Consumers will experience power cuts as of Wednesday if there is increased electricity demand or adverse weather conditions, as a result of a strike by the electricity authority (EAC) staff that will partially suspend operation of the Dhekelia power plant.
The Cyprus Transmission System Operator (CTSO) announced the potential risks of the scheduled strike after it first informed the Cyprus Energy Regulatory Authority (CERA) during an emergency meeting of on Monday morning.
Workers decided to strike saying that some of the power units in Dhekelia are operating without a permit and contribute to high electricity costs and profiteering while they implied there are staff shortages.
In its announcement, CTSO said the non-operation of the six electric steam units of the Dhekelia power plant are expected to affect power generation to meet demand. The absorption of decentralised renewable energy sources generation will also be more difficult during the work stoppage, the CTSO added.
To address the above problems and avoid a total blackout of the electricity system, a series of measures will be implemented from Wednesday.
However, it noted that the power depends on the load demand that is directly linked to weather conditions and consumer behaviour.
Therefore, load curtailment will take place in the Nicosia, Larnaca and Famagusta districts if the total demand is 600MW and above, while the level of electricity system reserves will be reduced. This means that any failure of a power plant will lead to further cuts. By way of comparison, on Christmas Day of 2021 and New Year’s Day of 2022, peak demand was 865MW.
Since the absorption capacity of decentralised RES generation will be reduced, increased cuts in RES generated capacity will be made on a systematic basis, the transmission system operator said.
It added that more adverse measures for consumers will be implemented in case of extreme weather conditions, emergencies and breakdowns.
No trade unions representing workers at the EAC attended the emergency meeting since they disagree with efforts to continue the operation of the six Dhekelia electric steam units.
“Those units which are polluting [the environment] and increase the cost in the bills of consumers should have been replaced,” the chairman of Sepaek union Savvas Savva told Politis.
He added that the government received an extension for the operation of the units in questions ten years ago and should have considered ways to substitute them during that decade.
The unions had also said construction, operation and maintenance personnel will only work in properly structured and fully staffed crews, under the required supervision. No staff will undertake duties not in line with their job description, they said in a letter justifying their decision to the general manager.
Speaking on behalf of the unions on CyBC radio earlier on Monday, Kyriakos Tafounas, general secretary for Epopai-Sek union, said the unions have been warning the government for about three years that the Dhekelia power plant is both outdated and simultaneously crucial to the grid.
But the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce (Keve) denounced the strike, saying it is expected to “damage hundreds of businesses” during the busiest month of the year, right before the Christmas holidays.
Keve called on the board of directors of EAC to enter a dialogue with the trade unions, clarifying their demands and attempt to address them to avoid the “serious problems” the strike will cause. It also reiterated its position to introduce necessary legislative framework regarding the strikes in essential services to protect consumers and society.
Meanwhile, Energy Minister Natasa Pilides on Friday accused the unionists’ motives of being ‘political’ but agreed with their claim that the specific power plants should have been replaced.
She said the energy ministry recently requested an extension of operations from the European Commission to continue running Dhekelia’s outdated units up until 2029. However, this was not granted yet, Pilides clarified to Politis, adding that the commission said “they understand the issues that arise and that many countries right now are faced with similar or worse issues with their return to coal or lignite.”
“So, there is a positive approach and we hope that this will be expressed officially soon.”
The minister noted that the six outdated electric stream units should have been replaced but this was delayed since there are problems with the adequacy of power generation.
Regarding staff shortages, Pilides had said that during talks with the unions the government side was open to approving 146 positions.