Latest energy price surge reawakens market concerns

Energy market prices are on the rise again, serving as an unpleasant reminder of the upward trajectory experienced in previous months. Wholesale natural gas prices are no longer in double-digit territory, as was the case in recent weeks, but have rebounded to levels of approximately 150 euros per MWh, while wholesale electricity has surged to 330 euros per MWh over the past few days.

If this trend continues, then retail prices to be paid by consumers for energy from January onwards, the heart of winter, will be pushed up.

European authorities and consumers had felt some relief as a result of mild late-autumn weather around the continent, which helped subdue energy prices in November. But fears are now been reawakened following the latest surge in energy prices.

Two key factors, both hard to predict, are now at play and will influence energy prices in Europe. The duration of China’s deeply unpopular lockdowns, subduing energy demand in China, is one factor. Europe’s ability to keep energy storage facilities filled for as long as possible is the other factor. Both these factors will determine the duration and intensity of the new upward trend in energy exchanges.

Consumers in Greece can expect to be charged among Europe’s lowest retail electricity price levels in December, as the current month’s prices are shaped by the country’s month-ahead model, requiring all suppliers to declare prices for each forthcoming month by the 20th of the preceding month.

December’s retail prices were set by suppliers on November 20, when wholesale electricity prices were down to levels of between 115 and 120 euros per MWh. It remains to be seen what lies in store from January onwards.

 

Windfall tax for oil and gas firms, government decides

Windfall profits earned in 2022 by petroleum companies, through their refineries, as well as by natural gas wholesalers, will be subject to an extraordinary solidarity tax, the government has decided, energypress sources have informed.

The money to be collected through this extraordinary tax will go towards the Energy Transition Fund to support the government’s energy subsidies offered to households and businesses.

The government’s plan to move ahead with this extraordinary tax is linked to a probable European-wide solidarity tax on windfall profits earned by fossil fuel companies.

The Greek plan will be shaped along the lines of a windfall tax model imposed on electricity producers.

This new windfall tax on oil and gas companies was discussed at last Friday’s emergency meeting of EU energy ministers. It was supported by Greek energy minister Kostas Skrekas, as well as his German and Spanish counterparts.

The Greek government appears determined to implement the windfall tax on oil and gas companies even if it fails to receive EU approval. Athens recently imposed a 90 percent windfall tax on electricity producers without EU approval.

 

 

Greek, Italian PMs to reiterate call for EU price cap on wholesale gas

The leaders of Greece and Italy will once again call for an EU-wide cap on wholesale gas prices, this time as an even more urgent measure given Russia’s latest gas-supply cuts to Europe, at a summit of EU leaders beginning today.

However, it remains unclear if Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his Italian counterpart Mario Draghi can convince fellow EU member state leaders to join them for a wider European front favoring the cap.

The two leaders will not be entering the summit talks with high expectations as their cause has not been included on the summit’s agenda of topics to be discussed. Even so, the cap issue is expected to be discussed tomorrow, given the latest surge in energy prices.

The Greek and Italian leaders are expected to highlight the alarming rise of natural gas over the past ten days, up 50 percent, as well as yesterday’s dire warning by Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, telling Europe to prepare for a full disruption of Russian natural gas.

Mitsotakis, the Greek leader, had also called for a cap on wholesale gas prices in March.

Authorities in Italy, one of Europe’s most dependent countries on Russian energy sources, have announced that they are examining an emergency plan, including electricity and gas use restrictions for households, businesses and industry, if Gazprom does not resume regular gas supply to the country, cut by half just days ago.

Slovakia has also reported receiving less than half of the usual volumes. France has informed it had received no Russian gas from Germany since mid-June, but the country is getting supplies from elsewhere.

Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Poland have already had their Russian gas deliveries suspended after refusing a demand to pay in Russian roubles.

 

Wholesale natural gas spot market launch expected in March

The launch of the wholesale natural gas spot market is now imminent as pending details are being resolved to enable a start expected in March.

RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, has already taken care of the majority of regulatory matters and made further progress yesterday, announcing three further steps.

The authority approved regulations for natural gas trading on the energy exchange. It also approved a decision concerning risk management procedures and the transaction clearing system, as well as product specifications for the exchange’s gas trading platform.

The trading platform will incorporate a day-ahead market with products covering three-day periods, as well as an intraday platform.

The wholesale gas spot market, promising more competitive prices as well as greater transparency, will come as an addition to bilateral contracts, currently the only trading method available for transactions between importers and suppliers, as well as for major-scale consumers, who independently secure gas supply deals for their needs.

 

Further 15% electricity rise in January, unpaid bills a threat

The continuing rise of natural gas prices, prompting higher electricity prices around Europe as Russia holds back on full supply to the continent over its Nord Stream 2 certification dispute with the EU and the European Commission appears to have run out of possible remedies, threatens to push electricity prices even higher in January, by as much as 15 percent.

Any government support through energy subsidies seems futile under these continually worsening market conditions.

A typical household consumer who was charged a tariff rate of 24.5 cents per KWh in December will, under the current conditions, face a tariff level of 28.4 cents in January, a 16 percent increase.

At the Greek energy exchange, wholesale electricity prices yesterday settled at an exorbitant level just short of 416 euros per MWh, after peaking at 542 euros per MWh for an hour, a rise prompted by Monday’s wholesale natural gas price of 146 euros per MWh.

The problem is affecting all of Europe, the energy price surge continuing around the continent. The EU has maintained a relatively passive stance despite Europe’s rising energy poverty. In Greece, the threat of a new round of unpaid receivables for suppliers is intensifying. This would be a destabilizing development for the market.

Government officials estimate that a wholesale natural gas price average of 70 euros per MWh in 2022, up from 20 euros per MWh in 2020, a year of lockdowns, would deprive the GDP of more than four billion euros. This figure could double if current conditions are sustained.

 

Electricity bills now hit by record CO2 prices, at over €81 per ton

CO2 emission right prices are soaring, breaking one record after another to exceed levels of 81 euros per ton and looking likely to rise even higher, which comes as a new round of upward pressure for household and business electricity bills, already severely impacted by the surge in natural gas prices.

CO2 emission right prices have now doubled since April, when prices were at levels of about 40 euros per ton.

CO2 emission right prices are now approaching the levels reached by natural gas on the Dutch TTF platform, seen reaching levels of between 80 and 90 euros per MWh in the short term.

Though electricity price levels have slightly deescalated so far in December, to 217.26 euros per MWh from 230 euros per MWh five days earlier, will make little difference to retail prices, analysts have noted.

Energy company officials believe a a drop in electricity prices is possible in spring, but not all the way down to pre-energy crisis levels.

These officials are also anticipating energy crises to become a regular occurrence that will keep pressuring households and businesses.

 

Gas spot market absence ‘key to higher wholesale electricity prices’

Greek gas market peculiarities and the non-existence of a spot market for natural gas were attributed as key reasons behind wholesale electricity market price differences between Greece and markets abroad, local electricity producers told RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, following the authority’s request for explanations.

RAE held talks with representatives of power utility PPC, Mytilineos, Elpedison and Heron on the issue of wholesale electricity price levels.

The Greek gas market operates on a month-ahead model without the possibility for supply through spot markets, all four electricity companies told RAE.

At present, roughly half of the country’s electricity is generated by natural gas-fired power stations.

Energy exchange’s gas market trading details forwarded for public consultation

The Hellenic Energy Exchange has forwarded for public consultation a list of proposals it has submitted to RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, concerning natural gas market details ahead of the prospective energy exchange trading of gas products.

Matters addressed include the procedure to be applied to determine energy exchange  participation rights, charges and commissions for gas product transactions, professional competence requirements as well as product specification rules.

According to one proposal, an annual subscription fee of 7,000 euros will be set for participants.

Also, daily commission fees of 0.005 per MWh for gas products traded in the day-ahead and intraday markets has been proposed.

The energy exchange’s public consultation procedure is planned to end August 31.

Energy exchange gas platform to be presented Monday

The energy exchange is nearing an expansion through the addition of a new trading platform for natural gas market products, scheduled to be presented by the Hellenic Energy Exchange and gas grid operator DESFA this coming Monday.

Related public consultation, already in progress, is planned to run until the end of August.

Until now, the Greek energy exchange has only facilitated electricity market trade.

The energy exchange, in association with DESFA, has been working on the new gas market platform since last year, the aim being to launch it within 2021.

The exchange’s new gas platform is expected to help establish Greece as a trading hub of geostrategic and geopolitical significance.

Gas market competition intensifies, TAP lowering prices

Competition has intensified in the country’s wholesale gas market at a time of changing conditions and negotiations for 2021 deals between importers and major-scale consumers, namely electricity producers and industrial enterprises.

Many gas supply contracts expired at the end of 2020, requiring a large number of players to renegotiate deals. Some of these big consumers have already reached new agreements with gas wholesalers.

Market conditions have changed considerably compared to a year earlier. Supply of Azeri gas through the new TAP route has already begun to Greece as well as Bulgaria, increasing overall supply, which has obliged, and permitted, gas utility DEPA to pursue a more aggressive pricing policy as the company pushes to absorb quantities it has committed to through clauses in existing contracts.

Also, the TAP-related increase of gas supply to Bulgaria, combined with this country’s inflow of Russian gas through oil-indexed price agreements, currently relatively cheaper, is now depriving Greek wholesale gas companies of entry into a neighboring market that was available for trading activity last year.

Furthermore, conditions have also been impacted by a competition committee decision no longer requiring DEPA to stage gas auctions to make available a share of its gas orders to rival traders. This measure was introduced and maintained to help liberalize Greece’s gas market.

The new conditions are pushing Greek traders towards more competitive pricing policies. They appear to have acknowledged that their profit margins will be narrower in 2021.

DEPA, helped by the fact that a sizeable proportion of its gas purchases is oil-indexed, is said to be playing a dominant role in the ongoing negotiations for new contracts with customers.

It should be pointed out that, unlike rival gas importers such as Mytilineos, Elpedison and Heron, all benefitting through self-consumption of a large part of their gas orders for gas-fired power stations they operate, DEPA does not self-consume.

Prometheus Gas, a member of the Copelouzos group, remains a formidable player, while the power utility PPC and petroleum company Motor Oil are less influential in the wholesale gas market.

Higher LNG prices, compared to pipeline gas, will decrease demand for LNG this year and weaken the interest of traders for LNG supply through gas grid operator DESFA’s Revythoussa terminal on the islet just off Athens. Last year, this facility was a hot spot of trading activity as a result of lower-priced LNG.

New market dry-run testing to end this week, target model launch on Nov. 1

The dry-run testing procedure for market systems ahead of the forthcoming target model launch, scheduled for November 1, will be finalized at the end of this week, RAE, the Regulatory Authority for Energy, the energy exchange and power grid operator IPTO have jointly decided.

Dry-run testing of the day-ahead, intraday and balancing markets began on August 3 to test their limits and operating ability ahead of the target model’s launch, aiming for market coupling, or harmonization of EU wholesale markets.

Market coupling, to increase competition and lower wholesale energy prices, will ultimately lead to energy union, the EU strategy seeking to offer consumers secure, sustainable, competitive and lower-cost energy.

All domestic parties involved, as well as the energy ministry, have ascertained the Greek launch will take place on November 1 following previous delays.

Even during these final days of simulated testing, day-ahead market prices have, at times, continued to display discrepancies with Day-Ahead Schedule price levels.

This has been attributed to the absence, from dry-run testing, of many traders who participate in the Day-Ahead Schedule, meaning the price levels of the two situations are based on different data.

Though balancing market prices have improved considerably as the simulated testing has progressed, following discrepancies, conclusions cannot be made until actual market conditions come into effect.

Meanwhile, public consultation by RAE on a market monitoring mechanism and a market surveillance mechanism for the new markets is due to be completed next Monday.

The market monitoring mechanism will seek, through structural and performance indicators, to evaluate levels of concentration and the market power of each participant, while the market surveillance mechanism will focus on identifying and combating strategies detrimental to competition.

The next step, once the new markets are launched, will be to market couple, initially with the Italian market, by the end of the year, followed by the Bulgarian market, in the first quarter of 2021, Greek energy minister Costis Hatzidakis recently informed.

 

 

DEPA, rebounding in wholesale market, looks to capture 40%

Gas utility DEPA appears set to regain lost ground in the wholesale market as a result of reduced gas prices negotiated over the past few months with international suppliers.

Talks for new deals between the company’s administration and customers, primarily electricity producers and retail gas firms, have indicated DEPA’s market share will increase this year.

DEPA expects a market share rise to a level of approximately 40 percent, up from 33 percent at the end of 2019.

The Greek gas utility recently renegotiated improved supply deals with Russia’s Gazprom and Algeria’s Sonatrach, while a favorable verdict by the ICC (International Court of Arbitration) in an overcharging case against Botas, Turkey’s state-run crude oil and gas company, came as an added boost. DEPA should receive a retroactive amount of around 200 million euros, according to an initial estimate.

DEPA’s revised Gazprom supply deal limits oil-indexed gas pricing to 60 percent of the total order. The other 40 percent will be priced in accordance with the Dutch gas trading platform TTF, one of Europe’s biggest hubs, where prices are significantly lower.

In mid-January, TTF price levels for LNG shipments in February were 14 euros per MW/h, including Greek gas grid entry costs, compared to over 20.5 euros per MW/h for pipeline gas, a 45 percent difference.

DEPA is currently also renegotiating the terms of its take-or-pay clause with Gazprom, requiring the Greek utility to absorb at least 80 percent of its annual contracted amount of 2 billion cubic meters, or 1.6 bcm.

As for Sonatrach, supplying LNG to DEPA, the Greek utility is believed to have reduced amounts and also achieved a discount.

DEPA’s contract with Gazprom, the utility’s biggest in terms of volume, runs until the end of 2026 with an option for a 10-year extension. ICC

The Greek gas utility’s second-biggest contract is with Azerbaijan’s Socar, running until 2040 for one bcm per year and a minimum level of 0.9 bcm. The Turkish Botas contact is DEPA’s third biggest, securing 0.75 bcm, annually, until 2021.

Copelouzos, DEPA secure PPC gas supply deals for 4.5m MWh in 2020

The Copelouzos Group and gas utility DEPA have emerged as the winning bidders of a power utility PPC tender for gas supply to the latter in 2020 totaling 4.5 million MWh. The terms include an option for supply in 2021.

Besides the Copelouzos Group and DEPA, a third participant, Mytilineos, took part in the tender.

The Copelouzos Group has successfully bid to supply 2.5 million MWh of gas to PPC, while DEPA has taken on the other 2 million MWh needed by the power utility, energypress sources informed.

PPC is one of Greece’s biggest natural gas consumers. Its needs are expected to grow further as a result of the power company’s upcoming entry into Greece’s natural gas retail market, a move carrying ambitious targets. PPC also plans to enter the wholesale gas market.

PPC failed to secure capacity slots for 2020 at the Revythoussa LNG terminal, just off Athens, through a competitive procedure from November to earlier this month.

Success here would have enabled PPC to import LNG shipments in 2020, as the power utility had done in the previous year.

PPC now intends to bid for an LNG capacity at the prospective Alexandroupoli FSRU in northeastern Greece during a binding second-round market test expected following the festive season.