Hydrocarbon, PPC, DEPA draft bills to follow Thessaloniki Fair

Energy minister Costas Hatzidakis’ team and related departments are busy preparing three draft bills for submission to parliament, one by one, by October, following this year’s Thessaloniki International Fair, to take place September 7 to 15.

The first of these three draft bills concerns the approval of hydrocarbon exploration and production licenses in offshore areas west and southwest of Crete, involving a consortium comprising Total, ExxonMobil and Hellenic Petroleum ELPE; an Ionian Sea license involving Repsol and ELPE; and Block 10, west of the Peloponnese, for which ELPE is the sole holder.

The US Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, made reference to the licenses yesterday as a means of underlining the investment interest in the sector of US firms, including ExxonMobil.

The second draft bill to be tabled in parliament will detail operational revisions at power utility PPC. Hatzidakis, the energy minister, has noted the state-controlled power utility needs to rely less on the Greek State and compete on equal terms with rivals. The power utility draft bill will alter how PPC stages various auctions concerning supply and services. These auctions are strictly regulated by state terms.

A third draft bill, expected to be delivered to parliament within October, will nullify the previous Syriza government’s privatization plan for gas utility DEPA. It entailed splitting the utility into DEPA Trade and DEPA Infrastructure ahead of the sale of respective majority and minority stakes.

The recently elected New Democracy government appears determined to pursue a more aggressive DEPA privatization policy offering majority stakes in both the utility’s distribution network and trading interests.






CMEC a notable Chinese absence at Thessaloniki fair

Nine Chinese energy companies have registered to take part in the upcoming 82nd Thessaloniki International Fair among the country’s total of 151 participating firms, but CMEC (China Machinery Engineering Corporation), which had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Greece’s main power utility PPC last September, will be notably absent from the event.

CMEC has previously shown an interest in developing and acquiring majority control of Meliti II, a second carbon-fired power station planned by PPC in the Meliti area, close to Florina in the country’s north. However, Greek government thoughts of a tender for mining rights at the Vevi mine, crucial to the feasibility of Meliti II, and bailout-related demands requring PPC to sell lignite-fired stations appear to be troubling CMEC. Presumably, CMEC officials see no prospects in the Meliti plan.

Besides the Greek market, the Chinese firm and PPC have also discussed making joint investments in the wider Balkan region. CMEC’s absence from the Thessaloniki fair, scheduled for September 9 to 17, has now also raised questions as to whether the Chinese firm is also abandoning the Balkan plan it has contemplated with PPC as a partner.

Whatever the case, the fair remains a particularly important event for PPC. On Saturday, the Greek power utility’s chief executive Manolis Panagiotakis is scheduled to sign an MoU with China Development Bank (CDB) during a conference to be staged by CDB titled “Investment Opportunities in Southeast Europe”.

SGCC (State Grid Corporation of China), which has acquired a 24 percent stake in IPTO, Greece’s power grid operator, and Shenhua, which had expressed an interest upgrading PPC’s two lignite-fired power stations at Amynteo before a landslide devastated a mine in the area, have both registered to take part in the Thessaloniki trade fair.

Chinese firms still without a Greek market presence are also participating, including Shanghai Electric Group Company, the world’s largest manufacturer of steam turbines.

CEFC, a diverse private corporate group whose portfolio includes interests ranging from energy to tourism, and Beijing Guohua Power, investing in energy projects, are also among the Chinese firms to be represented in Thessaloniki.

Shenhua Guohua Energy Investment Co, a Shenhua subsidiary focused on wind energy investments; Electric Power Planning & Engineering; Shanghai Electric Group Corp; and Shanghai Building Materials Group Energy Conservation, make up the trade fair’s other Chinese energy-sector participants.