ECONOMY

Sioufas warns of ‘difficult’ energy years; quality to be a top priority

The year 2005 will be one of an «aggressive energy policy,» designed to meet the requirements of the «difficult» years of 2005 and 2006, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas told Parliament’s Production and Trade Committee yesterday. «The 2005-07 period is one of major challenges and the ministry will have to undertake many initiatives simultaneously. The goal is to secure the country’s energy sufficiency, promote the use of natural gas and other alternative forms of energy and the country’s international energy links, but also to create the appropriate environment for large scale investments,» he said. Sioufas said a committee headed by his deputy, Giorgos Salagoudis, will issue its report on the measures required to bolster the country’s energy grid early next year and present it to Parliament. The ministry will also move in the direction of market deregulation, in line with EU directives and international practice. «We shall proceed prudently and responsibly to the deregulation and strengthening of the market,» said Sioufas, adding that the country’s rich potential in renewable energy sources bodes well for attracting large foreign investment schemes. Other policy axes will be the expansion of natural gas – «a top strategic option» – initially to schools and hospitals, a drive to reduce latent power production capacity and a public campaign to target saving energy and promoting alternative forms. Separately, Sioufas said the government is launching a drive to «raise quality as an issue of the utmost priority everywhere.» Speaking at a joint session of the National Quality Council and the Hellenic Standardization Organization, he said Greece, not being a low labor cost country, needs to make «leaps in the domain of productivity, standardization and quality» to meet foreign competition. «The National Quality Policy aims at the creation of the appropriate environment for enterprises to improve their performance through quality, thus improving the competitiveness of the economy,» Sioufas said. Ministry officials said specific targets include upgrading the country’s infrastructure services for quality improvement, consumer and environmental protection, and preventing unfair competition. Bulgarian power exports to grow SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s electricity exports will grow by 9 percent to 5.95 billion kilowatt hours this year, state power export monopoly NETC said yesterday. The leading power exporter in southeastern Europe, NETC covers up to 75 percent of the region’s power deficit and has secured electricity export contracts worth 6.0 billion kilowatt in 2005, it said. «For this year, the main part of our exports, almost 3.0 billion kilowatt hours, went to neighboring Greece, while the rest was sold mainly to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Romania,» NETC CEO Vassil Anastasov told reporters. Following the reconnection of the Balkan power grid after 13 years to the rest of Europe last month, the firm is cautiously aiming for participation in EU power exchanges.