Row breaks out between heavy industry and solar power producers over ‘interruptibility’

Representatives of large industrial power consumers and photovoltaic power producers faced off against each other in a series of press releases on Thursday, during a row that broke out over the so-called “interruptibility” clause.

The interruptibility legislation allows discount prices for large-scale power consumers, usually industrial plants, in return for them agreeing to lower their consumption at the grid operator’s request. Power producers using Renewable Energy Sources (RES), mainly wind and solar, object on the grounds that the measure is primarily financed by them.

The last claim was contested by the Association of Industrial Power Consumers, with board member Antonis Kontoleon noting that the European Commission had approved an interruptibility mechanism in Germany a few weeks ago, which will remain in force until 2022. The Commission had underlined in its decision that “the measure supports precisely the stability of the system, especially in markets where there is higher penetration of RES.”

“It generates a dismal impression that, in Greece, individual associations of photovoltaic power producers, who enjoy guaranteed high prices, have started a misinformation campaign against the interruptibility measure in our country, jeopardising the viability of hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs,” Kontoleon said.

Greek industry had repeatedly expressed its support for a healthy development of the RES market in the framework of the targets set on a national and European level, he added.

According to Kontoleon, “individual trade or business interests were putting the preservation of the unacceptably high profitability rates they secured with state guarantees in the past first, using their contribution to the development of RES as a pretext.”

The statement provoked a sharp reply from the Association of Photovoltaic Power Producers, in a note pointing out that interruptibility is not normally paid for by power producers but from the funds set aside specifically for system stability.

The association also noted that the German example cited by Kontoleon concerns only 2.2 pct of the average load of the German grid, whereas in Greece the equivalent percentage is 34.9 pct.

Lastly, it noted that in 2016 the thermal units were operating at around 40 pct of their full capacity on average – meaning that they had an available production margin of at least 2,000-3,000 MW. In spite of this, the Independent Power Transmission Operator (ADMIE) was constantly auctioning an additional 1.5 GW to act as an interruptible load service when this was not needed for supposed system stability.