George Alexopoulos addresses 23rd annual conference of The Economist
“Europe: leaving indecisiveness behind?”
George Alexopoulos, Executive member of BoD and General Manager for Group Strategic Planning & New Activities at HELPE Group, said he was cautiously optimistic that the hugely important undertaking of hydrocarbon exploration in Greece will be crowned with success, during the 23rd Roundtable with the Greek Government organised by journal The Economist and held in Lagonissi on July 16 and 17.
“Our own expectations are further encouraged by the significant quantities of natural gas recently discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean, which, in conjunction with other potential findings of exploitable natural gas reserves in Western Greece, will enhance the energy prospects of the wider region; facilitate the completion of infrastructure works currently undertaken or underway in our country; and turn Greece into a point of entry for energy products destined for the EU market, as well as an energy hub of strategic significance for the region,” stated Mr. Alexopoulos.
He added, however, that “hydrocarbon exploration and development is a marathon rather than a sprint,” as many years are required for the necessary geological and geophysical studies to be completed; the seismic data collected and evaluated; the drillings appropriately planned and executed; and, in the event that there are findings, for the infrastructure necessary for their extraction to be developed. 
George Alexopoulos went on to add that HELPE Group, capitalising on the long experience and accumulated knowledge of Greece’s geology that its qualified team of experts possesses, plays a leading role in the field of Exploration and Production. Following the successful implementation of its strategic plan, the Group signed concession agreements for five (5) different land and offshore areas in the Ionian Sea and Western Greece, while four (4) more agreements in the last stage of award, pending Hellenic Parliament ratification. At the same time, the Group enhances its cooperation with leading international companies such as ExxonMobil, Total, Repsol and Edison, thus contributing decisively to Greece's efforts to achieve energy security and ensure adequacy of supply.
“We are currently preparing for the first exploratory drill, which will take place within 2020 at the Patraikos Gulf block,” Mr. Alexopoulos said, adding that both HELPE Group and its international partners, are committed to fully comply with Greek and EU environmental protection law and standards, which are the strictest in the world. 
Speaking at the conference's thematic issue entitled “An Energy hub in Southeast Europe: The business perspective,” the Group’s General Manager for Strategic Planning & New Activities discussed the conditions expected to prevail in the international energy market during the coming years and analysed the complex challenges Greece is currently facing.
HELPE Group, he underlined, has adopted the European and international targets for a successful transition to a low carbon society and supports the objectives set by the United Nations and the European Union for mitigating the effects of climate change. To this aim, the Group actively shows its commitment to the Energy Transformation:
  • by constantly striving to improve energy efficiency while achieving reductions in energy intensity; and 
  • by investing in new activities and in the development of modern, low carbon footprint technologies.
HELPE Group's five-year development program, among other targets includes provisions for: reducing total energy consumption by a further 5% at the refineries and by 30 % at the stations; undertaking works aimed at improving energy efficiency and achieving energy recovery; completing all processes necessary for the energy and digital transformation; developing and producing new generation biofuels as well as new, low carbon footprint products; and, finally, accelerating the shift towards an energy mix with a bigger share of Renewable Energy Sources. The Group already has a RES portfolio of 600 MW at various stages of development (with 26 MW already in operation) and has set the intermediate target of achieving a further 300 MW in installed capacity, mostly through the realisation of photovoltaic and wind projects.
Furthermore, Mr. Alexopoulos highlighted the initiatives that the European Petroleum Refiners Association has announced with a view to assisting the EU’s ambitious targets to combat climate change. “The EU refinery sector, in recognition of the climate change challenge and the need to act on a global level, wants to be part of the solution,” he stressed, adding that oil will continue to represent an important share in the worldwide energy mix in the coming decades, while the demand for liquid fuel will still be showing increase after 2030. In this context, the European refinery sector presented recently its integrated proposal for the transition to a low carbon economy “Vision 2050”, through which it pledges to continue reducing CO2 emissions through an ongoing improvement of energy efficiency in the production process and a gradual move towards the replacement of oil with very low or even net-carbon materials, such as biofuels, electricity from renewable sources and carbon capture, storage and utilisation. In that sense, the refinery of the future will be significantly different from that of the present, as it will be reconfigured into a low carbon energy centre acting in synergy with other sectors like that of renewable electricity, of biofuels or of district heating. As a result, the refineries will be marketing liquid fuels and products whose carbon footprint will be increasingly lower, while also fostering the EU leadership’s climate change initiatives.
“HELPE Group’s main ambition and concern is to continuously reduce its carbon footprint, energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, so as to evolve into a modern and innovative company providing low carbon energy solutions,” Mr. Alexopoulos said in the concluding remarks of his address.
Other contributors to The Economist conference’s thematic issue on Energy were the Greek Minister of Environment and Energy Kostas Hatzidakis; The Cypriot Minister of Energy, Commerce and Industry Yiorgos Lakkotrypis; and the former Greek Minister for Environment, Energy and Climate Change Yannis Maniatis. The speeches were followed by a panel discussion with the CEO of IGI Poseidon Pierre Vergerio; the Chief executive officer of Hellenic Gas Transmission System Operator (DESFA) Nicola Battilana; the Country Manager (for Greece) of Trans Adriatic Pipeline Katerina Papalexandri; the CEO of M-NG Trading Panayotis Kanellopoulos; the Executive officer of Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria AD Konstantinos Karayannakos; and the Counsel and Head of EU-Greek practice of DLA Piper Orestis Omran.
Participants at the 23rd Economist’s two-day conference in Greece included representatives from the political, academic and business community, as well as internationally acclaimed personalities who presented their viewpoints and provided their analyses on a far-reaching agenda. The latter addressed, among others, the ongoing geopolitical developments, energy, prospects in the local financial sector, the current business and investment environment, the type of opportunities that are currently available to the Greek youth, tourism, and the stereotypes that have emerged as a result of the crisis.