Hellenic Petroleum (HELPE)’s electricity-producing unit will begin proper operation tomorrow. With 390 megawatts of power and located in the EKO industrial complex in Thessaloniki, this is the first major private unit to produce electrical energy and has been in test operation since last September. The Development Ministry announced yesterday the beginning of commercial operation, on the occasion of the issuance of the unit’s license. The announcement came with optimistic statements by the ministry’s leadership regarding the course of the liberalization of the electricity market. The starting point for that will be the proclamation of the tender for the construction of the 900MW units by private investors, which the law dictates should join the grid by the end of 2010. According to sources, the first phase of the tender will refer to two 400MW units in the southern part of the country. The third unit is likely to be auctioned later, probably to be located in the country’s north. Eyeing the units in the south are the groups of Vardinoyiannis, Kopelouzos, Mytilineos, TERNA, Hellenic Technodomiki and Alamanis, which have licenses for production and installation. About to join in are Hellenic Petroleum, the Public Gas Corporation and Halyvourgiki, which are rushing to add an installation license to that of production to enter the bidding. HELPE management does not seem to share the ministry’s optimism about the Thessaloniki unit. This is an project left over from the previous administration, with which the current one, as it has repeatedly said, would not have proceeded for reasons related to the murky framework of the energy markets which have been prohibitive for the participation of other investors.