Rokas Law Firm
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Energy & Natural Resources
Parliament recently passed a law modernising environmental legislation and harmonising Greek law with EU Directives 2018/844 and 2019/692. The law contains new legislative measures which will significantly amend, standardise and simplify the current licensing procedure for renewable energy power plants – particularly the procedure for obtaining a renewable energy source production licence and an environmental approval.
Greece recently adopted its first National Plan for Energy and Climate, which regulates all energy sectors. The plan defines Greece's energy and climate targets up until 2030, as well as priority policies and implementation measures which should help to both develop and reform the energy sector by 2050. The plan will also facilitate the shaping of the country's energy and climate strategy for the years 2030 to 2050.
Under the new law on the liberalisation of the energy market, the Public Natural Gas Company (DEPA) will be spun off into three distinct undertakings: DEPA Infrastructure, DEPA Commercial and DEPA International Projects. The privatisation tender is organised by the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund. Parties intending to participate in the tender are requested to meet various legal, financial and technical requirements.
Law 4643/2019 on the liberalisation of the Greek energy market, the modernisation of the Public Power Corporation, the privatisation of the Public Natural Gas Company and the support of the renewable energy sector was recently published in the Official Journal. The new legal provisions aim, among other things, to facilitate and expedite the licensing procedure for numerous power production applications already pending before the Regulatory Energy Agency.
Under the new law on the liberalisation of the energy market, the Public Natural Gas Company (DEPA) will be spun off into three distinct undertakings, two of which will be completely privatised. This transformation will significantly alter DEPA's unbundling and privatisation scheme, which was adopted in March 2019 (ie, before the elections and respective reconfigurations in Parliament and government).
The renewable energy sources (RES) sector of the Greek energy market is undergoing continuous and significant reform. Among other changes, the Hellenic Energy Exchange has commenced operations, RES producers now participate in the day-ahead market and the Greek islands' renewables sector has been expanded.
The minister of environment and energy recently amended the competitive procedures for determining operating state aid granted as feed-in premiums for 2019 and 2020. Further, the latest competitive procedures resulted in significant price reductions for photovoltaic (PV) and wind projects. However, owners of small PV plants have claimed that they have been disadvantaged by the merging of all PV plant categories into one.
In April and May 2019 solar and wind renewable energy systems producers will compete for the first time for operating state aid and a place in the Greek energy market in a joint competitive tender procedure organised by the Energy Regulatory Authority. Despite certain doubts, the market signs indicate that a significant number of players and capacities plan to participate in the upcoming joint competition.
A draft law on the further unbundling and privatisation of the public natural gas company DEPA was recently submitted to Parliament. The draft law proposes that DEPA be divided into two companies: DEPA Infrastructure and DEPA Trade. The main opposition to the draft law centres on the fact that the state will retain a 14% stake in DEPA Trade, which some have argued will allow the state to retain too much control and potentially veto strategic policy issues.
The second regular wind and photovoltaic (PV) state aid auction held in December 2018 resulted in the award of all of the capacities for two of the three categories of renewable energy system project, a significant (up to 26%) reduction in the reference prices compared with the initial reference prices and the cancellation of the auction for large PV projects by the Regulatory Energy Authority due to insufficient competition.
The new renewable energy sources state aid scheme was introduced in Greece in 2016 by way of Law 4414/2016. On 18 October 2018 the Regulatory Energy Agency launched the second regular competitive procedures for determining the reference prices of state aid for wind and solar energy producers in Greece, which offers a total tender capacity of 423 megawatts. The first regular competition procedures were conducted on 2 July 2018.
Pursuant to the commitments undertaken by the Greek state after the first memorandum of understanding between the Hellenic Republic, the member states of the European Union, the Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank was signed, the privatisation of energy companies in Greece has significantly progressed. The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund – the legal entity entrusted with implementing the privatisation programme of the Hellenic Republic – has undertaken a number of relevant projects.
Greece began reorganising its renewable energy system state aid scheme in 2016 by enacting Law 4414/2016. The minister of environment and energy has provided the legal framework for implementing the law and organising the competitive procedures to determine the reference prices for certain projects receiving operating aid. The first regular competitive procedures were initiated in April 2018, following the Regulatory Energy Agency's launch of three tenders. The tenders will be implemented in two phases.
Parliament recently passed a law regulating the procedure for the divestment of approximately 40% of Public Power Corporation's (PPC) lignite-fired production units and lignite exploitation rights. The aim of the law is to increase competition in the Greek electricity market. Currently, over 60% of the electricity produced in Greece is generated through the combustion of locally extracted lignite, while PPC accounts for 98% of all lignite production in the country.
The Greek energy sector is expected to expand over the next few years as a result of, among other things, the optimisation of the energy mix – which consists of a reduction in fossil fuel-generated electricity and an increase in energy from renewable energy sources (RES) – and the liberalisation of the electricity and natural gas markets. Greece is also expected to create energy investment opportunities due to the availability of RES potential in the country and ongoing substantial infrastructure projects.
During 2017, a group of experts worked on the modelling and organisation of the Energy Exchange with the intention that it would be established and begin operating in the first half of 2018. As such, the Ministry of Energy and Environment recently presented, through a public consultation, the draft Energy Exchange Law, which would amend the Target Model Law and the Energy Law.
In 2016 Law 4389/2016 introduced the sale by auction of electricity forward products with physical delivery by the Greek vertically integrated Public Power Corporation (PPC) to eligible electricity suppliers. The purpose of these auctions is to reduce the PPC's retail market share in the interconnected system, enhance competition and provide better quality products and lower prices to consumers.
Two international tenders granting exploration and exploitation rights for the block areas of Southwest and West Crete, as well as the Ionian Sea, were recently published in the Official Gazette. This publication follows the expressions of interest by the consortium Total-ExxonMobil-Hellenic Petroleum for Southwest and West Crete and Energean Oil and Gas for the Ionian Sea. The expected announcement by the Official Journal of the European Union will also allow other interested stakeholders to submit offers.
Decision 51 of the Government Council for Economic Policy was recently published, approving the process for a new international tender for the acquisition of a 66% stake in the national natural gas transmission system operator. The new tender was launched by the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund on June 26 2017 and will remain open to receive respective expressions of interest until August 7 2017.
The Ministry of Environment and Energy recently launched a public consultation on the draft Law on Energy Communities. Given the large range of activities and numerous incentives that the draft law proposes for energy communities, these communities may become an important vehicle for developing business activities and increasing energy efficiency in local communities.
After several years of preparation and analysis of different solutions for the reform of the electricity wholesale market and its harmonisation with the European Union, a new law has been enacted to implement the agreement on fiscal goals and corrective reform. Before the law was enacted, studies of the Greek electricity market were carried out while the Regulatory Energy Agency conducted public consultations on the implementation of the target model.
Unlike in most other EU countries, natural gas became part of the Greek market only recently following the launch of organised commercial import of natural gas at the end of 1996. Until then, gas was mainly used for electricity generation. Although the Greek supply and transmission of natural gas has not yet reached maturity, there have been significant attempts to liberalise the market in the past decade, particularly in the past couple of years.
Law 4414/2016, which reforms the renewable resources (RES) and co-generated heat and power (CHP) support scheme, was recently published in the Government Gazette. The law aims to bring the existing support mechanism for RES electricity and CHP into line with EU guidelines and address the insufficient funds in the RES account. Further, it aims to integrate RES electricity and CHP with the interconnected system and develop a sustainable investment environment for the future.
Parliament recently approved a law that introduces significant changes to the Greek electricity market. The law aims to reduce the share of the Power Public Corporation (PPC) in the electricity supply market, unbundle the transmission system operator from the PPC (while partially privatising it) and regulate the temporary capacity mechanism.