* PPC sees EBITDA at 420-470 mln eur in 2019, doubling in 2020
* Wants to shut down 3.4 GW of coal fired capacity by end 2023
* Boost renewables capacity by 1 GW by 2024- CEO (Adds CEO comments)
ATHENS, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Greece’s Public Power Corp. (PPC) will switch off its coal plants sooner than expected and expand its renewable capacity by 2024 to boost profits and help cut the country’s carbon emissions footprint, its CEO said on Monday.
Under a 2020-2024 business plan approved by the utility’s board last week, PPC plans to switch off at least 12 coal-fired units by 2023, instead of 2028 as initially planned, CEO Georgios Stassis told reporters.
“We are turning a new page, moving towards a fast decarbonisation,” Stassis said.
PPC is also considering the partial privatisation of its power distribution operator and expects group core profit to double next year due to lower energy costs and a smaller payroll, Stassis said.
PPC is 51% state-owned and provides 60% of Greece’s electricity but its finances have suffered in recent years and it still has more than 2.7 billion euros ($2.98 billion) in unpaid bills owed by customers that struggled during the country’s economic crisis.
Greece’s conservative government, which took power in July, has promised to speed up green investments and overhaul PPC by severing its ties with the government and cutting costs via mostly voluntary redundancies.
Stassis said the company expects to cut its workforce of 15,300 by 4,500 by 2024, mostly on a voluntary basis, but will also hire 800 staff during that time, without giving details.
Workers’ unions have opposed the PPC plans, saying electricity is a necessity that should remain under state control. Dozens of protesters from the Communist-affiliated group PAME demonstrated at the company’s headquarters in Athens on Monday.
PPC wants to shut down 3.4 gigawatt of its coal fired capacity by the end of 2023 and boost its green power by 1 gigawatt by 2024 via joint ventures, to take a 10-20% share of Greece’s green energy market from 2.5% currently, Stassis said.
The government aims for wind, solar and hydroelectric power to account for at least 35% of Greece’s energy consumption by 2030, more than double the current level.
Loss-making coal-fired plants due to high emission costs and below-cost sales of power to alternative producers have also weighed heavily on PPC’s performance.
PPC’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) fell to 216 million euros last year from 828 million a year earlier.
Stassis said core profit is now seen rising to 420 million-470 million euros this year thanks to efficiencies and reduced labour costs, and will double to 850-900 million euros in 2020. The company forecasts EBITDA of 1 billion euros by 2024, he said. ($1 = 0.9073 euros) (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Susan Fenton)
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