Lights Out: New Democracy Will Pull Plug on Utility Debtors

Αssociated Press

(AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis, file)

ATHENS – Trying to shore up Greece's state-run electric utility, the debt-laden Public Power Corporation (PPC,) New Democracy's Energy Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said he wants the company to turn out the lights for 30,000 consumers who haven't paid their bills.

It wasn't indicated whether that includes major businesses or just individual households after PPC's debt soared under the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA that at times forbid turning off the electricity in what critics said was a bid to win votes from people who couldn't afford to pay.

PPC's request is towards the autonomous grid operator, as Hatzidakis told a TV program he's first going after strategic defaulters who could pay but haven't and have used leniency programs to duck their bills.

He said based on the current conditions, a further privatization of PPC cannot proceed because no one's interested in taking on a money-bleeding operation, although the government still aims to find investors.

One short-term remedy to keep PPC afloat is a partial privatization of the Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operator (DEDDHE,) he added.

After warning PPC was on the verge of collapsing because of a mountain of debt and unpaid bills, another audit has shown first half results for 2019 staved it off, Hatzidakis said earlier in September after giving dire predictions for the company's fate.

A similar audit by Ernst & Young for 2018, when SYRIZA was in power, showed the company’s survival was at risk, as he had repeatedly said after New Democracy took office following its win in the July 7 snap elections.

Hatzidakis said a “very serious development was avoided, one with grave repercussions for the Greek economy,” a direct reference to PPC’s possible bankruptcy that could have affected Greek households and businesses dramatically.

The new audit showed that Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) fell in the first half of the year to 117.5 million euros ($129.26 million) from 182.9 million euros ($201.2 million) from the year before.

It wasn’t explained how there could be such a dramatic turnaround in the first half of the year when SYRIZA was still in power and its policies were as well and with worry the worst isn’t over yet as the company still struggled with big losses.