European Parliament backs unbundling

The European Parliament has given its support to the break-up of energy companies, putting it in direct opposition to France and Germany over planned legislation to increase competition in the region’s electricity and natural gas markets.

The Parliament said it would support a draft law to split vertically integrated utilities like EDF and E.ON into separate grid and supply businesses. The proposal, which the European Commission is drawing up as a way to make networks more accessible to companies without their own grids, will require the approval of the Parliament and national governments.

The EC is seeking allies to break up energy companies, with France and Germany spearheading the opposition. The commission has said that splitting the companies would prevent incumbents from favouring their own transmission units at the expense of new entrants.

The Parliament considers transmission ownership unbundling to be the most effective tool to promote investments in infrastructures in a non-discriminatory way, fair access to the grid for new entrants and transparency in the market.

Sweden hosts pilot CO2 capture plant project

Alstom and E.ON have signed a joint development contract to launch a 5 MW carbon dioxide (CO2) capture demonstration plant in Sweden.

The demonstration plant, which will be located at the Karlshamn power plant, will use Alstom’s chilled ammonia-based technology, and is expected to begin operation in 2008. According to Alstom, research indicates that chilled ammonia-based CO2capture can remove up to 90 per cent of CO2 from flue gases and that compared to other post-combustion carbon separation methods the chilled ammonia-based technology results in an energy loss of 10 per cent, compared to other methods which produce losses of nearer 30 per cent.

This latest contract mirrors Alstom’s agreement with American Electric Power, which is to develop a demonstration coal fired power plant in West Virginia, with a further demonstration plant scheduled at an AEP site in Oklahoma in 2011.

Germany to reform grid access tariffs

The German government is planning to reform the country’s electricity and gas grid access tariff structure by replacing the current cost-based approach with an incentive-based scheme.

The new scheme, which is due to be introduced in two years time, would be based on the network operators’ revenues, with the aim of improving the competitive landscape in Europe’s largest energy market.

This reform, subject to German upper parliament approval, represents a modernization of its energy market regulation because it switches the focus from utilities to customers.

Under the present system, network regulation is based on the actual operational costs incurred. However, this approach is inefficient as there is little incentive to minimize costs and improve productivity. The proposed changes are intended to avoid these problems as incentive-based regulation targets either prices or revenues, and is more appropriate for liberalized markets.

Siemens backs Hydro’s floating wind turbine

Hydro of Norway and Siemens Power Generation have entered into an agreement to jointly develop floating wind turbines based on Hydro’s Hywind concept.

Siemens will deliver the first wind turbine for the demonstration unit, which will be positioned off the coast of Norway.

Hydro currently has a license to place a demonstration turbine offshore near Karmàƒ¸y, an island in the southwest of Norway. The company is also considering the possibility of locating the wind turbine near an oil installation with the aim of supplying it with renewable energy.

Andreas Nauen, head of Siemens’ wind division said, “Entering this strategic agreement with Hydro puts us in the best possible position to further expand our proven technology and leading position in the growth market sector of offshore wind farms.”

RWE npower adds more offshore wind investment

RWE npower is to begin construction on its second major wind farm off the Welsh coastline in the United Kingdom. The project is worth à‚£190m ($389m).

The company reaffirmed its commitment to renewable energy by signing a contract with Siemens Power Generation to supply and install turbines for the 90 MW Rhyl Flats offshore wind farm scheme, due to be fully operational by the middle of 2009.

Once operational Rhyl Flats, along with its neighbour North Hoyle, will produce enough clean electricity every year to meet the needs of over 100 000 homes, and will prevent the release of around 410 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.

No U-turn on Germany’s nuclear energy policy

German chancellor Angela Merkel has made it clear that she is not prepared to see the break-up of the coalition government for the sake of a policy to extend the operating life of the country’s nuclear plant fleet.

Merkel has rejected calls from energy groups for changes to the planned ending of Germany’s nuclear generation. Michael Glos, federal economics minister, has called for an extension to the working life of its reactors. Merkel has told the industry that a decision is not feasible in the current parliamentary period.

France: EDF is to invest €900m ($1.23m) in building new conventional thermal generation facilities in France by 2010.

Hungary: A joint venture between Plambeck Neue Energien AG and GM Umwelt und Energiewirtschaft GmbH is to build a wind farm in Hungary. The companies will invest €365m ($495m) into the project, with a 260 MW capacity by 2011.

Ireland: Alstom has won the contract to build a 430 MW combined-cycle power plant in County Cork, Ireland. The €275m ($375m) order was awarded by a division of the state-owned power producer Electricity Supply Board (ESB).

Netherlands: The Gas Turbine Services division of John Wood Group plc has won a $20m, six-year maintenance contract for three GE Frame 6B and two Frame 9E gas turbines operated at three cogeneration facilities in the Netherlands.

Poland: Emerson Process Management, a business unit of Emerson, has received an order worth $27m to modernize generating units 3 and 4 of the Belchatow power plant in Poland, which is the largest lignite fired power station in Europe.

Portugal: GE Energy is to supply a turnkey power station to Energias de Portugal Produca that will add 863 MW of capacity to the electricity grid. The new plant will be based on two GE STAG 109FB combined-cycle systems, and is scheduled to enter commercial operation in the second half of 2009.

Romania: CEZ, the Czech energy company, is to bid for the construction of a new 400-500 MW power station for Termoelectica, the Romanian utility. The power plant, which will be fuelled by either gas or coal, is to be located at Borzesti in Romania.

Spain: Endesa has received a municipal permit to build a 20.1 MW photovoltaic solar energy plant in an industrial park in Cadiz. The first stage of the plant will have 12.3 MW of installed power and cover an area of 37 hectares.

Spain: The first commercial breakwater wave energy plant is to be built on the Atlantic coast of northern Spain. The 300kW plant will use the Oscillating Water column technology of Voith Siemens Hydro Power Generation’s UK subsidiary Wavegen.

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