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.