New calls to open up energy market

The Greek government was urged this week to proceed rapidly with opening up the energy market, before the EU forces it to do so. Dimitris Kopelouzos, CEO of Prometheus Gas, which imports Russian natural gas to Greece, and of Damco Energy, specializing in constructing and operating major energy projects, told a press conference on Wednesday that any further delay in liberalizing the electricity market will have dire consequences both for the Public Power Corporation (PPC) and Greek investors. Kopelouzos described how obscure the situation is in the energy sector, discouraging private investments. He said that in the electricity market, where he has secured licenses for two power plants, the legal framework does not allow the funding of new units: «None of the licensed companies can proceed with negotiations with banks and constructors for new electric power plants, as both the operating status of the market and whether this will allow the funding of new units through project finance are not known yet.» Kopelouzos further suggested that the scheduled tender by the Hellenic Transmission System Operator (DESMIE) for units with a capacity of 900 MW does nothing for the liberalization of the market. Maintaining the PPC’s monopoly will lead to forced liberalization by the EU, as occurred in Italy with ENEL, which was obliged to sell a third of its generating capacity to third parties. He warned that this model will benefit neither the PPC, which will lose much of the market, nor investors, who will have to face competition from wealthier foreign rivals. To avoid this, Kopelouzos proposes a market opening to suppliers who would purchase part of the PPC-produced power to resell it to the market. He voiced his support for the PPC chairman Ioannis Palaiokrassas’s proposal on construction of new units jointly with private investors, totaling a capacity of 1600 MW. «We would give serious consideration to such a proposal,» he noted. The natural gas sector is also in a dead end for investors, Kopelouzos said, predicting it will deteriorate further if the sale of the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) to Spanish company Gas Natural does not proceed. He said the government’s solution, with the same investor trading and operating the transmission network, restricts competition. He favors privatizing DEPA’s commercial section and keeping a state gas transmission monopoly, but said «while only a few months are left for the abolition of the monopoly on electricity distribution and less than two years for all consumers, excepting households, we still don’t know the cost of use of the network and thus of natural gas prices from next summer.»