Preliminary talks for 9th post-bailout review begin today

Power utility PPC’s lignite monopoly ordeal, the effort to ensure proper functioning of target model markets, the progress of privatization plans, and Greece’s decarbonization master plan for the lignite-dependent local economies of west Macedonia, in the country’s north, and Megalopoli, Peloponnese, are the key issues on the agenda of the ninth post-bailout review set to be conducted by the European Commission.

Preliminary review talks are scheduled to commence today between energy ministry officials and Brussels technocrats. These will be followed by higher-level talks involving technocrat chiefs and Greece’s newly appointed energy minister Kostas Skrekas.

Though his predecessors faced plenty of pressure, especially over PPC’s dominance, the new minister could be in for a hard time if pending energy-sector issues are not directly dealt with.

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, and power grid operator IPTO are still seeking solutions to tackle problems faced by the target model’s new markets. They got off to a problem-laden start in November, prompting a sharp rise in balancing market costs during the first few weeks.

As for energy-sector privatizations, the plan to offer a 49 percent stake in distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO appears to be making sound progress and attracting strong interest, as exemplified by the participation of 19 participants in December’s market test.

On the contrary, the privatization plan for gas supplier DEPA Commercial could be destabilized by the company’s ongoing legal battle with ELFE (Hellenic Fertilizers and Chemicals) over an overcharging claim made by the latter. This battle could delay and affect the DEPA Commercial sale.

The Just Transition Plan for Greece’s decarbonization effort is now beginning to make some progress, but this unprecedented endeavor’s degree of complexity cannot be overlooked. Vast amounts of land controlled by PPC need to be repurposed, Brussels must approve investment incentives, and licensing matters need to be resolved, amongst other matters.

Brussels forwards new PCI list, to be finalized late this year

The European Commission’s fifth PCI (Projects of Common Interest) list in the electricity and natural gas sectors, being forwarded for public consultation, features, for now, a number of project additions and removals, compared to the previous edition.

Market officials and state authorities will have the opportunity to offer their views and observations over the consultation procedure’s twelve-week period before the European Commission adopts a finalized version of the fifth PCI list towards the end of 2021, based on an existing Trans-European Networks for Energy (TEN-E) framework, focused on linking the energy infrastructure of EU countries.

PCI projects are entitled to EU funding support. Brussels authorities introduced selection criteria revisions in December, ascertaining, however, that the impact of all projects, especially on CO2 emissions, will be appraised when finalizing the PCI list’s fifth edition.

The provisional list includes a number of electricity and gas sector projects concerning Greece.

Electricity-sector projects involving Greece include: a Bulgarian-Greek grid interconnection, expected to be completed in 2023; an Egyptian-Greek-Libyan grid interconnection headed by Green Power 2020 and scheduled for delivery in 2025; as well as three Egypt-Greece interconnections, two of these featuring Kykladika Meltemia SA as project promoter and expected to be respectively completed in 2025 and 2028, and a third headed by Elica SA and scheduled for completion in 2028.

An energy storage project planned by Eunice for Ptolemaida, northern Greece, and scheduled for completion in 2022 is a new entry on the PCI list.

In the natural gas sector, the PCI list includes: the Alexandroupoli FSRU (2022); a subsea pipeline between Greece and Italy, known as the Poseidon Pipeline (2025); EastMed, a pipeline planned to carry natural gas from the east Mediterranean to European markets, via Crete (2025); a compressor station in Thessaloniki’s Nea Mesimvria area (2022); a metering and regulating station in Megalopoli, Peloponnese (2025); a compressor station in Abelia, in Greece’s mid-north (2023); a compressor station in Kipoi, northeastern Greece (2024); a pipeline link for the Alexandroupoli FSRU (2022); a TAP pipeline capacity increase (2025); and the development of an underground gas storage facility (UGS) in the almost depleted natural gas field of “South Kavala” in northern Greece (2023).

PPC Renewables portfolio boosted by 1.9 GW in producer certificates

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has granted PPC Renewables producer certificates for a total capacity of 1.9 GW, a pivotal step in the power utility PPC subsidiary’s effort to realize its ambitious investment plan. It features the installation of major-scale solar energy parks in north Greece’s west Macedonia region, facing a post-lignite transition.

A proportion of these new producer certificates, which elevate PPC Renewables into a major PV market player, could be utilized for state-controlled PPC’s planned collaboration with Germany’s RWE. A prospective partnership between the two sides appears near, recent meetings between the two sides have indicated.

The establishment of this partnership is close to being finalized, energy minister Costis Hatzidakis told Parliament yesterday, confirming an energypress report.

PPC and RWE signed a memorandum of understanding last March. A team of RWE officials then visited lignite fields in the west Macedonia region. Ensuing talks have since intensified. A finalized agreement by the end of the year has not been ruled out.

PPC Renewables is already developing two key PV projects, a 230-MW solar energy facility in Ptolemaida, northern Greece, and a 50-MW solar park in Megalopoli, Peloponnese.

Development of about 15 MW of the Ptolemaida project and a high-voltage sub-station are expected to be ready around January. Construction of a further 15 MW is already in progress, while work on the project’s additional 200 MW is scheduled to begin in the first half of 2021.

As for the Megalopoli project, PPC Renewables is currently staging a tender offering a construction contract. Five major foreign and Greek groups have submitted bids.

Post-lignite telethermal plan presented in Parliament

Sustainable heating solutions for the residents of provincial cities in Greece’s Mecedonia region, as well as Megalopoli, in the Peloponnese, to replace telethermal systems supported by power utility PPC’s regional lignite-fired power stations that are gradually being withdrawn, have been included in an upgraded just transition plan presented in Parliament yesterday.

This replacement plan was included in a memorandum of understanding and strategic cooperation signed last September by regional and municipal authorities, PPC officials and gas grid operator DESFA.

The plan features the development of network interconnections as well as a thermal hub consisting of the Ptolemaida V power station, now being developed for an annual capacity of between 300-400 MWh; a new combined heat and power (CHP) unit expected to produce between 270 and 350k MWh per year; electric boilers (0-125k MWh per year); and a natural gas boiler (10-125k MWh per year).

According to the plan, the Kardia region will be equipped with 80-MWth electric boilers by October, 2021, to eventually serve as back-up for the system, while new natural gas-fueled thermal energy facilities will also be developed for a total capacity of 160 MWth, along with a CHP unit and natural gas boilers.

 

Decarbonization strategy’s spatial planning enters crucial stage

The country’s decarbonization master plan is entering one of its most crucial stages, the establishment of spatial planning for a just transition, or establishment of new commercial activity in regions to be financially impacted by the country’s withdrawal of lignite units, now underway.

These spatial plans, which will need to be submitted to the European Commission for approval, will determine the speed and success of the overall effort as just transition mechanism funding approval will be based on them.

A just transition mechanism sum of 5 billion euros is expected to be utilized. However, Greek officials will need to present analytical spatial plans detailing the transitions in accordance with the National Energy and Climate Plan. These plans will be incorporated into the EU’s National Strategic Reference Framework funding program.

Power utility PPC, monopolizing the country’s lignite facilities, will obviously be involved in the process. The utility will keep some of the land hosting lignite mines to develop its own investment plans, including solar energy parks.

The lignite-dependent economies of west Macedonia, in the country’s north, and Megalopoli, in the Peloponnese, will need to be completely redeveloped as part of the decarbonization plan.

It remains unclear when Greece’s spatial redevelopment plans will be ready to be submitted to the European Commission. They are not expected to be ready any time before the new year.

PPC to offer lignite-dependent area residents 5% stakes in solar farms

Power utility PPC intends to offer residents of lignite-dependent areas in Greece stakes totaling 5 percent in solar farm projects planned by the company as part of its decarbonization strategy, chief executive Giorgos Stassis disclosed in an interview published by Greek daily Kathimerini yesterday.

PPC plans to develop and operate solar farms with a total capacity of 2.5 GW in west Macedonia, northern Greece, and Megalopoli, in the Peloponnese, both lignite-dependent economies.

Besides creating jobs through these investments, PPC plans to offer locals the opportunity to invest in the power utility by acquiring shares for total stakes of 5 percent, Stassis noted.

Through this procedure, residents will join PPC in its investments and enjoy the exact same returns as the company, he said.

“I want to underline the annual investment return on these investments will range between 8 and 10 percent, at a time when deposit interest rates are almost negative,” Stassis said. The offer will be restricted to decarbonization-area residents, he added.

Commenting on local resistance against prospective RES installations, especially on islands, Stassis noted: “Islanders who, for years, have enjoyed low-cost electricity generated in Megalopoli and Ptolemaida at a cost for the environment and human lives, cannot object turbine installations on islands for production of electricity they will consume now that lignite-fired generation has become ultra-expensive and is being abandoned.”

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.

JTF plan includes 16 post-lignite projects budgeted at €2.5bn

The total cost of sixteen investment proposals concerning the decarbonization of Greece’s lignite-dependent areas included in the country’s Just Transition Fund plan, just released by the energy ministry for public consultation until October 31, is estimated between 2.3 and 2.5 billion euros.

The plan, offering project description and cost details, includes eleven proposals for west Macedonia, in northern Greece, and five proposals for Megalopoli, in the Peloponnese.

The proposals for west Macedonia include 2-GW solar farm projects by power utility PPC.

The power utility is currently developing a 230-MW solar farm budgeted at 133 million euros.

A Solaris Bus & Coach project for a RES-based hydrogen unit budgeted at one billion euros is also among the eleven proposals for west Macedonia, as is a 250-MW energy storage project by Eunice, to cost 280 million euros.

The five Megalopoli proposals included in Greece’s JTF plan include PPC solar farms with a capacity of 50 MW and budgeted at 250 million euros; a pharmaceutical production facility to cost 90 million euros and create 400 jobs; a smart-technology livestock and animal feed farm budgeted at 40 million euros; a theme park for entertainment and educational purposes to cost 40 million euros; as well as other public-sector investments worth 30 million euros.

 

 

 

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.

 

Ministry proposal seen ending PPC lignite monopoly case

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Gov’t plans 11 decarbonization investments worth €2.5bn

The government plans to facilitate the post-lignite transition of Greece’s west Macedonia and Megalopoli areas by promoting 11 big investments totaling 2.5 billion euros and also making available, through a six-year plan, national and EU support funds in excess of three billion euros.

This plan, already presented to west Macedonia working groups earlier this week, will be discussed today by a government committee before being presented to media by energy minister Costis Hatzidakis.

Besides the 11 major-scale investments, the plan, intended to reshape the production models of both regions, will also feature tax and financing incentives.

For decades, both the west Macedonia and Megolopoli areas have depended on lignite for economic growth.

The new plan will be based on five key pillars – clean energy; industry, small-scale industry, commerce; smart agricultural production; sustainable tourism; technology and education – for growth and utilization of comparative advantages.

Investment plans include the development of solar farms in west Macedonia and Megalopoli with a total capacity of 2.3 GW; a state-of-the-art gas-fueled power station in west Macedonia; as well as the establishment of electromobility industrial parks in both areas.

The government’s decarbonization plan for the two areas is expected to create 5,100 jobs, directly, and a further 6,400, indirectly.

The government expects to deploy national and EU support funds worth 3.2 billion euros for the overall effort over six years, with the majority of this total, 2 billion euros, to be made available over the first three years (2021-2023).

The plan is expected to be forwarded for public consultation in mid-September.

 

PPC broadens next voluntary exit plan, set for September

The board at power utility PPC has decided to broaden its voluntary exit program to include eligible staff from all divisions, currently estimated at between 1,700 and 1,800 employees aged over 55.

However, less than a third of these employees, some 500 in total, are believed to have accumulated pension rights, sources said.

Though this shortfall is likely to discourage employees from taking up the voluntary exit offer, PPC’s chief executive Giorgos Stassis is determined to push ahead with the plan and invite interested parties to lodge their applications between September 1 and 30.

The PPC voluntary exit package offers employees a 20,000-euro bonus payment as an addition to severance pay worth 15,000 euros.

An initial voluntary exit effort already staged by PPC attracted 602 employees from the utility’s Meliti and Megalopoli lignite-fired power stations and a further 123 employees from related subsidiaries, producing annual savings of 48 million euro for the company.

PPC had set an objective to attract some 900 employees from the lignite-fired power stations to its initial voluntary exit plan.

Stassis, PPC’s boss, has promised to soon carry out a targeted recruitment plan for staff with specialized skills, according to Pantelis Karaleftheris, the workers’ representative on the PPC board.

 

Post-lignite plan to Boston Consulting, Grant Thorton

Boston Consulting and Grant Thorton have been awarded contracts by Greece’s privatization fund to prepare a master plan for Greece’s post-lignite era, due at the end of 2020, energypress sources have informed.

The two professional services companies, awarded deals totaling 200,000 euros plus VAT, will need to deliver a draft of their master plan to a coordinating committee heading the task around early autumn, three months after contracts have been signed.

Their finalized version must be completed and delivered six months from now, or roughly at the end of the year.

The master plan will include policies to tackle job losses as a result of Greece’s decarbonization policy, as well as policies for the establishment of new businesses and jobs in Greece’s west Macedonia and Megalopoli areas, both lignite-dependent local economies that will be severely impacted by the decarbonization plan.

Boston Consulting and Grant Thorton will need to analyze all related data, including  demographics and infrastructure-related data, and identify competitive advantages offered by the two aforementioned regions.

Industrial infrastructure, farming, research and innovation, tourism, logistics, energy and the environment, as well as social policies will all be examined for sustainable growth not requiring state support following the post-lignite transition.

Most of power utility PPC’s lignite units are expected to be phased out by the end of 2023.

PPC, seeking key electric car market role, to announce MoUs

Power utility PPC is expected to soon announce two MoUs signed with private-sector companies for collaboration in the nascent electric vehicles market, a domain the utility is looking to dominate in the years ahead.

The power utility’s MoUs, believed to have been signed with Greek companies, concern recharging station installations and a range of electric vehicle services, as foreseen in a PPC business plan presented last December.

According to the plan, PPC intends to install 1,000 recharging stations around Greece over the next two to three years as well as a further 10,000 stations in the medium term.

The company is now assembling a new electric vehicles division in the lead-up to its latest business endeavor.

PPC’s wider plan could even entail collaboration with a specialized partner for production of electric vehicle parts at new plants in west Macedonia and Megalopoli, both lignite-dependent local economies in the country’s north and the Peloponnese, respectively, now being decarbonized.

A related draft bill being prepared by the government will feature incentives for the establishment of new production units at these locations.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is scheduled to present the government’s ambitious plan for electric vehicle market growth this Friday. The development of a recharging network is crucial for this plan.

PPC ups Megalopoli V output to full capacity of 811 MW

Power utility PPC’s Megalopoli V power station in the Peloponnese has, for the first time,  begun operating at a full-capacity level of 811 MW following five years of production well below full potential, a restriction whose cost the utility has estimated at 200 million euros.

Power grid operator IPTO yesterday gave PPC the green light for full-scale production at Megalopoli V after an extended period of pressure applied by the power utility.

In the lead-up, PPC was forced to operate its Megalopoli V facility at 60 percent of its full capacity, 500 MW, following instructions from IPTO, noting the Peloponnese region’s existing network could not carry a greater amount.

Trial runs at Megalopoli V, a natural gas-fired combined-cycle unit, began in April, 2015 but PPC had never been given permission to boost generation at this power plant by 311 MW to reach full capacity.

Meanwhile, PPC’s Megalopoli III and IV units, both lignite-fired, were either shut or operated well below full capacity as a result of hefty CO2 emission right costs.

A swifter full-scale launch of Megalopoli V would have enabled the power utility to completely switch off the engines at loss-incurring Megalopoli III, a 250-MW unit, PPC has noted.

Electric vehicles bill to include production line incentives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decarbonization an independent business plan linked to NSRF

The decarbonization master plan for the west Macedonian region in Greece’s north and Megalopoli in the Peloponnese, both lignite dependent local economies, will be an independent business plan linked to the new National Strategic Reference Framework, running from 2021 to 2027, exclusively funded and based on four main axes, sources have informed energypress.

A draft of the master plan has already been prepared and endorsed by the development ministry, while a competitive procedure will be staged for the shaping of the finalized plan.

A special advisory committee will present its opinion to the privatization fund, involved in the process, for the hiring of a consultant and development of the decarbonization master plan.

Its four main axes will be comprised of industry, the primary sector, tourism-culture and differentiation of lignite area energy identities, the sources said.

Though specific plans have yet to be set out as to how the country’s two main lignite zones will be restored, a tendency towards industrial development is already emerging.

The decarbonization project’s progress to date, procedural matters and its four axes will be discussed by the coordinating committee of the fair development plan at its next meeting, scheduled for this Friday.

Key power line upgrade in west delayed by church resistance

One of power grid operator IPTO’s most important upgrade projects, a 400-KV power line serving as a western corridor for electricity transmission to and from the Peloponnese, still remains unfinished despite being scheduled for delivery and electrification in February.

Resistance by a major monastery located close to the route of the project, budgeted at 105 million euros, has prevented its completion.

Two to three pylons still need to be installed for the project, linking Megalopoli, central Peloponnese, with Patras, and from there, Etoloakarnania, further northwest, via a Rio-Antirio water crossing.

Church officials representing the Mega Spilaio monastery, close to Kalavryta, slightly east of Patras, have strongly objected the installation of these pylons. Meetings by energy authorities with church officials have so far failed to break this resistance.

Completion of the project would enable power utility PPC’s Megalopoli V gas-fueled power station to operate at full capacity. At present, the 800-MW facility is underperforming at a capacity level of 500 MW.

Besides impacting PPC’s finances and preventing the utility from capitalizing on lower fuel costs, this project delay is also hindering PPC’s withdrawal plan for its Amynteo lignite-fired power station in northern Greece.

Once completed, the project would also enable further RES development in the wider region.

New NSRF funds for decarbanization effort to reach at least €600m

EU funds to be made available to Greece through the new National Strategic Reference Framework (2021-2027) for the country’s decarbonization effort are estimated to reach at least 600 million euros, sources have informed.

The NSRF amount is expected to be double the 300 million euros to be received by Greece through the Just Transition Fund, also for decarbonization projects.

The national contribution, expected to range between 10 and 20 percent, or roughly 150 million euros, will take the overall decarbonization amount to about one or 1.1 billion euros.

These funds will be used to fund a smooth post-lignite transition for Greece’s west Macedonia region in the country’s north and Megalopoli in the Peloponnese, both lignite-dependent local economies.

Two or three major foreign investments are expected to also draw private capital.

A change of mentality will be needed in both regions for sufficient post-lignite project development enabling full absorption of the support funds.

NSRF absorption in the entire west Macedonia region has been limited to just 200 million euros over the past few years.

 

Lignite end’s socioeconomic hurdles stressed in EC report

Greece will face socioeconomic challenges as a result of the government’s decision to gradually shut down the country’s lignite units in the northern region of west Macedonia and Megolopoli, in the Peloponnese, for a climate-neutral economy by 2050, the European Commission has noted in a report delivered as an addition to its post-bailout report on the Greek economy.

Some 27,000 jobs could be lost in both areas, according to the report, delivered as an additional chapter intended to serve as basis for talks between Brussels and Athens on Greece’s transition towards a lignite-free era.

The two sides are already negotiating funding details from the Just Transition Fund, expected to financially support a new growth plan for west Macedonia and Megolopoli between 2021 and 2027.

Also, the Greek government has assembled an interministerial committee tasked with shaping a post-lignite plan for the west Macedonia and Megolopoli areas, both lignite-dependent local economies. The committee will deliver a plan by June, according to the energy ministry.

In its latest report, Brussels highlights the significance of lignite for the local economy and community of west Macedonia, whose population numbers 280,000, especially Kozani, representing more than half this figure with a population of 150,000.

“The [country’s] biggest mines and most lignite-fired power stations are located in this area. Lignite-based electricity generation is its most significant economic sector, representing over one-third of the area’s GDP,” the report notes.

An estimated 5,500 jobs at the lignite mines and power stations are directly threatened, while a further 20,000 jobs are indirectly threatened, the report’s authors added.

The west Macedonia region is already burdened by one of the highest unemployment rates (31% according to 2016 data) of all the EU’s lignite areas, the report notes. The region’s GDP per capita fell from 86 percent to 59 percent of the EU average between 2009 and 2017, it adds.

Over 100,000 residents are linked to telethermal systems for lignite power station-based domestic heating, the report also highlights. The replacement of lignite units in the area is one of the challenges that must be dealth with, it adds.

As for Megalopoli, the lignite sector is by far the most significant economic activity in this Peloponnesian region of 6,000 residents, the report notes. Some 1,600 jobs are at risk of being lost here, it adds, which takes the overall tally of jobs on the line, including in west Macedonia, to just over 27,000.

 

 

Coal electricity not competitive, Megalopoli facility workers told

Lignite-fired power stations are becoming a far less competitive electricity generation option by the day as a result of rising operating costs, workers at the power utility PPC’s Megalopoli III and IV units have been told by the energy ministry’s leadership.

Megalopoli, a lignite-dependent local economy in the Peloponnese, will receive some 25 million euros from a lignite withdrawal compensation fund, deputy energy minister Gerassimos Thomas told concerned Megalopoli workers.

The government has announced a plan to withdraw all existing lignite units over the next three years.

The operating time of lignite units is currently being kept to a minimum, the only justifiable reason to keep them running being the continued provision of telethermal needs, the workers were told.

Lignite-produced electricity, including CO2 emission costs, has steadily ranged between 80 and 90 euros per MWh, compared to 55-60 euros per MWh for gas-fueled power stations and a System Marginal Price (SMP), or wholesale price, of 59-60 euros per MWh, according to December figures, deputy energy minister Gerassimos Thomas told PPC’s Megalopoli workers.

In the renewable energy sector, latest auctions staged by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, produced wind energy prices from 55.8 to 58.3 euros per MWh and solar energy prices at 53.8 euros per MWh.

The Megalopoli workers were not convinced by the ministry’s arguments and, citing desulphurization investments worth 140 million euros at the power station in recent years, remained adamant on the sustainability of the Megalopoli III and IV lignite-fired units.

A special steering committee assembled to coordinate a fair national transition plan towards the post-lignite era for Megalopoli and west Macedonia, Greece’s other lignite-dependent area in the country’s north, is scheduled to hold its inaugural session later this week.

 

 

Gov’t Council being assembled for support to lignite-dependent areas

The country’s administration is assembling a government council to be tasked with preparing a Just Transition Plan for Greece’s lignite-dependent areas needing support to offset the effects of the government’s planned withdrawal of all coal generators by 2028, including all existing units by 2023.

A Council of Ministers Act enabling the establishment and operation of the government council, to be headed by energy minister Costis Hatzidakis, has just been approved.

The west Macedonia region in Greece’s north as well as the Megalopoli area in the Peloponnese, both lignite-dependent local economies, will need support while adjusting to the post-lignite era.

The government council to work on the Just Transition Plan will be comprised of top officials from a number of ministries, which, besides the environment and energy ministry, include the finance, interior, development and investments, as well as agricultural development and food ministries.

“Ending the economy’s dependence on polluting lignite fuel is a key energy policy priority,” noted energy minister Costis Hatzidakis. “However, the withdrawal of all lignite units by 2028 must be done in a coordinated and responsible manner. The government’s top priority is to make the transition to the post-lignite era a fair one for western Macedonia and Megalopoli with claims of all necessary funds from Brussels,” he added.

A comprehensive, multidimensional and forward-looking plan will be presented by the new government council in mid-2020, the minister said.

Besides national and private funding, Greece will also seek EU support funds, including from the Just Transition Fund.

 

 

Ministerial intervention enables restart at PPC’s Megalopoli IV

Power utility PPC’s Megalopoli IV coal generator in the Peloponnese has been given permission to recommence production following a revision of the unit’s environmental terms and license extension.

The energy ministry intervened to overcome a decision by the Council of State, Greece’s supreme administrative court, preventing a revision of the facility’s environmental terms, which delayed the unit’s return to production.

The power station, whose renewed license has a ten-year duration, could return to action as soon as today.

New Democracy MP Kostas Vlassis recently announced the Megalopoli power station would soon be operating again after meeting with PPC chief executive Giorgos Stassis.

PPC had submitted an application requesting a revision of the environmental terms and a license extension in January.

Settlement of PPC €100m amount for north a first post-lignite support step

A planned payment of an outstanding power utility PPC amount of 100 million euros to energy producing municipalities in the country’s north for regional development, owed since 2014, represents a first step in the west Macedonia region’s gradual transition towards a post-lignite era.

The prospective payment of this amount to the region’s municipalities will be included in a PPC draft bill being prepared by the energy ministry for presentation in October, energypress sources informed.

Local municipalities are eagerly awaiting payments in order to finance the completion of vital infrastructure projects needed to continue telethermal supply when it will no longer be offered by lignite-fired power stations.

Florina and Amynteo are among the locations whose telethermal projects are to be developed through the payment of PPC’s development funds.

The prospective settlement represents a first step in the post-lignite support plan for Greece’s west Macedonia region, where PPC’s mining and electricity generation activities account for 45 percent of the regional economy.

The local economy of Megalopoli in the Peloponnese is also greatly dependent on lignite.

Municipalities will anticipate further support for economic stability following 2028, when all lignite activity is expected to have stopped in Greece, according to a plan announced last week by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York.

Plenty of ministries will need to coordinate on numerous issues if a smooth and punctual transition to the post-lignite era, scheduled for less than a decade away, is to be achieved. Greece does not have a good track record in achieving targets of this scale.

The move towards decarbonization is a European challenge concerning many EU member states besides Greece, including Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and Romania, all greatly exposed to lignite activity. They are hoping for generous support through Europe’s energy transition fund.

 

Ministry talks with Brussels on lignite unit closures underway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

PPC lignite sale is over, overall market solution to be sought

The newly elected center-right New Democracy government, appearing determined for major energy sector changes, will begin new negotiations with the European Commission in search of an overall solution for the country’s electricity market and the role and place in it for the power utility PPC, currently struggling.

The long-running disinvestment effort offering investors PPC lignite units has just about collapsed. A binding-offers deadline for a package that includes PPC’s Megalopoli and Meliti units expires on July 15, following an extension. Investors have not shown any interest, while, given the flatness, an additional extension could not reinvigorate the sale.

The next NOME auction, the year’s third, scheduled for July 17 and planned to offer independent energy firms 500 MW/h of PPC’s lower-cost lignite and hydropower production, appears likely to be the last under existing terms agreed to by Greece and the country’s lenders. Changes are also expected along this front as part of the intention for an overall electricity market solution.

Initial contact between Brussels and officials of Greece’s new administration has already been made. Meetings are soon expected to become more regular once the government has set out the specifics of its rescue plan for PPC.

Any resulting solution will need to satisfy Greek bailout terms including the need for PPC to have reduced its retail electricity market share to less than 50 percent by the end of this year. The power utility’s share is currently at 73.5 percent, meaning PPC will need to surrender even greater low-cost electricity amounts to competitors through the NOME auctions.

Fair competition in the electricity market also needs to be assured. Hydropower sources, currently exclusively controlled by PPC, may be brought into the negotiating picture. The European Commission is currently conducting a related study on PPC’s management of hydropower generation. Findings have yet to be released.

 

 

Heavy 1Q losses at Meliti, Megalopoli bad news for sale

The main power utility PPC’s Meliti and Megalopoli power stations, both included in the corporation’s bailout-required disinvestment of lignite units, incurred heavy losses totaling more than 30 million euros in the first quarter, according to results uploaded into a VDR for investors considering the sale.

These losses, attributed to a sharp increase in CO2 emission right costs to levels of more than 25 euros per ton, make PPC’s disinvestment effort an even tougher mission. They also underlining the difficulties faced by the utility’s lignite-fired production facilities.

The 1Q net losses at Megalopoli, registered at 23.02 million euros, include a 4.2 million-euro cost concerning a voluntary exit plan for employees.

The losses at Meliti for the same period were 7.95 million euros, whose voluntary exit plan was valued at 0.5 million euros.

According to PPC, the company’s results could have benefited by 2.4 million euros as a result of an improved lignite supply agreement reached by PPC with the operator of the Ahlada mine supplying the Meliti power station in northern Greece. But this agreement does not come into effect until 2020 onwards.

Investors interested in PPC lignite units, challenges remain

With just 19 days remaining until the May 28 deadline for binding bids in the main power utility PPC’s bailout-required disinvestment of its Megalopoli and Meliti lignite power stations, prospective bidding teams appear interested but challenges remain for the sale, relaunched after an initial attempt failed to produce a result.

The candidates are believed to be preparing decent offers based on the current SPA terms, Greek electricity market conditions and EU climate change policies.

The Czech Republic’s Sev.En Energy, joined by GEK Terna; CHN Energy-Damco Energy (Copelouzos Group); Mytilineos; and Elvalhalcor are preparing worthy offers, sources have informed.

China’s CHN Energy and Sev.En Energy have emerged as the chief partners of their respective pairings, while their Greek associates have assumed negotiating roles with PPC.

Mytilineos and Elvalhalcor are both still looking to establish an association for the disinvestment and are also pushing for further sale term improvements.

The Greek participants are particularly keen to acquire the lignite units as a means of breaking PPC’s monopoly and avoiding any new sale attempt that would also bring hydropower units into the picture and end up attracting major European players with financial might.

Greek energy firms are looking to avoid the market entry of foreign competitors as this would lead to market share contractions and a loss of their leading domestic roles.

Despite the investor interest, the sale attempt remains challenging for all sides. The Megalopoli and Meliti lignite units, according to PPC’s financial results for 2018, incurred losses of more than 360 million euros. Also, CO2 emission right costs are continuing on their upward trajectory, while Brussels’ tough stance on carbon is  stiffening.

 

PPC’s renewed lignite units sale faces crucial three-week period

The main power utility PPC, in its financial report for 2018, has made blatantly clear the positive impact on the company of a successful sale of its Meliti and Megalopoli power stations, included in a bailout-required disinvestment of lignite assets.

Besides being rid of annual operating losses incurred by these facilities, estimated at a total of 100 million euros, PPC also stands to benefit from reduced CO2 emission right cost purchases, a lighter environmental footprint, a gain of approximately 223.8 million euros from the gradual withdrawal of NOME auctions, and less European Commission pressure for an additional disinvestment of hydropower units.

The 25-day period remaining until the sale procedure’s completion on May 28 will be crucial for the effort’s outcome. Possible buyers remain reserved.

An improved lignite supply agreement reached by PPC with the operator of the Ahlada mine feeding the Meliti power station, uploaded several days ago to the sale’s virtual data room, has not fully eased the concerns of investors. A number of issues concerning the expropriation of the village Giourouki in the area, which needs to be completed by December 31, remain unresolved. Otherwise, the new supply agreement’s terms cannot apply.

Also, investors appear to have raised wider energy mix issues and proposed other adjustments that could increase the likelihood of a successful sale, renewed after an initial effort failed to produce a result.

PPC’s board has noted it cannot guarantee the prevention of further disinvestment obligations in the future concerning its interests in lignite and other sectors as a means of meeting market share contraction targets in electricity production and supply.