Italy solar subsidies to continue until end-August

Italy will continue its solar subsidies until end-August, giving a reprieve to developers who had been told that the subsidy would end in end-May.

Regional leaders had asked for an extension to the end of the year, but the government said it was only prepared to carry on the tariff another three months before fixed caps and cuts of up to 60 per cent kick in.

“The decree will contain an extension until 31 August,” industry ministry undersecretary Stefano Saglia, in charge of energy issues, told reporters.

Italy’s solar power sector has surged since the government introduced incentives in 2005, attracting some of the world’s biggest photovoltaic module makers. The government, meanwhile, plans to cap solar developer subsidies at €6bn ($8.9bn) to €7bn a year by the end of 2016, when it expects installed capacity to have risen to 23 GW.

Developers say that Rome’s cuts, married with additional red tape, would stymie a booming sector. According to Reuters, a group of foreign solar power investors claimed to have started legal proceedings against Italy over the proposals.

Italy freezes nuclear plans, to develop “new national energy strategy”

Italy halted plans for developing nuclear power, with the government saying it wanted to develop “a new national energy strategy” in the wake of the crisis in Japan.

Italy declared a temporary moratorium on its nuclear plans after the catastrophe in Japan, though Italians are still set to vote in a June referendum on whether to continue with plans to build atomic power stations. Economic Development Minister Paolo Romani said a new Italian energy strategy spanning the next 20 years would be set out later this year, according to AP.

UK Energy Technologies Institute seeks partners for gas CCS project

The UK’s Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) is seeking partners to develop and demonstrate carbon capture technologies specifically for gas fired power stations.

Bidders will need to demonstrate and justify how their approach would enable their technology to reach a state of development that would allow future investors to start engineering the design of a power station using this next generation technology in 2015, with operation commencing in 2020.

Older EU nuclear plants may retire after tests, says IEA

Some older nuclear power plants in the EU may be forced to end operation earlier than previously planned following forthcoming ‘stress tests’, the head of the International Energy Agency said.

IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka made the remarks as the European Commission prepared to outline a draft plan for stress testing the EU’s nuclear power plants to guard against crises like that at Japan’s stricken Fukushima plant.

“Some of the older nuclear power plants may be forced to retire earlier than they should be; it depends on the test itself,” Tanaka said.

Tanaka said the tests would have to be “severe enough” to ensure the safety of Europe’s nuclear plants and to convince the public to accept nuclear energy, which he called a “very important” option in the European energy mix.

Asked if there is a risk stress tests will be created so that no power plant fails, Tanaka said its provisions depended on European countries. “It also depends on the individual location. It is very difficult to say how the tests will be designed and what the consequences of the tests will be.”

HSBC chosen as consultant for Belene project

Bulgarian Energy Holdings (BEH) has picked HSBC to be the strategy and financial adviser on the Belene nuclear power plant project.

The UK bank will now carry out a financial assessment of the project, comprising two Russian VVER-1000 reactors, to determine if it is economically feasible.

HSBC will prepare a project development concept with a focus on financing and contractual arrangements; production of a regional electricity market analysis and demand study; and the development of a financial model for Belene NPP.

Scottish wind farms bag $1.5m for disconnection

Six Scottish wind farms were paid up to £0.3m ($0.5m) each to disconnect turbines from the UK’s National Grid.

Details of the payments emerged following research by the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF). The REF said energy companies were paid £0.9m to halt the turbines for several hours between 5 and 6 April.

National Grid said the network had overloaded because high winds and heavy rain in Scotland overnight on 5 and 6 April produced more wind energy than it could use.

•••

Belarus: Wind farms with a total capacity of 285 MW are due to be constructed between 2011 and 2015, according to government figures. An estimated 35 hydropower plants with a total capacity of 120 MW will also be built or restored.

Denmark: Vestas has launched its latest offshore wind turbine, a 7 MW machine with a rotor diameter of 164 meters. Construction of the first V164-7.0MW prototype is expected in Q4 2012 with series production in 2015.

Europe: EU transmission system operators group ENTSO-E is planning a three-year study project to start in 2012 to look at how to develop a secure, integrated, near-zero carbon power grid by 2050.

France: GDF Suez has inaugurated a 435 MW combined-cycle gas turbine power plant at Montoir de Bretagne in the Loire Atlantique region.

Germany: Gemeinschaftskraftwerk Bremen, which includes German utilities SWB, Deutsche Bahn Energie, TOBI and Mainova, is to build a 440 MW CCGT. GE is to supply the gas turbines.

Germany: The country’s first commercial offshore wind power park, the 21-turbine Baltic 1 wind farm, has been inaugurated. The operator of the park, with an installed capacity of 50 MW, is EnBW.

Poland: Metso will convert a coal fired CFB boiler to a biomass fired boiler for Elektrocieplownia Tychy S. A. in the south of the country. The total value of the order is €20m ($30m).

Serbia: State owned Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS) and Siemens have signed a $10.5m contract for the upgrade of the Nikola Tesla B thermal power plant (TENT) in Obrenovac. The companies will upgrade the plant’s monitoring and control system to improve its efficiency and environmental protection in the initial phase.

Ukraine: Ukraine marked the 25th anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear accident at the Chernobyl power plant on 26 April. President Viktor Yanukovych attended a candle-lighting service in the capital, Kiev. A bell sounded at 01:23, the time of the blast, and tolled 25 times.

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