News digest

Bolivia: The Bolivian government has won a referendum allowing more of the country’s natural gas reserves to be exported. Results showed that voters backed plans to increase taxes on foreign firms operating in the country and to increase exports via Chilean ports.

Brazil: The Brazilian government will auction licenses for the construction and operation of 11 new transmission lines in 2005. The lines include the 230 kV Irapé-Araçuí line in Minas Gerais, the 500 kV Colina-Ribeiro Gonçalves-São João do Piauí-Sobradinho line in Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia states, and the 525 kV Campos Novos-Polo line.

Canada: Alstom has received an order from Hydro-Quebec for the Peribonka project, a new underground hydropower station in Quebec. The scope of the contract includes design, manufacturing, installation and commissioning of three 130 MW Francis turbines.

Caribbean: Globeleq has completed the sale of a 45 per cent stake in Lucelec, the St Lucia power utility. The UK-based company said that it sold its shares because under the island’s laws it could not obtain a majority holding.

Colombia: Wood Group has won a three year contract with US mining company Drummond to operate and maintain a 65 MW power plant at the Pibbenow coal mine in northern Colombia. The contract is Wood Group’s first long term services agreement in South America.

Mexico: Mexico’s energy sector will need $164bn in investments through 2012 to meet domestic demand and reduce dependence on fuel imports, according to the country’s government. Power consumption is expected to grow by 5.6 per year up to 2012.

Mexico: VA Tech Transmission & Distribution has been awarded a contract by the Comission Federal de Electricidad (CFE) of Mexico to supply a 400 kV GIS substation for the El Cajon hydroelectric plant. The scope of the contract includes engineering, design, supply of two diameters, 400 kV GIS equipment and supervision of erection, testing and commissioning.

USA: Enel North America has acquired five hydropower projects in the USA with a total capacity of 27 MW. The plants, located in Idaho and California, are close to 13 other plants already owned and operated by the company, which is seeking growth opportunities in secure regulatory environments.

USA: Siemens is to help Entergy increase the reliability and capacity of its transmission system through the installation of three Flexible AC Transmission Systems (FACTS). The project involves installation of two static VAR compensators and one fixed series capacitor.

Iberdrola wins Tamazunchale contract

Mexico’s Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) has awarded the contract for developing the 1135 MW Tamazunchale power plant in San Luís Potosí state to Iberdrola of Spain. Iberdrola will build, own, operate and maintain the $500m natural gas fired plant, selling its output to CFE for 25 years.

The project is the largest to be awarded to an independent power producer in Mexico. Construction is scheduled to start in January 2005 and commercial operation will start in June 2007.

The contract confirms Iberdrola as the leading independent power producer in Mexico. The company already operates 2193 MW of capacity, which will increase to 3814 MW when it starts up the 500 MW La Laguna and the 1121 MW Altamira V plants in April 2005 and November 2006, respectively. It currently operates the Altamira IV (1,036 MW), Monterrey (1,000 MW) Enertek (120 MW), and Femsa-Titán (37 MW) power plants.

The Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) has signed an agreement to loan $210m to Electricidad Sol de Tuxpan of Mexico to build, own and operate the 495 MW Tuxpan V natural gas fired power plant in Veracruz state.

DOE receives second wave of CCPI bids

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has launched Round Two of the President’s Clean Coal Power Initiative (CCPI), receiving proposals for projects valued at nearly $6bn. The Round Two proposals represent the second wave of technologies offered by industry in response to the government’s pledge to invest up to $2bn over ten years in advanced power generation technologies.

The purpose of the CCPI is to research and develop technologies that can help to meet the USA’s growing demand for electricity while providing a secure and low-cost energy source and protecting the environment. The Round Two projects will demonstrate advanced coal gasification systems and emission control technologies.

The DOE will review the proposals received, which include one from the Alaska Cowboy Coal Power Consortium to build and operate a plant for an innovative low temperature drying process for low rank coal, and a proposal from the Basin Electric Power Cooperative to build the world’s first hybrid gasification combined cycle plant.

US carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels increased by 0.9 per cent in 2003, but emissions remain below the 2000 level, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Enron revival

A federal bankruptcy judge in the US has granted Enron the right to sell most of its remaining assets so that it can repay creditors and emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The ruling means that the company will eventually re-emerge as a collection of power plants and pipelines in 14 countries.

Enron’s creditors, who are owed $63bn, will receive ¢20 on the dollar, and will start to get their money before the end of 2004. They will be paid mainly with cash but will also receive stock in Enron’s remaining companies.

States sue power companies over carbon emissions

Eight US states have filed a lawsuit against five US power companies, demanding cuts in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The filing is thought to be the first of its kind.

The five power companies between them operate 174 fossil fuel burning plants in 20 states that emit 650m t of CO2 per year – equivalent to one quarter of the US utility industry’s annual CO2 emissions. The action calls on the companies to reduce their emissions and does not seek monetary damages.

The filing has been made by the states of California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin against American Electric Power, Southern Company, Tennessee Valley Authority, Xcel Energy, and Cinergy Corporation.

“Our lawsuit is a huge, historic first step toward holding companies accountable for these pernicious pollutants that threaten our health, economy, environment and quality of life,” said Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal.

Brazil selects 115 Proinfa renewable projects

Brazilian power generator Eletrobras has selected 3195 MW of wind, biomass and small hydro projects to be included in the Proinfa alternative power programme. The 115 projects were selected from proposals submitted in May 2004.

Eletrobras will sign 20-year power purchase agreements with the selected developers, while the projects will receive favourable financing terms from the Brazilian development bank BNDES.

One of the bidders for Proinfa projects, SIIF Energies, a unit of EDF, has filed a legal petition questioning Eletro-bras’ selection criteria after the majority of its projects failed to be selected. SIIF registered 500 MW of wind projects, but only 6 MW were selected.