Hellenic Petroleum (HELPE) is looking for a power-producing foreign partner to expand its present capacity but actual implementation of the plan is conditional on a number of factors, the group’s president, Efthymios Christodoulou, said on Friday. HELPE’s first power-producing plant, T-Power, with a capacity of 390 megawatts, was launched in Thessaloniki late last year, the first major such plant that is not operated by Public Power Corporation (PPC). However, it was hampered by uncompetitive prices relative to PPC’s and has since restricted itself only to commercial operations, buying power from neighboring Bulgaria and exporting to Italy, where rates are much higher. «A power production unit, especially when it is located in the north, cannot stand on its own in the international competitive market. We are talking about increasing our capacity to 1,000 MW, alone or with a partner, but implementation will depend on a number of factors,» Christodoulou told a press briefing in Thessaloniki. He said the expansion plan will also depend on the completion of the institutional framework for the deregulated market, and the terms of the Power Transmission System Operator (DESMHE) first tender for privately operated plants. HELPE’s Managing Director Panayiotis Cavoulakos noted the wide divergence of electricity wholesale prices between Greece and the rest of the European Union (50-55 euros/MW against 70-75 euros/MW, and 90-110 euros/MW in Italy), which works as a disincentive to attracting investment. Christodoulou described the difficulties as teething problems and predicted that T-Power will be economically viable in about two years’ time. Separately, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas yesterday signed a decision regarding the pricing of transmission rates for natural gas and liquefied natural gas. The decision is a step further in the deregulation of the natural gas market for power producers which, to be completed, needs the issuing of a management code for the network, expected by the end of April. According to the decision, the annual rate for 1 MW transmission capacity of the network (around 90 cubic meters) is to be reduced from 693.3 euros this year to 625.6 euros in 2007 and 541.2 euros in 2008.