How Greece becomes a net exporter of energy

, SEE Energy News

Greece, previously a net importer of energy, is on its way to becoming an exporter of electricity and gas in the Western Balkans region. Most of the electricity produced in the new gas power plant, as agreed by PPC, DEPA and the investor, Kopelouzos Group from Alexandroupolis, will be exported to Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Serbia, after it is put into commercial operation in the fourth quarter of 2024. In none of these countries are there any plans to launch new natural gas units to cover their needs in the coming years.

Greece will also export to the region the largest part of LNG, which will be supplied from 2023 by the Greek-Bulgarian gas pipeline (IGB) through the new gas terminal in Alexandroupolis. Gas will also be delivered from there to the new power plant, which is in the immediate vicinity. This will enable the export of electricity to the Western Balkans.

The new 840 MW power plant in Alexandroupolis – probably the most efficient in the Balkans, the 182-kilometer Greek-Bulgarian gas pipeline, the regasification terminal (FSRU), also located in the capital of the prefecture of Evros, with a capacity of 5.5 billion cubic meters per year, and other energy units that are promoted on the territory of Greece, they are not isolated and unrelated projects.

They are all part of the same equation, with Greece striving to achieve a central role in the transmission of energy in the south of the continent, which wants to leave Russian gas pipelines. Energy enhances the geopolitical importance of the port of Alexandroupolis – apart from being a key link in Greek-American cooperation, it aspires to become one of the largest energy hubs in Southeast Europe.

Thanks to this, the energy giants launched investments in conventional power plants, worth several billion euros, even in a controversial environment, due to the restrictive conditions of the new European green policy. Thus, three more, with similar technology, were added to the Alexandropolis project. The new power plant of the Mytilineos group, with a capacity of 826 MW, should be put into operation in the first weeks of 2023. They are followed by Elpedison’s investment, that is, the GEK TERNA – Motor Oil partnership in Thessaloniki and Komotini.

The price of natural gas is expected to fall in the coming years (currently EUR 94 per MWh compared to EUR 150 at the beginning of the month), which again makes it a very attractive energy source on the long road of green transition. The conditions for a drop in gas prices are reinforced by global trends, from Germany to Greece, which include a large number of FSRUs, i.e. LNG terminals (four have been put into operation in Greece alone), and this makes investments like Alexandroupolis attractive. The same applies to the fact that gas will inevitably be a transition fuel in the next 20 years, during which renewable sources will gradually become dominant in the energy mix.

When it comes to lignite, the European energy crisis will set back the withdrawal of lignite. Lignite will not regain the position it held in Greece until the mid-2000s, although the crisis brought it back into play. The fact is that there is investment interest in reopening old mines, and PPC has set a goal to significantly increase lignite production next year in order to cover urgent energy needs in the event of a complete interruption of Russian gas supplies, but this is only a temporary solution. Lignite belongs to the past.