Fuel cells power hospital

FuelCell Energy’s partner in Europe, the MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH unit of DaimlerChrysler, has commenced operating a 250 kV Direct FuelCell (DFC) plant to power the Rhon-Klinikum hospital in Bad Neustadt, Germany. The plant is to be connected to the internal power supply system of the hospital and will also provide heat energy.

The DFC power plant technology is said to be especially suitable for use in hospitals due to their high electrical demand, steady load profile and heat requirements. An additional advantage of the system is its high efficiency, low pollution and quiet operation. The high quality of the electricity also conduces the smooth operation of computer systems and sensitive medical devices.

DFCs are similar to large continuously operating batteries that generate power as long as they are fed with fuel such as natural gas. They generate electricity with no combustion and since fuel is not burned, there is no pollution.

MTU’s New Technology Division in Munich-Ottobrunn is cooperating with partners on the next generation of energy transformations with the product development of the Direct FuelCell and a high-performance electrolyzer.

Draft on emission trading in the UK

The UK government has unveiled draft plans to set up an emissions trading scheme which is due to start in April 2002 with the final rules to be issued in July. The delay in issuing rules follows major reservations about the draft scheme that emerged in a consultation process concluded in January.

Emission trading is one of the market mechanisms backed by the Kyoto climate change accord. The government hopes that emission trading will cut Britain’s emissions of carbon dioxide by at least two million tonnes a year by 2010. Commitments made under the Kyoto agreement call for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 per cent below 1990 levels over the period 2008 to 2012.

The scheme requires companies to accept targets to reduce their emissions. If these companies reduce their pollution levels below the target, they can sell their excess allowance to companies whose emissions are above their targets. Similarly, companies above their target will have to buy permits.

The government plans to spend £43m ($61m) in 2003/2004 to be allocated through a bidding system as a financial incentive for companies to join the scheme.

NGC develops world’s largest subsea link

Power transmission company National Grid has announced plans to build the world’s longest sub-sea electricity interconnector between the north east of Britain and Norway. The group is set to lay a 724 km-long direct-current cable along the bed of the North Sea in a joint venture with the Norwegian utility Statnett. The move has raised prospects for cheaper peak power prices in the UK.

The scheme, scheduled to start in 2002, is expected to be one of the most technically challenging sub-sea projects ever carried out. Construction of the £400-500m ($576-719m) link is expected to be completed by 2005.

The scheme should benefit both the UK and Norway. Peak wholesale power prices in the UK have become volatile since the new electricity trading agreement started, while the Norwegian government has expressed concern over heavy reliance on hydropower and declining reservoir levels. The UK will be able to import cheap Norwegian electricity during peak-time price spikes and export power to Norway at off-peak times, allowing Norway to reduce dependence on hydropower.

Warning over voting rights

The Spanish government, invoking a law that limits voting rights for companies believed to be controlled by foreign groups, has suspended the voting rights of Electricidade de Portugal and EnBW of Germany on the board of Hidroeletrica del Cantabrico. The restrictions will hold pending an investigation into the stakes of the two foreign groups in Spain’s fourth largest utility.

In reaction, the European Union competition commissioner Mario Monti, warned that the Spanish government would need European Commission approval prior to placing any restrictions on foreign shareholders in Spain’s privatized utilities. Monti said that national governments have extremely narrow grounds in which to interfere with cross-border mergers or acquisitions.

French expansion

The French electricity company, EDF, has come under fire for its acquisition of 20 per cent of Montedison SpA, which owns Italian power generators Edison and Sondel.

The move has provoked protests from the Italian government and the incumbent energy authority, which is expected to launch an enquiry.

The company has plans to derive 50 per cent of its revenues from activities outside France by 2005 compared with 20 per cent at present.