German utility EnBW is to close four power plants – two coal, one gas and one co-generation – which have a combined output of 668 MW.
And it is also planning a short-term shutdown of RDK 4 in Karlsruhe, which it says is “hardly being utilised and is consequently also unable to cover its full costs”.
The four plants being closed permanently are an oil fired co-generation unit and a gas fired plant in Marbach and two coal fired plants in Walheim. They will shut “at the earliest legally possible date” according to EnBW.
Both coal plants were commissioned in the 1960s, while the Marbach gas plant was commissioned in 1971 and the cogen plant went operational in 1975.
The company said the decision to close the plants was taken as a result of “rapid structural change in the energy sector”.
EnBW said: “As a result of the marked additional construction of renewable energy sources, numerous fossil plant are exposed to great commercial and financial pressure, and frequently continue to be operated solely as ‘marginal power plants. This is resulting in a drastic fall in revenue.”
The company said older coal plants and “especially gas power stations… can no longer cover their full costs given today’s electricity market prices, and can consequently not be operated on a commercially viable basis”.
Around 100 staff will be affected by the closures and EnBW is in talks with them over their future.
EnBW is also in talks with Germany’s Federal Network Agency over RDK 4 at Karlsruhe. The company said the gas and steam plant is hardly being used and it plans to “shut down the plant on a short-term and provisional basis as a consequence”.
“The potential of a later recommissioning is to be left open,” added EnBW.
Spain closes second oldest nuclear plant
The Spanish government has closed down the aging Santa Maria de Garona nuclear power plant.
The plant is one of eight nuclear reactors in Spain and is 42 years old – the second oldest in the country.
It was closed under an order issued by the Industry and Energy Ministry but its operator Nuclenor – owned by Iberdrola and Endsea – said the closure was “solely due to economic reasons” and not for technical or safety concerns.
Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz Santamaria said Nuclenor has asked for the plant’s operating license not to be renewed but she added that the government has not ruled out reactivating the plant at a later date.
The closure ends a prolonged period of uncertainty over the future of the plant. Its licence renewal first came up for review in 2009 and the Nuclear Safety Council recommended a 10-year extension be granted.
However the then Socialist government granted only a four-year licence extension to this year. In January 2012 a new conservative government removed the 2013 operational limit with a view to allowing the plant to run until 2019, subject to Nuclenor renewing the licence.
But Nuclenor delayed that application until it had details of new government rules and taxes, since it said it would have to spend €480m on the plant to give it a 2019 shelf life, a price it now seems was too high to pay.
Conergy files for insolvency
Conergy, once one of Europe’s largest solar power companies, has filed for insolvency.
The German company has cited inability to bring on board a new investor as well as what it referred to as an “unexpected delay” in payment from a big project.
Philip Comberg, Conergy chief executive, said in a statement: “In the last 15 months, we have presented two concrete concepts on the investment by investors to our lenders. We very much regret that they repeatedly could not reach a reliable agreement on a timely implementation of the proposal.”
He added: “The management board will now fully support the preliminary insolvency administrator in order to hopefully secure all jobs and to continue business operations without any disruptions.”
Conergy employs about 1,200 staff globally – 800 in Germany and about 400 in its international subsidiaries.
A global glut in supply combined with plunging prices amid stiff competition from Asia has brought down or seriously debilitating some of the biggest names in the sector in the past two years.
Continent’s biggest gas plant inaugurated
Africa’s largest gas-fired power plant at Sasolburg, outside Johannesburg, has been officially inaugerated.
The Sasol plant is the largest power plant running exclusively on gas engines on the African continent, and the first of its kind ever in the Republic of South Africa.
The complete turnkey project package at a demanding altitude of 1500 metres was supplied by Wartsila on a fast-track basis with performance guarantees.
The Finnish company is also responsible for the engineering, procurement, construction and project management of the new power plant, which is powered by 18 Wartsila 34SG generating sets running on natural gas with an operating capacity of 140 MW
The electricity produced by the plant will be used on-site by Sasol’s chemical factory next to the plant, with about half of the production being fed to the national grid.
Despite the high altitude of the Sasolburg plant, the Wartsila gas engines are able to operate with an extremely high level of efficiency.
The closed-loop cooling system used by Wartsila also imposes a minimal demand for water, which is an important factor in areas such as this where water resources are limited.
Middle East power sector at greatest risk of cyber attack
The energy sector in the Middle East is more vulnerable to cyber attacks than anywhere else in the world, according to DNV KEMA.
And the company has warned that “a cyber attack on crucial energy supplies and transiting routes in this region would impact the entire world”.
DNV KEMA said that no regional cyber security strategy has been implemented in the Middle East, despite a rise in hacking attacks.
Until recently, most of these attacks focused on computers and websites, the so-called ‘front doors’ to energy companies, but DNV said that as viruses become increasingly sophisticated, physical assets such as power stations and power grids are also under threat.
Last year, Saudi Aramco and RasGas reported cyber attacks while in Iran computers at several nuclear power stations were infected.
The Middle East is littered with gas and oil installations and is planning to boost its energy mix by introducing nuclear and renewable energy power plants.
Mohammed Atif, managing director of DNV KEMA in the Middle East, said the region’s planned and existing cyber protection plans are lagging behind the rest of the world. “This is a situation to really worry about,” he added. “A cyber attack on crucial energy supplies and transiting routes in this region would impact the entire world.”
He said awareness in the region of cyber threats is insufficient in relation to the technology developments and the level of impact a cyber-attack could have on an average Middle Eastern utility.
“As cyber security threats are not restricted to one single group, but can come from different corners such as governments, activists and hackers, criminal and terrorist organisations and even from within, it is time we all open our eyes and take appropriate actions to protect our countries and guarantee a safe and sustainable energy provision.”
What is needed to remedy the situation, said Atif, is national governments to develop “coherent cyber security strategies and plans, supported by standards and regulations across the major infrastructure sectors”.
“Sharing responsibility between governments and companies in vital sectors is a first, necessary step in securing safe and reliable cyber networks”, he said.
DNV KEMA found that information on common cyber defense systems like SCADA, Stuxnet and ISPs is increasingly becoming publicly available both in and outside the region. On top of this, industrial control systems are all interconnected with corporate IT networks and the internet, while at the same time the interconnectivity of energy assets such as power grids, is strongly increasing.
“These developments, in combination with insufficient awareness and the absence of a cyber-defense plan, make the energy sector in the Middle East vulnerable, more than elsewhere,” said Atif.
GDF Suez mulls Saudi nuclear project
The chief executive of GDF Suez, Gerald Mestrallet has revealed that the company is considering involvement in a nuclear reactor project in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi government is considering building 17 GW of nuclear capacity by 2032.
Mr Mestrallet told Les Echos newspaper that “GDF is ready to cooperate, on the condition that we are given the right amount of room,” and said that the company would only ever be in a position to take on a nuclear project by being a partner rather than sole player.
“We will never take an entire nuclear project on our balance sheet,” he said. “We will always be in partnerships, at least at the 50 per cent level.”
Target date for first floating nuclear plant
Rosatom’s Akademik Lomonosov floating nuclear power plant, the world’s first, could be up and running as early as 2016.
The 70 MW plant is designed to serve large industrial projects, port cities and offshore gas and oil-extracting platforms and has attracted interest in China, Indonesia and Malaysia.
The plant will be situated in the town of Vilyuchinsk of the Kamchatka region in Far East Russia.
Akademik Lomonosov is a non-self-propelled vessel, which is 140m long, 30m wide and 10m high and built at Sevmash submarine-building plant in Severodvinsk.
. It will be equipped with a power unit of two 35MW KLT-40C nuclear reactors, or 300 MW of heat and two steam-driven turbine units.
Noja Power wins $12m deal for Brazilian grid
Australian switchgear engineers Noja Power has won a $12m deal to boost the safety and reliability of Brazil’s electricity supply.
The contract was awarded by Latin America’s largest utility Eletrobras and will see Noja’s Brazilian arm install and link its OSM15 and OSM38 automatic circuit reclosers to six operation centres.
Eletrobras will monitor and control the units, optimising network operational characteristics such as protection and load shedding.
The deal comes as the Brazilian government is encouraging Eletrobras to modernise its electricity generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure.
The government has implemented a modernisation programme called Project Energy+ which aims to greater integrate renewable energy resources such as hydroelectric, solar and wind into the country’s energy mix.
In addition, grid improvements under the project will reduce power loss, eliminating the need to add more centralised conventional generating capacity to meet increased demand. As such, Brazil is expected to cumulatively spend $27.7bn on smart grid investments by 2022.
“Brazil is a rapidly developing country and the government is encouraging power utilities to upgrade their electricity infrastructure to meet the needs of the future,” said Bruno Kimura, Noja’s managing director in Brazil.
He said Noja’s automatic circuit reclosers “will be a fundamental component of Brazil’s new smart grid”.
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