HELPE accuses PPC of pricing out competitors

Two major state-controlled utilities, energy company Public Power Corporation (PPC) and refiner Hellenic Petroleum (HELPE), are at loggerheads over the former’s lock in the power procurement sector and its ability to price competitors out of the market after HELPE’s energy production unit in Thessaloniki remained shut for the second day in a row rather than sell electrical power at a loss. Thessaloniki Energy, HELPE’s energy production unit, runs on natural gas while 70 percent of PPC’s output comes from units running on lignite or hydroelectrical power. According to the operation regulations for the «deregulated» energy market, the Electric Power Transmission System Operator (DESMHE) calls upon producers to submit bids for supplying the market. On Monday, the first day of operation of the Thessaloniki Energy unit, it offered electricity at the price of 60 euros per megawatt-hour (MWh). PPC offered between 26 and 28 euros per MWh, leaving Thessaloniki Energy with the dilemma of either selling at PPC’s price at a loss of between 150,000 and 200,000 euros or keeping the unit shut. It chose the second option. Yesterday, PPC’s offer was for 28 euros per MWh, forcing Thessaloniki Energy’s unit to shut down again. Prospects remain bleak since, even at a time of peak demand, PPC’s price offer is not expected to exceed 55 euros per MWh. HELPE managers were livid at PPC, accusing it of underhanded pricing methods and manipulation of the market, in which it has a monopoly, since no private operator has joined in yet. PPC responded yesterday to those accusations, calling them «unfair» and adding that it follows to the letter the regulations concerning electricity transactions, even though it considers them «inimical.» PPC adds that its units at Lavrion and Keratsini, close to Athens, offer even higher prices than Thessaloniki Energy (70 euros/MWh) but their offers are accepted for reasons of system stability. Greece’s energy grid is considered «unstable» because most of the production of electricity takes place in the north while consumption is much heavier in the south, especially in the Athens area. This has led the current HELPE management to blame its predecessors for making a wrong choice in locating the energy unit. They still, however, blame PPC’s pricing policy.