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Economy

Greece Rejects EU Call to Cut Gas Use 15%, But Sees Power Outages

ΑΤΗΕΝS – Greece’s New Democracy government said it won’t go along with a European Union request for countries to slash gas use by 15 percent by March, 2023 to deal with an energy crisis and soaring electric bills across the bloc.

The administration of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotaki had already revealed its own strategy to fire up coal plants again, scramble for sustainable alternatives and deliveries from other countries if possible.

But the worst-case scenario – which could cause trouble for Mitsotakis’ re-election bid in 2023 – also envisages blackouts and power outages if use can’t be reduced enough to prevent that.

Greece, like the EU, relies on Russian gas for up to 40 percent of its needs and those supplies were exempted from sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine but could dwindle or be cut off this winter.

Two-thirds of the gas is used by Greece to generate electricity and the shock came as the government had wheeled toward weaning off coal but has frantically been trying to get back to it for now.

Imports of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) were increased substantially in the first half of 2022, replacing much of the Russian sources but the government has been forced to subsidize bills for households that can’t afford electric bills.

The EU proposed a voluntary target to cut gas use by 15% from August to March, compared with their average consumption in the same period during 2016-2021 but it could become mandatory in an emergency.

“The Greek government does not agree in principle with the EU proposal for a 15 percent reduction in gas usage,” government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said, reported Reuters.

“We have submitted a series of proposals regarding gas prices …. and gas supply and we will insist on supporting them as a European solution,” he said, Greece recommending a cap on gas prices and joint purchases.

“Right now, Greece is prepared, it has the necessary infrastructure which can secure supplies even at the most adverse scenario of natural gas being cut off,” Energy Minister Kostas Skrekas told a Greek radio station.

“So we do not agree with an across-the-board mandatory 15 percent cut in (gas) consumption,” he said although the government’s own plan calls for businesses to reduce energy use.

Skrekas said that 70 perent of the natural gas imported by Greece is used to generate electricity, which means that any cuts would hit households and businesses, which would be a damaging blow to the government too.

Greece has an LNG facility near Athens and has recently leased a floating unit for the next 12 months to boost its storage capacity but that source isn’t enough to fulfill all the needs.

Rotating blackouts would be implemented if the other measures fail, those including using coal again, asking consumers to reduce power consumption at peak hours and stopping power exports, the energy regulator said.

Under EU guidelines, ahead of the winter, Greece would also need to store enough gas in other states to cover 15 percent – some 900 million cubic meters – of its annual use, as it has no gas storage facilities.

Greece is talking with Italy about the chance of storing gas there ahead of the winter, the news agency said, and has been in talks with the European Commission on whether it can store a smaller quantity in Italy.

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