PPC holding back on lignite generation ahead of winter

Power utility PPC has gradually been switching off its lignite-fired power stations in order to build up on lignite reserves at these facility grounds ahead of the upcoming winter season.

PPC is aiming for a lignite accumulation of approximately 2.5 million tons. The power utility’s current lignite reserves total 2.15 million tons. If PPC’s 2.5 million-ton winter objective is to be reached, the company’s lignite mines will need to operate at full capacity over the coming weeks, extracting amounts of 35,000 to 40,000 tons per day.

All seven of PPC’s lignite-fired power stations were operating at full capacity during summer’s peak periods. Now, just two of these units are operating, Agios Dimitrios III and V.

Agios Dimitrios II is undergoing maintenance, while Agios Dimitrios I and IV are on stand-by. Melitis is currently sidelined by a technical fault but is expected to be become available again on October 3. Megalopoli was closed for days but has become available as of today, if needed.

PPC’s lignite reserves have dwindled following strong demand during the summer, when PPC’s lignite share of the energy mix reached as high as 25 percent.

 

 

 

Electricity suppliers revise tariffs upwards for August

Electricity suppliers have just announced tariff revisions, upwards, for August following the government’s implementation of a five-euro price cap on fixed charges.

These tariffs will apply as of today. Deducting the state’s support, worth 33.7 cents per KWh, the revised tariffs announced by suppliers range between 14.9 and 28 cents per KWh, the majority of suppliers offering tariffs between 23 and 26 cents per KWh.

The government’s decision to impose a price cap on fixed charges – after electricity suppliers opted to increase their fixed charges to keep their tariffs, the competitive aspect of electricity bills, as low as possible – as well as the related legislative revision procedure led to a one-week delay, enabling electricity suppliers who had not made accurate forecasts for August’s international prices to reexamine and reset their levels.

Some suppliers have increased their tariffs for August by 4 to 10 cents, compared to previous levels, set on July 25.

These increases reflect the unrest of suppliers as TTF gas prices continue on an upward trajectory, steadily over 200 euros per MWh. Wholesale electricity prices are now back over 400 euros per MWh, reaching 422.02 euros per MWh today.

Combined-cycle natural gas-fueled power stations will be remunerated at a rate of 422.39 euros per MWh in August, up from 292 euros per MWh in July. Open-cycle natural gas-fueled power stations will be remunerated at a rate of 594.76 euros per MWh in August, up from 408.47 euros per MWh in July. The month-to-month remuneration change for lignite-based production is minimal.

 

 

Day-ahead market split for RES, thermal units requested

The Greek government has proposed target model structural changes, at a European level, that would split the day-ahead market into two entities, one for RES, hydropower and nuclear facilities, and another for natural gas and coal-fired power stations.

For the first of these two new day-ahead market entities, producers would forecast production quantities and be remunerated based on bilateral contracts, detached from the day-ahead market.

For the second of the two new entities, natural gas and coal-fired power station producers, covering remaining energy needs, would submit financial and volume offers based on existing rules.

The Greek proposal was presented by energy minister at an EU council meeting of energy ministers on July 26, energypress sources informed.

Preliminary talks on the Greek proposal have already been held. The European Commission plans to deliver alternative proposals for the target model’s functioning by September.

The day-ahead market determines clearing prices in the electricity market.

 

 

Lignite units back in full force, 34% of energy mix in June

The country’s return to full-scale, lignite-fired electricity generation, an initiative taken to limit the use of natural gas, whose cost has surged amid the energy crisis, increased lignite’s share of the Greek energy mix to 34 percent in June, up from 19.9 percent in May.

Prior to the energy crisis, Greece’s existing lignite-fired power stations, environmentally unfriendly, were headed for withdrawal by 2023 as part of the country’s decarbonization effort.

The duration of their return will now depend on the length of the energy crisis. Ptolemaida V, a new lignite-fired power station planned to be converted to natural gas in the near future, will soon bolster the country’s lignite initiative. This facility’s launch is planned for October or November.

Many questions remain unanswered. The amount of lignite deposits available for extraction at mines is unclear. Also, Greece’s lignite mines and lignite-fired power stations could be short of personnel following the execution of voluntary retirement programs in recent years, as part of the decarbonization drive. In addition, the ability of these lignite units to operate continuously and fully cover a total disruption of Russian gas supply, including during winter, is questionable.

Continual use of the lignite-fired power stations could lead to technical problems. This, at present, is the biggest fear concerning their return.

Government officials contend current lignite deposits can cover the country’s needs until 2030, while new lignite mines could be created, if needed. Staff levels are also sufficient, the officials added.

 

Electricity producer price cap mechanism launched Friday

A price-cap mechanism for electricity producer payments is set to be launched this Friday and is expected to generate approximately 580 million euros for the Energy Transition Fund in July, a sum to be utilized for subsidizing consumer electricity bills.

Of this sum, 150 million euros will be derived from natural gas and lignite-fired power stations as well as power utility PPC’s hydropower facilities, while the other 380 million euros will stem from the RES sector.

Most of July’s funds to be provided by the RES sector will not be newly generated money as RES units had already refunded money to the RES special account and its surpluses were then injected into the Energy Transition Fund. Under the new system, these amounts will be directly injected into the Energy Transition Fund.

Through the new mechanism, PPC’s hydropower facilities will be paid 112 euros per MWh and all RES units will be remunerated at a rate of 85 euros per MWh. The remuneration rates for natural gas and lignite-fueled power stations will be determined every month based on a series of factors. For the mechanism’s first month, natural gas-fueled power stations will receive 253.99 euros per MWh for their output and lignite-fired power stations will receive 206.72 euros per MWh.

 

Strategic reserve mechanism application to be withdrawn

The energy ministry intends to withdraw its application submitted to the European Commission for a strategic reserve mechanism as a result of the government’s recent decision to revise its withdrawal plan for the country’s lignite-fired power stations in order to permit operations until 2028 instead of 2025, as was planned.

Under the original plan, the strategic reserve mechanism would have been introduced to maintain lignite-fired power stations under the control of power grid operator IPTO for energy contributions during periods of high demand.

Within the framework of these developments, the government is also considering to withdraw a compensation application for power utility PPC’s premature withdrawal of lignite-fired power stations.

PPC’s plan entailed shutting down all existing lignite-fired power stations by the end of 2023.

However, the government is being forced to delay its decarbonization strategy as a result of the steep rise in gas prices prompted by Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Major RES input lowers electricity price to near zero Sunday afternoon

Greatly increased renewable energy contributions – covering over 80 percent of demand – during yesterday’s weekend siesta hours of 2pm to 5pm pushed down the wholesale electricity price to virtually zero, or 0.09 euros per MWh.

RES input reached approximately 5 GW (wind and solar energy units), while demand was limited to just over 6 GW, enabling authorities to withdraw from the market lignite and gas-fired power stations.

On the same day, when RES input eventually fell and gas-fired power station contributions were brought back into the grid, the electricity price level rebounded to 283 euros per MWh by the evening.

The wholesale electricity price averaged 168.22 euros per MWh on Sunday, a 27 percent reduction compared to Saturday.

Similar price fluctuations were also recorded in other parts of Europe over the weekend. Negative prices were recorded in Germany and the Netherlands, at -2.49 euros per MWh, and they were even lower in Belgium, at -17.97 euros per MWh. These negative prices essentially mean that consumers are paid to use electricity.

Today, electricity market conditions are back to the ongoing energy crisis’ normal levels. The average wholesale electricity price is at 243.08 euros per MWh, up 44.5 percent compared to yesterday, despite RES input representing 51.1 percent of the energy mix.

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.

 

 

 

 

Gas-fired generation up 72.3% in February, PPC holds ground

Natural gas-fueled electricity generation rose sharply, by 72.3 percent, or 622 GWh, in February compared to the equivalent month a year earlier, according to power grid operator IPTO’s monthly report.

This increased generation essentially filled a gap created by lower hydropower production, which dropped by 76.3 percent, or 659 GWh, during the aforementioned period.

Lignite-fired electricity generation fell by 20.3 percent, or 105 GWh, in February compared to the same month in 2021, the IPTO report showed.

These changes highlight the importance of natural gas-fueled power stations for the country’s energy mix, supply security, and grid flexibility, market authorities told energypress.

Overall electricity generation in February reached 3,506 GWh, down 2.61 percent compared to the equivalent month a year earlier.

Natural gas-fueled generation represented a 54.13 percent share of this total production, renewable energy sources generated 40.02 percent, while hydropower units contributed 5.85 percent of the month’s total.

Market shares in the country’s retail electricity market remained virtually unchanged in February, the IPTO report showed.

Power utility PPC did not give away any ground, capturing a 64.23 percent share of the retail electricity market in February, marginally up from January’s 64.1 percent.

Mytilineos was ranked second with a 6.92 percent share, followed by Heron (6.48%), Elpedison (5.78%), NRG (4.19%), Watt & Volt (2.35%), Fysiko Aerio (2.04%), Volterra (2.01%), Zenith (1.89%) and Volton (1.49%).

 

PPC’s Ptolemaida V test run in summer, gas conversion in ’25

Power utility PPC’s prospective Ptolemaida V power station in northern Greece, whose construction has almost been completed, is expected to undergo a test run this coming summer, as a lignite-fired facility, ahead of its launch late in the year or early 2022, while the unit will be converted into a natural gas-fired unit as of 2025, top-ranked company officials have informed.

The officials ruled out any possibility of a deviation away from the corporation’s natural gas conversion plan for the facility by 2025.

Any delay would be detrimental for PPC given the rising cost of carbon emission rights, currently at a level of approximately 90 euros per ton, leading to losses.

Carbon emission rights would need to drop to a level of no more than 45 euros per ton for Ptolemaida V to cover its operating costs as a lignite-fired facility, the PPC officials noted.

Meanwhile, a recent European Commission decision on its Taxonomy, essentially excluding ultra-modern power stations that are exclusively fueled by natural gas from its list of green investments, comes as a setback for the financing terms achievable for such facilities, the PPC officials pointed out.

The PPC officials admitted, however, that this Brussels decision will push investors to seek emission-reducing solutions, such as mixed natural gas and hydrogen solutions.

PPC is preparing such ventures following a recent announcement concerning a related collaboration with Motor Oil.

The European Commission’s Taxonomy is intended to serve as a guide for private and public-sector investments required to achieve climate neutrality over the next 30 years.

 

Gov’t utilizes EU terms to offer PPC lignite units more time

The government has utilized flexible terms in European law, expiring tomorrow, concerning high-polluting power stations to secure a further extension for power utility PPC’s lignite-fired power stations, through additional operating hours, which, in some cases, could stretch as far forward as 2025.

Even so, the power utility insists this initiative will not change the corporation’s withdrawal plan for its lignite-fired power stations, according to which all existing units will be withdrawn by the end of 2023.

PPC, in an announcement, has informed that the additional operating hours secured for lignite-fired power stations will be used within the time limits of respective withdrawal plans that exist for units.

The power utility has avoided using its lignite-fired power stations to full capacity, even though they have developed into lower-cost options than natural gas-fueled power stations.

Under the current market conditions, wholesale electricity prices may have been lower if PPC used its lignite-fired power stations more frequently.

Greater use has been avoided by PPC as these units remain loss-incurring for the power utility given the increasing prices of CO2 emission rights and a variety of technical difficulties, sources told energypress.

 

PPC lignite reserves, stations ready for winter, official assures

Lignite reserves are sufficient to meet elevated demand this winter, while the country’s lignite-fired power stations, hydropower facilities and lignite mines are all set to operate, Dimitris Metikanis, general manager of power utility PPC’s lignite production division has noted in Parliament, in response to questions over energy sufficiency and the energy crisis.

PPC has done all that is possible to prepare the country’s lignite and hydropower units for possible energy demand increases during the winter, the PPC official noted.

Maintenance levels for the country’s lignite facilities have been relaxed in recent times as these units are headed for withdrawal by 2023, as part of Greece’s decarbonization effort. However, the energy crisis may require the lignite units to be brought back into play this winter.

Adequate lignite sources are expected to prevent a reliance on electricity exports, while PPC’s lignite-fired power station Agios Dimitrios V is expected to return by the end of the year after being sidelined for desulfurization work, the official informed.

Daily electricity demand in Greece is projected to reach between 180 and 190 GWh during colder weather conditions from December to February, according to power grid operator IPTO projections.

Such demand levels will require contributions from all available lignite-fired power stations, seven in total – Agios Dimitrios I, II, III, IV and V, Melitis and Megalopoli IV – offering a total capacity of 1,800 MW.

 

Slight relaxation of lignite withdrawal plan, ’28 a firm date

 

The government’s climate change rules concerning the country’s withdrawal plan for power utility PPC’s lignite-fired power stations appears headed for a slight relaxation by taking into account the difficulties brought about by the energy crisis, leaving 2028 as the only definite deadline for the withdrawal of the utility’s very last lignite facility, Ptolemaida V, a new facility yet to be launched.

A plan for an accelerated withdrawal of all existing lignite-fired power stations by 2023, announced by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at a UN Climate Action Summit in 2019, is now being reassessed and has been put through public consultation running until December 24, the objective being to ensure grid sufficiency in the face of changes.

The withdrawal of lignite-fired power stations, all operated by PPC, is a tricky equation as a swift procedure promising to curtail PPC’s lignite-related losses – these units are currently profitable, an energy crisis abnormality – needs to be balanced with grid sufficiency protection.

Grid insufficiency issues from 2022 to 2024, ENTSO-E warns

Greece is not expected to encounter grid insufficiency issues from 2025 to 2030 but the period between 2022 and 2024 could be a concern, ENTSO-E, the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity, has warned in a latest report covering Europe.

Greece has decided to withdraw most of the country’s lignite-fired power stations by 2023, ahead of the arrival of the new Ptolemaida V facility, for which finalized fuel decisions have yet to be taken, the ENTSO-E study pointed out.

The grid entry of new natural gas-fueled power stations in the second half of the decade is expected to offer equilibrium to any grid sufficiency issues, the report added.

Independent energy groups are currently planning and developing natural gas-fueled power stations, but, for the time being, a Mytilineos group unit is the only upcoming addition, planned for a launch in late 2022. All other investments are not expected to operate before 2024.

This could cause grid sufficiency issues between 2022 and 2024, if lignite-fired power stations are withdrawn without being replaced by natural gas-fueled power stations, the ENTSO-E report noted.

It also made note of Greece’s dependency on electricity imports during periods of shortages, highlighting the country’s grid is highly susceptible to extreme weather conditions. Greece will no longer be able to fully depend on electricity imports, the reported noted.

Also, the installation of batteries and pumped storage stations should not be considered a given as such investments will depend on regulatory framework conditions, ENTSO-E noted.

 

 

 

PPC unable to capitalize on lower-cost lignite production

Power utility PPC has found itself unable to take full advantage of current market conditions making lignite-fired power generation lower in cost compared to natural gas-fueled generation as the utility has winded down on maintenance levels at lignite units in anticipation of their expected full withdrawal by the end of 2023 as part of the country’s decarbonization plan.

The utility’s decreased maintenance of its lignite units has led to technical issues not enabling the facilities to operate at full capacity.

The profit margin for lignite-based generation has increased considerably but PPC is not able to significantly boost production for increased sales of lignite-based electricity generation.

Lignite’s share of the country’s energy mix is currently at single-digit levels, registering a 9 percent share in September, according to a recent monthly report released by power grid operator IPTO.

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.