Big steps taken to free up energy

The government approved four draft bills yesterday aimed at deregulating the country’s energy market in an overdue move that will bring the sector in line with European Union directives. Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said the bills complete the legal framework under which the country will deregulate the energy and natural gas markets. Greece has been under pressure from the EU for dragging its feet over freeing up the energy sector. It is the only state of the first EU members with an effective power monopoly. The Commission sent a warning letter to Greece in March concerning its lack of action on the deregulation front. The guidelines approved by the Cabinet meeting yesterday also allow for the production of environmentally friendly biofuels. «By 2010, about 5-6 percent of the petrol consumed will be from biofuels,» Sioufas said. The minister did not specify when the draft bills will be submitted to Parliament. The union group of the Public Power Corporation (PPC), the country’s energy monopoly, are opposed to the liberalization and have announced rolling 24-hour strikes. They are also protesting the lifting of permanent employee status for new workers. The dates of the strikes have yet to be announced. Sioufas said the government has considered their arguments but added that the changes are necessary and overdue. The last draft bill approved yesterday relates to the establishment of an independent energy board to help advise governments on strategic energy issues.