Argentina: Argentina’s antitrust body has ruled that Brazilian state oil company Petroleo Brasileiro will have to resell Argentine electricity Company Transener, as part of its acquisition of a majority stake in Perez Companc. The decision came after six months of deliberations, following Petrobras’ announcement that it had paid $1.03bn to acquire a 58.6 per cent stake in the Argentine company.

Brazil: An Italian-Swedish concession company recently completed the debt-equity financing for the 176 MW Ponte de Pedra hydroelectric project in Brazil after completing about 30 per cent of the construction. Including a 40 m high dam, the project on the Rio Correntes between Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso del Sud states is due for completion in June 2005.

Brazil: Brazil’s Votorantim conglomerate plans to invest $627m in nine hydroelectric power generation projects to supply its own industries. The investment figure is just Votorantim’s share of the nine projects. The total installed capacity at the nine plants will be 3120 MW with guarunteed output of 1756 MW.

Canada: TransCanada Corp. is planning to spend $500m to build a 550 MW natural gas fired cogeneration power plant in Quebec, the Calgary-based energy company said. The plant, which will be in the Becancour Industrial Park near Trois-Rivieres, will supply its entire electrical output to Hydro Quebec under a 20-year contract with TransCanada.

Canada: Hydro Quebec Distribution, Hydro-Quebec’s retail utility unit with 3.5m customers, is seeking bids for 1000 MW of electricity from wind turbines beginning December 2006.

Mexico: Mexico and Guatemala are aiming for a power transmission line connecting the two countries to be in operation by mid-2005, Mexico’s Energy ministry said. The project calls for the construction of a 103 km, 400 kV transmission line to run from Tapachula in southern Mexico to Retalhuleu in Guatemala, and the expansion of the substations at those points.

USA: The organization that runs the Mid-Alantic wholesale power market said its board of managers has approved $147.6m in improvements to the region’s network of high voltage power lines. This will allow 41 new generation projects with a total capacity of 5251 MW to connect to the region’s transmission system.

USA: Merchant power generator Calpine Corp. has predicted that US prices for electricity will probably remain low this year and next but could rise in 2005 and beyond. Calpine generates power mainly through a fleet of gas-fired power plants. The spark spread is the key measure of the profitability of converting gas into electricity.

Brazil investigates Enron role in Eletropaulo auction

Brazil’s government is considering investigating whether two US energy companies colluded to rig the 1998 auction of Eletropaulo, Brazil’s largest distribution utility. A report in the Financial Times newspaper alleges that AES and Enron reached a deal under which Enron agreed not to take part in the Eletropaulo privatization. AES won the auction after bidding the minimum asking price of $1.78bn.

The government had been advised that it could have fetched several hundred million dollars more for Eletropaulo, according to the FT. Brazil’s mines and energy minister, Dilma Rousseff, has said that the government is likely to investigate whether the auction was manipulated.

In 1998 Enron and the Light consortium, of which AES was a shareholder, were among three bidders for Eletropaulo. Hours before the auction, it is reported that AES and Enron hammered out a deal in which Enron agreed not to bid. AES, as pay back, guaranteed Enron lucrative contracts to supply gas to a power plant that AES and Enron would build.

Transmission project combats Brazil shortages

GE Industrial Systems, a General Electric Company, announced the signing of a $50m contract with Enelpower do Brazil for an electric power transmission project.

GE will lead the consortium with Camargo Correa Equipamentos e Sistemas, one of the largest engineering and construction companies in Brazil. The project is part of a larger effort to strengthen the inter-regional power transfer capability in Brazil and ultimately help alleviate power shortages in the north-eastern regions.

The consortium will supply new Extra High Voltage (EHV) electrical power transmission substations and fixed as well as thyristor-controlled series compensation systems, thus enabling Enelpower do Brazil to deliver more energy to heavily populated regions.

Venezuela to build 514 MW hydro plant

Venezuela’s state owned electricity company, Cadafe, has awarded Alstom a contract to build the 514 MW La Vueltosa hydroelectric plant in Merida state. The $160m contract is expected to be financed by Brazilian and French banks.

La Vueltosa is the third project of the 1531 MW Uribante Caparo hydroelectric complex. When completed the plant will supply Tachira, Merida, Barinas and Apure in the southwest of the country.

Alstom is supplying a turnkey package which consists of 2 x 257 MW Francis generating units, electromechanical balance of plant, Alspa control systems, hydro mechanical equipment, transmission line and some related civil works. The equipment will be manufactured in Alstom’s facilities in Brazil and France and the project is scheduled to be completed by July 2006.

Ontario averts shortfall

The Ontario government will spend C$100m ($74m) on portable generators to avoid potential blackouts this summer.

The gas powered generators can produce 409 MW. Energy Premier Ernie Eves said he was surprised at the cost of setting up the reserve. But he put it into perspective when he said: “The cost of producing power in the province on an annual basis is in excess of C$10bn; C$100m would be one per cent of that.”

The Ontario government has chosen Toromont Industries to supply the generators.

Coal fired plant makes US return

Unit 3 of the Wygen power plant in Wyoming has entered service as the first new coal fired plant in the US since the beginning of the century.

The plant is part of Black Hills’ energy complex near Gillette. It can produce 88.9 MW at baseload operation, or 99.7 MW at full pressure. Power produced is being supplied to Cheyenne Light, Fuel and Power and the municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska.

Nicaragua receives a $16m rural electrification boost

The World Bank has approved a $12m zero interest credit to finance the off-grid electrification of rural Nicaragua. The bank will also administer a $4m grant from the Global Environment Facility to support the off-grid Rural Electrification project.

Nicaragua’s National Energy Commission will implement the project. It aims to bring power to 70 per cent of the country’s rural areas by 2005, and to 90 per cent by 2012. Some 16 000 households in isolated communities in the central and Atlantic regions of Nicaragua will have power for the first time.