US agency finances South African solar project

Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a development finance institution of the US government, has dedicated $250m towards developing its first 60 MW solar power project in South Africa.

The financing will enable two American firms, MEMC Electronic Materials, and its subsidiary, SunEdison, to build and operate the solar photovoltaic plant in Boshoff, in South Africa’s Free State province.

Under a power purchase agreement, the electricity generated by the power plant will be sold to the national grid.

The project, which is expected to help diversify South African electricity generation beyond its heavy coal concentration, will also help meet the Black Economic Empowerment objectives of the programme.

Nigeria names winning bids for five state power plants

Preferred bids totalling more than $700m for five Nigerian state power plants have been named by government sources.

Transnational Corp. won with its $300m bid for the 947 MW Ughelli power station. China Machinery Engineering Corp. led a group that tendered $201m for the Sapele plant. Amperion Power Distribution Ltd, a group headed by Forte Oil Plc (FO) and China’s Shanghai Municipal Electric Power Co., offered $132m for Geregu plant.

Mainstream Energy Solutions Ltd., led by Russia’s RusHydro JSC, won the bid to manage the Kainji hydro plant with a $50.8m offer. North-South Power Co. Ltd, a group led by China Three Gorges Corp., got the Shiroro hydro power plant concession with a $23.6m offer.

Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, is selling majority stakes in power plants and letting private investors buy as much as 70 per cent of 11 distribution companies spun out of the former state-owned utility as it seeks private investment to curb power shortages.

All the winning bids are “subject to the approval” of the National Council on Privatisation headed by Vice President Namadi Sambo.


Four new nuclear plants planned in India

A plan worth $3.73bn is in the offing to set up four new nuclear power plants in India.

Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd plans to set up four 700 MW units, two each in Haryana and Madhya Pradesh states, S.A. Bhardwaj, a technical director at the company, told Dow Jones Newswires.

The company is awaiting government approval for the project.

“We have acquired land in Haryana and will do the same in Madhya Pradesh in the next three-four months,” he added.

Bhardwaj said the company plans to fund about 70 per cent of project via debt. Nuclear Power Corp. will fund the rest along with its partners.

Nuclear Power Corp. is in talks with Oil & Natural Gas Corp. for a partnership, he added.

In an effort to lower carbon emissions and diversify energy sources India is building more nuclear, solar and wind power projects, including 19 nuclear power plants with a total capacity of 17.4 GW, over the next five years

Japan relaxes impact procedures for coal

Goshi Hosono, Japan’s environment minister

Japan’s government aims to relax environmental impact procedures to facilitate the construction of more coal fired power plants.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., which plans to construct coal fired plants as an alternative to nuclear plants, is expected to file for approval as early as next year under new assessment procedures. The Nikkei reports that no new project has cleared the government’s environmental impact assessments since chemical manufacturer Tokuyama Corp. won approval in 2009 to expand a coal fired plant.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will soon begin talks with the Environment Ministry on revising the procedures. They hope to draw up an outline of new guidelines by year-end for implementation in 2013.

Assessments will also be completed faster, Environment Minister Goshi Hosono has already indicated. For upgrades to fossil fuel power plants, the time required will be cut to slightly more than a year, down from about three years currently. Assessments for wind and geothermal power plant projects are expected to be accelerated to as little as about 18 months.

Aveva signs pact with China Nuclear Power

UK engineering company Aveva has formed a strategic alliance with China Nuclear Power Design Company (CNPDC).

Aveva has signed a Memorandum of Co-operation (MoC) with CNPDC, China’s first professional nuclear power design company and part of the GuangDong Nuclear Group, China’s second-largest nuclear player.

This deal builds on an 11-year relationship between the two firms which has seen CNPDC deploy Aveva software on 26 projects.

Under the new MoC, CNPDC will use Aveva solutions for its AP1000 (Westinghouse) and Chinese third generation nuclear projects.

Paul Eveleigh, Aveva’s executive vice-president for greater China, said: “We signed the MoC in order to collaborate together on mutually beneficial initiatives including jointly developed applications for wider distribution, technical support and training.”

Japan cools on nuclear exit

The Japanese government appears to have backed away from a planned phase-out of nuclear energy, following campaigning from the country’s business lobby.

The cabinet offered only a qualified endorsement of a long-term strategy to move completely away from nuclear power by 2040.

Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano said meeting the target date could prove impossible.

A previously announced plan from the government’s National Policy Unit should be implemented “flexibly” and with “constant verification and revision”, said ministers.

A new resolution makes no mention of the timetable for eliminating nuclear power, an omission that both supporters and opponents of atomic energy have interpreted as a sign that the government is backtracking in the face of opposition from business groups.

Vietnam to rely on nuclear

Vietnam is planning to build 10 GW of nuclear generation to ensure a secure energy supply for its growing economy, concludes a report from GlobalData.

The Vietnamese government aims to increase its economic growth rate from 5.89 per cent in 2011 to between 6 and 6.5 per cent by 2013, finds the report. As the expected GDP increase will involve a rise in power demand, the country plans to invest about $50bn in the power sector over the next decade.

Vietnam has entered into several nuclear co-operation agreements, enabling the nation to develop competent regulatory infrastructure as well as attain technological knowledge and human resources from established nuclear countries.

Since 2000, Vietnam has signed agreements with China, Argentina, Russia, France and Japan. Kazakhstan also plans to supply fuel for nuclear power plants in Vietnam and to participate in plant construction, according to GlobalData.

Vietnam’s total installed power capacity is expected to reach 52 GWe by 2020, with nuclear power expected to account for about 1.5 per cent. According to the report, nuclear is expected to increase to 20″25 per cent by 2050 after the country builds ten nuclear reactors, scheduled for completion by 2030, which will contribute an additional 10,000 MW to the country’s installed capacity.

‘New era’ for coal power beckons in Asia

Norkun Sitthiphong of Thailand’s Ministry of Energy opens POWER-GEN Asia

A prominent role for coal in Asia’s future power mix has been forecast by conference speakers at POWER-GEN Asia in Bangkok.

“Coal is still king,” said Colin Tam, executive chairman of Hong Kong’s Crystal Vision Energy. Clean coal technology is “slowly and quietly coming” and this would herald a “new era” for coal power generation, he added.

But the panel was less upbeat on carbon capture and storage Wouter van Wersch of Alstom Power Singapore told the conference that “there is no progress on this because there is no clear guidance from governments.” Carbon dioxide emissions are not “so high on the agenda of governments” in Asia, he added.

There was also consensus that nuclear had a future in Asia, particularly in China. Peter Littlewood of Hong Kong company CLP, said the time would soon come when China “will master the design and manufacturing of third generation nuclear reactors”, and when that time comes it will be able to “do nuclear cheaper than anyone else in the world.”

First Gen plans $3bn expansion

First Gen Corp, the Philippines’ second-largest electricity producer, may invest as much as $3bn over the next six years building power plants and a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal to boost its capacity by more than half, said its President Francis Giles Puno.

“There’s room for additional capacity,” Puno told Bloomberg. “We intend to meet the needs of the market by expanding our platform.”

The company, which already owns two of the country’s three gas fired power facilities, will build another, which it will later expand, said Puno. First Gen will also invest in wind and hydroelectric projects, he added.

Power outages have hit some provinces in the south of the Philippines this year. Luzon island, which accounts for three quarters of the nation’s electricity demand, will require at least 450 MW more from 2014, according to the Department of Energy website.


Favourite bidder drops out of UK nuclear race

Uncertainty over nuclear power’s role in the UK’s energy future has intensified with the withdrawal of a highly fancied bidder in the race to build the country’s new generation of nuclear reactors.

An alliance of French group Areva Euronext with China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation was expected to bid for the 6 GW Horizon joint venture, for which it was seen as the most promising candidate.

Horizon, one of the UK’s biggest nuclear projects, was put up for sale in March by German utilities RWE and E.ON. The joint venture owns two nuclear sites in Britain where it plans to build 6 GW of nuclear capacity with an investment of $24bn.

The withdrawal of the most credible bidder narrows the field to a two-horse race between a group led by Hitachi of Japan and Westinghouse Electric, owned by Toshiba.

Dong and Iberdrola ‘set to quit Poland’

Dong Energy and Iberdrola are reportedly poised to end operations in Poland as the country prepares to update its renewable energy sector regulations with a draft bill that favours offshore wind over onshore facilities.But the firms are acting to cut debt rather than in response to Polish government policy, according to a source quoted in the Times newspaper.

Dong’s three wind farms totalling 111.5 MW and Iberdrola’s 185 MW in turbines together make up almost a fifth of Poland’s 1.6 GW of wind capacity.

Poland generates about 90 per cent of its power with coal, but has committed to generating 15 per cent of its electricity through renewables by 2020. Renewables now account for about 8 per cent of power generation, with wind accounting for just under 2 per cent.

Ireland-UK power link goes live

Ireland and the UK are celebrating the activation of the first electricity interconnector between the two countries, with the UK now set to benefit from Ireland’s surplus wind power.

The €600m ($770m) connection, running beneath the Irish Sea, advances efforts to build a high-voltage network joining Britain and its neighbours.

The new undersea cable can transport 500 MW of power either way, and enable the UK to meet its renewable energy committments.

Along with an existing interconnector between Scotland and Northern Ireland, the new link brings the total capacity for electricity imports to Britain from across the Irish Sea to 1000 MW.

“Ireland has some fantastic renewable energy resources and this interconnector will provide access to the massive UK customer base,” said Ed Davey, UK energy secretary.

German minister seeks brake on green switchover

Peter Altmaier à‚  Peter Altmaier, Germany’s environment minister

Speaking at Husum’s Wind Energy Trade Fair, German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier expressed concern over the pace at which the country is adopting renewable energy.

Altmaier hinted that Germany may have to slow down its planned transformation to green energy to reassure consumers, who are in line to bear the brunt of the immense costs of the switch from nuclear.

Rising energy bills could prove politically sensitive with a general election now just a year away for Europe’s largest economy. Laws that give renewables above-market rates, have already fuelled a surge in solar panels and wind turbines in Germany.

“If we let things continue, we will be getting 40 per cent or 45 per cent of our power from renewable energy by 2020 rather than 35 per cent,” Altmaier told the audience at Husum, northern Germany. While the rapid expansion was a good thing, “the faster the expansion of green power is, the more it costs,” he said.

Resentment among some voters has also been raised by exemptions from higher bills for power-intensive industries seen as crucial for the country’s manufacturing sector.

Hollande sets Fessenheim closure target and rejects shale gas

French president Francois Hollande has vowed to close the country oldest nuclear plant Fessenheim by 2016 and has also pledged to reject the development of shale gas.

In a wide-ranging speech on the environment, Hollande said Fessenheim would be closed by 2016. The move follows a pre-election pledge to shut the plant by 2017 and to cut France’s reliance on nuclear power for electricity from 75 per cent to 50 per cent.

But Bernard Thibault, head of French energy group EDF’s main workers’ union, the CGT, described the decision to close Fessenehim by 2016 as “rushed”.

EDF is reported in French media to have requested €2bn compensation over the Fessenheim closure, although the company has denied the claim.

Hollande added that he has already vetoed several applications from companies to begin drilling for shale gas in France. He said he was opposed to ‘fracking’ on health and environmental grounds, a stand that follows that of his predecessor Nicholas Sarkozy.

Frost & Sullivan sees steady outlook for plant servicing

Western Europe’s power plant services market is likely to hold up as generation shifts from coal fired plants to gas fired ones, finds new analysis from Frost & Sullivan.

Revenue growth will be supported by the sale of long-term service agreements (LTSAs) with the new build gas fired power plants and revenues will rise from €2.5bn in 2011 to €2.84bn in 2018, according to Western European Power Plant Services Markets.

“A key market driver will be an ageing fleet of power plants,” said Frost & Sullivan research analyst Neelam Patil.

“The continued trend of LTSAs for gas turbines and the willingness of power utilities to outsource operations and maintenance activities to third-party service providers will drive revenue growth for services.”

Western Europe’s continued focus on energy efficiency is driving the rapid replacement of large, steam fired power generation facilities with more compact and efficient combined-cycle gas fired power plants.

However, the increasing share of renewable energy is limiting the prospects of conventional, fossil fuel power generation. Europe’s economic difficulties are also hitting electricity demand, so that power plants operate for fewer hours and high-value maintenance activity is postponed.

Yet service revenues are not expected to drop, because operations will adapt to evolving power plant needs such as a focus on improving operational flexibility at coal fired plants to even out supply-demand disruptions from intermittent wind and solar power.

“Another trend is the investments in condition based monitoring systems to help minimise unplanned turbine outages and maximise turbine energy output and revenue generation,” said Patil.

Alstom to acquire tidal energy company

A Tidal Generation Limited (TGL) device
A Tidal Generation Limited (TGL) device

Alstom has signed an agreement to acquire UK-based Tidal Generation Limited (TGL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Rolls-Royce Plc. The deal is expected to be completed within the next few months, subject to closing conditions.

TGL designs and manufactures tidal stream turbines. The company’s first 500 KWe unit was installed in Scotland. A 1 MW tidal turbine will be installed and tested at the same project later in 2012.

The acquisition will give Alstom the opportunity to build a portfolio of tidal products and technologies necessary to cover site conditions and meet customer needs.


IAEA sees slower nuclear growth

Nuclear energy’s growth trajectory is still slipping in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, although Asia is set to host most of a forecast expansion, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The UN atomic agency said its projection for global nuclear generating capacity by 2030 was down by 1″9 per cent on last year ” and by 8″16 per cent on forecasts made before Japan’s earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

Overall capacity is now likely to grow by between 25 and 100 per cent by 2030, depending on a wide range of factors such as global economic growth, the IAEA said on its website.

“Continuing growth in nuclear power following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident is expected, however at a rate lower than estimated a year ago,” said the IAEA.

Most of the expansion is expected to take place in Asia, including China and South Korea, it said. Since the meltdowns at Fukushima, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium have decided to move away from nuclear power.

The IAEA said global nuclear power capacity was expected to grow to between 456 GW and 740 GW by 2030, compared with 370 GW now.

Siemens on track to buy Ansaldo

Siemens AG (SIE) has emerged as the preferred bidder for the power plant construction unit Ansaldo Energia, majority-owned by Finmeccanica SpA (FNC), according to Bloomberg.

The two parties are negotiating a sales price, according to two people familiar with the process but who asked not to be identified, said the news agency.

In May, Finmeccanica’s general manager, Alessandro Pansa, said his company is “at due diligence stage” with potential partners for the sale of stakes of its energy and transport units by the end of the year.

“If achieved, the deal would secure Siemens’ position in the exciting gas turbine market, and further lock out competitors such as Alstom,” said William Mackie, an analyst at Berenberg Bank.

“We believe a deal priced around €1.3bn ($1.7bn) would be taken positively, and strengthening this segment would help Siemens to offset slower business in renewable energy.”


Chile scraps renewables target

Chile has scrapped its target of generating 20 per cent of its power from renewables by 2020.

Energy Minister Jorge Bunster told the Chilean senate that economic and technical issues, principally a lack of rural transmission infrastructure, had triggered the turnaround.The government is now planning to return to an earlier renewables target of 10 per cent by 2024.

The 20 per cent goal was set by Chilean president Sebastian Pinera when he took office in 2010.

Power demand in Peru set to soar to 2016

Peru’s energy demand will rise by an average of 8.6 per cent over the next four years, according to the latest estimates from the country’s Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM).

According to MEM, the balance between supply and demand will reach a peak in 2014 at 10 per cent, followed by 20015 (9.7 per cent) and 2016 (9.5 per cent). It also forecasts that by 2016 consumer demand in the South American country will hit 7481 MW.

However, this will be covered by an additional 4400 MW of generation capacity, primarily hydro (1880 MW), which is due to come online over the next four years.

Brazil to invest $132bn in renewables and transmission

The Brazilian government said it will invest 269bn reals ($130bn) in the power generation and transmission sectors over the next tenyears, according to BNamericas.

The investments include expanding hydro capacity from 84 GW to 117 GW, and wind from 1.4 GW to 15.6 GW. A total of 117bn reals ($57bn) is earmarked for generation projects that are yet to authorised and 95.8bn reals ($47bhn) is assigned for already contracted projects, said the article.

Small hydro facilities, biomass, solar and wind power plants will make up 38 per cent of investments, while other hydroelectric projects will comprise 51 per cent.

Transmission investments are expected to reach 56bn reals ($27bn) over the next decade, the article said, with 32bn reals ($15.7bn) for projects that are not yet tendered. Brazil’s transmission network is expected to increase by 41,500 km.


Mecca turns to solar

Mecca is set to embrace renewable power
Mecca is set to embrace renewable power

Saudi Arabia’s pilgrimage city of Mecca is set to be powered by a 100 MW solar farm, for which a construction tender is already underway.

A winning bid for a build-own-transfer contract is due to be selected next January, according to Bloomberg. Mecca is also considering installing wind turbines and biomass as well as energy-from-waste technology to process the 4000 tonnes of rubbish produced daily by residents and the millions of pilgrims who visit the holy site each year, said its mayor, Osama al-Bar.

But Mecca’s high solar irradiance means that solar power is likely to play the leading role in its ambitious renewable energy plans.

“No city in Saudi Arabia owns power-generation assets, and we want to be first city that owns power plants and hopefully the first in the Muslim world,” said Osama al-Bar.

Dubai to build 1 GW solar park

One of the Middle East’s largest solar parks is to be built in Dubai, according to the head of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority in the UAE.

Saeed Mohammad Al Tayer, MD and CEO of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, announced the 1000 MW Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, at the Mena Renewable Energy Forum.

“By 2030, Dubai’s average energy growth is projected to be in the range of 4 to 5 per cent per annum and our target, under the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030, is to reduce energy consumption by 30 per cent through the implementation of enhanced energy-efficient initiatives and, by the same token, to significantly reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide,” said Al Tayer.

Saudi electricity revamp due in 2014

A sector overhaul to create a competitive market by dividing Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) should be complete by 2014, the MEED Saudi Mega Infrastructure Projects conference was told on 18 September.

At present, SEC generates, transfers and distributes electricity on a national basis. The restructuring will involve dividing its electricity generation business into similar companies that will compete with each other and SEC independent power projects (IPPs). SEC will also set up a single buyer of electricity from the four electricity generation companies and the IPPs. A single separate transmission company has already been established and has been in operation since January 2012.

“We are working now at establishing four generation companies and one distribution company by 2014,” said Amer al-Swaha, head of SEC’s IPP programme.

“The four generation companies will have similar capacity and technology, and will not be based on geographic region. They will all have the same starting point. This will allow us to compare their relative performance.”

North America

US election opens rift over power sector

US presidential contenders Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have continued to advocate starkly opposed visions for their country’s power sector, while voters display fading interest in the dangers of climate change.

Although both campaigns have advocated an “all of the above” approach that embraces a variety of generation sources, the Republican challenger has attacked incentives for renewables and pledged to boost fossil fuel fired generation if elected.

In a striking shift from the 2008 election, when Republican candidate John McCain supported action over climate change, ads that back coal and gas drilling or criticise clean energy have vastly outweighed those expressing the opposite view during the current presidential campaign.

Westinghouse Electric names president and CEO

Danny Roderick à‚  Danny Roderick, Westinghouse’s new president and CEO

Westinghouse Electric Co. said it has appointed Danny Roderick as president and chief executive officer, effective immediately. Roderick succeeds Shigenori Shiga, who was the interim president and CEO since April. Shiga will retain his role as chairman of the Board of Directors.

Roderick recently was the senior vice president, Nuclear Plant Projects for GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy. He previously worked for Progress Energy Florida and Progress Energy Carolinas. Before that, he worked in plant operations and engineering with Entergy Nuclear.

Westinghouse also announced that Ricardo Pérez, president and chief operating officer, would continue in that position.

Canada nuclear unit online again after 15 years

Bruce Power has synchronised its 750 MW Unit 1 to Ontario’s electricity grid to generate power from the unit for the first time in 15 years.

With first synchronization now complete, final planned commissioning activities, including safety system shutdown testing, will be carried out on Unit 1. Unit 2 is on track to operate in the fourth quarter of 2012.

The return to service of Units 1 and 2 will bring the site back to eight-unit capacity, doubling operational units from ten years ago when the company began a programme to make it the world’s largest nuclear generating facility. Bruce A and B each hold four CANDU reactors.

Before Unit 1 restarted, six units were producing more than 4700 MW to generate about 25 per cent of Ontario’s electricity.