News Digest

Bahamas: Bahamas Electricity Corporation has awarded a contract worth over $8m to Itron Inc. for the deployment of 100 000 Automatic Meter Reading devices and a mobile collector system.

Brazil: Construction has started on four wind farms projects in Santa Catarina state, which have a combined capacity of 96.6 MW. The farms have a total value of $86m and are expected to be fully operational by the end of 2006.

Brazil: Furnas has announced an $86m programme to upgrade two of its hydropower plants. The work involves upgrading six turbines at the 1050 MW Luiz Carlos Barreto station and a further six at the Mascarenhas de Morais station.

Brazil: BR Distribuidora is studying plans for a $225m, 350 MW biomass power station to be built in partnership with one or two producers of alcohol. BR Distribuidora is waiting for a decision from the Ministry of Mines and Energy.

Columbia: Columbia’s state-owned transmission company ISA is reported to be planning investments totalling $185m in projects in Columbia, Bolivia and Peru in 2004.

Mexico: President Vincente Fox has indicated his government’s intention to create more opportunities for private sector participation in the energy sector, while stressing that the state power company CFE would not be privatized.

USA: Constellation Energy has sold its Puna Geothermal Venture in Pahoa, Hawaii to a subsidiary of Ormat Technologies Inc. The sale includes the 30 MW geothermal power plant and associated assets.

USA: Siemens Westinghouse has introduced a single shaft combined-cycle reference power plant into the US market featuring the W501G gas turbine, with a nominal output of 400 MW and operating efficiency of over 58 per cent.

USA: Sempra Energy has applied to the Maryland Public Service Commission for permission to develop a $300m, 600 MW gas fired combined cycle power plant in Frederick County.

USA: Omaha Public Power District has approved a $300m contract to replace the steam generators at Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant in Nebraska to enable the plant to continue operating until 2033. The generators are being manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries with Bechtel handling the installation.

USA: A study by Black & Veatch into the economic impact of renewable energy in Pennsylvania has concluded that a shift from fossil fuels to sustainable resources would provide a windfall of economic benefits to the state, including a net increase of 85 000 jobs.

Energy crisis hits Argentina

Argentina has been forced to introduce power rationing for large companies to ease an electricity supply crisis. The cuts, introduced by wholesale administrator Cammesa, are equivalent to 20 per cent of average consumption.

The shortage of power has been exacerbated by a shortage of gas supplies and drought conditions.

Hydropower accounts for 45 per cent of Argentina’s electricity generation with gas fired plants representing another 45 per cent. The country’s economic recovery has not been matched by energy investments and the energy crisis now threatens further economic growth.

Argentina halted power exports to Uruguay in late March but has now agreed to resume a reduced level of export, subject to Uruguay imposing similar power restrictions on its industrial sector. Argentina has also rationed its natural gas exports to Chilean generator Endesa and faces the threat of legal action should power prices in Chile increase as a result. The crisis has also seen Brazil exporting electricity to Argentina.

Merchant wind project selects GE

Suncor Energy and EHN Windpower Canada, the developers of the 30 MW Magrath Wind Power Project in southern Alberta, Canada, has selected GE Energy as its wind turbine supplier. GE will provide 20 of its 1.5 MW wind turbines for the project as well as start-up support and operation and maintenance services.

The Magrath Project has the approval of the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board and will be a merchant facility with power being sold to the Alberta Power Pool. It will benefit from the Canadian government’s ten-year Wind Power Production Incentive, which provides one Canadian cent per kWh of additional project revenue. It is estimated that the project will generate 90 GWh per annum, enough to meet the demands of 13 000 homes.

The order is the first GE has secured for wind turbines in Canada and completion is anticipated in August.

CERA reports US uncertainty

As a number of US states prepare for new control programmes on emissions of NOx, SO2 and mercury from power utilities, a report by Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) highlights the uncertainty these new regulations are causing. CERA says that the combination of federal, state and market pressure to achieve reductions is “producing an historic level of uncertainty about air quality policy among industry participants”.

CERA believes that industry and policymakers need to be prepared for fundamental changes to the emissions markets which will affect the attractiveness of new investment, higher levels of pollution control investment and pressure on generation fleet profitability.

Proinfa priced

Prices have been set for renewable energy purchased under Brazil’s Proinfa programme. The country’s mines and energy ministry has established the guarantees under the programme and set out rules for qualification under the scheme.

Federal power company Electrobrás will purchase up to 3300 MW of electricity from wind, small-scale hydro (projects under 30 MW) and biomass under 20-year contracts.

The Proinfa programme is intended to encourage renewable energy projects and is expected to attract Reals8.6bn ($2.9bn) in investment up to 2006. It aims to double the amount of power generated by renewables to six per cent of the generation mix.

DOE researches low speed wind turbine

Northern Power Systems has been selected to undertake a research project with the US Department of Energy (DOE) to design, build, erect and test a 2 MW wind turbine capable of cost-effective energy production at low wind speeds.

The terms of the research agreement are still subject to negotiation, but the proposed value is $8.3m over a four-year period. The DOE is undertaking 21 public-private partnerships designed to expand the potential of US wind development.

Consortium plans application for new US nuclear plant

A consortium made up of seven major energy companies is planning to submit an application to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build America’s first new nuclear power plant in a quarter of a century. The application is due to be submitted by 2008 with a decision expected two years after that.

The consortium includes Westinghouse, Exelon Nuclear, French state-owned power company Electricité de France, Constellation Energy Group, Southern Co. and General Electric.

Each energy company will contribute $1m to the consortium per year plus other services. If successful, any of the consortium members could build a plant under the licence.