Hellenic authority launches consultation over natural gas supplier DEPA
The Hellenic Competition Commission has asked for industry views on steps taken by natural gas incumbent DEPA to open up the Greek market.
A source within the commission told ICIS it will probably reach a decision in a matter of weeks, adding that at this stage it is not clear what actions, if any, will need to be taken.
Some market participants have suggested that commitments made by the state-owned supplier in 2012 have done little to promote liberalisation.
New processes focused around three key DEPA pledges: increasing access to cross-border pipelines; quarterly auctions of 10% of the volume of gas sold in the previous year; and increasing the flexibility of supply contracts with industrial end-users ( see ESGM 15 November 2012 ).
The last point allowed companies to reduce quantity commitments with DEPA in order to secure alternative supplies. However, with few real competitors available, these organisations simply purchased gas from DEPA through the quarterly auctions.
One market source said: “It is not really an auction because the price does not really go above the reserve price, so it is a lot of hassle for not a lot of outcome, and we have discussed this with the Competition Commission. This auction was supposed to give competitors access to DEPA’s portfolio on equal terms, but it is offering gas to its customers rather than its competitors.”
One power trader told ICIS his company has been arguing for years that real competition cannot exist until the monopoly is broken. His organisation participated in one quarterly auction, but said that without fundamental changes around liberalisation the status quo will probably be maintained.
He said: “We participated in one tender, but it did not really have any value for us – it is just another game by DEPA to avoid any real competition.”
The commitment to increasing access to the country’s entry points has been criticised from the outset. DEPA reduced its capacity at the pipelines connected to Turkey and Bulgaria from 95% to 55% and offered the spare capability free to other companies as it did not pay for access itself.
The system was launched in April, but since then there have been no takers, with market participants saying that with no liquid spot market in Bulgaria or Turkey, it is impossible to secure a contract for import ( see ESGM 18 April 2013 ).
A source within DEPA recently told ICIS there is currently no plan to change the way these auctions are managed.
If the Hellenic Competition Commission decides further action is required, it has tools, including financial penalties, to enforce a liberalised agenda.
DEPA did not reply to ICIS requests for comment. Ben Samuel
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