News digest

International: Turkmenistan and Iran have officially inaugurated a 220 kV power line linking the two countries. The new line will enable up to 100 MW of power to be transmitted from the Mary hydropower plant in Turkmenistan to Iran’s northeastern provinces, and is part of a long-term programme on power and energy sector cooperation implemented by the two countries in 2003.

Bulgaria: Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) has said that it will not take part in the forthcoming tender to construct two nuclear reactors at the Belene nuclear power plant in Bulgaria. The company says that it is unsure how transparent tender procedures would be.

Egypt: Alstom has been awarded a g10m ($12m) contract by the West Delta Electricity Production Company for the rewind of four generator stators at the Abu Qir power station in Egypt. The four 150 MW units have been in operation for over 25 years. The stators will be completely rewound in order to increase availability and reliability.

Kazakhstan: AES Ekibastuz, owner of the Ekibastuz GRES-1 power plant in northern Kazakhstan, is planning to invest around g5m ($6m) to overhaul the plant’s generating units. The modernization will help AES Ekibastuz to increase its generating capacity to 2000 MW.

Kosovo: The UN-administered Serbian province of Kosovo has decided to inject g8.7m ($10.7m) into its KEK power utility to ensure that domestic electricity demand is met over the winter. The funds were originally intended for an overhaul of the Kosovo B power plant but have been redirected towards meeting operational costs and power imports.

Lebanon: Holcim cement works of Lebanon is planning to replace a 35 MWe power plant with a new $20m, 30 MWe plant located on the coast at Chekka. Holcim is currently undertaking a feasibility study for the project, and will shortly be seeking to prequalify companies for and EPC contract. Startup is scheduled for 2006.

Romania: Romanian utility Transelectrica has awarded VA Tech Transmission & Distribution a g40m ($49m) contract for the replacement of two high voltage switching stations. The two stations are located near Bucharest and form an important switching point for the energy supply of the Romanian capital.

UAE: The Abu Dhabi Electricity and Water Authority (ADWEA) has signed a memorandum of understanding with South Korea’s ministry of science and technology to carry out a feasibility study into the construction of the UAE’s first nuclear power plant. The study will be based on a 1000 MW, 40 MIGD power and desalination plant.

Enel wins Slovak tender

The privatization commission for the sale of Slovenske Elektrarne (SE) has named Italy’s Enel as the winner of the tender to sell a majority stake in the Slovakian utility. Enel bid g840m ($1031m) for the 66 per cent take in SE, outbidding both Russia’s UES and Czech utility CEZ.

Slovakian economy minister Pavol Rusko will now recommend Enel as the winner of the bid to the Slovakian cabinet, which will make a final decision this month (October). CEZ, which placed a bid of g691m, has been selected as the first backup.

The acquisition will allow Enel to expand outside its home territory, where it is being forced to reduce market share. Enel’s CEO, Paolo Scaroni said that Slovakia is one of the fastest growing economies in central Europe, and believes SE to be both efficient and competitive.

UES offered g458m for the stake in a joint bid with Russian nuclear power station operator Rosenergoatom and German power company OstElektra. Its defeat in the tender is a blow to the company, which is keen to expand outside of its traditional sphere of influence.

New Iraq power plant

A consortium of US companies has commissioned a new, 40 MW power plant in Buzurgan, southern Iraq. The plant is believed to be the first new power plant to be constructed and commissioned in the country since 1976.

Perini Corp., together with Power Engineers, Tetra Tech and GE, designed, constructed and commissioned the plant and an adjacent switchyard. The plant is based on a 40 MW GE LM6000PC gas turbine and can use either natural gas or diesel fuel.

The new power plant is located in a remote area and will supply power to the local grid as well as to a nearby oil field operation.

UES approves hydro OGK

The board of Russia’s electricity utility RAO UES has approved the creation of the country’s first wholesale generating company (OGK) based on four hydropower plants. The approval is a signal that reforms in the country’s power sector are moving forward in spite of an announcement in June that the process would be delayed by six months.

The UES board approved the formation of a pilot OGK based on the Nevinnomyssky, Reftinsky, Sredneuralsky and Konakovsky hydropower plants. The OGK would be formed as a fully-owned subsidiary of UES with an equity capital of $1bn.

Under Russia’s power sector reform plans, the country’s large federal power plants will be consolidated into around ten OGKs, most of which will eventually be privatized.

Iran defies IAEA resolution

Iran’s atomic energy organization has said that the country is continuing to convert uranium mineral into fuel that can be used in nuclear centrifuges. The move defies calls from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the country to cease uranium enrichment activities.

Reza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, reported last month that 37 t of uranium mineral have been converted into fuel, and that the conversion process would continue. The converted fuel can be used in nuclear centrifuges, the machines which enrich uranium.

Last month the IAEA passed a resolution urging Iran to suspend all enrichment activities and grant IAEA inspectors access to its nuclear programme. Iran insists that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only.

CEZ sale delayed

The Czech government is to delay the sale of a 67 per cent stake in power utility CEZ until the EU’s electricity market is fully liberalized. The sale of the utility will take place in 2009 at the earliest, according to the country’s department of trade and industry.

The sale of a majority stake in CEZ was delayed while the company made a bid for a stake in Slovenske Elektrarne. The finance ministry has suggested selling a minority (16 per cent) stake in CEZ.

WEC forecasts 100 GW of capacity needed in Middle East by 2020

Recent projections published by the World Energy Council (WEC) state that the six Arab Gulf states will need to build 100 GW of power generation capacity before 2020 to meet demand. This translates into an investment requirement of $150bn, or $9bn per year.

Around half of the investment need lies in Saudi Arabia and the rest in the remaining five Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (AGCC) states: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

According to the WEC, the regional governments should explore innovative ways of financing new energy projects, including the creation of joint stock companies. Self-financing will not be enough on its own to support the expansion.

Most regional utilities collect less than half of their bills and also rely heavily on government subsidies, says WEC.