20 Kasım 2011 Pazar

Greece plans to connect islands to Turkish grids

Friday, November 18, 2011
GÖKHAN KURTARAN - gokhan.kurtaran@hurriyet.com.tr
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News

Connecting Greek islands on the Aegean Sea to Turkish electricity grids may help overcoming recent political problems between the two countries, Greek Energy Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou tells the Daily News.

Connecting Greek island to Turkish electric grids is technically easer than feeding them from the Greek mainland, minister says. Hürriyet photo

The Greek Energy Ministry’s new plan to tap into Turkish grids to meet Greek islands’ electricity needs could boost flagging Ankara-Athens relations that have been strained by offshore Greek Cypriot gas exploration, Greece’s energy minister has said.

“We have talked with Turkish officials previously on connecting Greek Islands to Turkey [for electricity] and we are still considering this,” Giorgos Papaconstantinou, Greece’s energy and environment minister, said Nov. 17 on the sidelines of the Atlantic Council Black Sea Energy and Economic Forum in Istanbul.

“We have always wanted to connect the island to mainland Greece, but there is a possibility that we might connect islands to Turkish grids.” The minister said the move may be more affordable and efficient for Greece.

Speaking about the tensions related to Greek Cyprus’ offshore exploration, Papaconstantinou said, “I can see the nervousness of Turkey, but it will recede with time.”

Turkey’s state run oil company’s decision to ink a deal for onshore and offshore exploration with Dutch energy giant Shell next week is “no threat for Greece,” he added.

As long as the exploration is carried out according to international laws, “Turkey should go ahead,” the Greek minister said.

Greek energy privatization
“Turkish companies can also take part in Greek energy tenders,” said Papaconstantinou.

As Greece’s budget crisis drags on, the Greek state-owned natural gas company, DEPA, is preparing for privatization. Under a proposed plan, the state will sell a bulk of the 65 percent of shares it currently holds in the company; Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) will take over the remaining 35 percent.

“We have no discriminative rule against Turkish firms,” Papaconstantinou said, adding that Socar, the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan, was among the possible bidders.

The minister also said tenders would take place by December for the privatization of DEPA. The Greek government may unbundle DEPA, which also owns natural gas administrator company DESPA and continue the privatization process as planned, he said.

DEPA repaying BOTAŞ
DEPA is also beginning to pay back some of the money it owes Turkey’s state-run pipeline company, BOTAŞ, following an increase in prices due to changes in the energy relationship among Azerbaijan, Turkey and Greece, DEPA Chief Executive Officer Harry G. Sachinis told the Hürriyet Daily News on the sidelines of the conference.

“Turkey has had some disagreements with Azerbaijan regarding gas prices for over three years. Once the price was agreed between Turkey and Azerbaijan, [Turkey’s state-run pipeline company] BOTAŞ claimed additional capital from Greece for previous gas purchases,” he said.

The total amount was nearly $300 million and DEPA paid nearly 60 percent of the sum in the last month, he said.

Sachinis said DEPA’s profits increased by nearly 20 percent this year and “basically the firm has enough funds to pay the total sum to Turkey.”

“The Nabucco [pipeline project] is too big to handle due to its size and investment return time,” Sachinis said, adding that the Interconnector Turkey-Greece-Italy natural gas pipeline project (ITGI) would be the “best plan.”

The ITGI project aims to establish a gas transportation capacity of nearly 12 billion cubic meters a year. “The capacity of the line could be increased to up to 20 billion in a few years’ time,” he added.

Friday, November 18, 2011

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