IEA chief says energy security not dependent on climate deal

International Energy Agency executive director Maria van der Hoeven used a speech at the COP-17 climate negotiations in Durban to urge countries to address energy security in a sustainable manner.

She said countries must not wait for a comprehensive deal on climate change but should act immediately to meet the growing demand for energy. “You can and should implement robust policies that will give your citizens affordable, reliable access to energy in a sustainable way.”

In particular, she urged the BRIC countries ” Brazil, Russia, India and China ” to take a lead on sustainable energy security.

She said these countries “can and should implement sound policies that tap domestic funding sources and direct them to low-carbon investments that promote energy security”.

In its World Energy Outlook published last month, the IEA said that developments in almost all major power sectors would be driven by developments in emerging economies.

“Decisions will be made in Beijing, New Delhi and Moscow that will have an impact on all of us, even the OECD countries,” said IEA chief economist Fatih Birol.

Eskom plans five-project power strategy

South Africa’s state-owned power utility aims to prioritise five projects ” both in transmission and generation ” as it targets expanding capacity, cutting reliance on coal, and extending its grid into southern Africa.

“Once you have five power projects and you have the transmissions networks to move the power around, you would create quite a robust energy system,” CEO Brian Dames told Reuters.

A huge hydro project on the Inga river in the Democratic Republic of Congo could be among these projects, he said. Another could be a hydro plant on the Zambezi River, which flows though Zambia and Mozambique.

Uganda power cuts hit economic growth

A growing power shortage in Uganda has provoked riots and led the African Development Bank to downgrade its growth forecasts.

The bank now expects Uganda’s economy to expand by 6.1 per cent this year, having earlier forecast 6.3 per cent growth.

Power shortages have been recently aggravated by the decision of two independent power producers to shut their plants in protest at the government’s failure to pay promised subsidies.

India auction cuts solar prices

Auctions in India are helping to drive down the cost of solar power, with Solairedirect offering $147/MWh at an auction on 2 December, said Bloomberg.

Solairdirect’s winning bid of 7490 rupees ($147) /MWh was 38 per cent below the average price in a December 2010 auction and 30 per cent less than the global average for solar projects.

Globally, power project developers demand an average of $208/MWh, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s levelised cost of energy analysis.

The average bid among 28 winning projects in the auction, which covered $700m of projects, was 8790 rupees, which is still 35 per cent above India’s wholesale price for coal based electricity. But India’s government forecast that solar could reach grid parity by 2019.

Solairedirect’s offer is the third-cheapest on record, behind a bid for $110/MWh in China and $120/MWh in Peru, according to Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at Bloombergy New Energy Finance. The auction awarded 350 MW and was the second under a Solar Mission programme aiming for 20 GW by 2022.

Renewable projects overtake fossil fuels

Investment in renewable energy power plants has overtaken fossil fuel deals, claims new research.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that $187bn was invested in renewable power last year, compared with $157bn for coal, gas and oil fired projects.

The study suggests wind operators will install 43 GW by year-end and 48 GW next year, up on 36 GW in 2010. Solar is predicted to rise from 18.2 GW last year to 26.4 GW by next month and 27.8 GW in 2012.

“You have record investment in the midst of an economic and financial crisis,” said Achim Steiner of the United Nations Environment Programme.

Iran sets a date for Bushehr to operate at full capacity

Iran’s 1 GW Bushehr nuclear power plant will run at full capacity by February next year, said the head of the country’s atomic energy organisation.

Fereydoun Abbasi said the plant will restart at the beginning of February to coincide with the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Bushehr was connected to the grid in September but taken offline a month later for tests. The plant was restarted in November and is due to gradually rise to full capacity in the next two months.

Bangladesh: Bangladesh and China are to sign a deal to build a 1320 MW coal fired power plant in Chittagong. The plant would be built by Bangladesh Power Development Board and China Hudian Hong Kong Co and would run initially on imported coal.

India: Moser Baer Clean Energy, the renewable energy arm of Moser Baer India, is to invest $1bn in new solar projects with a total capacity of 300 MW. The projects would be in Gujarat, Orissa, West Bengal and Rajasthan and also in Germany, Italy and the UK.

Iraq: Militants have carried out a wave of attacks on power infrastructure, cutting power to several towns and cities. In eastern Diyala province, bombs hit four transmission towers, disrupting a line importing power from Iran, from where Iraq receives about 800 MW.

Kenya: Kenya Electricity Generating Company has raised $920m in loans for a 280 MW geothermal project, the company’s managing director told reporters at a regional energy conference in Yaounde, Cameroon.

Saudi Arabia: The Kingdom has signed a nuclear power research and development pact with South Korea. The deal follows similar nuclear agreements signed with France and Argentina.

Saudi Arabia: GE has won a $300m deal to upgrade six plants through 13 gas turbines and associated services, which is scheduled to add 800 MW to the grid in time for peak summertime demand in 2013.

South Africa: Standard Bank has underwritten more than 8.2bn rand ($1bn) of wind and solar projects in the first round of South Africa’s $12bn renewable energy programme. The bank underwrote 605 MW in the 1416 MW first round.

UAE: The country’s nuclear plan has been estimated by informed sources to cost $30bn, combining $10bn equity from Abu Dhabi, $10bn from mainly South Korean export-credit agencies, and $10bn via a mix of sovereign debt and bank financing.

Uganda: Egyptian private equity firm Citadel Capital aims to invest up to $200m in setting up power plants with a total capacity of 100 MW over the next two years in Uganda, where power shortages have triggered riots over recent weeks.

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