ECONOMY

Desperate moves to avert blackout

The caretaker government is in a race against time to avert an energy blackout the sector?s major funding problems could lead to, while the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) has asked the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) to take measures to protect the country?s electricity network, suggesting it could stop supplying private power producers, which owe it 300 million euros.

Finance Minister Giorgos Zannias and Environment and Energy Minister Grigoris Tsaltas held a broad meeting on Friday with representatives of all parties involved in the energy market, including Public Power Corporation (PPC). The meeting ascertained the immediate risk of a domino effect on energy companies, with unfathomable consequences for the country?s economy.

In its letter to RAE, DEPA highlighted its inability to pay its debts to its foreign suppliers. It will need at least 100 million euros in cash to pay Turkey?s Botas by June 15 and Russia?s Gazprom by June 22. Should it be unable to find this money by June 14, it will ask banks to forfeit the guarantees of private power producers and stop supplying their plants with gas, which would drive them into bankruptcy and cause serious problems in the country?s power supply.

PPC head Arthouros Zervos admitted to Reuters yesterday that ?there is a real threat of power cuts? and that ?this is an emergency and has to be addressed immediately.?

Friday?s meeting decided that the sole source of liquidity in this instance is the Deposits and Loans Fund. A first installment, amounting to 100 million euros, from the 350 million euros set to be given to LAGHE, the electricity market operator, could be disbursed to DEPA?s benefit by June 14.

A source leaked on Friday that Zannias spoke with Bob Traa, the senior International Monetary Fund resident representative in Athens, and convinced him to green-light the disbursement of the loan to DEPA, putting aside his demand for tackling the structural problems of the market first.

Zannias is also said to have asked Prime Minister Panayiotis Pikrammenos to authorize the release of the accounts by former alternative power suppliers Energa and Hellas Power, for the 80 million euros they owe to LAGHE to return to the energy market.