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Lights Out: Greece’s Energy Minister Says Blackouts Are Coming

ATHENS – With electricity prices soaring and uncertainty about energy supplies from Russia this winter, Greeks have been warned that they could face blackouts at home, and dimmed streetlights.

Power outages also could see historic archaeological sites lights dimmed as the country faces periodic cut-offs, Environment and Energy Minister Kostas Skrekas told Kathimerini about what could be a grim time.

He said those are the worst-case scenarios so that the European Union can hit its goal to reduce consumption of natural gas by 15 percent although many countries in the 27-member bloc were granted various exemptions.

That target is set to hold even if Russian gas continues flowing as while it was spared from EU sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine there could be a reduction in the amounts sent, or a turnoff altogether.

Before households are directly affected, municipalities will have to take the lamps out of 10 percent of their street lights and switch off lighting on monuments at 3 a.m. for an indefinite period.

The measures initially will be voluntary but could become mandatory if not enough local authorities volunteer, Skrekas said.

“We must all understand that we cannot behave as if nothing’s happening around us,” he said. “There is a war that is destroying a country and is also feeding an energy crisis the likes of which we have never seen… we must all realize we cannot waste energy,” he said.

An extensive campaign to urge households to cut their energy consumption will take place. “Of course, the measure of last resort is an imposed consumption cut on household consumers through rolling blackouts… we cannot exclude anything.”

It wasn’t clear how industries and businesses would be affected but the New Democracy government – with Prime Miniter Kyriakos Mitsotakis facing re-election in 2023 – plans to offer support on top of subsidies given households who can’t pay electric bills and otherwise could turn their fury on him.

Anticipating the trouble coming, industries have started to change the mix of fuels they use and Greece is going back to coal-fired plants that were being phased out but turned on again to generate electricity

Consumption of natural gas by companies in the first half of 2022 already fell 71.06 percent compared to 2021, to 1.67 terawatt-hours, and now natural gas accounts for only 5.51% of Greek industry’s fuel consumption, the report said.

It wasn’t explained, however, if that’s the case why anxiety is ratcheting up so high about a reduction or loss of the Russian supplies and Greece’s Public Power Corporation has been asked to double energy productions.

That means continuing to use polluting brown coal to at least 2025 although the government planned to stop it in 2023 and no certainty that it won’t remain as a fuel for even longer.

Skrekas said that lignite would again become more important even without the mandated consumption cuts, as global energy prices have soared. “The need to cut the use of natural gas arises first of all from the fact that we import all of it,” he said.

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