DOE to provide $52m for CO2 capture development projects

The US Department of Energy has confirmed it will award a total of $52 million to four CO2 capture and separation technology projects.

The investment aims to make low carbon emission electricity more competitive with that from traditional power plants.

The four projects plan to develop technology that can capture 90 per cent of CO2 from coal fired power plants while raising the costs of electricity from these plants by less than 35 per cent. Current technology can raise electricity prices by as much as 85 per cent.

Central America prepares for switching on a unified power grid in 2012

Central America is carrying out the final tests for switching on a unified power grid in 2012.

The SIEPAC’s network of substations and 1800 km high-voltage line linking six countries is 88 per cent complete, say project directors.

The grid will connect local power networks in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. Belize is not included.

Argentina rate negotiations put on hold, says Pampa boss

Ricardo Torres, chief executive of Pampa Energia, the leading integrated electricity company in Argentina, sees little chance that Argentina’s government will allow energy companies to raise tariffs before the presidential election in October.

“Negotiations to increase tariffs have mostly stopped. But we expect that, post-election, negotiations will begin to move again,” he said.

Torres said that he is confident that the government will reform the current rate system because subsidies given to utility companies have risen to 4 per cent of GDP. “The government is very aware of this and we will work together to find a way out of this situation,” he said.

Argentina’s government froze utility rates during the country’s 2002 economic meltdown and currency devaluation, and has not allowed tariff rate increases since.

Government officials have repeatedly said that low rates help drive growth and are necessary to keep Argentine companies competitive in a global economy.

Europe lodges WTO complaint over Ontario subsidies

The European Union (EU) has lodged a complaint at the World Trade Organization (WTO) against Canada over subsidies Ontario grants renewable energy producers using domestic technology.

In support of a goal of shutting all the province’s coal powered generators by 2014, Ontario’s feed-in tariff programme allows above-market rates to be paid to producers of renewable energy generated with a certain percentage of Canadian-made equipment.

“This is in clear breach of the WTO rules that prohibit linking subsidies to the use of domestic products,” said the European Commission. The Ontario Power Authority “has set conditions that favour domestic products and services.”

Under the programme, 40 to 50 per cent of initial costs to develop a solar energy project must be made of up products or services from Ontario, rising to 60 per cent for those developed after 2011, the commission said. For wind energy, the rates amount to 25 per cent for initial costs and rise to 50 per cent for projects developed after 2012, it said.

State auctions reveal strength of Brazil wind sector

Brazil’s government auctions for power projects have indicated a very strong showing for wind power.

Wind projects won 39 per cent of the capacity contracted, offering an average price of $62.91 per MWh – below both the auction’s average of $64.48/MWh and the average price for natural gas projects of $65.23/MWh.

Wind power won 44 projects in the auction for 1067 MW, compared with two natural gas projects for 1029 MW. A hydropower project and several biomass projects using bagasse from sugar and ethanol production also won in the auction.

US energy utilities’ M&A deals hit a four-year high

PricewaterhouseCoopers says $52bn of mergers and acquisitions by US energy utilities were announced in the first half of 2011.

This figure was the highest for four years, reflecting consolidation driven by low natural gas prices, demand for heavy investment and regulators’ acceptance of deals.

The largest deals include Duke Energy’s $26bn acquisition of Progress Energy, Exelon’s $11.5bn deal for Constellation Energy, and AES’s $4.7bn takeover of DPL.

• • •

Brazil: EDP Energias do Brasil, the Brazilian holding company of Portuguese group Energias de Portugal, plans to raise its generation capacity in Brazil by 37 per cent by 2015, up from 1.8 GW to 2.5 GW, its CEO told a webcast.

Brazil: Spain’s Elecnor group is building more wind plants in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul totalling an estimated 300 MW. Funding from the Brazil economic and social development bank (BSDES) is assisting the project.

Canada: PowerStream, Ontario’s second-largest municipally owned distribution company, has picked Trilliant to provide ‘Unit Smart’ meter systems and services for residential, commercial and industrial use.

Canada: Electrovaya has signed a contract to provide a 1.2 MWh lithium ion battery energy storage system (BESS) in Ontario as part of a $7.6m programme by the Canadian Government’s Clean Energy Fund to investigate the use of such systems.

Chile: An analysis by Chilean government commission the Citizen’s Parliamentary Commission on Energy (CCPE) calls for greater adoption of renewables to cut energy costs. The CCPE sees potential for 6 GW from geothermal and 4-5 GW from wind.

Chile: Enel Green Power plans to invest about $570m in geothermal, solar and wind projects in the country, its director Francesco Starece told Diario Financiero.

Costa Rica: Government plans to raise the threshold of private firms’ participation in generation projects from 15 per cent up to 50 per cent has divided decision-makers, also in deadlock over the definition of what is a high energy consumer, reports La Nacion.

Trinidad & Tobago: A 270 MW third and final stage of Trinidad Generation’s 720 MW combined-cycle gas fired plant in La Brea is scheduled to complete in 2012. A 225 MW first stage is due to complete this month and another 225 MW stage this autumn.

USA: The US Army is forming a task force to work with developers that may spend as much as $7.1bn over the next decade on renewable power at military sites. The Energy Initiatives Office Task Force will help the army achieve 25 per cent of its power from renewables by 2025.

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