, the greatest quantity going to Italy (43%), followed by North Macedonia (24%), Bulgaria (22%), Albania (9%) and Turkey (2%).

RES output was higher by 43 percent in January as a result of strong winds during the month, while, on the contrary, lignite-fired generation fell 43 percent. Natural gas-fueled power station output was also down, marginally, by 2 percent.

In terms of energy mix share, natural gas-fueled power stations held a 36 percent share, RES units captured 35 percent, hydropower’s contribution represented 16 percent, and lignite was responsible for 13 percent of total electricity generation in January, the IPTO figures showed.

PPC covered 66.6 percent of electricity demand in January, followed by Mytilineos (7.52%), Heron (5.89%), Elpedison (4.63%), NRG (3.49%) and Watt & Volt (2.74%).

Weather effects lend credibility to PPC lignite compensation bid

The impact of last week’s heavy snowfall around Greece, prompting power outages in various areas, northern parts of Athens being hardest hit, has added credibility to state-controlled power utility PPC’s compensation bid to the European Commission for its need to keep using lignite-fired power stations.

Had IPTO, the power grid operator, not ordered the grid entry of PPC’s lignite-fired power stations, nowadays a high-cost option, widespread blackouts amid the adverse weather conditions would have been inevitable, making matters far worse, including at economic and political levels.

IPTO officials have stressed the country continues to need PPC’s lignite-fired power stations until their production capacity is gradually replaced by cleaner gas-fueled power stations. These are: PPC’s Ptolemaida V; a unit being developed by the Mytilineos Group in Viotia, northwest of Athens; and Terna’s prospective unit in Komotini, northeastern Greece, still at the planning stage.

The period between 2021 and 2024 will be crucial for the country’s power generating sufficiency as a result of the planned withdrawal of existing lignite-fired power stations, a related IPTO study has shown. The system’s sufficiency will depend on how swiftly the aforementioned gas-fueled power stations, totaling 2,150 MW, can be up and running.

If the planned completion dates for these three projects are maintained then there will be no reason to delay the withdrawal schedule of lignite-fired power stations, sources pointed out. The grid entry of PPC’s Ptolemaida V and Mytilineos’ Viotia unit, without the Terna unit, would suffice to cover the capacity gap to be left by the withdrawn lignite units, these sources added.

However, any delays in the completion of the new power stations could prompt Greek officials to request more time from the European Commission for the withdrawal of lignite-fired units, the sources said.

Lignite-unit grid input rises, re-electrification a challenge

Virtually all of the country’s power generating facilities will be called into action today, even if below full capacity, to help meet grid needs and cover greater demand anticipated as areas disconnected during heavy snowfall over the past couple of days are gradually re-electrified, putting the system to the test.

Officials are confident the country’s power generating facilities will not have problems covering the day’s electricity demand.

According to power grid operator IPTO’s grid schedule, a significant number of lignite-fired power stations – Agios Dimitrios III and IV, Kardia III and IV, and Meliti – will operate today.

Also, given heightened electricity demand levels, expected to reach 8,190 MW, natural gas-fired power stations will be on stand-by for grid entry.

Power utility PPC’s Aliveri V, Lavrio IV and V, Komotini and Megalopoli V, plus a number of independent gas-fuelled units, Heron III, Elpedison’s units in Thessaloniki and Thisvi, and Protergia and Korinthos Power units, will be ready to contribute if needed.

RES output is expected to reach 27.185 GWh, while hydropower output is planned to total 36.132 GWh.

Overall production for the day is expected to reach 166.685 GWh, a lower level compared to yesterday.

Network distribution operator DEDDIE/HEDNO crews are working overtime to repair transmission lines that were damaged by hundreds of collapsing trees during heavy snowfall around the country over the past couple of days. This repair effort could require days to complete.

Some 400 DEDDIE/HEDNO technicians in Athens, bolstered by colleagues brought in from other parts of Greece, are currently working to re-electrify affected areas in the capital.

Lignite unit output up, target model overpricing a factor

Power utility PPC’s lignite-fired power stations, temporarily covering for gas-fueled plants undergoing maintenance work and also favored by power grid operator IPTO as a result of excessive target model market prices demanded by independent producers, have made somewhat of a production comeback despite the urgency of the government and state-owned utility to withdraw these high-cost units as soon as possible.

On December 3, eight of the country’s ten remaining lignite-fired power stations operated throughout the day, most close to full capacity.

Agios Dimitrios I, III, IV and V, Kardia III and IV, Meliti and Megalopoli IV covered almost one third of the country’s total electricity demand, supplying over 40,000 MWh of the day’s 139,000 MWh to the grid.

In recent days, between six and seven lignite-fired power stations have been called into action.

Heron’s two gas-fueled power stations are currently sidelined for service work as are two such units respectively operated by Elpedison and PPC in Thessaloniki and Lavrio, close to Athens. Furthermore, overpricing in the day-ahead market by independent producers has prompted IPTO to seek lignite unit coverage.

PPC is still operating at least four lignite-fired power stations on a daily basis, despite related losses, to cover telethermal needs in cities of the west Macedonia and Megalopoli regions.

The power utility intends to hasten the withdrawal of its Megalopoli III, Kardia III and IV lignite-fired units, all set to close in 2021, according to an updated PPC business plan announced earlier this month.

PPC awaiting first securitization deal cash injection this month

Power utility PPC, seeking to financially bolster in anticipation of tougher pandemic-related market conditions, expects, within November, to benefit from an initial collection of approximately 150 million euros following two securitization agreements reached last summer with JP Morgan and Pimco for unpaid receivables.

This forthcoming initial cash injection, expected to eventually reach as much as 200 million euros, concerns a small-scale securitization package, for unpaid receivables of up to 60 days, reached between PPC and JP Morgan early last summer.

PPC then established an additional deal with Pimco for longer-term unpaid receivables of more than 90 days, expected to rake in up to 300 million euros, for a combined securitization total that may ultimately reach 500 million euros.

The power utility expects to receive about 200 million euros from the Pimco deal in December or January. This means PPC should have received a total of about 350 million euros in initial payments from JP Morgan and Pimco by no later than the end of January.

This amount promises to serve as a safety net in the coming months of market insecurity and tightened cash flow, and, in addition, partially fund PPC’s new business plan.

Currently being worked on, and expected to be far more ambitious than a previous version delivered at the end of 2019, PPC’s new business plan should be announced around mid-December.

It is expected to feature swifter RES project development and lignite unit withdrawals, as well as more ambitious electromobility initiatives.

The 500 million-euro securitization amount will certainly be needed for these investments.

Target model’s first two-way contracts for PPC unit telethermal needs

The target model, launched last Sunday, has already produced a first batch of two-way agreements, involving power utility PPC and its supply division, the off-taker, for lignite-fired capacity totaling 309 MW, presumably for telethermal needs at the utility’s Agios Dimitrios III and Kardia III facilities.

PPC’s two-way agreements concerning the lignite-fired power stations do not seem to be influencing market prices – at least not overtly.

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.

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.

PPC’s new image a prelude to revised business plan, imminent

Retail outlets to open for extended business hours, digital products and new services, swifter withdrawals of lignite-fired power stations, as well as an acceleration in the development of major-scale and smaller RES projects are among the factors contributing to power utility PPC’s new corporate image, showcased yesterday, during a 40-minute event, by chief executive Giorgos Stassis, who described the new image as a prelude to a revised business plan to be presented towards the end of the year.

The revised business plan, to have a three-year duration, will be a more ambitious and confident plan than last year’s version as, besides swifter lignite unit exits, it will feature bolder digitalization steps, a more aggressive retail market policy, aim for a RES portfolio well over 1 GW over the next three years, through a pool of prospective projects totaling 6 GW, and also feature network and personnel investments.

Next year, the company will aim to double 24 existing retail outlets – they begin operating for extended business hours as of today – as well as 75 service centers that may be visited by appointment only.

Yesterday’s announcements represent just part of the developments to be gradually announced by PPC, the most imminent being a new series of digital products, dubbed PPC myHome, to be launched within the next few days.

The new business plan’s level of ambition will also depend on external factors, Brussels being pivotal. Settlement of the country’s ten-year lignite dispute with the European Commission will offer state-controlled PPC greater leeway.

PPC is also hoping for a favorable Brussels response within November on a compensation request for 200 million euros, annually, for every year lignite-fired power stations in the west Macedonia and Megalopoli regions will need to keep operating.

PPC, going green, to present transformation plan on Monday

Power utility PPC’s new three-year business plan, to transform the company from a lignite-centered utility into a RES-focused enterprise backed by a range of modern and digital commercial services, will be officially presented on Monday by the state-controlled company’s board, headed by chief executive Giorgos Stassis (photo), with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in attendance.

A new company logo symbolizing PPC’s shift from lignite to renewables will also be unveiled at the event along with the launch of the motto “PPC welcomes the future”.

PPC’s trademark lightning bolt-bearing logo that has featured for years at the façade of the company’s Athens headquarters has already been removed to make way for the the new logo, to be unveiled at Monday’s event.

On the day, PPC will present details on its plan to develop a RES portfolio with a capacity of between 2,000 and 3,000 MW over the next three years. This effort will coincide with the utility’s phase-out of lignite-fired power stations.

The privatization plan for the forthcoming sale of a 49 percent stake in subsidiary DEDDIE/HEDNO, the distribution network operator, expected to begin towards the end of this year, will also be presented at Monday’s event.

So, too, will an abundance of new services, including house repair and maintenance insurance.

PPC’s new three-year plan, at its core, will aim for high profitability and an annual EBITDA figure of between 700 and 900 million euros. It will also detail the company’s interest in DEPA Commercial, a new gas utility DEPA entity headed for privatization.

On Monday, PPC will also offer an update on ongoing talks with investors, including Germany’s RWE, for the development of solar farms worth 1.2 billion euros in northern Greece’s lignite-dependent west Macedonia region.

Funds of between 500 and 550 million euros stemming from PPC’s securitization of unpaid receivables will be used to help finance RES investments. The company is also considering a bond issue for the end of the year. Funds to be raised through the prospective DEDDIE/HEDNO sale will also be used for these investments.

Sensing a bright future at PPC, a growing number of institutional investors and hedge funds from abroad are considering the company’s share. They include Allianz Global Investors, Bell Rock Capital, Helm Investment Partners, Bluecrest Capital Management, Polygon, Fiera Capital, Zenon and Prince Street Capital.

 

 

 

Government’s post-lignite master plan set for one-month consultation

The government’s post-lignite master plan for the west Macedonia region in the country’s north, and Megalopoli in the Peloponnese, both lignite-dependent economies, is set to be forwarded for public consultation, possibly within the day, to enable observations and comments for a one-month period.

Power utility PPC plans to phase out its lignite-fired power stations and mines over the next three years as part of Greece’s decarbonization strategy.

The master plan’s draft will feature specific targets, studies conducted to reach conclusions, and the government plan prepared by a special decarbonization committee headed by government official Constantinos Mousouroulis.

The availability of funds necessary to support the development of this strategic plan will be pivotal.

Energy minister Costis Hatzidakis has announced that funds totaling over 5 billion euros will be made available for the post-lignite master plan through the EU’s National Strategic Reference Framework; national sources; the Just Transition Fund; European Investment Bank; and the European Fund for Strategic Investments, commonly referred to as the Juncker Plan.

Nearly 70 investment proposals have been submitted to the special decarbonization committee headed by Mousouroulis, while 16 major investment plans are now regarded as mature plans possessing the ability to create new jobs in west Macedonia and Megalopoli and reform the economies of these regions.

 

GEK TERNA, Elpedison close to decisions on gas-fueled units

GEK TERNA and Elpedison are expected to announce finalized investment decisions for new gas-fueled power stations with total capacity over 1,400 MW within the next two months, energypress sources informed.

GEK TERNA plans to develop a 660-MW power station at the industrial zone of Komotini, northeastern Greece, while Elpedison, a joint venture involving Hellenic Petroleum ELPE and Italy’s Edison, intends to construct units with a total capacity of 826 MW at the ELPE facilities in Thessaloniki.

These project plans are estimated to be worth a total of at least 600 million euros.

The energy companies have already received energy production licenses as well as other licensing requirements, including environmental permits, for these prospective units, regarded as mature investment plans.

Both companies are awaiting new CAT mechanism details for gas-fueled power stations before finalizing their investment plans. The economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic, plus the anticipation of a second wave, are also crucial factors influencing the thinking behind these investment decisions.

Market capacity exists for new combined-cycle gas-fueled power stations during the energy transition over the next ten to 15 years, electricity market officials insist.

The planned withdrawal of power utility PPC’s lignite-fired power stations over the next three or so years combined with a lack of development in RES energy storage systems offers gas-fueled power generation an opportunity to cover capacity to be lost by lignite-fired power station closures.

A recent BloombergNEF report noted big natural gas-fueled power stations are not necessary. However, market officials point to the National Energy and Climate Plan as proof of the need for such units.

The Mytilineos group is developing an 826-MW CCGT in the Agios Nikolaos area of Boetia, northwest of Athens, with the aim of a launch in late-2021.

Brussels considering PPC compensation for lignite units

Certain European Commission officials are believed to be considering a compensation request made by power utility PPC for its three-year phase-out, between 2021 and 2023, of all existing lignite-fired power stations, severely burdened by elevated CO2 emission right costs.

Brussels officials had flatly rejected a compensation request made by PPC nearly a year ago. However, a shift by Brussels has become apparent in recognition of the Greek decarbonization effort’s progress.

The European Commission has offered compensation elsewhere for lignite units withdrawals. Last May, Brussels made available compensation worth 52.5 million euros for the Netherlands as a result of the country’s premature closure of its Hemweg coal-fired facilities.

At the time, the European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager had declared EU member states may need to compensate companies for their efforts to end their coal reliance, adding that the Dutch compensation amount does not threaten to cause market distortions at a European level.

PPC officials expect European Commission developments on the issue during the final quarter of this year.

Taking into account Brussels’ handling of such issues in the past, PPC officials also believe an antitrust case concerning the Greek power utility’s lignite monopoly and the corporation’s compensation request could be resolved simultaneously.

Excessive cost, for PPC, of running lignite-fired units hastening exit plan

The financial burden on power utility PPC as a result of its continued use of lignite-fired power stations at a time when the EU is racing towards climate neutrality has prompted the utility to revise its lignite unit phase-out plan for power stations in northern Greece’s west Macedonia region and Megalopoli in the Peloponnese.

According to latest information, PPC’s administration is planning further premature withdrawals of lignite-fired power stations after announcing a precipitated exit of its Megalopoli III unit, as was reported by energypress yesterday.

The Megalopoli III unit will be shut down six months sooner, in mid-2021, instead of early 2022. This 250-MW lignite-fired facility has operated for just six hours since April.

The average variable cost of lignite-based energy generation is €0.80 per MWh, well over the System Marginal Price of €0.45 per MWh, according to data presented by energy minister Costis Hatzidakis.

According to some sources, PPC has once again raised, to the European Commission, a compensation claim for being required to keep operating high-cost power stations in order to secure grid sufficiency and security.

PPC will be forced to proceed with swifter lignite unit exits if this compensation request is not satisfied, pundits said.

Power grid operator IPTO has the final say on the assessment of energy security matters.

PPC’s lignite-fired power stations covered just 36.8 percent of the country’s overall electricity demand in the first half, its lignite units playing a diminished role.

 

Megalopoli III to exit 6 months ahead of schedule, in mid-2021

Power utility PPC plans to prematurely withdraw its Megalopoli III lignite-fired power station in mid-2021, six months earlier than planned, energy minister Costis Hatzidakis announced yesterday while presenting the government’s decarbonization plan.

A decision was taken to shut down Megalopoli III, in the Peloponnese, ahead of schedule as this facility has operated for a total of just one week since spring, indicating its output is no longer required to secure grid sufficiency.

In his comments to media yesterday, Hatzidakis, the energy minister, highlighted the high cost entailed in operating lignite-fired power stations.

The averages variable cost of lignite-based energy is €0.80 per MWh, well over the System Marginal Price of €0.45 per MWh, according to data presented by the minister.

A 550-MW PPC lignite-fired power station at Amynteo, northern Greece, has already been shut down.

For the time being, no other PPC lignite unit withdrawal plan revisions were reported at yesterday’s news conference.

Kardia III and IV are still planned to be withdrawn in 2021. These will be followed by Agios Dimitrios I, II, III and IV, representing a total capacity of 1,100 MW, in 2022. Their withdrawal will coincide with the entry of a new unit, Ptolemaida V, to offer a 610-MW capacity. It will be launched as a lignite-fired unit before continuing to generate on cleaner fuel as of 2028.

PPC is also scheduled to withdraw 260-MW Megalopoli IV, 290-MW Meliti I and 340-MW Agios Dimitrios V in 2023.

 

PPC power demand coverage down to 36.8%, lignite savings

Power utility PPC’s lignite-fired electricity production plunged 70 percent in the second quarter of 2020, its generation covered just 36.8 percent of overall electricity demand in the first half, while the corporation’s retail electricity market share has contracted to 69.9 percent, first-half company results have shown.

These shifts highlight the major changes occurring in Greece’s energy market – in terms of energy mix and retail competition.

PPC’s retail electricity market share drop to 69.9 percent followed a 77 percent share reported for the equivalent period a year earlier.

Electricity demand fell just 1.7 percent in the first quarter before sliding 12.7 percent in the second quarter, the PPC results showed.

A significant part of the corporation’s recurring EBITDA figure of 457.3 million euros reported for the first half was attributed to the utility’s diminished reliance on lignite-fired generation, until recently Greece’s dominant energy source. PPC’s lignite units have been kept shut or used minimally, saving the corporation from losses.

However, this is one side of the story for PPC. The company’s reduced reliance on lignite may be saving the power utility considerable amounts, but its coverage of overall electricity demand has dropped to 36.8 percent in the first half, from 46.9 percent in the first half last year. Gas-fired and hydropower generation have been low.

This downward slide at PPC is expected to continue until the corporation’s green energy output rises to between 2,000 and 3,000 MW, a level that would take the company into a new era. A period of at least two to three years will be needed before this can be achieved.

The pandemic and its downward pressure on energy price levels has helped PPC. Company outlays for fuels, natural gas, CO2 emission rights and electricity purchases fell by 33.7 percent, or 561.3 million euros, in the first half, compared to the equivalent period a year earlier.

PPC saved 95 million euros on fuel costs, 110.2 million euros on natural gas costs, approximately 80 million euros on CO2 emission rights, and 260.2 million euros on electricity purchases, the first half results showed.

Energy products may rebound in the second half, meaning PPC has no other choice but to accelerate its foray into the RES sector.

Despite the encouraging first-half results, there is no room for complacency, PPC’s chief executive Giorgos Stassis stressed.

 

 

Wholesale electricity prices down considerably in first half

The System Marginal Price, or wholesale electricity price, has fallen considerably and consistently throughout the first half of the year, driven down by lower natural gas prices and a dramatic contraction of lignite-fired generation, now a costly option.

Official data released by the energy exchange shows lignite’s energy mix dominance is fading and renewable energy sources are gaining ground, while natural gas-fueled generation is consistently at the helm. 

The SMP fell throughout the first-half period, falling 22.45 percent to 59.68 euros per MWh in January, compared to the equivalent month a year earlier; 28.55 percent to 49.23 euros per MWh in February; 43.65 percent to 43.65 euros per MWh in March; 54.31 percent to 28.51 euros per MWh in April; 48 percent to 34.27 euros per MWh in May; and 50.04 percent to 34.04 euros per MWh in June.

The SMP is primarily determined by natural gas-fueled power stations, their price-setting involvement measuring 60 percent in June, the energy exchange data showed.

Also in June, natural gas was responsible for 48.06 percent of overall generation, the RES sector generated 34.74 percent of total production, hydropower contributed 9.77 percent, while lignite-fired generation was limited to 7.42 percent.

Rising CO2 right prices signal irreversible post-lignite course

Higher CO2 emission right costs, forecast to rise even further over the next few years, and this trend’s growing cost for power utility PPC’s lignite-fired power stations, highlight the country’s irreversible course towards the post-lignite era.

CO2 emission right costs have climbed to levels of about 30 euros per ton, the highest since 2006, Nikos Mantzaris, policy analyst at The Green Tank, an independent, non-profit environmental think tank, noted yesterday during a presentation of a new report, by the think tank, on Just Transition, the EU policy to end lignite dependence in Europe.

CO2 emission right prices will increase further over the next five years to reach levels of 35 to 40 euros per ton, sector experts have projected, Mantzaris said.

Stricter CO2 emission right regulations to be implemented by the European Commission in 2021 will push prices even higher, Mantzaris supported.

This upward trajectory of CO2 emission right costs is weighing heavy on PPC. Energy minister Costis Hatzidakis has estimated that PPC’s CO2-related costs in 2020 will amount to at least 300 million euros, a repeat of last year.

PPC has already made moves to restrict its lignite-fired generation for the grid. “The downward trend became even steeper following a full decarbonization decision announced [by the government] in September, 2019, which led, in May, 2020, to lignite covering just 6 percent of electricity demand on the grid, a historic low,” according to the latest Green Tank report.

For the first time in seven decades, not a single lignite-fired power station in Greece’s west Macedonia region operated on May 20 this year, while, between June 7 and 9, all the country’s lignite-fired power stations did not operate for 40 hours, the report noted.

 

 

Low-cost gas driving down wholesale electricity prices

The abundance of low-cost natural gas, enabling electricity producers operating gas-fired power stations to offer extremely competitive prices, is reshaping the wholesale electricity market.

Highlighting this development, the average level of the System Marginal Price, or wholesale electricity price, today, a day of strong demand, is expected to be contained below 40 euros per MWh, at 39.551 €/MWh.

Today’s electricity demand is expected to peak over 8.3 GW with total consumption reaching 168,674 MWh. The wholesale price during the peak hours will not exceed 38.850 €/MWh.

The market conditions for today are not an isolated incident but part of a wider trend that has developed during the week.

Yesterday’s average SMP was just 35.961 €/MWh despite a peak of 8,105 MW and total electricity consumption of 162,777 MWh.

On Wednesday, when demand peaked at 8,072 MW and overall consumption totaled 162,492 MWh, the SMP was 39.243 €/MWh.

The SMP exceeded the 40 €/MWh level just once this week, on Tuesday, reaching 40.689 €/MWh, a day whose peak was below 8000 MW.

The week started with Monday’s SMP average at 39.277 €/MWh, a lower peak of 7,649 MW, and total consumption for the day of 152,716 MWh.

SMP prices have been falling to even lower levels during weekends. Last Sunday, the average SMP was just 30.629 €/MWh with the peak down to 6,370 MW and the day’s consumption at 134,563 MWh.

The grid relied on just one lignite-fired power station, Agios Dimitris III, last Sunday. Demand was primarily covered by gas-fired generation, as well as renewable energy sources, hydropower units and electricity imports.