The power industry suffered continued setbacks against a tumultuous economic backdrop. Several nations slashed their subsidies for renewable energy projects, while many carbon capture and storage projects were either delayed or scrapped. Gas fired generation continued to dominate conventional new build projects, while the nuclear ‘renaissance’ continued apace.

January

While its enormous oil revenues softened the blow, the UAE was one of the nations hardest hit by the economic downturn. Dubai was particularly affected, resulting in state utility Dewa (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority) having its credit rating downgraded. In January it announced private investors would be allowed to own stakes in power plants for the first time.

2010 was a year when the hype over a global nuclear ‘renaissance’ began to be borne out by reality. An increasing number of power industry firms put money where their mouths are. The UK’s Lloyd’s Register bought Swedish nuclear risk management provider Scandpower. In Brazil, state nuclear firm Eletronuclear said it would restart building the Angra 3 nuclear plant some 24 years after construction began.

Meanwhile, power generation at a hybrid combined-cycle gas turbine plant/concentrating solar power facility commenced in northern Morocco. Under development on behalf of national utility Office National de l’Électricité (ONE), with a total capacity of 470 MW, the Ain Beni Mathar installation will be the world’s largest such plant once completed.

February

The UK caused no little surprise when energy markets regulator Ofgem proposed nationalization as a solution to a pending shortfall in national electricity supply. In its Project Discovery report, Ofgem suggested the British government create a central energy buyer, which would determine the amount and type of new generation needed and enter into long-term energy contracts for power.

A nuclear revival looked increasingly likely as Sweden proposed an amendment to legislation banning the construction of new nuclear power stations. Its decision to ban new nuclear build and ultimately phase out nuclear power followed a 1980 referendum. Under the proposal, new reactors, limited to ten, can only be built at existing plant sites and only to replace currently operating units.

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Commissioning of the Irsching 5 plant in May brought CCGT efficiency nearer 60 per cent Source: Siemens

In the US, five workers were killed and 27 injured at a 620 MW combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plant under construction by Kleen Energy Systems in Connecticut after a spark ignited natural gas being purged from a pipeline as a test.

Earlier in the month, Areva, the world’s largest maker of nuclear reactors, acquired Ausra, a California-based manufacturer of solar thermal steam generators, for $200 million. In other companies news, the four business units of Doosan Babcock – Skoda Power, Doosan Power Systems Americas and Doosan Power Systems Europe – were consolidated into Doosan Power Systems, a single unit headquartered in the UK.

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Aftermath of the Kleen Energy System explosion in Connecticut in February Source: Jessica Hill

With many projects delayed or canned it was far from a golden year for carbon capture and storage (CCS), but brighter news came when the EU agreed to use allowances from its emissions trading scheme worth €6 billion ($8 billion) to support demonstration projects. Some 300 million allowances for the 2013–2020 period allocated to the European Investment Bank are likely to raise a total of €6 billion when sold. The money raised will then be reallocated into CCS and renewable energy projects, with each member state allowed to host a maximum of two projects.

March

Power transmission and distribution equipment manufacturers including Siemens, Areva T&D and Prysmian launched ‘Friends of the Supergrid’, a lobby group focused on overcoming the technical, financial and regulatory obstacles facing a plan to build an offshore European supergrid. The Friends will aim to make the supergrid a political objective, and pressure the European Commission and EU member states to fund it, which could cost €34 billion.

Ayrshire Power, owned by the UK’s Peel Energy, submitted plans to the Scottish Government to build a £3 billion ($4.7 billion), 1.6 GW coal fired power plant with CCS at Hunterston. Also in the UK, Horizon Nuclear Power, the joint venture between German utilities E.ON and RWE created to build nuclear power plants in the UK, opted to construct its first facility at Wylfa, on the Welsh island of Anglesey.

More details emerged about the $20.4 billion deal awarded by the UAE to a Korean consortium led by state utility Kepco to design, build and run four nuclear reactors each with a capacity of 1400 MW. Hyundai Engineering and Samsung C&T signed a $5.59 billion sub-contract from Kepco to build a nuclear power plant in the UAE. Hyundai will receive $3.07 billion from the contract, while Samsung C&T will get $2.52 billion.

April

It was not the only ‘roadmap’ published in 2010, but ‘Roadmap 2050: A practical guide to a Prosperous, Low-Carbon Europe’ had the most clout. Authored by the European Climate Foundation with technical and economic analysis by Imperial College London, KEMA, Oxford Economics and McKinsey & Company, as well as support from the European Commission, the report found that the future cost of electricity in a decarbonized power system would be comparable to the future cost of electricity in the current carbon-intensive infrastructure.

The nuclear resurgence generated headlines once more as French president Nicolas Sarkozy, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, and Anne Lauvergeon, CEO of Areva, signed an agreement that allows Areva and Ansaldo to build four 1650 MW EPR reactors in Italy. The partnership covers co-operation in engineering, the supply of certain components, construction and fabrication, and commissioning tests.

South Africa is desperately short of power capacity but it got a huge boost when the World Bank granted the country’s state utility firm Eskom a $3.75 billion loan, with most of the money earmarked for a 4800 MW coal fired power plant at Medupi. The rest of the loan will be used to develop wind and solar projects, and energy efficiency measures.

Germany’s Alpha Ventus offshore wind farm was commissioned by Vattenfall, EWE and E.ON. The twelve 5 MW wind turbine pilot project is Germany’s first offshore development. Also in offshore wind, the UK broke a new record when it clocked up 1 GW of capacity with the commissioning of E.ON’s Robin Rigg and Vattenfall’s Gunfleet Sands. Other major renewables news came from Brazil, where a consortium called Norte Energia won the bid to build the 11 GW Belo Monte hydropower plant.

May

A consortium led by France’s GDF Suez won the right to build a pair of gas fired power projects in Oman at a combined estimated cost of $1.8 billion. At roughly 744 MW apiece, the two schemes will rank among the largest greenfield power projects to be developed in the Sultanate.

Fourteen years and five months after it was shutdown by a major coolant leak, Japan’s 246 MW Monju fast breeder reactor resumed operations on 6 May. Monju started in August 1995, but was shutdown only four months later after 1 tonne of liquid sodium leaked from the secondary cooling loop

The race to 60 per cent efficiency for CCGT power plants entered the home straight when Siemens commissioned the 847 MW, 59.5 per cent efficient Irsching 5 power plant near Ingolstadt in Germany. The plant is owned by E.ON, which in May appointed Johannes Teyssen as its new CEO.

GDF Suez remained the highest ranked utility in Forbes Global 2000. GDF Suez was placed 24th overall while E.ON and EDF were listed 25th and 27th, respectively. Enel rose one point to 42nd position.

ABB splashed out $1 billion on Ventyx, an Atlanta-based software specialist with operations in 40 countries, to strengthen its presence in the electricity distribution networks software market. Meanwhile, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) filed two lawsuits against GE over wind turbine technology. An antitrust complaint alleged that GE used illegal means to try to retain its clout in the US market once Mitsubishi started making US sales in 2006. MHI also alleged that GE deterred customers from purchasing variable speed wind turbines from Mitsubishi.

June

The world’s first 800 kV high voltage DC link became fully operational when utility China Southern Power Grid and Siemens put into operation the second pole of the Yunnan–Guangdong system, which is capable of transporting 5000 MW of hydropower to Guangdong province.

Also in China, the pouring of the first concrete for Haiyang 2 nuclear power plant took place. Four Westinghouse AP1000 reactors are now officially under construction in China, with two at Haiyang and two at Sanmen.

From 2013, US utility Florida Light & Power be one of the first to use a Siemens’ H Class gas turbine. At least six turbines will be used in CCGT power plants. In companies news, Areva bought out the remaining 49 per cent stake in German wind turbine manufacturer Multibrid, which has been renamed Areva Wind.

July

Several nations slashed subsidies for renewable energy projects in 2010, particularly for solar power. Germany’s announced a cut in its solar feed-in tariff of 13 per cent on top of annual tariff adjustments.

The United States, however, continued to offer generous support to renewables in an effort to stimulate its beleaguered economy. Spanish solar power developer Abengoa secured a $1.45 billion loan guarantee from the US government to build a 250 MW solar power plant in Arizona, set to become the world’s largest solar power installation.

After seeing Korea secure a mouth-watering deal in the UAE to build nuclear reactors, a consortium of six Japanese companies was created to develop nuclear power outside their country’s borders. Tokyo Electric Power, Chubu Electric Power, Kansai Electric Power, Toshiba, Hitachi and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries are targeting emerging economies under the provisional moniker of International Nuclear Energy Development of Japan.

The development of small modular nuclear reactors took a giant leap when Bechtel announced a partnership with Babcock & Wilcox to bring the latter’s modular nuclear reactor design to market. Bechtel will help Babcock complete the design of a 125 MW modular reactor, called mPower, and seek necessary approvals from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to begin sales in the US. Bechtel will have exclusive responsibility for engineering, procuring key components and building the plants. In Italy, Enel inaugurated a 16 MW hydrogen fuelled CCGT power plant that the company claims is the world’s first such facility to produce energy in significant amounts.

Cyberwarfare was a buzzword of 2010 and the power industry was, and will continue to be, in the firing line. Siemens announced hackers had attacked its software for power grids. It was notified on 14 July that a programme called Stuxnet had targeted Siemens’ Simatic WinCC, a control programme that agencies and manufacturers use to acquire and analyze data.

In companies news, Chloride approved Emerson Electric’s revised
$1.5 billion takeover offer, ending a bidding war for the UK-based critical power vendor, with Emerson prevailing over a rival offer from ABB. Emerson said its combination with Chloride will create a powerful force in the global market for uninterruptible power supplies.

August

Spain continued to be a world leader in installing renewable energy capacity, but Madrid announced a 45 per cent cut in subsidies paid to new, large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants. This followed cuts announced in July for concentrating solar power and wind farms. Controversially, Spain also announced a 30 per cent cut in tariffs paid for existing solar PV plants.

In companies news, a consortium controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing bought the UK electricity networks of French power group EDF Energy for £5.8 billion. GE acquired Canadian firm SNC-Lavalin’s Energy Control Systems business as it strove to grab a larger share of the global EMS/SCADA/DMS market. Meanwhile, French utility GDF Suez took control of Britain’s International Power, thus creating the world’s largest utility with estimated annual revenues of €84 billion.

September

After months of intense debate Germany’s government, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, extended the lifespan of the country’s nuclear power plants by an average of 12 years. The oldest of Germany’s 17 nuclear plants will remain in production for eight more years beyond 2021, while newer ones will stay online for an additional 14 years. Eyeing a lucrative windfall, Berlin imposed a nuclear fuel rods levy that will see Germany’s four nuclear operators – E.ON, RWE, EnBW and Vattenfall – pay an annual €2.3 billion to fund renewable energy development.

In the Netherlands, Siemens announced it was to build a 435 MW CCGT for Dutch utility Nuon near Amsterdam. German utility RWE, in conjunction with BASF and Linde, claimed a breakthrough in separating CO2 from flue gas in coal fired power plants via new chemical solvents that require about 20 per cent less energy than processes commonly run today.

China boomed away in 2010 in every source of power generation, but none more so than in wind. In an effort to maintain its extraordinary growth, leading manufacturer Harbin Power Equipment formed a joint venture with GE to manufacture and supply wind turbines in China. Harbin also purchased a 49 per cent interest in GE’s Shenyang wind factory.

October

The US nuclear ‘renaissance’ was dealt a blow when Constellation Energy pulled out of a $10 billion project to build a nuclear reactor at its Calvert Cliffs site in Maryland. Constellation said it had been forced to withdraw by a federal loan guarantee fee of $880 million, or 11.6 per cent of the value of the loan. The news that its partner would no longer take part in building the first EPR reactor in North America left EDF stunned.

Also in the US, Google announced plans to develop an undersea power cable network along the US mid-Atlantic coast that will collect and deliver power from offshore wind farms. The Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) backbone will cover 560 km off the coast from New Jersey to Virginia and deliver the capacity to connect 6000 MW of offshore wind turbines.

Finland’s grid operator gave the go-ahead to build a 650 MW interconnector between Finland and Estonia, named EstLink2. In the UK, plans for a £21 billion ($33 billion), 8.6 GW tidal power plant, the Severn Barrage, were rejected by Energy Secretary Chris Huhne on cost grounds.

Siemens was contracted to build two 744 MW CCGT plants in Oman for a consortium led by GDF Suez (see May). The German OEM will build Barka III and Sohar II with its South Korean partner GS E&C. In companies news, GE acquired gas engine technology manufacturer Dresser for $3 billion.

November

In November, MHI announced it would begin testing operation of its J-Series gas turbine, a system with the world’s largest power generation capacity and highest thermal efficiency in the 1600 °C turbine inlet temperature class.

South Korea expects its new and renewable energy exports to increase tenfold in just six years to $40 billion. In an effort to ramp up offshore wind farm development and exports, Seoul announced plans for a 5 GW “proving area” wind farm in the Yellow Sea, with 5 MW turbines built by Korean firms such as Hyundai, Doosan, Samsung and Hyosung.

US offshore wind was boosted when the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities approved a 15-year power purchase agreement for National Grid to purchase renewable energy credits and half of the electricity output from the planned $1 billion, 468 MW Cape Wind project.

Climate change dropped down the agenda in 2010, but energy remained highly political, particularly in Europe. The European Commission unveiled ‘Energy 2020: Towards a New Energy Strategy for Europe 2011–2020’, which proposed a €1 trillion investment towards completing Europe’s internal market for power and towards linking the often land-locked EU member states that joined the EU after 2004.

December

The UK’s ultra-liberalized approach to the electricity market ended as it became clear that a focus on lowering prices offers insufficient incentive for generators to build new plant. Energy secretary Chris Huhne unveiled a radical shake-up, with proposals for a nuclear feed-in tariff, a capacity payment mechanism for gas and other back-up plant, as well as a carbon price floor.

China took a big step towards its goal of 70 GW of nuclear capacity by the end of the decade when State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation agreed with Westinghouse to develop the CAP1400 reactor, based on the latter’s AP1000 design. The outlook for Bulgaria’s troubled 2000 MW Belene nuclear project improved as Sofia agreed with Finnish utility Fortum, French engineering company Altran Technologies and Russian state nuclear firm Rosatom to set up a joint company to build and operate the plant.


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