Electricity supplier switching by consumers up 89% in 2019

Consumers switching electricity suppliers increased sharply by 89 percent in 2019, a report by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has shown.

A total of 576,436 consumers, 8.5 percent of the 6,783,075 consumers in total, switched suppliers in 2019, up from 4.51 percent in 2018, the report showed.

This sharp rise in consumer switches was attributed to growing consumer confidence in independent electricity suppliers as well as the effectiveness of discounts and various other offers made available by these suppliers to attract customers. Put simply, competition in the Greek electricity market appears to be intensifying.

Household electricity consumers showed the greatest degree of mobility, followed by mid and high-voltage consumers, or businesses and industrial consumers, the RAE report observed.

In the mid-voltage category, 834 business and industrial consumers of 9,071 in total, or 9.19 percent, switched electricity suppliers in 2019, according to the report.

Despite the increased customer mobility, power utility PPC remained dominant in 2019, supplying electricity to 5,694,627 consumers, or 83.95 percent of the 6,783,075 in total, the report showed. In terms of consumption, PPC held a 71.13 percent share, supplying 27.7 million MWh last year.

Independent supplier Protergia, a member of the Mytilineos group, was ranked second in terms of total number of customers in 2019, supplying to 181,232 customers, the report noted.

Elpedison was ranked third with 171,143 customers, followed by Heron (140,812), Watt & Volt (127,364), Zenith (73,968), Volton (69,688), NRG (52,961), Fysiko Aerio (39,881), Volterra (35,748) and KEN (33,997).

A total of 24 independent suppliers are active in Greece’s electricity market.

Suppliers face tougher times, NOME benefits ending

The termination of NOME auctions in Greece leaves independent suppliers with enough lower-cost wholesale electricity to fully cover their needs until the end of the year but the subsequent gradual change of market conditions can be expected to begin taking effect as of January when the suppliers start being exposed to the wholesale market.

By March, 2020, suppliers will be fully exposed to the System Marginal Price (SMP), practically meaning the sector’s course will depend on the course of the wholesale market.

If LNG prices remain low to contain the SMP level, then independent retail electricity suppliers should avoid losses despite their wholesale market exposure and, as a result, will be able to compete against the power utility PPC for market share gains.

For many companies, as much as 50 percent of their profitability has been derived from trading lower-cost NOME electricity, primarily as an export product to neighboring markets. In certain cases, significant profits earned through this trading activity enabled aggressive pricing policies in the domestic market, especially the mid-voltage category.

The new market conditions will make electricity export activity more challenging as earnings will be lower. Greater exposure to SMP risk will create problems. The triggering of SMP clauses will require consumers to pay greater amounts and independent suppliers will be less competitive against PPC.

An increase of the SMP level would put some suppliers who have offered relatively low-cost mid-voltage supply contracts in the unpleasant position of needing to maintain supply to customers at below-cost levels. Mid-voltage prices offered by independent suppliers have risen in recent times but are still below those of PPC.

The tougher conditions amid a fluid market of more than 20 retail suppliers in electricity and gas – of which no more than 12 hold market shares of consideration – promise to narrow down the field.

Three takeover and merger agreements have already been reached over the past year or so, beginning with Motor Oil’s acquisition of NRG, followed by a transfer of Green’s client list to Heron, and, just days ago, Volton’s acquisition of KEN.