Consumption of natural gas has reached an all-time high in the last few days as more and more Greeks turn to this form of energy for their heating needs now that the price of heating oil has soared after the consumption tax hike in October.
The need for other forms of heating has also resulted in a surge in the consumption of electricity for the operation of air-conditioners and heaters, pushing the country’s energy system to its limits.
Greece’s natural gas reserves are rapidly dwindling and Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) is considering asking electricity-producing plants that operate on natural gas to reduce their output so as to cover the needs of households first until new orders of gas arrive from Algeria.
However, this would add more strain to the power grid as demands for electricity have surged to unusual levels for winter: Public Power Corporation (PPC) reports that every evening consumption peaks at around 8,500 megawatts. Its officials are keen to stress, though, that there will be no problems with the country’s grid.
Grid data show that demand for electricity peaks from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., reaching 8,500 MW at 8 p.m. on Friday evenings. This would normally cause no concern to the grid operator as in the past, in summer periods, it has successfully handled demands that exceeded 10,000 MW several times, mainly during heatwaves.
But this surge in demand cannot be tackled with the output of PPC’s lignite plants alone, as it cannot exceed a specific level due to the age of the plants and the low quality of the lignite. That would mean the natural gas-powered plants would have to contribute to cover demand, but they have to ration their gas consumption for priority to be given to household use.
Last Friday the plants of the PPC and of private owners that have a capacity of 400-440 MW were asked to operate up to 250 MW, with the exception being only one of the three of the Mytilineos group that operated up to 400 MW for some time.
According to DEPA figures, while the usual daily consumption of natural gas in winter time amounts to 12-13 million cubic meters, last week the average daily demand exceeded 16 million c.m. This means that gas stores on the island of Revythousa, used for emergency coverage, are emptying. DEPA sources said that such consumption constitutes a new record, but stressed that there is no reason for consumers to worry as the company has managed to bring forward by one week, from December 26 to this Wednesday, the arrival of a large order of Algerian liquefied natural gas.