Three years ago, an affiliate of the International Association for Energy Economics (IAEE), a renowned non-profit organisation dedicated to advancing the knowledge and understanding of energy economics, was established in Greece by Dr. Kostas Andriosopoulos. Known for his expertise in energy financing and the geopolitics of energy, Andriosopoulos decided to bring IAEE to his home country to strengthen Greece’s role in the European energy transition. The Hellenic Association for Energy Economics (HAEE) now works tirelessly to produce research on the Greek energy sector and bring together experts from all around the world to discuss energy economics and Greece’s burgeoning role in the industry.
“We promote ourselves as being the bridge between the Greek energy sector and the global energy scene with a large pool of experts from the academia, from the public sector, policy makers, and of course the industry,” said Andriosopoulos, who serves as HAEE’s president.
One of its many events, the organisation puts together an annual conference in Athens where key players meet to exchange ideas on current energy events and opportunities in the Greek energy sector. The third annual conference, held in May and entitled “Energy Transition: European and Global Perspectives”, brought together C-level executives from leading national and international energy corporates, academics, diplomats, and leading government members from both Greece and the European Union. It focused in part on the sensitive and ever-changing geopolitical landscape of Southeast Europe and the region’s need for a stable energy environment.
Greece is well positioned to provide that stability, given its geographical location at the heart of most of the energy connections in the area. Hydrocarbons are being discovered all around Greece. Earlier this year, a group of major international energy companies submitted bids to explore two oil and gas fields off of Greece’s coast, one near Crete and the other in the Ionian Sea. This follows a recent wave of natural gas discoveries in Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone, beginning in 2011 with the discovery of the Aphrodite field. Italy’s Eni, a multinational oil and gas company headquartered in Rome, made a huge breakthrough in 2015 with its discovery of an offshore natural gas field in the Egyptian sector of the Mediterranean Sea, the Zohr field. Other countries on the Mediterranean near Greece, including Israel and Lebanon, continue to explore and discover major gas fields.
“The hydrocarbon sector in Greece, or in the greater region of Southeast Europe, is attracting a lot of interest from multinational companies, oil majors from the US, from Russia, from China”, noted Andriosopoulos, who supports hydrocarbon exploration in Greece and believes it can help change the country’s role in European energy security.
A number of International Oil Companies (IOCs) – including US-based Exxon Mobil, France’s Total, and Spain’s Repsol – are involved in licensing rounds in Greece because they believe the country can strike hydrocarbons.
“We recently had a successful licensing round here in Greece, following the big success of our neighbours – Cyprus, Egypt, etc. ”, Andriosopoulos explained, “and I think that is what has created a lot of positive momentum for the region”.
In addition to the recent discoveries in Cyprus, the chairman of the Hellenic Managing Authority for Hydrocarbons, Yannis Basias, said back in January that based on hydrocarbon surveys and other recent discoveries, the industry now has proof that there is a second oil system, which is not classical but limestone, and must be extensive in the Mediterranean. Western Greece, like the area south of Crete, is part of this system, said Basias.
Thanks to Greece’s strategic position surrounded by oil and gas fields, several infrastructure projects are being built that will help stabilise and unify the energy sector in Southeast Europe, and eventually throughout Europe writ large. The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), for instance, is a huge energy infrastructure project that will transport natural gas from Greece via Albania and the Adriatic Sea to Italy and Western Europe.
The TAP is “above 50 per cent completion already in the Greek territory, [and is] one of the largest energy infrastructure projects underway these days”, noted Andriosopoulos. “We see a lot of opportunities because of the lack of energy infrastructure”, in the region, he said, noting Greece’s ability to fill the gap.
Andriosopoulos also added that “hopefully soon we will see the interconnector between Greece and Bulgaria”, in reference to the Gas-Interconnector Greece Bulgaria (IGB) Pipeline that involves the construction of a 182km-long natural gas pipeline between the two countries.
To unify the European energy markets even more, EU countries, including Greece, are working to implement the EU’s Third Energy Package, which seeks to create an internal gas and electricity market through liberalisation of the gas and electricity markets in the EU. The ultimate goal is to keep energy prices as low as possible and as equal as possible for consumers across the EU, while also increasing standards of service and security of supply.
“The whole idea of the liberalisation of the market is to achieve that [price convergence at low prices]”, explained Andriosopoulos, who is also a professor of finance and energy economics at ESCP Europe Business School in London. “I think it would lead to the creation of jobs directly and indirectly, because now we are creating more competition in the market. … The liberalisation would support both the consumer on the retail side but also the Greek energy industry, making it more competitive with its European peers”.
Greece is actively engaged in energy market liberalisation, Andriosopoulos noted, showing his support of the process. “The Greek electricity market is undergoing a radical transformation” toward privatisation, he explained, although the state-owned Public Power Corporation (PPC) is making that process a bit difficult because of its exclusivity to lignite, a type of coal. Still, “there is a process underway in terms of disinvesting from some lignite production that PPC has and selling to some interested strategic buyers”, he said.
Additionally, the Hellenic Energy Exchange, Greece’s first-ever energy exchange, is expected to launch in mid-2019 and speed up the liberalisation of the country’s energy market while also supporting regional integration in the market.
“In Southeast Europe, the Greek energy market is among the largest markets”, said Andriosopoulos with confidence. “Greece has a very strong role to play in terms of formulating the greater energy strategy and the energy market place for the Balkan region and beyond that, so Southeast Europe.”
That is exactly with HAEE is trying to show the world.