News digest

Australia: The first section of the world’s longest high voltage underwater electricity cable has been laid off the east coast of Victoria in Australia. The first 98 km section of the 290 km Basslink cable, which will connect Victoria and Tasmania was completed at the end of June.

Australia: Alstom has been awarded a turnkey contract to construct a new steam and power plant for Ravensthorpe Nickel Operations in Western Australia. The plant will generate 40 MWe from 3 x 18.5 MW steam turbines from steam generated in an acid plant.

China: China’s State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) is to establish six branches throughout the country to promote ongoing power sector reform. The six offices will be under the direct control of SERC and will supervise power production and marketing activities.

China: The ninth generating unit at the Three Gorges hydropower project on China’s Yangtze river went into operation in July. The installed capacity of the plant has now reached 6.3 GW and a further two 700 MW units are expected to enter operation this year.

India: Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (BHEL) has secured an order worth Rs5010m ($108m) from Rajasthan Utpadan Vidyut Nigam to develop a 330 MW combined cycle power plant at Dholpur. BHEL will supply two gas turbines, two heat recovery boilers and a steam turbine.

Japan: Nuvera Fuel Cells and Takagi Industrial have signed an agreement to develop commercial fuel cell based cogeneration systems for the Japanese market. Takagi will integrate its heat management system with Nuvera’s 5 kW Avanti fuel cell. The companies will conduct field trials in 2006 and 2007.

New Zealand: VA Tech Transmission & Distribution has sold switchgear manufacturer Reyrolle Pacific to Transformer Winding Services. Wellington-based Reyrolle Pacific has 60 employees and had revenues of g11.8m ($14.2m) in 2003.

Philippines: The Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) is aiming to sell 70-80 per cent of Napocor’s power generation assets by the end of 2005. It has revised its sales schedule and aims to have sold off 30 per cent by the end of 2004. Under the Philippines’ reform programme, operation of the wholesale spot market will start when 70 per cent of Napocor assets have been sold.

Philippines: Australia’s Pacific Hydro has started the $17.31m expansion of the Bakun AC hydropower project in the Philippines. The project involves construction of two weirs to feed additional water into the existing 70 MW Bakun plant on Luzon.

Sri Lanka gives go-ahead

The government of Sri Lanka has given the go ahead to two key power projects that will help to alleviate power shortages in the country. It has approved the 150 MW Upper Kotmale hydropower plant and the 600 MW Norochcholai coal fired power plant.

Work on the Upper Kotmale project was originally due to start in 2002 with support from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). However, work was postponed due to opposition to the project.

The Norochcholai power plant will be built in two 300 MW phases and is due to start operating in 2009.

State support granted for Dadri project

Reliance Industries and the government of Uttar Pradesh have signed the state support agreement for the 3700 MW Dadri combined cycle project. The first phase of the Rs110bn ($2.4bn) project is due to be completed within two years.

The state support agreement states that Reliance is required to meet a specific project schedule and a commitment to supply 40 per cent of the plant’s output to the state of Uttar Pradesh. The remaining output of the plant will be transmitted to major load centres such as Delhi

The Dadri project will be the largest of its kind in the world and will help to alleviate severe power shortages in the north Indian state. The plant will use natural gas from Reliance’s gas fields in the Krishna-Godavari basin in Andhra Pradesh.

Alstom has been awarded a contract to construct a 469 MW combined cycle power plant for Gautami Power Ltd.

Contact spreads its wings

New Zealand’s Contact Energy has moved into the Australian market, establishing a new energy retailer in the state of Victoria. Red Energy will offer electricity and gas to consumers in Victoria, and will consider the possibility of moving into the national market.

The launch of Red Energy is part of Contact’s long-stated strategic intention to grow its Australian interests. The retailer will initially have 50 staff, and plans to double the size of its operations within a year.

Red Energy hopes to attract customers through the simplicity of its billing system. It will offer Victorians single tariffs, a simple and easy to understand bill, and a single point of resolution on account queries. It will also offer a five per cent “pay on time” discount and a A$50 ($35) rebate off the first bill.

Australia launches energy package

The Australian government has revealed a new energy package outlining a number of initiatives designed to secure a low-cost sustainable energy future for the country. The package endorses market reform and confirms the government’s decision not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

Key initiatives in the package include: establishing a A$500m ($352m) fund to leverage A$1bn in private investment to develop low emission technologies; providing A$75m for “Solar Cities” trials in urban areas; the provision of A$134m to remove impediments to the commercial development of renewable technologies; and new requirements for businesses to manage emissions.

Mitsui Babcock signs China deal

Mitsui Babcock has signed a technology transfer agreement with Harbin Boiler Company (HBC), China’s largest utility boiler manufacturer. The deal gives Mitsui Babcock greater access to the rapidly growing Chinese power market and will also provide it with substantial revenues.

Under the terms of the 15-year agreement, Mitsui Babcock will transfer its proven spiral furnace technology using three-core burner technology to HBC, enabling the company to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from coal fired plants.

The installed plant can also be fitted with dust collection and flue gas desulphurization equipment to meet the increasing legislation in China for lower emissions.

Asia remains strongest nuclear power market

Driven by the pressures of economic growth, natural resource scarcity and increasing populations, nuclear power has seen more growth in Asia than any other part of the world, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Twenty-two of the last 31 nuclear power plants brought on line have been built in Asia, while 18 of the current 27 nuclear plants under construction are located in Asia.

Publishing its report on the future of nuclear energy around the world, the IAEA states that in spite of concerns over safety and waste, the future of nuclear energy in Western Europe and North America is far from clear. Issues such as global warming and security of supply could be driving factors for the growth of nuclear energy in these regions.

Nuclear energy is an attractive resource in many Asian countries where regulated markets do not perceive the expense, regulatory requirements and long lead times associated with new nuclear build as risks.