As Greece enters the final stretch of its general elections with the polls just a fortnight away, there seems to be a newfound optimism that the struggling economy will pick up again once the widely anticipated New Democracy administration comes into office.
News reports suggest that in anticipation of the July 7 elections, investors and stakeholders expect the new government to close a host of unresolved issues, mainly those concerning large development projects in the country and stalled privatisation plans that will inject fresh momentum into the economy.
According to the financial news portal Capital.gr, the outstanding issues are the commercial and residential development at the old Hellenikon airport in the Athens suburbs, further investments at Piraeus port and Eleftherios Venizelos airport, full privatisation of EKO-parent Hellenic Petroleum, speeding up licensing at Chrysos Halkidikis (Hellas Gold) and speeding up the Crete-Attica electricity interconnection, paving the way for the Crete-Cyprus cable.
The report said that all stakeholders (rating agencies, consultants and investors) have called for “leaps to be made” to fill the development vacuum of recent years.
“Allianz said that after a decade of recession, in order for Greece to cover the lost ground of recent years, investments, that remain at 70% below the 2009 levels, must be significantly enhanced,” Capital.gr reported.
This “effective period” of immediate and productive moves, will be the next 180 days, in other words, the day after elections to the end of the year.
“Buy then, the new government will have accumulated the necessary social approval and acceptance, with the possibility that within a two-year period, these investments will have a visible and quantitative result, both for the economy as well as for society.”
“This can be done immediately, as a number of significant investments worth €15 bln are facing obstacles. Their resumption will determine a lot about the course of the new government,” the report added.
Addressing a large crowd of supporters over the weekend at the Koule fort in Heraklion, New Democracy President Kyriakos Mitsotakis declared that his government “will raise no walls” and “will build bridges with all.”
In a specific reference to the 1000MW Crete-Attica electricity cable which EuroAsia Interconnector is on schedule to deliver by mid-2022, while an alternative Syriza-preferred project at least 12 months behind and at a cost of about €500 mln more, Mitsotakis said that “the renewable energy sources have a remarkable interest, but it is necessary to complete the interconnector.”
“The small interconnection [from Peloponnese] is going ahead, but the large [Crete-Attica] one is up in the air. This is a major concern and we will want this matter resolved and changed, because the ‘large’ interconnection is being promoted as a national project, and not a trans-European project, and hence is deprived of significant European grants (estimated at €355 mln),” Mitsotakis said.
He was trying to calm fears that the outdated power plants on Crete will be vulnerable to outages during the summer months, with rising temperatures and record tourist arrivals burdening the power grid even further.
“We have had unjustified delays by this government, that alleges that it cares for the environment and society.”
Meanwhile, in an interview with the Athens News Agency, Irene Stavropoulou, Head of non-interconnected island networks at the Administrator of the Greek Power Distribution Network (DEDDIE) admitted a delay in the Crete-Attica interconnection new ‘national’ project undertaken by transmission system operator ADMIE, placed it at least 12 months after the commissioning target set by EuroAsia.
She said that the large interconnection project linking Crete to mainland Greece, from Hania to Attica, will be completed in 2023.
“We all hope that it will be implemented according to the ADMIE plans and will be delivered within 2023.”
The new national cable project, recently awarded by the outgoing Energy Minister and the power regulator RAE directly to an ADMIE subsidiary, despite the Greek government having supported the EuroAsia Interconnector as a Project of Common Interest (PCI) since 2013, is still in the pre-tendering phase.
EuroAsia has long completed this process and is ready to announce the preferred bidder within the next few months.
Already, EuroAsia has concluded a 33-year lease agreement for the site of the Cyprus converter station near Kofinou and a similar deal is expected in Crete at a location suggested by the local communities, while environmental studies, stalled by the Greek government since last year, are now expected to go ahead.
EuroAsia is also recognised as a PCI project that will link the electricity grids of Israel and Cyprus to Crete and Attica.
As a PCI project, the EuroAsia Interconnector is eligible for grants from the European Commission’s ‘Connecting Europe Facility’, to a rate that may exceed 50% of the construction cost for the Cyprus-Crete-Attica interconnector.
Also, low-cost financing of the project, as a PCI, by the European Investment Bank (EIB) provides additional economic benefits to Greek consumers, which is estimated to total €500 mln compared with the implementation of the new ‘national’ project.
Cyprus wind farms want to see EuroAsia on time
Meanwhile, the association of private wind farm operators in Cyprus (CWEA), who have invested €350 mln in six projects with an installed output capacity of 157.5 MW, and a seventh unit coming online soon, announced that “as CWEA we have supported the EuroAsia Interconnector subsea cable since 2013 and it is very important for us that the initial plans and implementation agreements be respected.”
CWEA Executive Director Christos Tsingis said: “A political way should be reached between the governments of Cyprus and Greece, for the cable to continue [from Cyprus] all the way to Attica, independent of the Greek government’s decision for the Crete-Attica “Ariadne” interconnection be prioritised as a national project and exclusively by ADMIE.”
“We hope that initial plan is maintained, as the project promoter of the Israel-Cyprus-Crete-Attica electricity interconnection, on the basis of European Commission Regulation 347/2013, is working intensively for the implementation of the European PCI project 3.10 EuroAsia Interconnector within the approved timeframes, including the Crete-Attica section within 2022.”
With the RES contribution to the energy mix expected to reach 16% of national output by the end of 2020, wind farm and solar park operators in Cyprus are keen for the EuroAsia Interconnector to be commissioned by June 2022 (Crete-Attica) and December 2023 (Cyprus-Crete) which will end the energy isolation of the island, the only non-interconnected EU member state, allowing for smooth and efficient import and export of electricity, and ensuring security of supply.