UK to speed up nuclear power planning process

UK Energy Minister Brian Wilson has confirmed reports that the government would like to streamline the process for prospective nuclear power station planning applications.

The fast-tracking proposals are part of a Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) report which elaborates on last year’s report by the Performance and Innovation Unit which recommended keeping open the nuclear option.

The DTI has already drawn up a list of eight existing nuclear sites across England and Wales where new plants could be built, according to a report in New Scientist. It quotes the DTI as saying, “In the long term new [nuclear] build has potential attractions as a carbon free source of baseload electricity supporting both environmental and security of supply objectives.”

Wilson has also published a White Paper on managing the nuclear legacy in which he proposes the establishment of a new body – the Liabilities Management Authority – charged with ensuring that the clean up of nuclear waste is carried out safely, securely, cost effectively and in ways which will protect the environment.

San Roque combined cycle plant opened

The Spanish minister of the economy was among those present at the recent official opening of the 800 MW San Roque combined cycle power plant in Cadiz, Spain. The Alstom-built plant is jointly owned by Grupo Gas Natural and Endesa.

The power plant comprises two 400 MW units and was constructed by Alstom using its standardized combined cycle reference plant concept. Alstom supplied four single-shaft power trains, each composed of one GT26 gas turbine, an associated steam turbine and an electrical generator as well as the overall power plant control system and balance of plant.

As the main EPC contractor, Alstom will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the plant for a period of seven years.

Nordic expansion

TXU Energy has bought the Norwegian electricity retailer Forbrukerkraft for $5.3m as part of its drive to grow its retail business across Europe. The Oslo-based company serves 43 000 customers and has an annual load of 1 TWh.

Evan Edwards of TXU Nordic Energy said, “The acquisition enhances TXU’s position in the Nordic market and is another step in our growth in this region.”

Irish wind farm orders Nordex

Germany’s Nordex AG will supply ten large wind turbines to the Kings Mountain wind farm near Sligo on the west coast of Ireland at a cost of some g18m ($18.2m). A further six N80/2500 turbines are destined for sites in Ahrenvioelfeld, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany bringing total recent orders up to g28m.

Nordex views the Kings Mountain order as strategically important as it is its first in the Irish market and follows a large order received from Scotland in February.

EDF ‘must partly privatize’ to maintain its global position

French President Jacques Chirac has given his backing to the partial privatization of Electricité de France (EDF) as a means of maintaining its position in the global power market. “EDF must partly privatize if it wants to continue to expand abroad, but this will have to be studied with the trade unions” said Chirac.

This follows remarks by the head of the French Senate’s economic affairs committee, Senator Gerard Larcher, who said that France’s state-owned electricity and gas utilities should be ready for partial privatization by the end of next year.

Larcher said that a partnership currently looks to be a better option than an offer of shares on the stock market but that in any event a valuation would need to be put on EDF. A value of up to €80bn is considered likely.

Next step in Enel reform will satisfy EU regulators

Italian electricity group Enel is to separate into five distinct businesses: generation and energy management, infrastructure and network, marketing, telecommunications and services.

The move will help to satisfy EU regulators, which plan to introduce new deregulation measures this year forcing utilities to separate energy transmission from production. These unbundling measures are likely to be opposed by France and Germany.

The next stage of Italian energy liberalization is set to limit all gas and electricity suppliers to owning ten per cent directly or indirectly of their transport networks. Enel owns 68 per cent of Terna, which in turn wholly owns the national power grid. A draft bill setting out these changes is being considered by the cabinet.

News digest

Belgium: Belgium’s Council of State has passed a bill proposing that the country’s nuclear power stations be closed down after 40 years of operation and that no further nuclear facilities should be built.

Europe: The European Commission has backed a new energy policy on the “security of energy supply”. The document links compliance with Kyoto obligations and nuclear power production, which led to some dissenting voices within the Commission.

Finland: A pulp and paper mill in northwest Finland has ordered the largest turbine-generator set with a backpressure turbine in the industry. The 150 MW unit is to be built by Siemens PG and the order from Wisapower Oy is valued at more than €10m ($9.88m).

Greece: The 163 km subsea interconnector linking Greece and Italy has gone into commercial operation. The project was undertaken by Enel and cost €339m ($335m). The interconnector has already been used to meet emergency demand for power in Albania and Greece.

Italy: Shareholders in power company Italenergia have agreed the proposal to merge it with its affiliate Edison. The merger, along with a capital increase and bond issue, will reinforce Edison’s role as Italy’s number two power company.

Italy: Austria’s VA Tech Transmission and Distribution has been awarded a €4m ($3.95m) contract by EniPower to supply a 380 kV gas insulated substation for the Ravenna 880 MW combined cycle power plant in Italy. The project, which requires a high safety level and low maintenance, involves the manufacture, installation and commissioning of five 380 kV outdoor bays.

Italy: Italian power grid operator GRTN is planning a €1.4bn ($1.38bn) investment to upgrade electricity infrastructure in the country between 2002 and 2004 to address the issue of growing power demand and developing the infrastructure in the south of Italy. The upgrade of links with foreign countries is also planned.

Italy: Gazprom has signed a memorandum of understanding with Enel covering future gas supplies which may lead to a 20-year contract to supply gas directly to Italy’s largest power generator. This would be the first such contract for Gazprom and stems from the ongoing process of European gas market liberalization.

UK: A prototype device that generates electricity from tides has been unveiled by UK Energy Minister Brian Wilson. The ‘Stingray’ device transforms the kinetic energy of moving water into hydraulic power, which then turns an electrical generator. Stingray has been developed by Tyneside-based Engineering Business Ltd.