Hammering out an energy policy

Greek consumers of electrical power should brace themselves for a difficult summer. Yesterday’s accident at the Ptolemaida power plant in northern Greece will intensify pressure on the already-strained electricity supply. Power blackouts, which were already expected, will become more common and problems with Greece’s power grid should increase by the year. Consumer needs are growing and the gap between supply and demand is deepening. The Public Power Corporation has shied away from investments in electricity production as well as distribution. At the same time, plans to deregulate the country’s energy sector, which could ease demand on the state-controlled corporation, have stalled. According to classic economic theory, when there is excess supply or demand the pricing mechanism corrects it. The fact that demand is growing but supply remains steady shows that the price is set at a low level for reasons that have nothing to do with the market: It is a political decision which is based on social criteria. But this discourages private investment while encouraging consumer demand. However, these are not the only problems. Plans to promote alternative sources of energy have stalled for years because of the reactions by local communities to the installation of wind parks. On the other hand, many of Greece’s buildings are energy guzzlers. Greece has been taken to the European Court for failing to implement the directive on the energy performance of buildings. No one knows how much we spend on heating, air-cooling systems and lighting. Moreover, transmission and distribution losses of PPC’s aged power grid are very big. All this underscores that a large number of complex issues must be resolved before Greece can be self-sufficient energy-wise. The government must hammer out a comprehensive strategy to deal with these problems, starting with the implementation of European Union energy regulations.