ATHENS, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Greek electricity grid operator ADMIE, fully owned by the country's biggest power producer PPC , signed a 240 million euro (310.39 million US dollar) project with foreign and local firms to connect Greek islands with the mainland grid.
France's Alstom, Switzerland's ABB, Italy's Prysmian and Athens-based Hellenic Cables will build power cables under the sea to connect the Greek islands, ADMIE said in a statement.
ADMIE runs about 11,000 kilometres (7,000 miles) of high-voltage power lines across the country. Most Greek islands currently lack links to the mainland grid and depend on blackout-prone, oil-fired power stations to provide electricity to millions of tourists visiting each summer.
"We will save 100 million euros ($129.31 million) a year by linking the Cyclades islands, " said Deputy Environment Minister Makis Papageorgiou in a statement.
"We are also shielding one of the most dynamic sectors of our economy, tourism, because this project will put an end to possible power blackouts at our country's main tourist destinations," he added.
Tourism is Greece's biggest cash earner, accounting for about a fifth of its economic output.
The project, which was at a standstill for at least 20 years since initial studies began, is expected to be completed within two years.
PPC is selling a 66 percent stake in ADMIE. Belgian power grid operator Elia, State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC), Italian grid operator Terna and Canadian pension fund PSP Investments have been shortlisted to bid for the stake.
Athens wants ADMIE's buyer to invest 2.5 billion euros to extend its grid to several islands and lay new connections to neighbouring countries such as Italy. (1 US dollar = 0.7733 euro) (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou, editing by Louise Heavens)