EC calls for changes to companies that operate in European markets

European generators should sell their power grids and gas pipelines to help boost competition and investment in Europe’s power markets, according to a proposal by the European Commission (EC). Non-European companies that enter European markets must also separate their supply and network businesses, the EC added in a recent report to the 27 governments of the European Union.

European energy companies control the generation of their gas and electricity, the report said, a dominance that gives them “an inherent interest to limit new investment when this will benefit its competitors”. The EC added that billions of dollars are needed to upgrade Europe’s energy grid, which will allow fragmented markets to be connected and power blackouts or gas shortages to be avoided.

The EC proposed two options. First, that governments force generators to sell their pipelines or power grids. Second, that they create independent transmission operators but allow energy companies to retain their networks and lease them out.

Mention of non-European companies in the report was an allusion to Russian energy company Gazprom, which supplies 25 per cent of Europe’s gas and has shown interest in making acquisitions in Europe.

Romania approves energy overhaul

Romania has approved major changes to its energy sector that would create an electricity holding company for the state’s nuclear, thermal and hydropower generating companies.

Investment fund Fondul Proprietatea will take a 20 per cent stake in the holding company while the government will have a share of 25-40 per cent. Remaining shares will slowly become available.

Romania aims to double its power output to 100 TWh by 2020, an amount that will be somewhat greater than its domestic consumption.

The holding company will combine the country’s power production, distribution and transmission activities.

1 MW storage battery in pipeline

E.ON UK is developing a prototype large-scale battery for the storage of electricity from wind farms and distributed microgeneration schemes. Nottingham’s electricity network will have the device connected to it and in operation in 2009. About 1 MW of electricity will be stored on the prototype for 4 hours.

Bob Taylor, managing director of Energy Wholesale and Technology at E.ON UK, said the storage system will “help the development of localized generation. For example, a school with solar panels can store the power generated at weekends and use it when the kids are back in school.”

E.ON said that development will be on small batteries to begin with. The large prototype, which will be the size of four articulated lorries, will be built after the testing and evaluation of the small units.

The development of the storage battery is part of a collaborative venture sponsored by the UK’s Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

Areva and MHI to develop reactor

France’s Areva is joining Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) to develop a 1.1 GW pressurized water reactor within three years to meet the world’s rising demand for nuclear power.

The firms’ joint venture Atmea will be based in Paris and will start with capital of $90m. Its first reactor, Atmea 1, will address the needs of countries whose power networks cannot support large reactors, such as nations in Asia, Eastern Europe and, perhaps, North Africa.

Areva executive Stefan vom Scheidt will be Atmea’s chief executive and Makoto Kanda of MHI his deputy. France’s state-owned nuclear agency is the major shareholder in Areva.

Siemens opens training centre

Siemens Transmission and Distribution of the UK has opened a centre to train engineers in the operation and maintenance of solutions made by the company.

Siemens customers and its own engineers can gain hands-on experience of the latest technological developments in the industry in the dedicated facility in the north east of the UK, where qualified and experienced engineers will run training programmes.

The company said it is committed to raise the standard of product training in the industry. Service director Chris Beadsworth added that Siemens is acutely aware that the engineering skills shortage in the UK has loomed large over the sector for some years.

Nuclear plant delay ‘will cost €3bn’

A report in Finland says the delay in building a nuclear reactor in Olkiluoto will cost the country €3bn ($4.3bn).

The report by ElFi, a body that represents industrial heavy users of electricity, bases its calculation on a 2006 study by the Technical Research Centre of Finland.

The Federation of Finnish Technology Industries has added that the delay will force the country’s industry to buy emissions allocations worth €200m a year.

Baltics: Decommissioning of Lithuania’s 1.3 GW Ignalina-2 nuclear plant in 2009 will leave a power shortfall in the region that European Transmission Systems Operators say will only be met by fossil plants planned for 2010-2015.

Bulgaria: The firms shortlisted to form a joint venture to build a €7bn ($10bn) nuclear plant are: Enel, EdF, Electrabel, E.ON, RWE and CEZ. The plant will use two 1 GW PWRs.

Denmark: Dong Energy has asked cable maker Nexans to supply 70 km of medium-voltage sub-sea cables. The lines will connect offshore wind turbines at Horns Rev 2 to each other and to an offshore transformer.

EU: Market intelligence company Point Carbon estimates that the 20 per cent emissions reduction target for 2020 will cost €16bn ($23bn), or only 0.2-0.45 per cent of the GDP of the EU27 in 2006. A 30 per cent target would cost €43bn.

Germany: Utility E.ON Netz has awarded ABB a $400 m contract to supply equipment to connect the world’s biggest offshore windfarm to the grid. ABB will use its HVDC Light transmission technology for the 400 MW project in the North Sea.

Greece: Public Power Corp SA has won approval from the government to replace its entire stock of aging thermal power stations as the country liberalizes its electricity market. A case-by-case system had applied.

Hungary: Environment Minister Gabor Fedor has called for a public referendum about building a nuclear plant, in addition to the sole existing nuclear plant Paks, which provides 38 per cent of the country’s electricity.

Iceland: Geothermal plants could generate ten times more power than they do by drilling more deeply. The Iceland Deep Drilling Project is sinking 3.5 km holes at several sites to use the high temperatures available at that depth.

Sweden: Kalmar city on the east coast has bought a €55m ($78m), 90 MWth biomass fired boiler from Metso Power for its new combined heat and power district heating system. Start up of the plant is scheduled for 2009.

UK: Utility RWE npower has won government approval for a windfarm at Bradwell-on-Sea. The project’s ten turbines will be rated at between 1.5 MW and 2.5 MW.