The Energy Regulatory Authority is expected to approve the plan for the first of three electric power plants by Aluminium of Greece within the next two months, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos said yesterday after talks on the scheme with company officials at its installations in Aghios Nikolaos, Viotia. The plant will operate on natural gas and is part of a larger scheme designed to meet the greatest part of the company’s energy consumption in the future. The initial investment, budgeted at around 45 million euros, will be subsidized under the European Union’s Third Community Support Framework. Tsochadzopoulos said Greece is at the crucial phase of beginning the deregulation of its power industry which will rely on the use of natural gas, mainly, but also on lignite and renewable energy sources, in the context of the new European energy market. Aluminium of Greece Chairman Iason Stratos said the overall investment plan for the three plants is estimated to cost 150 million euros and is projected to ensure the company’s viability for the next 25 years. «Our contract for electricity with the Public Power Corporation (PPC) expires in 2006. .. What we intend to create is a system of joint production of electric energy and steam, which will comfortably meet two thirds of our total energy requirements,» he said. The Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) should be able to begin supplying the power plant within two years, at rates that will be known by the end of March, he added. Aluminium of Greece has been the country’s largest power consumer since being set up in the early 1960s; critics have often charged that the rates at which it obtains the electricity from PPC are too low.