EU wins race to host ITER

France will host the international nuclear fusion reactor ITER project after Japan pulled out of the bidding race in return for a generous concessions package.

Lengthy negotiations between the project partners, Canada, China, Japan, Russia, USA and the European Union, had seen sites in France and Japan emerge as the two favoured candidates to host the fusion energy demonstration project.

As the host, the EU will fund 50 per cent of the €10bn ($12bn) cost, with the remaining five international partners all contributing ten per cent. By relinquishing the battle to host the project, Japan has been promised 20 per cent of all projects relating to the construction. The EU also agreed to a weighted voting system in which all partners will have an equal influence on the project.

Carbon-free electricity project at design stage

A consortium of power and energy companies will design the world’s first industrial scale project to generate carbon-free electricity from hydrogen at a site in the UK.

The $600m project, involving BP, ConocoPhillips, Shell and Scottish and Southern Energy, would convert natural gas to hydrogen and carbon dioxide gases, then use the hydrogen gas to fuel a 350 MW power station. Any carbon dioxide created would be exported to a North Sea oil reservoir for increased oil recovery and ultimate storage.

The consortium expects to have completed the design stage by mid-2006 and will make a decision on the feasibility of the project soon after. If the power plant is built, it should enter commercial operation in 2009.

New regulator states intentions

Germany’s Federal Network Operator has been given the responsibility of regulating the country’s energy industry and promised to ensure the reliability and quality of supply.

Many of the industry’s leading players had feared a radical shake-up would affect their business in the short term after years of operating within a liberalized market without a regulator. These fears were eased, however, as the regulator said a new incentive based regulatory model would not be introduced for at least 18 months.

The regulators ability to cut power prices for the consumer, which have surged 20 per cent this year, also seems limited as it only has responsibility over grid fees, representing around 30 per cent of the total electricity price.

Norway’s first gas fired power plant

Siemens is to install Norway’s first gas fired power plant as the country seeks to reduce its growing dependence on importing fossil fuel generated power from neighbouring countries.

Norway has resisted using domestic gas fired generation until recently as cheap hydropower, low electricity prices and political restrictions have prevented the need for it. However, Naturkraft AS, equally owned by Norsk Hydro ASA and Statkraft AS, has commissioned a NOK2bn ($304m) project that will set new environmental benchmarks in Europe.

When production starts in the third quarter of 2007, the new plant in Rogaland, western Norway, will be the first of its kind in Europe to generate with a filtering system for nitrogen oxide emissions and it could accommodate a gas scrubbing facility for carbon dioxide emissions, if such technology proves feasible.

EU campaigns for energy awareness

The European Union has launched a campaign to raise public awareness on intelligent energy production and consumption. A recent Green Paper published by the EU highlighted that savings in energy consumption of 20 per cent are possible by 2020.

An Action Plan for the campaign is expected to be distributed at national level by 2006, outlining the specific action to be taken. It is thought that incentives will be offered to both companies and households to make energy improvements.

However, the European Commission was recently dealt a blow on a similar subject after binding targets to increase energy savings were removed from a bill before it was submitted to the EU’s national energy ministers.

French greet wave power

Encouraged by European and French legislation, Total Energie Développement SAS and Iberdrola SA have signed an agreement with Ocean Power Technologies with a view to developing a wave power station in France.

The parties will identify possible locations off France’s extensive Atlantic coastline before pursuing the necessary consents and permits for the favoured site. If accepted, a 2.5 MW wave power station will be installed using Ocean Power Technologies’ PowerBuoy technology.


News digest

Europe: The European Union has taken legal action against Estonia, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg and Spain for failing to liberalize their electricity and natural gas markets.

Europe: To cater for the recent enlargement and new power relationships with Russia and Turkey, the European Parliament is to triple the funds allocated to gas and electricity transmission projects.

France: The national government hopes to earn around €4bn ($4.8bn) for the 22 per cent stake of Europe’s third largest gas company, Gaz de France, which went on sale in early July.

Germany: A new 4.2 MW combined heat and power biogas plant, one of the country’s largest, featuring GE Energy’s Jenbacher gas engine systems was commissioned in northern Germany on 1 July.

Germany: Ceramic Fuel Cells Limited is to develop fuel cell based combined heat and power systems for the German residential market after it signed an agreement with the utility EWE.

Germany: Draft legislation has been submitted to the government for the creation of a €500m ($602m) nuclear waste final storage facility. Federal environment minister Jürgen Trittin said it had to be established by 2030.

Greece: After the EU issued legal proceedings against it for failing to open its electricity and natural gas markets to competition, Greece has announced plans to open the industries to industrial and commercial competition later this year and households by 2007.

Netherlands: Gasunie and Microgen are to develop a new micro combined heat and power system with the intention of bringing the ‘home power plant’ closer to market.

Spain: The Spanish government’s aim of achieving energy sector economies of €8bn ($9.6bn) will involve reductions in electricity consumption of 8.5 per cent before 2007 and a reduction in the country’s energy dependence of 20 per cent.

UK: Bronzeoak is planning to construct an £8.5m ($14.8m) biomass power plant in Somerset that will have an electrical output of 1.5 MW and a thermal output of 7 MW.

UK: Eclipse Energy expects to hear in the first quarter of 2006 whether its application to construct the world’s first offshore gas/wind hybrid energy generation project has been successful.

UK: The British wind energy industry received a massive boost as the Ministry of Defence relaxed the criteria for its objections and announced that trials had begun to test a new radar technology that would allow turbines to be erected nearer flight paths.