PM office emergency meeting over Nord Stream I fears

The country’s leading energy authorities have been summoned to an emergency meeting today at Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ office following yesterday’s troubling announcement by Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom, which noted it could not guarantee the safe operation of the Nord Steam I gas pipeline because of doubt over the return of a turbine from Canada.

At today’s meeting, top officials representing RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, the market operators, power utility PPC, and gas company DEPA will seek emergency solutions amid fears Russia’s dwindling gas supply cuts to Europe could worsen.

Nord Stream I, a subsea pipeline linking Russia with Germany through the North Sea, was shut down on July 11 for a 10-day period of maintenance work, according to Gazprom.

Should the pipeline not reopen next Thursday, turmoil in European energy markets would also impact the Greek market, both in terms of prices and supply sufficiency, as the development would prompt a drastic increase in electricity exports from Greece to interconnected neighboring countries.

Europe on edge as Russia limits supply, fiscal revisions needed

Emergency measures are being prepared around Europe, confronting reduced Russian gas supplies and fearing even greater cuts. It remains a mystery if the Nord Steam I gas pipeline – linking Russia with Germany, and by extension, other markets – will reopen on July 21. The pipeline was shut yesterday for a 10-day period to undergo maintenance, according to Russian officials.

Anything is possible from July 21 onwards. Russian gas supply through Nord Steam I could increase or may dry up completely.

In response, German officials are preparing to reactivate coal-fired power stations to make up for energy-source insufficiencies prompted by Russia’s reduced gas supply, while, energy-consumption restrictions, including an order urging household members to take fewer hot showers, could also be introduced, if needed.

In France, industries are turning to oil for energy, while Italian oil and gas company ENI has announced Gazprom will cut its gas supply by a further one third.

In Greece, the fiscal pressure caused by the months-long energy crisis, exacerbated by Russia’s war on Ukraine, is seen resulting in a budget deficit of 2 percent in 2022. A fiscal adjustment will be needed to transform this deficit into a 1 percent primary surplus in 2023.

Such a fiscal improvement, however, may not be possible given the current gas and electricity price levels. The government’s electricity-bill subsidy support for consumers is costing between 800 million and one billion euros a month.

 

Nord Stream I maintenance closure sparks unrest in Europe

Europe today enters a ten-day period of heightened energy-crisis suspense as Moscow’s real intentions over the Nord Steam I gas pipeline, just closed for annual maintenance, will not be known until July 21, when the subsea pipeline, running from Russia to Germany, is scheduled to reopen.

European leaders are worried the pipeline’s ten-day closure could develop into an indefinite closure, the worst-case scenario. Natural gas prices, as a result, are continuing to escalate.

In France, the country’s power utility EDF will be nationalized to help the company ride out the European energy crisis and invest in atomic plants. In Germany, the emergency effort includes electricity consumption restrictions as well as rescue plans for beleaguered companies, among them the Uniper energy group.

All is possible should the Nord Steam I pipeline not reopen on July 21, from a deep recession in Germany, an intensified energy crisis throughout Europe, company bankruptcies, electricity and natural gas rationing, and further cost-of-living increases.

Two in ten enterprises around Europe are currently battling to stay afloat, according to the European Investment Bank.

Greece, Europe fear impact of heatwaves, Russian gas cuts

The country and Europe, as a whole, are bracing for even greater energy-system pressure ahead of anticipated summer heatwaves around the continent and the threat of intensified natural gas shortages.

The upcoming temporary closure of the Nord Stream gas pipeline, linking Russia with Germany, for annual maintenance work between July 11 and 21, according to Nord Stream AG, the gas pipeline operator, has European officials concerned the move could be a precursor for a full disruption. This would have a knock-on effect on natural gas prices all the way down to the Balkans.

Under the currently mild market conditions of pre-heatwave low demand, electricity prices in Greece are at 323.78 euros per MWh today. Officials dread the impact on prices of higher heatwave-induced electricity demand, combined with further Russian gas supply cuts to Europe.

At this stage, there is no way of knowing if Greece will be able to continue importing electricity from its northern neighbors if further Russian gas supply cuts prompt a wider shortage. In such a case, neighboring countries, like Greece, could look to fully cover domestic demand before thinking about exporting electricity.

Greek electricity producers are currently exporting considerable quantities to Bulgaria, Albania and Italy, driven by high prices fetched. Prices for electricity exports to Italy today are at 418 euros per MWh. However, electricity exporters may be forced to disrupt these sales in the event of an acute energy crisis in the Greek market.

 

EU on edge as gas supply falls, emergency action in Germany

As officials in Greece and Europe tentatively wait to see if the TurkStream pipeline will resume operating next week, following an announcement several days ago by Russia’s Gazprom that gas supply via both lines of its TurkStream pipeline would be temporarily suspended June 21 to 28 for scheduled annual maintenance, Germany has just moved into the second of its three-stage emergency gas plan after Russia slowed supplies to the country, intensifying concerns of a market collapse.

The TurkStream suspension comes amid major disruptions to Gazprom’s supplies to Europe. Natural gas flow through the Nord Stream pipeline, running from Russia to Germany and also supplying the rest of Europe, has been cut by more than half since last week. Gazprom cited an equipment hold-up in Canada as a result of sanctions over the Ukraine war.

With fears, over recent months, of a drastic slowdown in Russian gas supply to Europe, now confirmed, the EU and its member states, all on high alert, are laying out emergency plans ahead of next winter.

Germany warned the country’s energy crisis may trigger a “Lehman effect” across the utility sector as it moved one step closer to rationing natural gas. “The whole market is in danger of collapsing at some point — so a Lehman effect in the energy system,” German economy minister Robert Habeck admitted at a press conference.

Under the second stage of Germany’s emergency gas plan, utility companies can pass on price increases to customers. The government is holding back on triggering a clause preventing this for now.

 

PPC to partially absorb power costs, Brussels action imminent

Power utility PPC has decided to pursue a policy that will partially absorb electricity market price increases prompted by a volatile combination of unfavorable factors.

The utility plans to limit the impact of carbon emission costs and not pass on the entirety of their effect to consumers.

Competitors will either have to follow suit and subdue price hikes, which will hurt their financial results, or risk suffering market share losses.

The response of PPC’s rivals remains unclear at this stage. Marker players are now trying to estimate the duration of this unfavorable period of elevated prices.

Natural gas prices have surged, driven by Russia’s decision to slow down gas supply to Europe, presumably to pressure Brussels into brushing aside its reservations about a new Nord Stream pipeline from Russia to Germany. Also, CO2 emission costs have continued to rise.

CO2 emission cost futures contracts for December are stuck at levels of between 61 and 62 euros per ton, while analysts forecast levels of 65 euros per ton over the next few months, or possibly longer.

Given these factors, analysts believe it is a matter of time before the European Commission intervenes in an effort to deescalate market price levels by subduing CO2 emission costs and increasing its pressure on Moscow for a return to normal gas supply levels to Europe.

Otherwise, market conditions will become increasingly volatile with social repercussions, especially in countries experiencing extreme price increases that have been even greater than those in Greece.

In Bulgaria, for example, wholesale electricity prices have skyrocketed to more than 100 euros per MWh, well over the country’s usual levels of about 30 euros per MWh.

Greece also impacted by Nord Stream II developments

A series of developments last week concerning the construction of the Russian Nord Steam II gas pipeline project could impact the southeast European region, including Greece, in various ways.

Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission vice president responsible for Energy Union, announced a timeline for talks with EU member states, at which authority will be sought by Brussels ahead of negotiations with Gazprom for the Nord Steam II, which would expand deliveries of Russian natural gas to Germany.

These talks with EU member states are expected to take place in late August, enabling negotiations with Russian officials immediately afterwards. Russia has not embraced the prospect of the European Commission’s step-by-step process, requiring bilateral agreements.

Europe is currently divided into two camps over Nord Steam II. On the one side, a number of countries have grouped together as the project’s development would deprive them of Russian gas transit fees. At the other end, Germany and various European companies involved in the pipeline’s prospective construction are pressuring the European Commission to endorse its development. Brussels will need to balance these opposing sides while also keeping in mind energy supply security in the EU.

Germany’s pressure has softened the European Commission’s view of the Russian pipeline plan, as indicated by a number of recent legal revisions.

Adding to the complexity, the US Senate recently voted in favor of sanctions against Russia, including in the energy sector, a development that would prevent Russian and foreign enterprises from engaging in oil and natural gas deals. These proposed sanctions still need to be signed by President Donald Trump to take effect. EU member states, especially Germany and Austria, both traditional Gazprom business partners, strongly object to the US Senate proposal.

As for Greece’s neighbors, Bulgaria has kept a close watch on the Nord Steam II developments. Following the cancellation of South Stream, Sofia proposed to Russia and other suppliers a plan entailing the establishment of a natural gas hub in Varna, on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast.

Russia’s reception to the idea has been lukewarm until now but the proposal is gaining some momentum. The development of Nord Steam II is expected to also provide impetus to the Bulgarian proposal, a submarine crossing through the Black Sea to Varna, its intention being to supply the wider region, including other parts of Europe. This is an alternative plan to Turkish Stream, also supported by Sofia, as a second priority.

Bulgaria’s stance runs contrary to the Greek position. Athens would prefer the Russian gas route to run through Greek territory, within the framework of the Poseidon plan. The two sides will need to strike a balance as both are seeking to work together to develop the IGB interconnector, which would offer a Greek-Bulgarian gas link.