News digest

ABB new CEO: ABB Limited has announced that Fred Kindle will be the group’s chief executive from next January. Kindle is the current CEO of Swiss-based technology company Sulzer AG and will replace Jürgen Dormann, who will revert to the single role of chairman of ABB.

Aggreko strategies: Temporary power supplier Aggreko is undertaking a strategic review which is expected to result in the reorganization of its depot network in the USA and Europe as well as plans for new businesses in Asia and South America.

ASTA goes east: Austria’s VA Tech has agreed to sell its electrical wire and components business ASTA Elektrodraht to Metrod (Malaysia) Berhad. ASTA has sales amounting to g60m ($72.5m) and around 250 employees.

AxEnergy retreats: AxEnergy, the gas turbine air inlet cooling system supplier has taken the decision to close down its sales office and scale back engineering operations in response to tougher trading conditions.

British Energy warns: Nuclear generator British Energy made an operating profit of £12m ($22m) in the three months to December but warned that large obstacles still remained in the way of its financial restructuring, the most significant being a ruling on state aid by the European Commission.

E.ON ahead: German utility E.ON posted solid results for 2003 with sales up 27 per cent to just under g46.4bn ($56.1bn) and other key earnings indicators showing double digit growth, benefiting from the inclusion of the Ruhrgas and Powergen acquisitions.

IP results dip: Weaker wholesale power prices in US markets contributed to a fall in annual profits from International Power down from £338m ($621m) to £285m. Earnings were underpinned by good financial performance in all other regions.

PwC research: Research by PwC for the Financial Times reveals that the value of global electricity and gas acquisitions almost halved last year. The biggest fall was in Europe but the value of North American deals rose 65 per cent.

RWE appoints: The Supervisory Board of RWE Power AG has voted to appoint RWE AG CEO Harry Roels as head of the Supervisory Board. He succeeds Dr. Gert Maichel who becomes CEO of RWE Power.

Siemens examines growth: Siemens is conducting an internal exercise to review the possibility of big acquisitions. Analysts believe Siemens could finance acquisitions of up to g7bn ($8.5bn), with parts of Alstom and Invensys named as potential targets.

IBM teams with Enel

IBM and Enel have announced that the two companies will team up to deliver Enel’s advanced automated meter management (AMM) system solutions to utilities world-wide. The two companies estimate that the potential world-wide market for AMM solutions is worth more than g120bn.

The AMM system integrates metering, billing and contract management, thereby improving efficiency for utilities while enhancing customer service. It allows utilities to better manage customers by performing remote readings and management that reduce metering errors and cut down maintenance time, and by offering varied tariff structures with lower energy costs for off-peak consumption.

Enel is the only utility to have applied and tested this technology on a large scale. It has installed 15m new meters and the majority of them are already linked to its computer network. By 2005, all of the company’s 30m customers will be equipped with the new meters.

Cyber attacks increase

The power and energy sectors are experiencing an increasing number of severe cyber attacks, according to the latest Internet Security Threat Report from Symantec.

Also highlighted is the fact that threats to privacy and confidentiality are the most rapidly increasing threats, with a 148 per cent growth in the volume of malicious code submissions. Older threats compromised confidentiality by exporting random documents, but more recent viruses and blended threats also extract passwords, decryption keys and logged keystrokes.

2G HTS milestone

American Superconductor Corp. has announced a world record performance in its second generation (2G) high temperature superconducting (HTS) wire. In a report to the US Department of Energy and other organizations, the company said that the electrical current carrying capacity of the wires is now twice that of the best industrial 2G HTS wires anywhere in the world, and 50 per cent higher than the company’s own previously reported results.

American Superconductor achieved electrical current carrying capacity in multiple 10 m lengths of wire equal to or better than 250 A per centimetre of width of the wire, an industrial world record that approaches performance levels required for commercial applications.

The report reveals that for the six-month period from July to December 2003, critical infrastructure industries and businesses with significant financial resources tended to experience a relatively high severe attack rate. A severe incident is defined as one that requires immediate action to remedy a weakness, detected breach or exploit of a network.

Power Measurement acquires ABB unit

Enterprise energy management company Power Measurement has acquired ABB’s California-based Retail Energy Business. The business unit will be integrated into Power Measurement’s world wide organization.

ABB’s Retail Energy products, which include Energy Profiler, Energy Profiler Online, Energy Boss and E-VEE applications, will be offered alongside Power Measurement’s own portfolio of ION enterprise energy management products and services under the Power Measurement name.

“Power Measurement designs and manufactures advanced energy management systems for electricity suppliers and consumers,” said Bradford Forth, president and CEO of Power Measurement. “The Retail Energy software links the two by helping to improve communications between the utility and the customer – this is a huge benefit for both.”

GE acquires solar business

GE Energy has completed the acquisition of the US business assets of AstroPower, Inc., a manufacturer of solar electric power products. With this agreement, GE Energy adds solar power to its growing family of renewable energy options.

AstroPower filed a Chapter 11 petition for bankruptcy in February to allow for the sale of its assets and to meet other obligations. The transaction with GE was subject to competitive bidding and Bankruptcy Court approval. These procedures were completed on March 12, 2004.

Based in Newark, Delaware, AstroPower developed, manufactured, marketed and sold a range of solar energy products including solar cells, modules and panels, as well as its SunChoice pre-packaged systems. Solar electric power systems provide a clean, renewable source of electricity in both off-grid and on-grid applications.

Renewables in the limelight

The need to lessen dependence on fossil fuels and falling capital costs are boosting the growth appeal of renewable energy, according to Frost & Sullivan.

As renewables attempt to break into mainstream generation, the two most critical challenges are cost and efficiency. However, support from the public and private sectors is helping renewables to gain market share.

A new study by Technical Insights, a unit of Frost & Sullivan, observes that although government subsidies are helping renewables to gain a toehold in the energy market, the real breakthrough will come when renewables can compete head-on with fossil fuels.