UES lengthens moratorium

The UES working group, comprising shareholders, government officials, advisors and the company’s CEO, Antoly Chubais, has agreed to extend the sales moratorium on core assets until Russia’s electricity industry restructuring process is complete. The move has been welcomed by shareholders as it will reduce UES management’s role in asset sales and calm investors’ fears of asset stripping.

The restructuring of Russia’s power industry moved forward in October when the Duma approved the electricity sector reform bill in its first reading. The bill will be debated in further readings, likely to take place this month, with amendment proposals likely.

The working group will compile a list of assets to be retained after the six-month moratorium. The assets will comprise two main categories: grid assets to be transferred to Federal Grid Company and the distribution and generation assets of regional energos.

In September Chubais announced that a moratorium on assets sales would be put in place until a valuation methodology was agreed following pressure from shareholders. He said that UES would now seek pro-rata distribution of shares among energos and UES shareholders.

PB bags Qatar expansion project

PB Power has been selected by Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation (Kahramaa) to carry out the consultancy services for stage 1 of the Qatar transmission system expansion project.

The project involves the expansion of Kahramaa’s 220 kV, 132 kV and 66 kV transmission systems and comprises the construction of five new substations, modification of four existing substations, 11 new power cable circuits and the diversion of eight existing power cable circuits.

Work on the project started in August 2002, and is scheduled to last 34 months.

EBRD finances Albania’s power rehabilitation push

Albania has turned to The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and other sources to finance the rehabilitation of the country’s power sector. The EBRD has approved a €24m ($24m) loan to national power company KESH to allow the company to pursue investment plans for its distribution sector.

Other financial institutions signed up to help KESH are the World Bank, the European Investment Bank, Japan Bank for International Cooperation, and the Swiss, Italian and Spanish governments.

The €200m will support Albania’s Power Transmission and Distribution project, which aims to rehabilitate the country’s electricity system.

Albania is rich with hydropower, so the low rainfall over the last few years has led to a high level of imports. Rehabilitation of the transmission infrastructure will help to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

RWE buys into Poland

Germany’s RWE Plus has reached a deal to acquire an 85 per cent stake in Polish electricity utility Stoen for $363m, strengthening its position in the east European energy markets.

RWE has pledged to invest a further $10.5m in the group over a three year period as part of the deal. The move shows RWE’s determination to move forward with its east European strategy, adding Poland to its portfolio that includes holdings in Slovakia and Hungary.

Stoen is seen as a lucrative deal for RWE, not only for its 780 000-strong customers and annual profits reaching some $3.1m, but due to its position in the Warsaw market. It accounts for five per cent of Polish domestic electricity sales. The liberalizing Polish power market is also growing rapidly, fuelled by industrial and economic growth.

Lebanon cautious on privatization

Lebanon’s government has said that the state will remain a key partner in the country’s power sector until 2006 to 2008, despite the recent approval of draft laws to privatize the sector. The government will, however, continue to seek expressions of interest over the next few months for privatizing the state electricity monopoly.

The country’s energy minister Mohammad Abdel Hamid Baydoun said that privatization in the first stage will not exceed 30 to 40 per cent, meaning that the state will remain a fundamental partner for around three to five years.

Parliament has given the nod for a draft law that proposes the formation of private companies for production and distribution out of Electricite du Liban.

Bulgaria strengthens power transmission ties with Turkey

Bulgaria and Turkey have strengthened transmission ties by completing the 400 kV Sakar power line, the second link between the two countries.

The latest link will increase power exchanges and secure Bulgarian power exports to Turkey, currently amounting to 4000m kWh per year. The line runs 150 km from the Maritsa Iztok 3 power plant in Bulgaria to Hamitabat in Turkey.

The Sakar line will also help to secure the reliable operation of the Turkish power grid in parallel with the European electricity system.

News digest

Iran: Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Alexander Rumyantsev said that Russia would proceed with nuclear cooperation with Iran and that the Bushehr nuclear power plant will come on stream by the end of 2003.

Israel: Siemens Power Transmission and Distribution has been awarded a contract for a distribution management system (DMS) by the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC). The DMS will provide IEC with a more reliable energy supply and enhanced outage management capabilities.

Kosovo: Innogy, an RWE Group company, is to start work on restoring power at Kosovo B2 power station. The station was hit by an electrical storm and the fire caused major damage, reducing electricity generation capacity in Kosovo by 80 per cent.

Morocco: The European Investment Bank has granted power utility ONE a $117.1m loan for a power project. The project includes a one-fold increase in the transmission capacity of the interconnectors between Morocco and its neighbours, Spain and Algeria, complementing EIB’s support of the first interconnection between Morocco and Spain in 1995.

Mozambique: Mozambique’s electricity requirements are expected to rise to 3000 MW by 2015, if the various social and industrial projects currently on the drawing board are taken into account.

Qatar: Qatar is planning $3bn worth of investments in the country’s electricity generation sector over the next ten years. These are needed to expand the capacities of the existing electricity generating stations and to build new stations over the next few years. The projects will increase the Qatari electricity generation capacity by 2500 MW.

Russia: Russia’s Atomic Energy Ministry announced that maintenance work has been launched at a nuclear facility in the Urals. The BN-600 fast-breeder reactor at the third unit of the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant was taken off line for planned repairs and reloading of nuclear fuel last month.

Slovakia: Slovenske Elektrarne, a Slovak power producer, announced it will invite a tender for the decommissioning of two nuclear reactors in the Bohunice nuclear power plant, which was constructed during the Soviet era.

Tajikistan: The International Finance Corporation and the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development have joined forces to develop a new electricity and distribution project in a remote eastern region in Tajikistan.

UAE: The Union Water and Electricity Company awarded a Dh114.5m ($31.2m) contract to India’s Larsen and Toubro for the supply and installation of a 400 kV overhead power transmission line.