RES project investors, facing higher costs, call for tariff increases

RES project investors are calling for an upward revision of fixed tariffs secured at previous auctions as a result of higher costs impacting their business plans.

Costlier prices for equipment and building materials, such as steel, as well as higher lending rates, have exceeded initial budget estimates of investors, making development of their projects extremely difficult, and, in some cases, impossible.

The call by investors for higher RES tariffs has yet to be officially expressed by any RES association.

According to sources, the energy ministry is well aware of the issue and considers the call by investors for higher tariffs a fair request. Officials at the ministry are believed to be working on a formula that would resolve the problem.

RES tariffs were recently increased in France and Portugal after officials determined their respective national green energy targets were in danger under the current market conditions.

Energy crisis gap bridging the main aim at today’s EU summit

The EU’s 27 leaders participating at today’s EU summit will strive to heal divisions that have created blocs within Europe for energy crisis solutions rather than seek finalized solutions on how price levels could de-escalate.

The EU-27 will be asked to agree to European Commission proposals announced yesterday. They include collective natural gas orders for reinforced bargaining power and prevention of bidding wars by fellow EU member states for LNG quantities, as well as a supplementary gas benchmark offering a more accurate reflection of market conditions.

A Brussels request concerning a temporary price cap on gas used for electricity generation, a strategy already adopted by Spain and Portugal, is expected to be contested by the EU leaders.

Brussels considers the proposal for a price cap on gas used for electricity production should be further examined, judging by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen’s comments in European Parliament yesterday.

France, using minimal amounts of gas for electricity generation as a result of its considerable nuclear capacity, has expressed support for such a plan. Germany accepts it but Greece, Italy, Belgium and other EU member states object as a result of the significant fiscal cost entailed.

Some EU members favoring a general price cap on gas, including Greece and, more recently, the Netherlands, are expected to remain adamant on their  preferred approach at today’s summit.

Germany strongly opposes a general price cap on gas, fearing it will repel gas suppliers and push up prices as a result of reduced supply and higher demand.

Greek electricity cost Europe’s third highest, despite huge subsidies

The cost of electricity for Greek households is currently ranked third-highest in Europe, following Portugal and Norway, despite the government’s enormous subsidy support packages, if taking into account the subdued purchasing power of local consumers, a study by ACER, Europe’s Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators, has shown.

The ACER ranking takes into account taxes, surcharges and subsidies. The cost of electricity in Greece has consistently ranked highly in Europe over the years, given the country’s relatively lower income levels.

The enormous amount of electricity subsidies offered to consumers by the Greek government over recent months has not stopped the country’s rise in the rankings. In 2020, electricity cost for households in Greece was Europe’s fifth-highest, after factoring in income levels, but has now risen to third place.

Electricity subsidies offered in Greece are Europe’s highest, as a percentage of GDP, reaching 3.5 percent, the ACER study showed.

Brussels looks to combine cap on gas for power, windfall tax

The European Commission, in search for solutions to ease the effects of the energy crisis on the EU, is likely to soon introduce a cap on gas intended for electricity generation, based on a model implemented in Spain and Portugal, as well as a windfall tax on extraordinary gains achieved by vertically integrated electricity producers, an initiative already taken by Greece.

Brussels authorities are also looking to greatly revise the structure of the target model and possibly introduce a common European funding tool, but these two plans are expected to take longer to prepare and implement.

Officials of a number of EU member states have contacted Greek authorities to enquire about details concerning the windfall tax, withholding excess revenues of electricity producers in the domestic wholesale market through a temporary mechanism that results in a partial return of day-ahead market revenues.

Member states are mostly interested to know if this mechanism has led to any side effects in Greece’s day-ahead market.

Many member state officials find the Greek model appealing as it results in an immediate disconnection of electricity prices from the price of natural gas without the need for any target model changes.

Brussels report highlights EU’s alarming energy cost increase

The cost of wholesale electricity in the EU rose by over 400 percent in the first quarter of 2022, compared to the equivalent period a year earlier, while gas imports during this period cost the EU a total of 78 billion euros, of which 27 billion euros concerned Russian natural gas quantities, a report published by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy has shown.

Households and businesses across the continent have faced unprecedented natural gas cost increases following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Consequently, the TTF index skyrocketed to peak at 212 euros per MWh on March 7.

The EU adopted a series of sanctions primarily concerning the energy sector as a result of the Russian attack, the report noted. Also, in May, the EU approved its REPower EU plan, designed to gradually end Europe’s reliance on Russian fossil fuels, bolster the continent’s energy security, and support the green-energy transition.

Imports of Russian gas fell by 71 percent via Belarus and 41 percent via Ukraine in the first quarter of 2022, compared to the equivalent period a year earlier. Gas inflow from the Nord Stream pipeline linking Russia with Germany fell by 60 percent in early June.

Europe’s wholesale electricity price averaged 201 euros per MWh in the first quarter of 2022, 281 percent higher than the equivalent period in 2021, the report noted.

Spain and Portugal registered the highest wholesale electricity price increases during this period, a 411 percent rise, followed by Greece (343%) and France (336%), the report noted.

Spain, Portugal price cap agreement to guide Greek plan

Spain and Portugal’s agreement with the European Commission for the implementation of a temporary cap of 50 euros per MWh on reference prices for natural gas and coal used by power plants, effectively detaching wholesale electricity market prices from the cost of these generation sources, promises to serve as a guide for Greece’s negotiations with Brussels for intervention in the country’s wholesale electricity market.

Spain and Portugal had requested a temporary cap on reference prices of 30 euros per MWh, for one year.

The price of electricity in Spain and Portugal will be the same as that applicable for transactions with the rest of the EU, via France, El Pais reported.

The limited capacity of the Iberian Peninsula’s electricity grid interconnections with France will restrict electricity exports from Spain and Portugal. Otherwise, lower electricity prices resulting from the temporary cap would have prompted a sharp rise in electricity exports from Spain and Portugal.

Though the Greek government is on standby for a European price-cap solution to the energy crisis, Athens has already begun regulatory and legislative preparations for domestic market intervention.

Athens, Europe’s south hoping for brave crisis decisions

Athens, along with other EU administrations, especially in Europe’s south, will be hoping for a brave European response to the energy crisis’ exorbitant prices at this week’s summit of EU leaders, scheduled for March 24 and 25.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has joined forces with his counterparts from Italy, Spain and Portugal ahead of this week’s summit. The four leaders are hoping action, rather than just good intentions, as expressed by Europe’s north during an unofficial meeting a fortnight ago, will be taken.

That session highlighted a lack of agreement on the issue of a Eurobond as a common solution to help consumers in Europe cope with extremely higher energy prices.

Some analysts believe long negotiations could be needed at the forthcoming summit, as was the case in 2020, when European leaders worked for five days to eventually approve the Recovery and Resilience Facility as a means of helping economies bounce back from the impact of the pandemic.

Other analysts fear US president Joe Biden’s participation in the concurrent EU-NATO conference will overshadow talks for energy market intervention, postponing needed action for a next session.

 

 

EU south, uniting, anticipates drastic energy cost measures

Europe’s south is pushing for drastic European Commission action in the hope that soaring energy prices can be countered as the endurance of consumers in less robust European economies continues to diminish,  prompting fears of an increase in unpaid receivables, energy company closures, even social unrest, if prices do not de-escalate within the next few months.

The European Commission, gearing up for its next summit, on March 24 and 25, is believed to be preparing to present a series of measures intended to tackle skyrocketing energy prices.

If decisive, these European Commission measures would be embraced by EU member states, especially in the south. If the measures remain half-hearted, in the hope of favorable market developments during spring, they will prompt disappointment, possibly even rebellion, within the EU.

The leaders of Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal plan to meet in Rome either this week or next to establish a common line ahead of the upcoming EU summit.

The precise nature of the European Commission’s upcoming measures has yet to be disclosed. Wholesale natural gas market intervention, with or without price ceilings, as Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has proposed, is a possibility. A detachment of electricity prices from natural gas prices, as proposed by Athens and Madrid, is another possible measure that could be announced by Brussels.

The likelihood of a Eurobond issue to help cover the energy needs of consumers in the EU appears to have faded following recent talk of such a solution.

Greece climbs up to 12th place in EU electricity tariff cost rankings

Greece has climbed seven places, to 12th from 19th, in the EU rankings for retail electricity cost, pushed higher by a government decision reached last year to increase tariffs at state-owned power utility PPC, according to latest Eurostat data.

These tariff hikes at PPC were imposed by the government in August, 2019 to protect the utility from falling into bankruptcy.

The EU rankings concern electricity price levels for household consumption levels between 2,500 to 5,000 kWh, annually.

Electricity tariff increases for households in Greece rose by an average of 8.6 percent in the first half of 2020, compared to the previous half, when the country was ranked 19th.

The first-half tariff price for households averaged € 0.129 per KWh, not including taxes and surcharges, up from €0.1189 per KWh in the second half of 2019.

PPC remains Greece’s dominant supplier, representing 63 percent of electricity consumption.

The PPC tariff increase has made electricity more expensive in Greece than in countries with higher income per capita levels. Electricity is now more expensive in Greece than in France (€ 0.1247 per KWh), Finland (€ 0.1178 per KWh), Spain (€ 0.1178 per KWh) and Sweden (€ 0.1130 per KWh), all with higher income levels. Electricity is also more expensive in Greece than in Portugal (€0.1139 per KWh).

Despite the country’s rankings rise, electricity prices in Greece remain below the EU average (€0.1327 per MWh), a result of the competition generated by independent suppliers, subduing prices.

The biggest electricity tariff decreases in the first half of 2020, compared to the previous six-month period, were recorded by the Netherlands (-31%), Latvia (-12.8%), Slovenia (-11.4%), Sweden (-10%) and Estonia (-8.9%), the Eurostat data showed.

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.

RES auctions postponed throughout Europe

Governments throughout Europe are postponing RES auctions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on markets.

Germany, France and Ireland have already taken steps back to protect new RES projects, currently at various development stages, according to a Green Tech Media report.

Germany had planned seven RES auctions for this year. The country has so far offered 400 MW for solar energy projects and 675 MW for wind farms, while a further 2.9 GW for onshore wind farms and 1.4 GW for solar energy facilities remain pending. Strong investment interest had been expressed prior to the postponements.

In France, a RES auction for solar energy projects has been postponed by two months. In Ireland, a session that had been planned for April 2 has now been rescheduled for April 30. Portugal has also postponed a RES auction offering 700 MW for solar energy projects.

On the contrary, Dutch authorities intend to press ahead with a RES auction at the end of this month, offering 700 MW for wind farms. Swedish multinational power company Vattenfall’s Dutch subsidiary has announced it will not participate.