Greece’s Hunt for Red Gas Replacement: LNG, Lowering Thermostats

ATHENS – Worry that Russian gas – exempted from European Union sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine – will be cut off this winter has Greece putting together a contingency plan counting Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and turning down the thermostat in public buildings.

Greece’s crisis management group met to review supplies and project usage and ways to conserve while using alternatives to Russian fuel, said Kathimerini, with a report that there would be enough power.

That was based on the conversion of five technically capable units from gas to diesel and the stable participation of lignite units at 10 percent of daily electricity production, the report said.

But it all hinges on whether there will continue to enough LNG as Greece, like the EU, gets up to 40 percent of its energy from Russia, where President Vladimir Putin has used it, critics said, to blackmail the EU into backing off.

If LNG supplies run low in the winter the plan then moves to cutting electricity use, first in industry, which would be another blow to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis as he faces re-election in 2023 if not sooner.

Without enough storage facilities, the Energy Regulatory Authority said that gas importers should maintain a safety stock of 1.5 terawatt hours in Italy and 0.6 terawatt hours for power generators.

But that is costly, and would cost the power generators 320 million euros ($329.6 million) just as the government is holding down their ability to pass on costs to consumers whose electric bills have nearly doubled.

For now there is enough LNG but this is summer and the paper said the capacity of the terminal at Revithoussa is at a high level, and the floating storage unit (FSU) that has arrived there increases the storage capacity by 145,00 cubic meters with companies reaching out to procure more.

The government also said that it will move to cut electricity consumption by at least 10 percent this year compared to 2019 at the same time it eased health measures during the COVID-19 pandemic to bring in hordes of tourists, seeing restaurants, taverns, bars and hotels pumping up usage.

The measures would see public office buildings this summer required to keep air conditioners 27 degrees Celsius (80.6 Fahrenheit) or above and not higher than 19 degrees Celsius (66.2 Fahrenheit) in the winter, no word on how that would be policed or enforced or include the Parliament.

Cooling-heating and office equipment will be switched off when there are no employees on the premises. Heating and cooling systems must undergo maintenance once a year, the report said.

A manager will be appointed to monitor the implementation of the measures in each public sector building and those who meet required targets will get subsidies but no word of penalties would be imposed on violators.

Greece can cope with potential cuts in Russian gas supply because of the availability of LNG, Energy Minister Kostas Skrekas said after meeting with energy suppliers and grid operators, reported Reuters.

The country relied on Russian gas via the TurkStream pipeline for 40 percent of its needs in 2021 as well as 70 percent of gas imports and wants to wean off dependence on Russia.

“Greece has the capacity to make it through possible cuts in Russian supplies,” Skrekas said, adding that it gets sufficient imports from the United States to keep the flow going.

A storage and regasification terminal off Athens will see its capacity ramped up with the arrival of a new storage vessel, while gas utility DEPA and other Greek gas buyers have lined up additional LNG cargoes if necessary, Skrekas also said.

The government has been in talks with Italy to see whether it can store gas there, as it has no gas storage facilities and may need to store enough gas in other states to cover 15 percent of its annual use for the winter and five gas-fired plants are standing by to switch to diesel, he said, the report added.


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