Greece gets exemptions in gas agreement

EU deal doesn’t eliminate negative impact, but does give Athens some breathing space

Greece gets exemptions in gas agreement

Greece secured two important exemptions in the agreement on gas consumption cuts approved on Tuesday during an extraordinary meeting of the EU Council of Energy Ministers. 

These deviations do not eliminate the negative consequences of the agreement on Greece’s energy system and economy, but they do limit them significantly and leave room for effective management.

More precisely, Greece asked and was successful in getting a clause that allowed the calculation of the 15% reduction in gas use based on the previous year, especially the period from August 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022, rather than the average of the preceding five years.

Due to this exemption, the obligation to reduce consumption is kept to a maximum of 15%, or 7.5 terawatt-hours, as opposed to the 24% reduction that would have been necessary according to the calculation using a five-year average.

At the same time, Greece, along with Spain, Italy and Portugal, was successful in securing a provision that allows for the exclusion of portions of natural gas used by power plants that are essential to the stability of the system from the 15% cap in the event of an emergency in the electricity generation sector.

This exemption is considered to be the most important for Greece since the electricity system is 70% gas-based and it would be practically impossible to ensure its smooth operation with limited gas loads.

However, the Commission must first give its consent and an indisputable documentation of the need for the gas plants before the agreement’s provision for this option may be implemented.

Greece was unable to obtain a quid pro quo in the form of exemptions for the gas it sells to third nations, which makes up 22% of its total imports.

The agreement provides an exemption for member-states to adjust their obligation to reduce consumption if they have limited interconnections with other states and can demonstrate that their export interconnection capacities or domestic LNG infrastructure are used to redirect gas to other member-states to the full extent. 

This exemption covers Spain, Portugal and three other EU countries with greater export potential, leaving out Greece.

The agreement however leaves industry completely unprotected, which will be the first to be asked to cut loads without compensation.

Energy Minister Kostas Skrekas presented the proposal submitted by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for the creation of a voluntary mechanism through which industrial consumers would be compensated for the reduction in the use of gas and electricity. 

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