Around the Globe – Europe

Edison to install hybrid fuel cell power plant

Italian utility Edison has reached agreement with Siemens Westinghouse Power Corporation for the installation of a hybrid fuel cell-gas turbine power plant at a site in Italy. The plant will be the first of its kind in Italy and only the third in the world.

Edison will invest $9.5m in the project, 25 per cent of which will be funded by the Italian environment ministry. The 320 kW plant will be installed at Edison’s Spinetta Marengo power plant in Alessandria, and will come on line in 2002.

The plant will consist of a solid oxide fuel cell coupled to a gas turbine operating in combined cycle and fuelled by natural gas. The unit will have an electrical efficiency of 58 per cent, with no SOx emissions and low NOx emissions.

“The environment is a business opportunity to address with technology,” said Giulio Del Ninno, CEO of Edison. “Today’s initiative puts Edison and Italy at the top of the world sustainable energy development challenge.”

The unit will undergo two years of trial operation.

PowerGen reviews website security

UK utility PowerGen has started an internal inquiry after a customer gained access to a database of customer contact and payment details on the company’s website. The website was immediately shut down following the incident and a review of security initiated.

The database contained information on customers of PowerGen who pay their gas and electricity accounts via the Internet, including account and credit card details. PowerGen said that initial investigations showed that the information which had been accessed was in a file which due to a technical error had been placed outside the system security gate. It stressed that there was no breach of its main customer database.

“We are now embarking on a wider reaching review of systems security in conjunction with external expert consultants,” said PowerGen’s Retail Managing Director Mike Wagner. “This has clearly raised some more general concerns about payment over the Internet.

“However, we remain committed to the Internet as customers increasingly find it a convenient way of doing business with us.”

  • PowerGen has entered a strategic alliance with UK financial services company Legal & General. Under the deal, both companies will offer energy and a range of financial offerings to customers, initially in the small and medium sized business market.

Electrabel buys Hidro stake

Belgian power group Electrabel has bought a ten per cent stake in Hidroelectrica del Cantabrico, the Spanish utility that was the subject of takeover bids from TXU and Union Fenosa. Electrabel paid a257m for the stake, valuing Hidrocantabrico at a2.5bn.

The move came as US energy company TXU increased its holding in Hidrocantabrico by 5.26 per cent to 19.2 per cent, making it the largest single shareholder. Both TXU and Electrabel bought their stakes from two core shareholders, savings banks La Caixa and Banco de Sabadell.

These transactions have underlined the increasing focus on Spain’s electricity sector by Europe’s large electricity companies. In March, TXU made and unsolicited bid for Hidrocantabrico, valuing the generator at a2.4bn. That bid was withdrawn by TXU after Spain’s Union Fenosa made a rival bid which was eventually blocked by Spain’s competition authorities.

Spanish plants to go ahead

The Spanish government has given its ‘administrative authorization’ to Enron for the development of a 1200 MW combined cycle power plant in Andalucia, southern Spain. Enron is now the first new entrant in the Spanish energy market to receive both this approval and the environmental declaration for a power plant.

GE has announced that it will soon start construction on a 800 MW CCGT power plant at Castellon de la Plana on the east coast of Spain. The company is supplying a STAG209FA combined cycle system for the new plant.

Austria approves energy legislation

Legislation put forward to open Austria’s gas and electricity markets to competition from October 2001 has received the approval of all the country’s major political parties. The legislation will benefit the producers of alternative forms of energy and protects cogeneration plants from competitive market forces.

Electricity production from alternative sources of energy will rise from 0.5 per cent of total output to four per cent by 2007.

The legislation also provides for the main cogeneration operators to recoup the difference between production costs and market prices.

News digest

Germany: The Green party has agreed with a 65 per cent majority to accept the government’s deal with the country’s nuclear industry over the withdrawal from nuclear power. The fundamentalist wing of the party, however, remains unhappy with the deal, believing that the government made too many concessions to Germany’s nuclear power plant operators.

Germany: The European Energy Exchange (EEX) has said that it will not charge most fees for spot trading in electricity in 2000 in a bid to attract business when it starts operating this month (August). Its main competitor, the Leipzig Power Exchange (LPX), began spot electricity trading in mid-June. Frankfurt-based EEX was formed in 1999 by Deutsche Bàƒ¶rse, and began trial trading in late June to test software. It says that over 30 companies are set to participate in its spot market.

Italy: Enel has finalized an agreement with Echelon Corporation under which Echelon will integrate its LonWorks system into Enel’s remote metering management system project. Enel is aiming to provide around 27 million households in Italy with digital electricity meters over a three year period under this project. When complete, Enel will be able to offer customers more accurate and timely meter readings, innovative tariff schemes as well as ‘home networking’ services.

Italy: The electricity and gas authority (AEEG) has said that Enel should speed up the shedding of 15 000 MW of generation capacity and has also been critical of the planned sell-off procedure. AEEG president Pippo Ranci said that the sale should be carried out in a way that fosters competition, and is unhappy about the way that Enel grouped its plants for sell off.

Portugal: The Portuguese government has created a ‘golden share’ in Electricidade de Portugal (EDP) that will enable it to veto strategic decisions made by the utility. It made the move in spite of opposition from the European Commission which says that golden shares contravene European Union rules on the freedom of capital movement and the right of establishment. The golden share is also likely to make shares in EDP less attractive to investors when its planned initial public offering goes ahead.

Sweden: Finnish company Fortum has clinched a deal to construct a biomass-fired combined heat and power (CHP) plant in Hàƒ¤rnàƒ¶sand, Sweden. At the heart of the plant will be a bubbling fluidized bed boiler burning biomass as well as peat. The plant will be Fortum’s first CHP project in Sweden. It will be fully operational in early 2002, but will start heat production in late 2001.

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