Greece’s New Energy Minister Wants Electric Company Rescue

Energy Minister Kostas Hatzidakis. (Photo: Eurokinissi/Giorgos Kontarinis)

ATHENS – Energy Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said his first priority in the new New Democracy government would be to save the country’s electric utility, the Public Power Corporation from going bust under the weight of a crushing debt.

In April, then-major opposition New Democracy spokeswoman Sofia Zacharaki said, “PPC is on a path to disaster for which SYRIZA is fully responsible,” referring to the Radical Left party of former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, ousted in the July 7 snap elections.

“Mr. Tsipras’ government took over PPC with 90 million euro in profits and is delivering it with 900 million euros in losses,” she said, adding that the Leftists were “leaving behind a time bomb within the greatest enterprise in Greece. The citizens can be certain that those responsible will be held to account.”

Hatzidakis said the state-owned utility was “on the verge of collapse,” but said there was no intention of selling off a stake to a private company because no one was interested after the company’s revenues fell partially because the SYRIZA government at one point said no one’s lights would be turned off for non-payment.

With about a 70 percent share in the domestic retail market, PPC is struggling because of some 2.4 billion euros ($2.69 billion) in unpaid bills. The company has also had to sell power to alternative producers at below-cost prices to help open up the Greek retail market under a post-bailout agreement between Greece and its international lenders, said Reuters.

That requirement and higher costs for carbon emission rights were among the factors behind a large loss that PPC reported for 2018 but SYRIZA said the company was just fine and the CEO said there will be a profit this year, at odds with the data.

Company officials said they would securitize part of the backlog of unpaid bills to improve liquidity and recover money owed by what it termed strategic defaulters who can afford to pay but aren’t, the report also added.

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