THESSALONIKI – The Public Power Corporation (PPC) announced it will replace its heavily polluting power plant in Ptolemaida with a new «clean» unit with a capacity of 400 megawatts in the next few years. At its meeting with local bodies, the utility’s administration also pledged to relocate the nearby villages of Pontokomi and Mavropigi, in the prefecture of Kozani, and to draft a strategic investment plan for the improvement of the environment by taking measures for the polluting mines. Representatives of local authorities expressed their concern for the possibility of deindustrialization and rise of unemployment in the area if the recently published study by the company Booz Allen Hamilton is followed, concerning the reduction of lignite use for the production of electricity and the abandonment of certain plants. The PPC president and CEO, Panayiotis Athanassopoulos, told the meeting that «PPC has to remain the flagship of energy,» adding that «the existence of a national energy entity is essential for the country.» He also argued that the company should have starting making major investments from 1990. Some of the local representatives questioning Athanassopoulos said later he had not given them a clear answer as to which plants would close down according to PPC plans. However, it became obvious from the meeting and the statements by Athanassopoulos that PPC is planning by 2010-2011 to gradually close the plants at Ptolemaida that are part of the oldest and most polluting production unit in the area. This summer, measurements found that the plant’s emissions were four to six times above permissible levels, while PPC believes the plant is near the end of its working life. When Athanassopoulos was asked about the fine imposed on PPC by the Environment Ministry for the plant, he offered his «great apologies for the pollution.» The meeting further heard that the proportion of lignite used for energy production will decline from 62 percent today to 51 percent by 2016, although this is not related to the reserves in the Kozani-Ptolemaida basin, which could last until 2042. It was also decided to use local know-how and manpower for the creation of a natural gas unit by PPC in the future.