Suez merger with Gaz de France

Suez and Gaz de France are to merge to create one of the largest power and water companies in Europe after the French Prime Minister indicated he would make adjustments to key legislation.

Suez directors have held discussions with their counterparts from Gaz de France over the €73bn ($86.5bn) merger over the last few months. With revenues of about €64bn, the new group will be one of Europe’s biggest players in energy and environmental services.

The deal should be completed in the second half of this year after both the French and Belgian governments gave it their support. Italy’s economic minister, Giulio Tremonti, responded by stating: “The tendency of European states to build protective barriers must be stopped.” The Italian utility Enel last week said it was considering bidding for Suez.

Alstom to build Neurath plant

German utility RWE has appointed Alstom to supply and build a 2100 MW power plant in Neurath that will be the largest lignite fired plant in Germany. Work has already begun on the plant under a contract worth €450m ($535m). The plant will use advanced technology resulting in high efficiency and considerably reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per kWh, compared with existing lignite plants.

Alstom will carry out the overall plant engineering and will supply, erect and commission two steam turbine islands. The two units will feature the largest two-pole generators in worldwide use.

EU to investigate firms blocking competition

A preliminary EU report into competition across European energy markets has uncovered some “serious malfunctions”, prompting competition commissioner Neelie Kroes to launch anti-trust investigations against a number of unnamed energy companies.

Kroes had earlier warned of “worrying distortions of competition” saying that dominant players in many markets were using their control of gas and electricity networks.

RWE chairman Harry Roels said the inquiry was based on surveys from June 2005 and that since then the liberalization process had gained momentum.

Hydrogenics supply wind energy storage solution

A hydrogen production station supplied by Hydrogenics Corporation is to form part of a hybrid wind farm operated by Gas Natural in Spain.

Under a €500 000 contract Hydrogenics will supply its HySTAT-A hydrogen station to the Sotavento Galicia wind farm to produce up to 60 m3/h of hydrogen.

In strong wind conditions the Sotavento Galicia wind farm produces more electricity than is needed by the grid and has no means to store the surplus energy. In future, excess electricity will be used to produce hydrogen which will power an internal combustion engine to supply electricity to the grid when the wind is not blowing.

Europe passes 2010 wind target

New figures from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) show that cumulative wind power capacity across Europe reached 40 504 MW by the end of 2005, surpassing the European Commission’s 40 000 MW target for 2010. Wind power capacity grew by 18 per cent from the 34 372 MW that was in place at the end of 2004.

According to EWEA figures, 6183 MW of wind capacity was installed last year compared with 5838 MW the previous year, representing a wind turbine manufacturing turnover of some €6bn ($7.1bn). Over the last ten years, cumulative wind power capacity in the EU has increased by an average 32 per cent per year. The top five European markets for new wind energy in 2005 were Germany (1808 MW), Spain (1764 MW), Portugal (500 MW), Italy (452 MW), and the UK (446 MW).

Worldwide, FPL Energy of the USA and Spain’s Iberdrola tied for first place in terms of wind farm ownership. Both companies ended 2005 with 3260 MW of wind power capacity in service.

Oskarshamn award winners

E.ON and Fortum-owned OKG Aktiebolag has awarded contracts to Alstom and Westinghouse under its plans to increase the power output of Unit 3 at its Oskarshamn nuclear power plant in Sweden. The capacity of the Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) unit will increase from 1200 MW to 1450 MW and the work will extend the lifetime of the plant by more than 35 years. The plant will also be modified to meet new expanded formal safety standards.

Alstom was awarded the €180m contract to provide steam turbine and generator equipment. Westinghouse will carry out design work and plant configuration, manufacturing, installation and commissioning of reactor internals.

News digest

Austria: Verbund has received authorization for a €365m ($438m) extension to its Limberg II pumped storage power plant at Kaprun. Output from the plant will incease from 353 MW to 833 MW, enhancing security of supply at peak consumption times from 2012. The first two machines will be commissioned in 2011.

Belgium: Wärtsilä is to supply a biomass fuelled combined heat and power plant to Belgian company Renogen for the municipality of Amel in the Ardennes that will supply heat to two local factories as well as power to the grid.

France: Austrian utility Verbund has taken a 25 per cent stake in the independent French gas and electricity supplier Poweo SA with an investment of €40m ($47.6m).

Germany: EnBW has demanded a derogation of the requirement that it should shut down its Neckarwestheim plant by 2009. With a new government in place and question marks over gas supplies, other nuclear plant operators are expected to follow suit.

Germany: E.ON is to bring back into service a number of its mothballed power stations in Germany, including the Emden-4 gas fired power plant, as energy prices increase across Europe.

Norway: Statnett of Norway and Energinet of Denmark have contracted ABB to upgrade the control system of the 30-year old Skagerrak 1 & 2 HVDC transmission link using its MACH 2 system.

Spain: Acciona Solar has opened Spain’s largest photovoltaic facility with a capacity of 2.44 MWp. The shared facility consists of 400 solar trackers belonging to 279 separate owners who in total have invested €19m ($22.6m).

Spain: The fourth-largest Spanish wind farm operator CESA has been acquired by Spanish construction and energy group Acciona for €1.37bn ($1.63bn). This will give Acciona 18 per cent of the Spanish wind market.

UK: Mitsui Babcock has published a report warning of an energy gap in the UK of 18-25 GW by 2015 and calling on the government to invest in clean coal technologies and nuclear power plants.

UK: The Channel Island of Alderney has signed a contract with Alderney Renewable Energy giving it exclusive rights to research and develop wave and tidal power production in Alderney waters for a five year period.

UK: VA Tech Hydro has won a sub-contract from Hochtief Construction to supply and install the electromechanical equipment at Scottish & Southern’s Glendoe 100 MW hydropower project in Scotland.