US EPA backs down on smog goals but tightens limit

The United States will enforce standards on smog pollution set in 2008 under the Bush administration after the White House gave way to pressure from business groups to drop proposals for stricter limits.

Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), told a congressional hearing on 22 September that her office will enforce a ground level ozone limit of 75 parts per billion (ppb).

The new standard – cutting the current limit of 84 ppb adopted in 1997 – is expected to raise costs for power generators as states are forced to tighten their controls.

President Barack Obama had killed an EPA plan to cut levels to between 60 and 70 ppb on the grounds of protecting the faltering US economy from regulatory burdens. The agency had estimated stricter limits would cost the economy as much as $90m per year.

Air quality fails the 2008 standard in 52 areas – including Baltimore, San Diego, Dallas-Fort Worth and parts of Los Angeles – the EPA said in a memo informing state and local air agencies about the new limits.

US quake shows need for nuclear checks, says NRC chairman

A 5.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked the US East Coast shows the need to analyse new seismic risks for nuclear plants and to invest in upgraded defences, said the chairman of the US’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The quake on 23 August shut down Dominion Resources Inc’s North Anna nuclear power plant.

Since 1991, the NRC has been working towards requiring plants to more regularly model quake risks. “I certainly expect… [some] plants will need to make modifications as a result,” said Gregory Jaczko.

Argentina budgets for increased imports of gas and electricity

Argentina’s government is seeking about $1bn extra financing next year for higher imports of fuel, natural gas and electricity in the 2012 federal budget.

The budget seeks permission to issue 10bn peso ($2.38bn) in treasury notes to help guarantee energy imports – up from 6bn peso ($1.43bn) in the proposed 2011 budget. The funds will be used “as a guarantee for the acquisition of liquid and gas fuels [and] the importation of electric power”.

Brazil plans to build another five nuclear reactors

Brazil is planning to build five more nuclear reactors to add to the two already operating at its sole nuclear plant at Angra dos Reis, energy minister Edison Lobao told the state news agency on 15 September.

“Despite the recent incidents in Japan, Brazil is sticking to its policy of expanding its nuclear programme,” said Lobao.

Construction of a third reactor is already underway at Angra and is due to complete in 2015. The new reactor would add 1.3 GW to the 2 GW plant’s capacity.

Lobao gave no timeframe for the additional four units but said they would be built in new plants elsewhere in Brazil. Under earlier energy policy four reactors would be online by 2025.

Brazil currently relies overwhelmingly on hydropower and derives only 3 per cent of its electricity from the Angra plant. Yet economic expansion is now outstripping supply, triggering blackouts.

A study into Brazil’s nuclear security after the Fukushima disaster found no risk of a similar incident.

Ecuador to install 25,000 GE smart meters

About 25 000 meters will be installed in Ecuador by Electrica de Guayaquil (EDG) in the second phase of a complete overhaul of the country, which will eventually replace nearly 200,000 meters.

As part of a grid modernisation strategy, GE meter solution will enable remote connection and disconnection of customers, the collection of usage information, and future enhancements such as demand response control and pre-payment.

GE will deliver smart meters with advanced metering infrastructure and RF communications. Trilliant will provide the communications platform.

Canada geothermal resources rated as ‘massive’ by study

Canada sits on massive geothermal resources that could be exploited through as few as 100 projects to meet much of its baseload demand, finds a report from the Geological Survey of Canada.

At least 5 GW of potential power are available in British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon alone, according to the report, which concluded that geothermal potential is broadly distributed across Canada, although data is only available for 40 per cent of the landmass.


Argentina: AES chief executive Andres Gluski has announced plans to invest $300m to add 420 MW to capacity in the country, including a 300 MW power plant on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.

Brazil: A failure affecting four transmission lines on 2 September left four Brazilian regions partially without electricity, highlighting the growing strain on the country’s power infrastructure.

Brazil: Desenvix claims to be the first South American developer to use Chinese wind turbines with its decision to use 23 Sinovel turbines at its 34.5 MW Barra dos Coqueiros to help offset Brazil’s low rate for wind energy.

Chile: Chile’s Element Power is to build a 30 MW solar power plant, BN Americas reports. The plant will require an investment of $93m and will be built in the north near the municipality of La Tirana.

Dominican Republic: Wartsila has been awarded a €115m ($218m) turnkey contract for a gas fired combined-cycle power plant for the Pueblo Viejo mine. Wartsila’s scope of supply to Barick Gold includes 12 Wartsila 50DF dual fuel engine units that can run on liquid fuels and on natural gas.

Jamaica: Energy and Mining Minister Clive Mullings has called for the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) to immediately suspend installation of smart meters, pending an enquiry, after complaints of widespread tampering.

Mexico: Production of clean energy rose 26 per cent to 23 TWh during the first six months of this year, according to a report in Reforma newspaper. Mexico currently uses wind, hydropower, nuclear and geothermal energy.

Peru: Renewable energy projects are gaining strength thanks to more competitive energy prices, according to a report in El Comercio. Wind, solar and biomass have become especially prominent. A recent auction saw $69/MWh for a wind farm, close to the $65/MWh a hydro project received.

Uruguay: A recent auction to build 150 MW of wind capacity attracted bids from 17 companies totalling over 1000 MW, prompting authorities to award 192 MW instead of 150 MW.

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