Energy savings are urgently needed in July

Saving 300 megawatts in electricity consumption will save us from a possible energy blackout this summer. The question is what kind of consumption will be reduced and what measures will secure this savings. The authorities responsible for the country’s electricity supply have been, since last September, in search of an extra 300MW that will spare us a nightmarish blackout. As they have noted, problems in electricity supply are mainly attributed to the instability of the country’s system due to the concentration of production in the north and of consumption in the south. These problems are not solved by adding new production units unless there also are measures aimed at the rational management of demand. This practically means a change in energy-consumption behavior across the entire consumer spectrum, through incentives and counterincentives. For the summer of 2005, the need for efficient management of demand is more dire due to the impossibility of adding new units to the power grid on time. The measures that the Public Power Corporation (PPC) has proposed to the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) and the Development Ministry regarding the handling of demand this summer focus on 100,000 big industrial and commercial consumers and include packages of special rates with bonuses and penalties. The measures are aimed at saving energy in July, when demand usually peaks. RAE officials say, however, that «unless we have an extended heat wave plus a major problem emerging in the system’s main (production and transmission) components, then the measures can guarantee against a blackout.» The need to save 300MW is based on the forecast for a 3 percent rise in consumption compared with July 2004. This rise in demand, PPC suggested in its board meeting last week, is expected to be absorbed by large consumers. PPC is proposing to RAE and the ministry three new pricing categories for consumers. The first one involves about 15 energy-consuming industries, whose pricing rates will, for the first time, include the term «auxiliary services,» and who will be asked to reduce consumption in order to win a bonus (reduced rate). The second category refers to big consumers which are time-charged, and to which the ability to cut consumption by 10 percent of their maximum power is provided, when there is a demand problem, through bonuses, or, in the case of non-compliance, penalties (fines). The third category includes some 40,000 mainly commercial consumers who do not have time-charging and cannot have it installed by July. This category is also called upon to cut its consumption by 10 percent compared to last July under the threat of a fine. Everyone agrees that this is a hard-done-by category, as it is the only one asked to reduce its consumption for an entire month whether there is a demand problem or not. Most consumers and households will be asked to show some «patriotism» in the national cause of energy savings, and asked to respond each time the consumption rate tests the limits of the system’s capacity. Through saving campaigns by the PPC and the Development Ministry, consumers will be asked to cut down on air-conditioner use, which accounts for most of the energy they consume. In the case of any prolonged heat wave, this patriotism may become a rare commodity. Irrigation consumers will also be asked to contribute toward saving 300MW, by not watering fields in July between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. If this «suggestion» is not followed, PPC could pull the plug on customers using power exclusively for irrigation. Public administration buildings will also shoulder some of the saving responsibility, by reducing the reactive load they consume: By July they must install condensers to cut losses in energy. Authorities are looking for a way to make the installations through direct commissions, without tenders. Setting the example will be the RAE building on Panepistimiou Street, that of PPC on Halkokondyli Street and the Development Ministry on Mesogeion Avenue. A safety net against a blackout in July will come in the form of sufficient quantities of electricity imports mainly from Italy, for which PPC has now been invited to sign contracts. Furthermore, PPC this week won the tender for the purchase of a Bulgarian state thermal power plant at Bobov Dol for 74 million euros. This interconnection with our neighbor can secure extra quantities for the Greek grid in cases of demand. Finally, the increase of reactive load will be helped by the operation of wind power generators installed at Lavrio by construction firm Terna for PPC, producing 120MW. If the measures bear fruit, we will avoid power cuts this year, with a bit of luck. Conditions will be much better in 2006, as the system will also include the 400MW Hellenic Petroleum unit.