By Constantinos Psilides
A PUBLIC consultation regarding the complete liberalisation of the energy market turned ugly yesterday, when government officials came under heavy criticism from people in the energy industry.
One of those attending the meeting called the public consultation a publicity stunt “aimed only at getting the press to write that the government is opening the energy market for everybody”.
The event was supposed to be a prelude for an official announcement and a public consultation by the Cyprus energy regulatory authority (CERA) in January.
But when the floor opened for questions and remarks, a number of attendees took turns scolding the commerce ministry and CERA, mainly on bureaucracy and procedure.
George Georgiou, chief executive officer of Lanitis Green Energy Group said his company was waiting for an application regarding a photovoltaic station with an output capacity of 25 MW, asking why they still hadn’t heard from CERA.
Timotheos Timotheou, head of the association of renewable energy companies said a number of companies have filed for a licence a year ago and haven’t had a response.
A CERA energy official, Maria-Eleni Delenta, said that she was not aware of the problem and promised to take up all complaints with the CERA board and address them at the next public consultation.
Up until recently, the semi-government Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) was the sole provider of energy throughout the island, enjoying this monopoly for decades. With EAC’s privatisation on the horizon, renewable energy production being funded by the state and EU, and with the energy market opening up on December 31, a number of companies expressed interest for this sector.
Figures from the CERA show that 37% of annual energy consumption goes to homes while 63% is used by farmers, street lighting, industries and manufacturers.
According to CERA’s Maria-Eleni Delenta, four energy companies are in the process of being licenced, with a total production capacity of 562,5MW. That’s roughly 50 per cent of the EAC capacity, which is currently at 1180MW.
Delenta said that the companies will be ready to operate some time in 2016 but was refuted by lawyer Charalambos Prountzos, representing one of the companies, which, he said, can be up and running within 2014, blaming the state for any delays.
Prountzos accused CERA and the state for freezing applications of fuel supply licence, wondering “who is going to invest in an energy company that doesn’t have a licence to buy fuel,” going as far as saying that the CERA decision was illegal. He also asked for a final business model, blaming CERA for creating uncertainty in the energy market.
One of the attendees directed his ire towards ministry of commerce and industry permanent secretary Stelios Chimonas, saying that in essence the state is not liberating anything.
“You have no market, you have no regulations, and you have no plan. It would be more honest of the ministry and CERA if you came here and said that you would do everything in your power to come up with solutions”, he said. The comment angered Chimonas, who responded that state officials are doing everything they can.