Australia calls for nuclear debate

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has called for a full-scale debate on nuclear power in the country. The move has been prompted by the renewed international interest in nuclear energy, growing energy demand and concerns over energy prices, emissions and energy security.

Howard has established a Prime Ministerial Taskforce to undertake an “objective, scientific and comprehensive review into uranium mining, processing and the contribution of nuclear energy in Australia in the longer term”. The review has been criticised by environmental groups, who have called for the government to investigate other forms of generation.

Australia holds 40 per cent of the world’s known low-cost recoverable uranium reserves, and the government believes that it can add value to its uranium mining industry.

World’s largest coal mine methane project

The Shanxi Jincheng Anthracite Coal Mining Group has selected Caterpillar to supply the generating sets for what is thought to be the world’s largest coal mine methane power project. Caterpillar will provide 60 generating sets for the project, which will become operational in 2007.

The power plant will generate 120 MWe from coalbed and coal mine methane from the Sihe mine in Jincheng City, Shanxi Province. Exhaust heat will also be recovered to produce hot water and steam for mining operations. The project will avoid emissions equivalent to 4.5m t of CO2 each year.

PSALM keeps faith in asset sales

The Philippines’ Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) is to try again to sell off the country’s National Transmission Corp. (Transco) under a 25-year concession. The organization is also planning to sell the Calaca coal fired power plant later this year following a failed auction process in April.

PSALM has set a deadline of September for the sale of Transco and expects investor groups to submit expressions of interest by July. Although it failed twice to sell Transco in 2003, PSALM expects interest in the utility to be high due to the fact that there is now greater regulatory transparency than there was three years ago.

Earlier this year, two bids for the 600 MW Calaca power plant – from First Generation Luzon Power and DMCI Holdings – fell short of PSALM’s $288m reserve price. The plant is has already undergone two failed bidding rounds.

Basslink HVDC commissioned

Siemens Power Transmission and Distribution group has handed over the Basslink high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission link to National Grid Australia after a successful trial operation period. The 500 MW link between Tasmania and the Australian mainland has been operating since the end of April.

The 400 kV link runs for 360 km between Georgetown, Tasmania and Loy Yang, Victoria. It allows Tasmania to export electricity to Victoria to cover peak load demand, and in return the island can replenish its baseload through electricity imports when reservoir levels are low. Tasmania also gains access to the Australian electricity market via the link.

Bangladesh pledges funds

The government of Bangladesh has increased its allocation for the power sector in its latest budget in a response to the country’s on-going power crisis. It has also pledged to undertake a number of long-term measures to improve power supplies in the wake of protests over load-shedding.

The government has allocated Tk42 860m ($617m) for the power sector in fiscal 2007, 14 per cent higher than in fiscal 2006. The budget also proposes the allocation of Tk1000m to create an Energy Development Fund to promote the use of renewables in areas with no access to the power grid.

In April electricity consumers held protests outside the offices of the Power Distribution Board (PDB) over the levels of and lack of notification about load shedding.

Indonesia approves fast track coal fired power projects

The Indonesian government has approved the construction of a series of coal fired power plants over the next four years to prevent power shortages and reduce dependence on oil. The plants will be built on a fast track basis, with some of them excluded from a lengthy tendering process in order to speed up their development.

Under its ‘Crash Start Programme’, the government will directly appoint several local contractors to develop some of the plants. Government regulations require such projects to undergo an open tender process, but direct appointments of contractors are allowed under emergency situations.

The fast-track programme is expected to add 10 000 MW of capacity to the grid. Projects to be developed include a 200 MW plant in Jeneponto, South Sulawesi.

News digest

Asean: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is to sign a memorandum of understanding on the framework to develop an Asean power grid during its Ministers of Energy Meeting in Vientiane, Laos, in July. The power grid and the 4500 km-long trans-Asean gas pipeline project are part of the region’s ambitious plans to boost energy supplies and security.

Australia: The Vestas Group has received an order for 53 units of its V90-3.0 MW wind turbine for the Lake Bonney Stage 2 project in South Australia. Delivery of the units will take place in 2006, with commissioning of the final turbines planned for early 2008.

China: The IFC has signed an agreement with China’s Industrial Bank to facilitate loans to promote energy efficiency in the country. Industrial Bank will establish a $58m loan portfolio for small and midsize energy users.

China: China has completed construction of the Three Gorges dam in Hubei Province, marking a key milestone in the development of the project. The main dam is 2.3 km long and retains 16m m3 of water.

China: China National Nuclear Corporation has connected the largest nuclear power generating unit to the national grid. The first 1.06 GW generator of the Tianwan plant in Lianyungang city, Jiangsu Province, will enter commercial operation at the end of 2006.

India: JBIC has signed loan agreements worth $582.4m with the Indian government and the Rural Electrification Corporation Ltd. for pumped storage power generation, water supply and rural electrification projects in India.

Indonesia: The Indonesian government will open tenders for the construction of a 1000 MW nuclear power plant in 2007. The plant will be located on the Muria peninsula in central Java.

Pakistan: The Karachi City Administrator has given the go-ahead to a $850m power and desalination plant for the city. The 200 MW, 91m litres/day plant will be completed in 36 months.

Singapore: Island Power is planning to raise S$600m ($376m) to build a gas fired power plant in Singapore, making it the first non-government linked operator to do so. The company, a subsidiary of Intergen, wants to construct a 785 MW plant that will use natural gas from Indonesia.

South Korea: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has received an order for three 1 MW wind turbines from Dongkuk Structures and Construction for the Shin-An wind farm. The order marks MHI’s first order for wind turbines from Korea.

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