Gov’t plans 11 decarbonization investments worth €2.5bn

The government plans to facilitate the post-lignite transition of Greece’s west Macedonia and Megalopoli areas by promoting 11 big investments totaling 2.5 billion euros and also making available, through a six-year plan, national and EU support funds in excess of three billion euros.

This plan, already presented to west Macedonia working groups earlier this week, will be discussed today by a government committee before being presented to media by energy minister Costis Hatzidakis.

Besides the 11 major-scale investments, the plan, intended to reshape the production models of both regions, will also feature tax and financing incentives.

For decades, both the west Macedonia and Megolopoli areas have depended on lignite for economic growth.

The new plan will be based on five key pillars – clean energy; industry, small-scale industry, commerce; smart agricultural production; sustainable tourism; technology and education – for growth and utilization of comparative advantages.

Investment plans include the development of solar farms in west Macedonia and Megalopoli with a total capacity of 2.3 GW; a state-of-the-art gas-fueled power station in west Macedonia; as well as the establishment of electromobility industrial parks in both areas.

The government’s decarbonization plan for the two areas is expected to create 5,100 jobs, directly, and a further 6,400, indirectly.

The government expects to deploy national and EU support funds worth 3.2 billion euros for the overall effort over six years, with the majority of this total, 2 billion euros, to be made available over the first three years (2021-2023).

The plan is expected to be forwarded for public consultation in mid-September.

 

Post-lignite plan to Boston Consulting, Grant Thorton

Boston Consulting and Grant Thorton have been awarded contracts by Greece’s privatization fund to prepare a master plan for Greece’s post-lignite era, due at the end of 2020, energypress sources have informed.

The two professional services companies, awarded deals totaling 200,000 euros plus VAT, will need to deliver a draft of their master plan to a coordinating committee heading the task around early autumn, three months after contracts have been signed.

Their finalized version must be completed and delivered six months from now, or roughly at the end of the year.

The master plan will include policies to tackle job losses as a result of Greece’s decarbonization policy, as well as policies for the establishment of new businesses and jobs in Greece’s west Macedonia and Megalopoli areas, both lignite-dependent local economies that will be severely impacted by the decarbonization plan.

Boston Consulting and Grant Thorton will need to analyze all related data, including  demographics and infrastructure-related data, and identify competitive advantages offered by the two aforementioned regions.

Industrial infrastructure, farming, research and innovation, tourism, logistics, energy and the environment, as well as social policies will all be examined for sustainable growth not requiring state support following the post-lignite transition.

Most of power utility PPC’s lignite units are expected to be phased out by the end of 2023.

PPC endorses exit plan for 890 workers in west Macedonia

Power utility PPC’s board has approved an initial voluntary exit plan for 890 employees at lignite-fired power stations and mines operated by the corporation in the west Macedonia region, northern Greece.

The overwhelming majority of these workers, or 80 percent, are aged over 55, performing jobs  classified as labor-intensive and health-hazardous, and eligible for full pensions, energypress sources informed.

Company employees eligible for the voluntary exit plan must lodge applications by June 30.

The exit plan is being offered as a result of PPC’s phasing out of lignite units by 2023, beginning with a unit at Amynteo this year.

Just under 3,000 jobs will be lost following gradual closures of state-controlled PPC’s power stations and mines in the west Macedonia region, part of the government’s decarbonization policy.

Outgoing employees will each receive bonus severance pay of 20,000 euros, to cost the company 18 million euros, plus compensation of 15,000 euros, by law, for a further total cost of 13.5 million euros.

Salaries for the initial exit plan’s 890 workers are estimated to cost PPC an annual amount of 56 million euros.

Specific dates for the voluntary exit plan have yet to be announced by PPC officials. Workers are expected to gradually depart from July to December this year.

The PPC board will soon also reach decisions on equivalent voluntary exit plans for workers at Meliti, in northern Greece’s Florina area, and Megalopoli, in the Peloponnese.

 

 

PPC, seeking key electric car market role, to announce MoUs

Power utility PPC is expected to soon announce two MoUs signed with private-sector companies for collaboration in the nascent electric vehicles market, a domain the utility is looking to dominate in the years ahead.

The power utility’s MoUs, believed to have been signed with Greek companies, concern recharging station installations and a range of electric vehicle services, as foreseen in a PPC business plan presented last December.

According to the plan, PPC intends to install 1,000 recharging stations around Greece over the next two to three years as well as a further 10,000 stations in the medium term.

The company is now assembling a new electric vehicles division in the lead-up to its latest business endeavor.

PPC’s wider plan could even entail collaboration with a specialized partner for production of electric vehicle parts at new plants in west Macedonia and Megalopoli, both lignite-dependent local economies in the country’s north and the Peloponnese, respectively, now being decarbonized.

A related draft bill being prepared by the government will feature incentives for the establishment of new production units at these locations.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is scheduled to present the government’s ambitious plan for electric vehicle market growth this Friday. The development of a recharging network is crucial for this plan.

DESFA considering west Macedonia pipeline expansion

Gas grid operator DESFA’s next ten-year development plan, for 2021 to 2030, may include gas network extension projects in areas that have not featured in previous plans, including northern Greece’s west Macedonia region.

The shape and extent of the pipeline network expansion plan will depend on the development, or not, of regional natural gas-fired power stations by electricity producers.

Preliminary considerations for DESFA’s new ten-year development plan come just weeks after a delayed approval by authorities of the operator’s ten-year plan covering 2020 to 2029.

A prospective decision by power grid operator PPC on whether its Ptolemaida V power station will operate as a natural gas-fired unit will be instrumental in shaping DESFA’s investment decisions for pipeline network expansions in the west Macedonia area.

DESFA also intends to develop metering stations at TAP project corridor points as the capacity to be offered by the TAP project will not suffice to cover regional needs if natural gas-fired power stations are developed in the west Macedonia region.

DESFA plans to construct three new metering and regulating stations in the Eordea, Kastoria and Aspros (Edessa, Naoussa, Giannitsa) areas, their budget totaling 8 million euros. These stations, whose completion is expected by the end of 2022, will enable the development of a mid and low-voltage network for natural gas transmission to these areas.

 

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.

Decarbonization an independent business plan linked to NSRF

The decarbonization master plan for the west Macedonian region in Greece’s north and Megalopoli in the Peloponnese, both lignite dependent local economies, will be an independent business plan linked to the new National Strategic Reference Framework, running from 2021 to 2027, exclusively funded and based on four main axes, sources have informed energypress.

A draft of the master plan has already been prepared and endorsed by the development ministry, while a competitive procedure will be staged for the shaping of the finalized plan.

A special advisory committee will present its opinion to the privatization fund, involved in the process, for the hiring of a consultant and development of the decarbonization master plan.

Its four main axes will be comprised of industry, the primary sector, tourism-culture and differentiation of lignite area energy identities, the sources said.

Though specific plans have yet to be set out as to how the country’s two main lignite zones will be restored, a tendency towards industrial development is already emerging.

The decarbonization project’s progress to date, procedural matters and its four axes will be discussed by the coordinating committee of the fair development plan at its next meeting, scheduled for this Friday.

New NSRF funds for decarbanization effort to reach at least €600m

EU funds to be made available to Greece through the new National Strategic Reference Framework (2021-2027) for the country’s decarbonization effort are estimated to reach at least 600 million euros, sources have informed.

The NSRF amount is expected to be double the 300 million euros to be received by Greece through the Just Transition Fund, also for decarbonization projects.

The national contribution, expected to range between 10 and 20 percent, or roughly 150 million euros, will take the overall decarbonization amount to about one or 1.1 billion euros.

These funds will be used to fund a smooth post-lignite transition for Greece’s west Macedonia region in the country’s north and Megalopoli in the Peloponnese, both lignite-dependent local economies.

Two or three major foreign investments are expected to also draw private capital.

A change of mentality will be needed in both regions for sufficient post-lignite project development enabling full absorption of the support funds.

NSRF absorption in the entire west Macedonia region has been limited to just 200 million euros over the past few years.

 

RES plan official processing prioritized in 5 categories

A ministerial decision prioritizing RES investment plan processing by authorities has just been signed by deputy energy minister Gerassimos Thomas.

The decision prioritizes processing of RES investment plans – applications and provision of connection terms – in five categories. Priority levels are determined by EU regulations and the contribution potential of investment plans to the National Energy and Climate Plan.

Green energy investments facilitating network utilization, such as self production, are promised top-priority categorization. This also applies for investments concerning energy efficiency, waste management and biogas.

Energy community investment applications will be given a one-month advantage in the waiting line. In other words, such applications will be examined as if submitted a month earlier.

Energy community plans involving local government organizations or over 60 members are promised an even bigger time advantage of four months.

Priority processing will also be offered to investment plans in northern Greece’s west Macedonia region, whose lignite-dependent local economy must be restructured as a result of the government’s decarbonization effort.

Lignite end’s socioeconomic hurdles stressed in EC report

Greece will face socioeconomic challenges as a result of the government’s decision to gradually shut down the country’s lignite units in the northern region of west Macedonia and Megolopoli, in the Peloponnese, for a climate-neutral economy by 2050, the European Commission has noted in a report delivered as an addition to its post-bailout report on the Greek economy.

Some 27,000 jobs could be lost in both areas, according to the report, delivered as an additional chapter intended to serve as basis for talks between Brussels and Athens on Greece’s transition towards a lignite-free era.

The two sides are already negotiating funding details from the Just Transition Fund, expected to financially support a new growth plan for west Macedonia and Megolopoli between 2021 and 2027.

Also, the Greek government has assembled an interministerial committee tasked with shaping a post-lignite plan for the west Macedonia and Megolopoli areas, both lignite-dependent local economies. The committee will deliver a plan by June, according to the energy ministry.

In its latest report, Brussels highlights the significance of lignite for the local economy and community of west Macedonia, whose population numbers 280,000, especially Kozani, representing more than half this figure with a population of 150,000.

“The [country’s] biggest mines and most lignite-fired power stations are located in this area. Lignite-based electricity generation is its most significant economic sector, representing over one-third of the area’s GDP,” the report notes.

An estimated 5,500 jobs at the lignite mines and power stations are directly threatened, while a further 20,000 jobs are indirectly threatened, the report’s authors added.

The west Macedonia region is already burdened by one of the highest unemployment rates (31% according to 2016 data) of all the EU’s lignite areas, the report notes. The region’s GDP per capita fell from 86 percent to 59 percent of the EU average between 2009 and 2017, it adds.

Over 100,000 residents are linked to telethermal systems for lignite power station-based domestic heating, the report also highlights. The replacement of lignite units in the area is one of the challenges that must be dealth with, it adds.

As for Megalopoli, the lignite sector is by far the most significant economic activity in this Peloponnesian region of 6,000 residents, the report notes. Some 1,600 jobs are at risk of being lost here, it adds, which takes the overall tally of jobs on the line, including in west Macedonia, to just over 27,000.

 

 

Top officials visit north for post-lignite fair transition plan talks

The leaders of Greece’s energy and development ministries and power utility PPC’s chief executive have scheduled a two-day visit, today and tomorrow, to Kozani and Florina, both lignite-dependent areas in Greece’s north, for an initial presentation to local authorities of the government’s plan for a fair transition towards the post-lignite era.

PPC’s lignite-fired power stations operating in the wider area are all headed for withdrawal by 2023 as part of the government’s decarbonization plan.

Energy minister Costis Hatzidakis, his deputy Gerassimos Thomas, secretary-general Alexandra Sdoukou, as well as development and investment minister Adonis Georgiadis, will offer local communities a first impression of the government’s fair transition plan.

For decades, these communities, in the west Macedonia region, have depended on PPC’s regional lignite mines and power stations for their livelihoods.

Hatzidakis, the energy minister, and PPC chief executive Giorgos Stassis will visit lignite fields and PPC facilities for talks with workers and supervisors. Stassis has also planned meetings with union groups.

In a symbolic gesture, the energy minister will also visit the environmental group Arcturos, his intention being to highlight the environmental importance of the government’s decarbonization effort.

Local mayors, MPs and representatives of the area’s business and academic communities are expected to present demands and opinions for the region’s post-lignite growth plan.

 

 

Coal electricity not competitive, Megalopoli facility workers told

Lignite-fired power stations are becoming a far less competitive electricity generation option by the day as a result of rising operating costs, workers at the power utility PPC’s Megalopoli III and IV units have been told by the energy ministry’s leadership.

Megalopoli, a lignite-dependent local economy in the Peloponnese, will receive some 25 million euros from a lignite withdrawal compensation fund, deputy energy minister Gerassimos Thomas told concerned Megalopoli workers.

The government has announced a plan to withdraw all existing lignite units over the next three years.

The operating time of lignite units is currently being kept to a minimum, the only justifiable reason to keep them running being the continued provision of telethermal needs, the workers were told.

Lignite-produced electricity, including CO2 emission costs, has steadily ranged between 80 and 90 euros per MWh, compared to 55-60 euros per MWh for gas-fueled power stations and a System Marginal Price (SMP), or wholesale price, of 59-60 euros per MWh, according to December figures, deputy energy minister Gerassimos Thomas told PPC’s Megalopoli workers.

In the renewable energy sector, latest auctions staged by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, produced wind energy prices from 55.8 to 58.3 euros per MWh and solar energy prices at 53.8 euros per MWh.

The Megalopoli workers were not convinced by the ministry’s arguments and, citing desulphurization investments worth 140 million euros at the power station in recent years, remained adamant on the sustainability of the Megalopoli III and IV lignite-fired units.

A special steering committee assembled to coordinate a fair national transition plan towards the post-lignite era for Megalopoli and west Macedonia, Greece’s other lignite-dependent area in the country’s north, is scheduled to hold its inaugural session later this week.

 

 

Gov’t Council being assembled for support to lignite-dependent areas

The country’s administration is assembling a government council to be tasked with preparing a Just Transition Plan for Greece’s lignite-dependent areas needing support to offset the effects of the government’s planned withdrawal of all coal generators by 2028, including all existing units by 2023.

A Council of Ministers Act enabling the establishment and operation of the government council, to be headed by energy minister Costis Hatzidakis, has just been approved.

The west Macedonia region in Greece’s north as well as the Megalopoli area in the Peloponnese, both lignite-dependent local economies, will need support while adjusting to the post-lignite era.

The government council to work on the Just Transition Plan will be comprised of top officials from a number of ministries, which, besides the environment and energy ministry, include the finance, interior, development and investments, as well as agricultural development and food ministries.

“Ending the economy’s dependence on polluting lignite fuel is a key energy policy priority,” noted energy minister Costis Hatzidakis. “However, the withdrawal of all lignite units by 2028 must be done in a coordinated and responsible manner. The government’s top priority is to make the transition to the post-lignite era a fair one for western Macedonia and Megalopoli with claims of all necessary funds from Brussels,” he added.

A comprehensive, multidimensional and forward-looking plan will be presented by the new government council in mid-2020, the minister said.

Besides national and private funding, Greece will also seek EU support funds, including from the Just Transition Fund.

 

 

Gas supply for post-lignite west Macedonia added to grid plan

A natural gas outlet – stemming from the TAP project – for supply to Greece’s west Macedonian region intended to help cover the region’s energy needs in the post-lignite era is one of the few new features added to a gas grid operator DESFA ten-year development plan covering 2020 to 2029, slightly revised compared to its previous version.

The aim is to supply natural gas through pipelines to the region’s provincial cities of Kozani, Ptolemaida, Florina and Amynteo for use at telethermal facilities, currently operating through heat produced at power utility PPC’s lignite-fired power stations.

These PPC units, however, will soon be withdrawn as part of the government’s plan for a decarbonized Greece by 2028, incorporated into a new National Energy and Climate Plan.

The national gas grid’s 10-year development plan, prepared by DESFA, is undergoing public consultation for the second time since August for feedback on its minor changes, including the gas supply plan for west Macedonia.

The first round of public consultation was staged by DESFA while the second round is being held by RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy.

A total of 49 projects budgeted at over 2.5 billion euros, overall, are included in the ten-year plan. Responses to the latest public consultation procedure face a January 10 deadline.

Settlement of PPC €100m amount for north a first post-lignite support step

A planned payment of an outstanding power utility PPC amount of 100 million euros to energy producing municipalities in the country’s north for regional development, owed since 2014, represents a first step in the west Macedonia region’s gradual transition towards a post-lignite era.

The prospective payment of this amount to the region’s municipalities will be included in a PPC draft bill being prepared by the energy ministry for presentation in October, energypress sources informed.

Local municipalities are eagerly awaiting payments in order to finance the completion of vital infrastructure projects needed to continue telethermal supply when it will no longer be offered by lignite-fired power stations.

Florina and Amynteo are among the locations whose telethermal projects are to be developed through the payment of PPC’s development funds.

The prospective settlement represents a first step in the post-lignite support plan for Greece’s west Macedonia region, where PPC’s mining and electricity generation activities account for 45 percent of the regional economy.

The local economy of Megalopoli in the Peloponnese is also greatly dependent on lignite.

Municipalities will anticipate further support for economic stability following 2028, when all lignite activity is expected to have stopped in Greece, according to a plan announced last week by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York.

Plenty of ministries will need to coordinate on numerous issues if a smooth and punctual transition to the post-lignite era, scheduled for less than a decade away, is to be achieved. Greece does not have a good track record in achieving targets of this scale.

The move towards decarbonization is a European challenge concerning many EU member states besides Greece, including Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and Romania, all greatly exposed to lignite activity. They are hoping for generous support through Europe’s energy transition fund.

 

EDEY paving the way for hydrocarbon surveys in north

EDEY, the Greek Hydrocarbon Management Company, is preparing the ground for exploration work in the country’s north, in the Grevena area, as well as the wider west Macedonia region, through processing of seismic surveys and dialogue with local communities.

EDEY’s head official Yiannis Basias offered an indication of the hydrocarbon management company’s next steps at a recent signing ceremony for offshore licenses in the Ionian Sea and Block 10, off western Peloponnese.

He stressed that onshore areas also need to be explored, indicating Grevena would be one of these. The geological features of the Grevena region represent a continuation of Albanian territory being explored by multinational Shell.

Besides the potential of discovering hydrocarbon reserves, EDEY’s interest in Grevena and the west Macedonia region is also linked to a plan to replace lignite mining activities of the past, gradually winding down as a result of the EU’s decarbonization policies. Lignite deposits contain methane, which could be utilized in the domestic market and encourage entrepreneurial activities for continued regional economic growth and employment.

An older round of offshore licenses offered through a series of tenders staged by EDEY, beginning in 2012 with the Gulf of Patras license, will be completed with competitions for two blocks west and southwest of Crete, launched in 2017.