Brussels to investigate low power prices in Spain

The European Commission has launched an investigation into regulated electricity tariffs, which it suspects constitute illegal state aid for some power firms.

The regulator opened a formal inquiry into Spain’s regulated electricity tariffs saying they “might have provided significant amounts of operating aid to these industries and, to a certain extent, to the electricity incumbents.”

The Commission added that this may have restricted competition in the country’s electricity market, saying: “Because only the traditional Spanish electricity incumbents were allowed to provide low regulated tariffs, potential new suppliers may have been prevented from entering the market.” The low tariffs for industrial customers are believed to have led to a e3.8bn ($5.0bn) deficit in 2005, which will be recovered from a charge on all Spanish consumers.

Last year the Commission launched infringement procedures against several countries in an attempt to end regulated tariffs, many of which it sees as potentially illegal.

The Commission points out that the inquiry could affect other EU member states, notably France and Italy which were ordered to end their regulated tariff regimes last year.

Enel purchases 9.99 per cent stake in Spain’s Endesa

Enel could decide to launch a bid for Endesa SA as one of a series of options open to it following its acquisition of 9.99 per cent of the Spanish energy group, according to an Italian newspaper report.

The daily Il Sole 24 Ore said Enel could decide to build its stake in Endesa to above the 25 per cent threshold that under Spanish law would oblige it to launch a bid, while at the same time selling its Spanish subsidiary Viesgo.

Enel does not rule out acquiring further shares of Endesa to take its stake to 24.99 per cent.

The report said that a bid from Enel would be friendly, unlike the ongoing bid by Eon, which the Spanish group and government consider unfriendly.

The management of Endesa unanimously approved the public tender offer by Eon for a price of g38.75 ($51) per share, an enhanced and final price offered on 2 February.

Other options open to Enel include handing over its shares in the Spanish group to other shareholders in return for Endesa assets. These assets could then be conferred on Enel’s Spanish subsidiary Viesgo, Il Sole 24 Ore said.

Wärtsilä acquires green tech firm

Wärtsilä has signed an agreement to acquire the Swedish company Senitec, a privatelyowned environmental technology specialist that supplies products for separating waste such as oily water and sludge i power plants. This new busines expands Wärtsilä’s waste management strategy to provide total solutions.

The two companies have already co-operated in developing oily water treatment units for power plants. The co-operation started in 2002 and this equipment has now become standard in Wärtsilä HFO turnkey deliveries.

Essent and Nuon merger faces up to antitrust investigations

The Netherland’s two largest energy utilities, Essent and Nuon, appear set to clash with Dutch antitrust regulators after agreeing a g24bn ($31.6bn) merger.

The merger, which would create one of the largest European energy groups, is expected to fall foul of the Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa), which has said that it would not approve any merger that created a dominant domestic market position for any company unless strict conditions were met. In order to approve the merger the NMa is likely to demand significant divestments of assets and market position. The merged EssentNuon would have five million customers and would control some 70 per cent of the retail market in Holland.

However, it is expected to argue that the merger should be considered in the wider European context, rather than purely on a domestic basis.

Beleaguered boss of Forsmark quits

A series of recent events at Sweden’s troubled Forsmark nuclear station has prompted the managing director of the plant to resign.

Lars Fagerberg decided that he no longer had the full confidence of the board. Göran Lundgren, head of generation at Vattenfall Nordic said: “I fully understand Lars’ difficult situation and respect his decision.”

Jan Edberg has been appointed as the new managing director of Forsmark.

News digest

Areva RePowers: German wind power company REPower is the subject of an Areva bid offer. The g850m ($1.12bn) move, which represents a cash offer of g105/share would bring significant offshore experience to the Areva group.

Big biomass for Areva: The French technology company Areva is to construct six 10-12 MW biomass power plants in Brazil and in Thailand in a series of deals worth g70m ($92.1m). The contracts are with CCC Machinery in Germany and Bua Sommai Electricity in Thailand.

China has Solarfun: Chinese PV manufacturing company Solarfun Power Holdings has announced a three year sales agreement from some 140 MW of capacity to UB Garanty Project. The deal, which is expected to have a value of $40- $50m, will see the modules installed in Spain.

Fuel cell identity switch: MTU CFC Solutions, developers of a molten carbonate hot fuel cell for power and heat cogeneration is to be re-branded as CFC Solutions. Infinis power: RE-Gen, a biogas fired power generation company with a combined 42 MW of capacity across 24 sites in the southern UK has been acquired by Infinis from Summerleaze. The £80m ($157m) deal will give Infinis access to a further 20 MW under development.

Laird low: Designer and manufacturers of antennas and EMI shielding products Laird Technologies has acquired AeroComm for $38m. AeroComm produces wireless communications systems for OEM applications where high reliability is required.

Moroccan roll out: ABB has announced its decision to sell its stakes in two independent power projects in Morocco and India t Abu Dhabi-based investor group Taqa. The combined sale amounts to g490m ($654m).

Mott MacDonald supersizes: Massachusetts-based engineering design firm Careba Power has been acquired by Mott MacDonald. Careba, which focuses on major power generation and transmission projects, will join the group’s North American team.

PAS the Honeywell: PAS has sold its Advanced Control and Optimization business to Honeywell. The transaction includes linear and non-linear control technologies as well as related customer contracts. Commercial terms were not disclosed

RENK outsider: RENK intends to take over Switzerland’s MAAG Gear’s business within new gear types for MAAG turbo gears and the service for MAAG turbo and marine gears.