Japan energy minister plans to raise competition in the market

Japan must strip its regional electricity utilities of their sales monopolies as part of reforms following last year’s nuclear crisis, the economy minister has told the Financial Times.

Yukio Edano, whose brief covers the economy, trade and industry, said customers should be allowed to choose their electricity provider.

Japan could face severe power shortages this summer in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and the government is considering sweeping reform of the power sector.

Regional power companies currently dominate Japan’s electricity business from generation to transmission and distribution, with a full monopoly over supply to households in their areas of operation and a near-monopoly to commercial customers.

Mr Edano told the newspaper that he sees greater competition as the main priority.

“The important thing is to bring into play appropriate competition in the electricity sector and to allow consumers – the users – to have a choice,” the minister said. “That is a major goal.”

Mr Edano said the government was considering extensive structural changes.

India’s Power Finance Corp plans to double its renewables funding

Power Finance Corp, India’s largest state-run lender to electricity utilities, plans to more than double lending for renewable energy projects within a year as coal fired plants become riskier investments.

Approved loans to renewables projects, particularly solar and wind, will hit 15bn rupees ($305m), or 4 per cent of the total in the next financial year, up from 6.75bn rupees, Chairman Satnam Singh told Bloomberg.

The company does not plan to increase its total loan outlays of 450bn rupees in 2013, he said.

Bangladesh signs $1.5bn coal plant deal

Bangladesh has signed a deal with an Indian state-run company to build a $1.5bn 1320 MW coal fired power plant due online in 2016.

Bangladesh, which relies on decades-old gas fired plants, suffers a shortfall of about 2 GW.

With about 2.9 billion tonnes of coal reserves, the country of 150 million people is looking into options for coal fired power plants.

The government says the economy is expected to grow by more than 6 per cent this year.

Singapore carries out study to optimise its fuel mix

Singapore is conducting a study aimed at tweaking the mix of different fuels used to generate its electricity in future.

The study is intended to help achieve competitively priced electricity for industries and households as well as to secure stable power supplies.

Singapore is currently building a $1.7bn LNG terminal to bring in liquefied natural gas from mid-2013 to supplement current piped gas supplies from Indonesia and Malaysia for fuelling the gas fired plants on which the island relies.

The EMA in late-2010 said that it was prepared to look at other options such as coal fired plants and also electricity imports in the medium term.

John Ng, CEO of PowerSeraya, said that “Singapore is clearly trying to bring in as many economical ways of electricity supplies to try to reduce the price of electricity here. But it has also to balance this, as the higher the reserves margin, the safer power supplies will be”.

Singapore is actively exploring ways to diversify its energy portfolio to include clean energy sources, such as solar energy.

Samalkot 2400 MW plant sets “record”

India’s largest gas power plant, the Samalkot 2400 MW project, is ready for commissioning in an impressive time of just 15 months.

J.P. Chalasani, CEO of Reliance Power, said: “We believe that we have created a world record for the fastest gas based project execution in just 15 months from placement of the order on General Electric.

“The entire capacity is expected to be commissioned in combined cycle by the end of 2012. The 2400 MW Samalkot plant is a testimony to our strong project execution capabilities.”

The project is being constructed in collaborations with vendors such as GE, Hamon, Hyundai and Xian Electric.

Japan nuclear tests review postponed

Japan’s nuclear watchdog has postponed completion of its review on stress tests on the first pair of dozens of idled reactors.

Only three of Japan’s 54 reactors are online 11 months after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear incident. Many have been stopped for regular maintenance, during which utilities are conducting stress tests.

Clearing the stress tests against extreme events is necessary for restarting the two reactors run by the Kansai Electric Power Co. at the Ohi plant in western Japan.

China: State subsidies for demonstration solar projects approved in 2011 and this year are being cut as component costs fall. The subsidy for projects approved last year fell by 11 per cent to 8 yuan ($1.3) a watt. A subsidy of 7 yuan a watt will apply this year.

China: New wind capacity totalling 18 GW last year has maintained the country’s status as the largest and fastest growing wind market.

India: Areva T&D India Limited has announced the change of its legal entity name to Alstom T&D India Limited with effect from 31 January 2012.

India: Gujarat state has completed 300 MW of solar plants, about a third of its target. Another 300 MW are almost finished and should be ready in about 15 days, Iswarbhai Bhavsar, chairman of the Gujarat Energy Development Agency, told Reuters.

Indonesia: Sumitomo Corp denies having made any investment decision on energy projects in Indonesia, despite Jakarta’s energy minister having said the trading house planned major fresh investment in the country.

Japan: Tepco and other Japanese utilities will have to limit increases in their tariffs by revising how they calculate costs, reported the Yomiuri newspaper. The government plans to make firms cut their labour cost reference by 20 per cent, said the paper. Companies will be asked to cut costs by buying fuel supplies together, according to the report.

Sri Lanka: A $500m coal power plant is planned for Sampur, in the Eastern province, as a joint venture between the Ceylon Electricity Board and India’s NTPC Limited.

Tajikistan: Alstom Grid has won a contract worth more than €30m ($39m) with Barki Tajik for a 500 kV Switchyard Reconstruction Project to the Nurek Hydroelectric Power Plant (Nurek HPP), which Alstom describes as Central Asia’s first use of 500 kV gas-insulated switchgear (GIS) technology.

Vietnam: Alstom and Hydrochina Huadong Engineering Corp have signed a contract worth about $23.6m with Vietnam Electricity to provide equipment and technical services for the Song Bung 4 hydropower project in Vietnam.

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