Mitsotakis discusses effects of coronavirus on tourism with representatives of the sector

The effects of the coronavirus crisis on tourism and the prospects for a dynamic restart when conditions allow dominated a video conference between Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, government officials and representatives of the tourism industry on Thursday.
During the video conference, they evaluated the situation in the tourism sector, which was described as unprecedented, and examined the prospects for tourism after the end of the pandemic.
“We know very well that the effects of this crisis on tourism will be significant. Our goal for 2020 is to reduce, as much as possible, the negative repercussions, given that our product has a specific characterestic, the largest volume of visitors comes to Greece in July, August and September,” said the prime minister.
Mitsotakis said it was extremely important that “the country has managed and built, during the face of this health crisis, a significant reserve of confidence, which will allows us, I believe, to formulate the best possible strategy to rescue as much as possible from this season, but also to lay the foundations for a much better season in 2021.”
Referring to the government’s policy for tackling the problems in the economy, he said that the government acted quickly to support companies.
He also referred to “Greece From Home” (the online platform that “takes” Greece to the world via YouTube) and congratulated all its contributors, saying that it was truly a global innovation, which highlights Greece’s ingenuity in dealing with this crisis, while adding that ” our goal is to reach some concrete conclusions for policies that will have a direct effect on the tourism industry.”

Italian energy firms eyeing array of local investments, PM in Italy

Italian investors are displaying widespread interest for energy investments in the Greek market, including possible stakes in distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO, power grid operator IPTO, gas utility DEPA’s two new entities DEPA Trade and DEPA Infrastructure, as well as joint ventures in wind energy stations, electric vehicle projects and smart grids.

Deputy energy minister Gerassimos Thomas, joining Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on an official visit to Rome today, is expected to be informed of this Italian investment interest. Thomas is scheduled to meet with Italian economic development minister Stefano Patuanelli.

The Greek Prime Minister, to meet with his Italian counterpart Giuseppe Conte, can also expect to hear of this Italian investment interest during talks which, besides the refugee crisis, will also address cross-border energy projects such as TAP and East Med.

Snam maintains the most emblematic of Italian investments in the Greek market at present with a 66 percent stake in gas grid operator DESFA, including control of the country’s natural gas transmission and storage infrastructure.

Italian firms are regarded as pioneers in a number of green-energy domains, including smart grids, electric vehicle recharging station installations along highways, even wave power projects.

Just days ago, a consortium comprising Eni, Fincantieri and Terna announced it would commercially develop its pilot project Inertial Sea Wave Energy Converter (ISWEC) for wave energy generation, initially at small Italian islands, followed by projects abroad.

The Greek Prime Minister and his energy deputy will also meet with Italian entrepreneurs, including Eni gas e luce chief executive Alberto Chiarini.

Italy’s Terna, one of Europe’s biggest transmission system operators, is believed to be interested in acquiring a stake of IPTO and its Ariadne subsidiary, project promoter of the submarine Crete-Athens grid interconnection.

Enel is considering moves into networks, renewable energy investments and the electric vehicles sector.

Italgas, Italy’s biggest gas distributor and the continent’s third biggest, appears interested in DEPA Infrastructure. Italgas is believed to have reached a preliminary agreement to acquire fellow Italian company Eni gas e luce’s 49 percent stake and management rights in EDA Thess, covering the Thessaloniki and Thessaly areas.

Eni, increasing its involvement in pioneering projects, including wave energy, is believed to be looking to increase its Greek market presence, possibly through acquisitions.

 

 

Major Greek energy companies represented for PM’s China trip

The country’s energy sector is well represented in a business delegation accompanying Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ current official visit to China.

Greek energy corporations primarily active in electricity, renewable energy and energy project construction are represented by highly ranked officials.

Power utility PPC, represented by chief executive Giorgos Stassis; and top officials from Mytilineos group, the Copelouzos group, GEK Terna and the Panagakos group have joined the Greek Prime Minister for the China trip.

A significant energy-sector agreement has already been established by the two countries. In 2017, SGCC, the State Grid Corporation of China, acquired a 24 percent stake of power grid operator IPTO, one of the biggest Chinese investments in Greece to date.

In addition, a number of Chinese companies, including China Energy and the Sumec group, have signed Memorandums of Cooperation with Greek enterprises such as the Copelouzos group and PPC.

In the renewable energy market, Chinese-controlled EDP Renoveis has been awarded capacity, through competitive procedures, to develop RES projects.

SGCC has indicated it could be interested in an upcoming Greek electricity market privatization to offer a stake in distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO.

Wind energy investments seen reaching €1.3bn over next 5 yrs

ELETAEN, the Greek Wind Energy Association, has prepared three scenarios for wind energy project development between 2019 and 2023, the likeliest version foreseeing 1,310 MW in installations at an overall investment cost of 1.3 billion euros.

The association’s less optimistic scenario sees installations of 1,170 MW during this five-year period, an overall investment estimated at 1.2 billion euros, while its best-case scenario sees  installations totaling 1,490 MW at an investment cost of 1.5 billion euros.

The total cost of installing wind energy projects is estimated at one million euros per MW.

The wind energy association’s projections take into account the maturity levels of various projects. An eagerly expected simplification of RES licensing procedures, along with improved business conditions, overall, as promised by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, have not been taken into account.

Simplification of RES licensing procedures is needed if renewable energy is to capture a 35 percent share of the country’s energy mix by 2030, as promised by the country’s leader.

Acquiring a RES license in Greece takes between 8 and 10 years, compared to the European average of two years. A total of 29 agencies become involved in Greece’s current licensing procedure for wind energy projects.

“Investors cannot be heroes and have to wait ten years for a wind energy license,” Mitsotakis noted earlier this week during a speech at the opening ceremony for a wind energy complex, Greece’s largest and one of Europe’s biggest, developed by Italy’s Enel Green Power on the island Evia, in the Kafireas region.

 

PM decision on Crete link, wider PCI plan support needed today

Negotiations ran throughout the day until late last night as all sides involved sought to determine if an agreement is possible on the prospective Crete-Athens power grid interconnector and whether the wider Athens-Crete-Cyprus-Israel interconnection, an EU project of common interest (PCI), remains feasible under the current conditions.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis must inform the European Commission  today on whether Athens supports the wider PCI project, a stance that would incorporate the Athens-Crete segment, or pursue this segment separately as a national project.

A European Commission PCI committee is meeting today to discuss the EU’s new PCI list for the next two years.

Greek power grid operator IPTO has been embroiled in a dispute with Cypriot consortium EuroAsia Interconnector over development control of the wider project’s Crete-Athens segment. EuroAsia Interconnector heads the wider project and has been joined by Elia, Belgium’s electricity transmission system operator, in a strategic alliance.

The Cypriot side entered yesterday’s negotiations with a slightly improved offer but the Greek side still considers it insufficient for constructive talks.

The Greek government has set red lines for the Athens-Crete segment, including no further delays for ongoing tenders offering converter station contracts, which effectively means technical term revisions will not be accepted. Greek officials insist compatibility for the wider project is ensured.

Stalled support plan for island hybrid units in motion again

The establishment of a new support framework for hybrid station development on non-interconnected islands, an initiative that stalled during the previous government’s tenure, is regaining momentum.

The energy ministry plans to soon forward for public consultation a new framework, essentially a guide detailing hybrid output remuneration,  sources informed. A finalized plan will then be drafted and delivered to the European Commission for approval before legislation in Greek Parliament.

Hybrid stations, combining renewable energy output with energy storage through the use of batteries or pumped storage, have, until now, not been considered a mature technology and, as a result, sidelined from RES auctions.

This has left the technology without a remuneration method. Investors have expressed increasing interest as indicated by an accumulation of approximately 150 production license applications submitted to RAE. These initiatives have remained stranded. They will advance once the new support framework is established.

The new support plan for hybrid stations is based on a proposal forwarded by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, to former energy minister Giorgos Stathakis in July, 2018 without any further progress.

The new plan will not impose capacity or technology limits and will apply for non-interconnected islands, regardless of whether they are to remain autonomous or become interconnected.

The government’s willingness to restart the procedure was made clear yesterday by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who commented on the matter at a foundation stone-laying ceremony for a new Mytilineos group power station in Boetia (Viotia), northwest of Athens.

 

 

Independent energy players rushing to fill PPC lignite void

The country’s major independent energy groups are forging ahead with well anticipated plans to cover prospective electricity generating voids that will be created by power utility PPC’s withdrawal of lignite-fired units, now expected sooner following a government plan for a swifter withdrawal of all lignite-fired power stations, monopolized by the state-controlled power utility.

Speaking at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York last week, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis declared full decarbonization would be achieved in Greece by 2028.

The Prime Minister’s pledge for a lignite-free Greece in less than a decade has not taken domestic independent energy groups by surprise. As early as three to four years ago, they had foreseen an approaching end of the lignite era in Greece and around Europe.

So, too, had PPC’s leadership. But the corporation’s lignite monopoly, lignite dependence of local economies in lignite-rich areas, especially Greece’s west Macedonia region, as well as perpetual political interests attached to PPC over the years, have all played roles that have prevented the utility from turning to other energy sources such as natural gas and renewables.

Over the past year or so, major energy groups in Greece such as Mytilineos, GEK-TERNA, Copelouzos and Elpedison, as well as enterprises such as Elvalhalkor and Karatzis, have taken decisions to seek licenses for the development of new gas-fired power stations. The foundation stone of a Mytilineos unit in Boetia (Viotia), northwest of Athens, will be placed by the Greek Prime Minister at a ceremony scheduled for tomorrow.

A planned decarbonization process in neighboring Bulgaria, electricity needs in North Macedonia, and Greek power grid operator IPTO’s imminent upgrade of grid interconnections with Balkan neighbors, especially the aforementioned countries, are all creating further electricity export opportunities for Greek market players.

 

 

Gov’t seeking post-lignite plan, communities to be reassured

The energy ministry is looking to reassure local authorities in the country’s lignite-dependent northern region of west Macedonia that Greece’s planned transition towards a post-lignite era will take place following comprehensive planning and also include financial support for affected communities through EU funds.

Deputy energy minister Gerassimos Thomas will travel to the region today for talks over the weekend with local authorities, union leaders and workers. Energy minister Costis Hatzidakis and power utility PPC’s chief executive may also follow up with visits to the region next week.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, speaking at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York earlier this week, spoke of complete decarbonization in Greece by 2028. The prospect has unsettled lignite-dependent communities in Greece.

Shutting down all lignite-fired power stations in Greece will require considerable planning.

Power utility PPC’s activities in western Macedonia represent 45 percent of the region’s economic activity. Approximately 4,200 persons are employed at PPC’s mines and power stations in west Macedonia and Megalopoli, the country’s other major lignite source in the Peloponnese. Adding sub-contractors to this tally increases the workforce figure to 6,000.

The move towards decarbonization is a European challenge concerning many countries besides Greece, including Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and Romania. All are currently seeking solutions.

Member states feeling insecure about their post-lignite futures are eagerly awaiting the new EU budget, expected to be completed by early 2020, to see if additional funding will become available for Europe’s energy transition fund, currently limited to 4.8 billion euros for 41 lignite-dependent regions around the continent.

All Ptolemaida V options now being officially examined

A development decision on power utility PPC’s planned lignite-fired Ptolemaida V power station is now officially preoccupying authorities, examining various options, including a fuel switch to natural gas.

All appears possible at this stage. Besides an in-progress report from the McKinsey consulting firm, examining all possible scenarios for the unit along with PPC, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis made reference to the matter for the first time yesterday while speaking at the UN Climate Change Summit. He spoke of total decarbonization in Greece by 2028.

Echoing this remark, energy minister Costis Hatzidakis left open the possibility of a zero-lignite energy mix by 2030 when asked if Greece’s new National Energy and Climate Plan, to soon be submitted to Brussels, would include such a target.

Hatzidakis hinted that such a prospect is possible. However, he did not commit on how the government would choose to handle Ptolemaida V.

“If you were to ask me about the existing lignite-fired power stations, I would have answered that we will have a clear picture on how many of these units are sustainable in three to four weeks,” Hatzidakis noted. “But this is not so for Ptolemaida V, where the matter is very complicated. At this stage, nobody can talk of an optimal solution.”

Contrary to the previous PPC administration, the power utility’s new leadership, headed by Giorgos Stassis, does not consider the Ptolemaida V investment a certainty. However, Stassis and his associates are also aware of how complex the matter is, making abandonment difficult.

For example, abandoning the Ptolemaida V project would severely impact the northern region’s local economy, dependent on lignite activity. Also, PPC has already spent close to 950 million euros. Turbine and generator orders have arrived, while agreements, including EPC contracts, have been signed.

As for the thoughts of a fuel switch, from lignite to natural gas, PPC would be better off building a new gas-fired power station in Lavrio, southeast of Athens, close to gas sources and urban centers consuming considerable electricity amounts.

 

PM to attend Cretan block signing ceremony, reshuffling in west

A signing ceremony scheduled to take place tomorrow for hydrocarbon exploration and production rights concerning at least one of two offshore Cretan blocks will be attended by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose speech is expected to emphasize Greece’s effort to utilize the country’s mineral wealth and also project a message opposing Turkey’s provocative behavior in the southeast Mediterranean.

The energy ministry will sign an agreement tomorrow with a three-member consortium comprised of ExxonMobil, Total and Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) for an offshore license west of Crete.

A second block, situated adjacently southwest of Crete, could also be signed by the two sides tomorrow. But it still needs to be endorsed by a local authority, making the prospect highly unlikely.

Both agreements will first need to be approved by Greek Parliament before exploration work commences. A first phase of exploratory survey work is planned to last three years. If the feedback is favorable, drilling activities will follow after 2022, according to current plans.

Meanwhile, consortiums that have secured licenses for blocks in western Greece are moving to reshuffle their line-ups, energypress sources have reported.

This activity, a common occurrence in the global oil industry, has been attributed to maneuvering by multinationals for moves to blocks seen offering better prospects as well as efforts to seek additional partners for investment cost sharing.

Greece’s geopolitical role and blocks are gaining stature on the international map amid all this activity.

PM: Greece still working on Turkish Stream extension plan

Greece has not stopped working on the prospect of extending the Turkish Stream gas pipeline westward through northern Greek territory – for an Adriatic Sea crossing and gas supply to southern and central Europe – Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras noted during a speech delivered at the recent Thessaloniki Summit.

The Russian pipeline’s development all the way to Turkey’s European tip in the country’s northwest has been completed, thereby linking the gas systems of both nations, and will be marked by a ceremony today to be attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Its 15.75-billion cubic meter capacity is 50 percent bigger than the TAP project.

Turkish Stream constitutes an alternative route for Russia following EU objections and the eventual debacle, in 2014, of South Stream, another gas transmission project that was planned to reach Bulgaria. The follow-up Russian plan anticipates a westward stretch from Turkey’s European tip to the Greek border, followed by an Adriatic Sea crossing. Officials are contemplating combining the pipeline with the IGI project.

PM, EBRD chief discuss increasing bank’s RES sector involvement

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Suma Chakrabarti discussed the prospect of the bank’s increased involvement in the country’s RES sector, among various issues, at a meeting in Athens yesterday.

The Greek prime minister made note of the country’s economic recovery in progress and the objective to swiften growth rates of small and medium-sized enterprises. Tsipras also highlighted the Greek economy’s benefits as a result of the EBRD’s activities in Greece, noting the bank’s presence will contribute to an acceleration of economic growth.

Chakrabarti, the EBRD head, commended the government for putting the economy back into growth territory and boosting employment, while adding that the bank is determined to continue offering support.

The bank’s involvement will be stretched to 2025 for financial support to small and medium-sized enterprises, the sectors of tourism, real estate, green energy, agricultural food production, as well as investments for improved municipal services.

EBRD financial investments in Greece have reached 2.5 billion euros, making Greece Europe’s fifth highest recipient. A total of 600 million euros of EBRD financial investments are expected to be made in 2018.

During his visit to Greece, the EBRD president also noted the bank intends to establish a branch in Thessaloniki for business services to small and medium-sized enterprises.

PM to focus on energy matters in Kozani conference speech

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s speech later today at a Kozani conference addressing regional economic growth is expected to focus on energy issues as the wider western Macedonia region surrounding this northern city constitutes the country’s biggest energy center.

A number of facilities and mines operated by the main power utility PPC in the area will be included on a bailout-required sale list offering investors PPC units as part of the effort to break the corporation’s local market dominance.

This sale prospect, alone, has raised tensions. Many union groups, led by Genop, PPC’s main union group, have already declared they will turn up in numbers to protest. Whether such initiatives can produce any results, or have any impact on the PPC unit sale developments, remains questionable.

It is anticipated that the PM’s conference speech, scheduled to be delivered this aftenoon, will include a presentation of initiaves offering energy support to vulnerable social groups. Energy subsidies for low-income groups, leading to discounts of as much as 90 percent for a specific amount of KWh covering basic needs, are expected to be included in this relief package.

According to sources, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, wants the cost of this measure to be primarily covered by the national budget rather than electricity consumers through an YKO public service compensation surcharge included on electricity bills.

RAE is also seeking Social Residential Tariff (KOT) revisions that promise greater benefits for eligible households. However, additional criteria, beyond income levels, such as property ownership, bank account amounts, and, possibly, even car ownership, would be taken into account by authorities for KOT eligibility.

The most supportive new KOT sub-category promises to offer vulnerable households with annual incomes of between 2,400 and 10,400 euros electricity tariff discounts as well as exemption from public service compensation surcharge contributions, according to sources.

A second KOT sub-category, for household incomes between 5,000 and 21,000 euros is expected to offer discounts as well as protection from electricity supply cuts, while a third category, for household incomes between 8,000 and 28,000 euros, will offer eligible parties lower tariffs.

Besides energy-related social policies, the Prime Minister is expected to address the country’s wider energy strategy, including a national objective for less coal and lignite dependence.

Tsipras is also expected to comment on the future of PPC as a corporation with lower market shares following the bailout-required sale of production units. At present, the utility is striving to restrict its sale to lignite-fired power stations. Many pundits believe that such units, alone, will not suffice to attract investors. If so, hydropower units may eventually need to be added to the sale package.

 

 

PM, PPC boss to discuss energy collaborations on China visit

The Greek administration is viewing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s current visit to China as a follow-up to Chinese investments in Greece by Cosco for the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) and SGCC’s (State Grid Corporation of China) agreement with the state-controlled main power utility PPC for a 24 percent acquisition of subsidiary IPTO, the power grid operator, endorsed by the European Commission yesterday.

A barrage of Chinese investments, particularly in the energy sector, is expected following the recent conclusion of the Greek bailout’s second review.

The timing of the European Commission’s approval of the IPTO agreement with SGCC, announced while Tsipras was on his way to Beijing, provides further momentum to the prime minister’s China trip.

The Greek government would view favorably Chinese interest in the upcoming sale of PPC units and 17 percent privatization of the utility, both bailout requirements. Extensive talks have already been held with CMEC (China Machinery Engineering Corporation) for the development of Meliti II, a second carbon-fired power station planned by PPC in the Meliti area, close to Florina in the country’s north.

PPC chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis, accompanying the Greek prime minister on this trip to China, will seek to appease Chinese concerns generated by energy minister Giorgos Stathakis’s recent announcement of the need to stage a new tender for part of the Vevi mine, whose output is essential for Meliti II. Talk of including the Meliti II license in the bailout-required sale package of PPC units has also unsettled CMEC officials.

The PPC chief has proposed constructing two new lignite-fired power stations, not including Meliti II. This plan has not been embraced by the Greek energy ministry as it runs contrary to the bailout agreement concerning the energy sector.

On this visit to China, Panagiotakis, who is expected to meet with officials at CMEC, Shenhua Group, SPIC and the China Development Bank (CDB), will need to convince prospective investors that lignite-fired power stations will remain a key part of PPC’s future operations.

 

 

Socar boss set to meet PM in Athens for DESFA solution

Though unconfirmed by the Prime Minister’s office as late as yesterday, Socar president Rovnag Abdullayev and his associates are expected to meet with the Greek head of state Alexis Tsipras in Athens today in search of a last-minute solution for the troubled and long-running sale of DESFA, the natural gas grid operator.

According to sources, the meeting will take place without energy minister Panos Skourletis, who recently engineered and implemented a revenue-limiting measure for DESFA. This move has disgruntled officials at the Azerbaijani energy company, the winning bidder of a 2013 international tender offering a 66 percent stake of DESFA.

The Greek energy minister’s measure added to the unfavorable DESFA-related developments for Socar following European Commission intervention, last year, requiring the Azerbaijani company to surrender a 17 percent stake of DESFA to a certified European operator.

Abdullayev, at today’s meeting, will seek to iron out pending DESFA sale issues against the clock. A letter of guarantee provided by Socar expires in a few days, on September 30.

Certain pundits believe Abdullayev and his associates will genuinely seek a DESFA solution. Others contend that the Azerbaijani delegation’s decision to fly to Athens is merely being carried out as an effort to protect the energy company’s international reputation and wider business interests by creating an impression of its persistence for a solution until the very end, therefore sparing Socar of any responsibility for the privatization’s likely failure.

In recent months, the two sides have avoided direct contact, instead exchanging views through media reports. Over the past few weeks, both the energy ministry and government have sought to reestablish ties with Socar through various initiatives.