The much-touted opening up of the electricity market has been pushed back to the summer of 2025, MPs heard on Monday.

They got the news from Stavros Stavrinos, executive director at the Transmission System Operator (TSO) – the agency which will act as the market operator once liberalisation happens.

Stavrinos was speaking to lawmakers at the House finance committee, reviewing the TSO’s budget for 2024.

He told MPs about procedures underway for hiring 37 staff at the TSO – helping the agency run the liberalised electricity market.

The 37 should be hired by September, after which it will take three to four months to train them.

Once their training is complete, in early 2025 the TSO will carry out the third trial run of the system managing the electricity market. This in turn should take three to six months – meaning the operation of the open electricity market is estimated for the summer of 2025.

The system in question is an ‘electricity exchange platform’, where suppliers’ bids for quantities of electricity will be updated every hour or half an hour.

The exchange will match supply and demand and fix the price for a contract.

Meantime, said Stavrinos, starting in March of this year they anticipate the formal transfer to the TSO’s payroll of employees of the Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) who currently work at the TSO as seconded staff.

These seconded staff are still on the EAC payroll. They’ll have to decide whether to stay permanently at the TSO or else ‘return’ to the EAC.

A critical issue is the system itself – the electricity exchange platform – whose procurement, installation and calibration is funded under the national recovery and resilience plan.

Stavrinos said this project is in its “final stages” and that final delivery of it should take place at the end of this March – once the contractor fixes various flaws.

The liberalisation of the electricity market has been delayed several times.

Responding to other questions from MPs, the TSO official explained why energy generated by renewables often has to be ‘rejected’ by the grid.

Because energy storage is not available yet, rejecting this energy is the only way the grid operator can ensure the system doesn’t collapse at times when production exceeds demand.

In order for the grid to operate smoothly, at least one-quarter of the energy must be that generated from conventional fossil fuels.