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Lights go out before Christmas

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Open-ended scheduled power cuts will begin Wednesday following a Transmission System Operator (TSO) decision to safeguard the stability of the Cyprus grid during strike action.

In comments to state radio CyBC, TSO spokesperson Vrahimis Koutsoloukas said the operator took the decision as the power supply could be compromised by electricity authority staff deciding to pull the plug on six out-of-date steam turbines at the Dhekelia power station.

The blackouts will affect the districts of Nicosia, Larnaca and Famagusta from 5 pm to 9 pm as of Wednesday.

Power cuts will last between 30 minutes to an hour at a time on alternating days.

Paphos and Limassol will only be affected should there be an unexpected fault in the system.

It is understood that the power cut schedule depends on when trade unions call off their strike.

“The TSO is working feverishly to cope with the closure of the six electric steam units in Dhekelia due to the planned strike announced by EAC union workers, which will leave most power generation for the island from Vassiliko,” said Koutsoloukas.

He appealed to the public to be prepared to use generators where uninterrupted supply is vital.

More details are still being determined, Koutsoloukas said, with a further announcement expected later Tuesday.

The issue arose after unions decided to pull the plug on six out-of-date steam turbines at the Dhekelia that pollutes the environment.

The industrial action includes a work-to-rule and overtime ban.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, the spokesperson for the Electricity Authority of Cyprus, Christina Papadopoulou, said that although the EAC is on the same page with unions, they feel industrial action will do more harm than good.

“Although of small capacity (60 MW each), the turbines offer system security, stability and flexibility,” said Papadopoulou.

As she explained, the six turbines, albeit outdated and energy-intensive, allow for better management of the participation of RES in the electricity supply.

She confirmed that this would not only cause a production deficit but make it difficult for the entire grid, hindering the smooth use of energy from photovoltaic or wind farms.

The unions argue that the EAC cannot cope with the increase in penalties imposed by the EU for the use of the Dhekelia turbines, which in turn, is inflating consumer electricity bills.

Extortion

Energy Minister Natasa Pilides characterised measures by EAC workers as “primarily political,” saying they were extortionate and would hurt ordinary people, who will be asked to pay even greater costs.

The EAC also wants the government approves 375 new positions at the authority. The Finance Ministry has recently greenlighted 146 of the positions requested.

Meanwhile, business leaders said industrial action would inflict irreparable damage on businesses as power cuts happen during the busy festive season.

The Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) pointed out that keeping the six steam-powered units offline poses great risks for businesses and households.

“Such an action is expected to affect and endanger hundreds of businesses, especially in this critical period ahead of the Christmas holidays, since December is the month with the highest sales of the year. In addition, it will cause inconvenience to thousands of citizens during the holidays.”

The Federation of Employers & Industrialists (OEB) called on the EAC unions to suspend the strikes and enter a dialogue with authorities to resolve any disputes.