ECONOMY

Blackout a possibility

Greece may face a power blackout in the event of a long heat wave, partly because of laws barring the Public Power Corporation (PPC) utility from investing in new generating plants, its chairman said yesterday. «This year we are prepared. We believe there is no major risk of a blackout, but no one can rule this out. If there is a heat wave of more than three days, we cannot rule out any eventuality,» Yiannis Palaiokrassas told shareholders at their annual meeting. Greece suffered its worse blackout in a decade last July, with just a month to go before the Athens Olympic Games, leaving the capital and large parts of the country’s south without electricity for hours during a heat wave. Palaiokrassas said the lack of new capacity at the country’s dominant power company meant there was a strain on the system during peak periods. «In recent years, based on law, PPC has been excluded from new investments except for the renewal of old (plant) capacity of 1,600 kilowatts,» he said. The legislation is aimed at encouraging private sector companies to build power plants. Palaiokrassas said measures taken by the government, including a system to manage demand and limit consumption during peak summer periods, should avert risks of a blackout. He did counsel consumers, however, to cut back on consumption of the most energy-consuming devices in early afternoon hours in July. An official from the Ministry of Development said a campaign to limit energy consumption in public buildings and private sector offices and factories will start soon. On this year’s outlook, Palaiokrassas said that rising global oil and natural gas prices are expected to lift PPC’s costs. He did not provide details. PPC will report first-quarter results by June 15. Palaiokrassas dismissed fears voiced by PPC workers that the company could emulate telecom operator OTE’s recent deal with trade unionists to trim about a third of its work force in a bid to cut costs and shore up profits. «There are no similarities with OTE. Employees’ productivity is already high and increasing,» he said. On fixed-line carrier Tellas, a joint venture with Italy’s Wind, Palaiokrassas said the operator may break even or possibly post a small profit this year. PPC’s share of Tellas’s loss narrowed to 8.2 million euros in 2004 from 26.9 million in 2003. Shareholders approved management’s proposal for a 2004 dividend per share of 0.90 euros. The stock will trade ex-dividend today. (Reuters, Kathimerini)