Energy Minister Says Greece Facing Power Blackouts

Energy Minister Costis Hatzidakis. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Yiannis Panagopoulos)

ATHENS – With parts of Greece’s capital having experienced some blackouts, new Energy Minister Costis Hatzidakis said there could be power cuts because the debt-crushed state-owned public utility “is stretched to its limits.”

New Democracy took over from the Radical Left SYRIZA that was ousted in July 7 snap elections and leaving behind an electric company on the verge of collapse, partially because the Leftists wouldn’t allow power to be cut for some people who couldn’t pay for electricity.

Hatzidakis said work is underway to insure the power grid will operate during the high-peak summer months when air conditioning puts on an additional burden and as the country has already had some 100-degree days.

He noted that islands such as Crete and Rhodes are already using generators to compensate for any inadequacies in power supply.
He said the government was determined to save the Public Power Corporation (PPC) that’s on the edge of ruin because so many people and businesses don’t pay their bills, but the minister said there aren’t any private companies interested in a stake in the company.

When he was appointed, he said his first priority would be to keep PPC from going bust under the weight of a crushing debt.

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 available 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.