Open Letter to the Greek Government: Toward a Better Energy Future

July 15, 2015 | 00:00
Open Letter to the Greek Government: Toward a Better Energy Future
Open Letter to the Greek Government: Toward a Better Energy Future
In light of ongoing events in Greece the Greek Energy Forum, a network of Greek energy professionals, has issued an open letter to the Prime Minister of Greece and the relevant Ministers with a set of strategic priorities in the field of energy in the country, identified by the industry experts. The GEF remains open for cooperation with the current Greek Government in pursue of a better energy future for Greece and the European Union.

The Greek Energy Forum (GEF) is an organisation of volunteers – think tank - founded in January 2013 in London and staffed by Greek professionals working in the energy sphere. Our members hold down positions of responsibility within major international companies of the energy sector, bringing with them rich backgrounds, experience and professional knowledge covering almost the entire energy market value chain. The goal of the GEF is not in any way linked to the servicing of selfish business interests. On the contrary, all the members of the GEF – being Greeks with specialist knowledge and experience in the energy sector – have voluntarily undertaken the task of promoting our country’s potential and comparative advantages to a wider audience outside of Greece and also to supporting the development of the national market through targeted proposals and the transfer of knowledge.

Besides the love for our homeland that unites us, our members are also united around certain common principles pertinent to the future of Greece’s energy policy: We believe in the unquestionable comparative advantages of the Greek energy sector. We fully trust the power of healthy market competition. We strongly support private initiatives and entrepreneurship. We uphold the necessity of the independence of institutions entrusted with the supervision and management of the energy market.

Within this context, we will continue to set ourselves at the disposal of each Greek government, as we have done in the past, in order to promote strategic objectives which we consider crucial for the development of the Greek energy sector. After all, we are bound together as an international organisation whose mission is to support with actions and proposals, a better energy future for Greece. On behalf of the GEF, we are issuing an open invitation to the Prime Minister and relevant Ministers in order to cooperate on the immediate implementation of actions included in the following strategic pillars:

1. Support For Investments In Energy Savings And Energy Efficiency

Greece needs a modern regulatory framework for the operation of Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) and development of energy saving and energy efficiency projects. Targeted regulatory interventions can immediately tackle hurdles such as: the absence of a framework for heat trading and active management of renewable energy sources; the lack of incentives for the energy upgrades of facilities in the private sector; the absence of a load balancing market in gas and electricity. The issuing of financial tools such as green bonds by the local authorities (based on the American PACE model) could be very helpful in this respect as well as the provision of guarantees from European bodies.

2. The Liberalisation Of The National Energy Market

We believe this objective ought to be considered as one of Greece’s highest priorities. At present, Greece’s energy market ails from a significant amount of state intervention and distinctly lacks the necessary conditions conducive to the development of a competitive environment. The Greek government can promote structural reforms in the national energy market. As an example, we refer to the widening in scope of the term “choosing customer” for natural gas, the amending of terms for calls for tenders for natural gas undertaken by the Greek national gas company (DEPA), establishing rules to allow for the possibility of commercially trading LNG quantities in tanks, the liberalisation of bilateral contracts for the supply of electricity, third party access to lignite deposits, and the ability to use trade optimisation infrastructure for renewable energy sources.

3. The Increase In Share Of Renewable Energy Sources In The National Energy Mix Using Market Mechanisms Which Encourage Private Initiatives

We believe that the Greek regulatory framework for renewables should be harmonised in line with EU 2030 targets, and specifically make use of the cooperation mechanisms outlined in directive 2009/29/EU for the promotion of the use of renewable energy sources and cross border energy trade. In particular, we believe that the Government can promote a new competitive model based on market mechanisms driven by carefully set targets based on technology and geographic location. The Direkt Vermarktung (direct marketing) model which is being applied in Germany could serve as an indication. Such a model would drastically reduce the associated financial burdens on our national economy.

At the same time, reducing the energy footprint of the demand sector can be achieved by focusing on the transport sector. Examples include promoting use of LNG on sea going vessels, trains and trucks, utilizing the geographically strategic position of the existing LNG terminal at Revithoussa. Strategic initiatives of the EU such as the Blue Corridor would contribute in promoting the above initiatives of our country. We also support the effective promotion of electric and gas-powered cars and buses, the electrification of the railway and public transport network, the use of smart meters and the implementation of "smart grids".

4. Promotion Of Cooperation With “Champions” Of The International Energy Industry

Greece can highlight its competitive advantages through collaboration with companies / organizations, leading in the international energy scene, thus giving its energy potential global visibility. We can apply innovative practices such as "virtual interconnections" fueling our islands and remote mainland areas by applying liquefied gas technologies (small scale LNG, LNG on trucks). We can improve network management and thus reduce the cost of penetration of renewable energy sources (RES) in local distribution networks through “smart grid management”. We can reduce energy costs for consumers by applying reciprocal tariffs, promoting smart meters and developing the market for European ESCO’s. In all of the above fields, cooperating with “international champions” can be accomplished by entering into strategic partnerships, establishing corporate ventures and through privatizations. This will be the most effective way for the immediate repatriation of young Greeks with high-level scientific and professional specializations.

5. Exploration And Exploitation Of Hydrocarbons – Development Of Domestic Production And Indigenous Sources

We believe that attracting well-established international companies to ensure the safe exploration and extraction of hydrocarbons in conjunction with the close cooperation with Greek companies will maximize the benefits from the exploitation of domestic natural resources. We believe that the most effective way to achieve this - in the fierce competition currently prevailing in the international hydrocarbon market - is to establish a stable and favorable regulatory framework that would minimize the risk of doing business in our country. Furthermore, it requires organising a well-targeted and dynamic informational campaign for international companies, as well as a parallel initiative informing the Greek society with regards to a realistic timetable and the real possibilities of our country in this field.

6. Promotion Of Cross-Border Energy Trade And Hydrocarbons – Development Of An Energy Hub In Greece – Development Of Interconnectors

Achieving this objective requires the implementation of both institutional interventions and other activities targeted at developing the physical infrastructure. Firstly, further to the liberalization the national energy market, this would include the creation of an "Energy Exchange" in Greece. In addition to our harmonization with the institutional framework for a single European internal market, this institution will provide comprehensive and quality-oriented services to meet the needs of the producers and especially the needs of the consumer, all under strict public supervision, to ensure transparency and compliance with rules of equality for all. Thus, we will move away from the current model of “obligatory joint ventures” for the functioning of the energy market in Greece, with its inherent disadvantages of lack of competition, and instead move towards a new and modern business environment, as is the case in the rest of Europe.

Secondly, various energy infrastructures need to be developed - particularly cross-border pipelines - and transnational cooperation aimed at the commercial exploitation of these infrastructures for the benefit of the Greek economy and the economies of neighboring countries. This will strengthen the energy market in the Balkan region, which will also play a catalytic role in political stability, and development and cooperation between nations. We believe these projects need to be urgently implemented and without delays, which will decisively contribute towards creating a mature energy and hydrocarbons market in the Southeast Mediterranean.

The national effort to attract investment will significantly strengthen the promotion of transparency in energy prices which is usually achieved via the liberalization of energy markets. Currently, the lack of price transparency complicates the assessment of any energy investment by individuals. Increased competition and the gradual creation of an orderly and independent national market will make the value of certain investments more lucid, such as the construction of gas storage facilities, the creation of new interactive interfaces, and the upgrade in networks or the expansion of LNG tanks. Thus, a promising environment that really favors the development of cross-border trade in our region is born with Greece, undeniably, at its epicenter.

We strongly believe that the implementation of the above objectives are able to lead to the establishment of a competitive energy scene, of creativity and opportunities for the young generation of Greeks. This is something our country definitely needs today more than ever. The recipe for success has only two ingredients: identifying feasible targets by studying successful international practices in the energy sector and the determination of the Greek government to proceed with the regulatory and institutional decisions without any financial costs.

The Greek Energy Forum publicly states that it can actively help in acquiring the first ingredient. However, the Greek Government is the only one which can provide the second. Hence, we are appealing to the current leadership: let's work together to get our country up above. We are always at your disposal.

Lagakos, Alexander - President of the Greek Energy Forum
Dr. Gkanoutas-Leventis, Angelos - Vice-President of the Greek Energy Forum

Image: Greek flag by Vince Smith, CC-BY license.
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