Europe grid needs $274bn investment, says Oettinger

Investments of about €210bn ($274bn) in gas and power grid upgrades are required if the European Union wants to become a single energy market by 2014, said EC energy chief Guenther Oettinger.

Europe needs to invest in new electricity and gas grids over the next 10-15 years for all EU Member States to have access to a pan-European market, he said.

“There are still several Member States that are dependent on one single supplier, on one single pipeline, when it comes to gas,” he said in a speech. “You need new lines if you want to complete the single market, create solidarity in times of demand, strengthen the consumer and develop renewable energy sources optimally.”

Germany, Europe’s biggest energy market, lacks a coherent strategy to expand its power network and countries including some Baltic states and Bulgaria are too dependent on Russia’s state-controlled energy giant OAO Gazprom, he said, according to Bloomberg.

Germany needs to come up with a “constructive” position toward EU proposals to reduce energy consumption, he added.

EC slams Spanish halt on subsidies

Spain’s decision to temporarily halt subsidies for renewable energy projects will have a ‘disturbing impact’ on investment in the sector according to the European Commission.

Brussels sees the move as unnecessarily harmful to the industry. “The suspension of all new renewable energy projects will have a disturbing impact on investment in this sector,” said the EC’s Marlene Holzner. “Reforms should be undertaken with the market players and not with such sudden stop-start approaches.”

Spain’s government halted the subsidies last month to help curb its deficit and rein in power-system borrowings backed by the state that hit €24bn ($31bn) last year.

Italy tackles gas shortage with switch to oil

Italy will allow electricity providers to fire up oil fuelled plants as gas supplies tighten amid cold weather and reduced imports from Russia, said the country’s strategic gas committee.

In a statement on 6 February, the committee said it would also enforce “interruptible” gas contracts with industrial clients.

Italy uses natural gas for about half its generation. Paolo Scaroni, CEO of Eni said the measures could save 25 million cubic metres per day, or 8-9 per cent of consumption.

Siemens puts $2trn price tag on German nuclear phase-out

Germany’s phase-out of nuclear power could cost the country $2.15trn, according to an executive at Siemens.

Michael Suess said the price tag was worked out on the assumption that Germany would expand its share of renewables to fill the nuclear gap in its energy mix.

If gas were the major replacement instead, the cost of the transition for energy customers or taxpayers would be significantly lower, at about $1.4bn, he added.

Suess, head of energy at Siemens, told Reuters: “As an industry, Germany has always reached its goals. Now the whole world is looking at us. If the energy shift should fail… it would undermine Germany’s credibility as an industry nation.”

Germany’s withdrawal from nuclear followed the disaster at Fukushima last year.

Siemens, which built all of Germany’s 17 nuclear plants, followed the government’s line and announced that it would no longer build nuclear projects, although it remains at the forefront of the steam turbine business for nuclear plants.

Clean power hits 71 per cent of new capacity in Europe

A record 71 per cent of all the new power generating capacity fitted in the Europe Union in 2011 came from solar panels, wind turbines or other renewable energy sources, new figures show.

Renewable power installed in 2011 rose to 32 GW, according to a European Wind Energy Association report, largely thanks to a surge in solar installations in Italy and Germany.

In 2010, 23 GW in clean power was installed, accounting for 54 per cent of new capacity that year. In 2000 only 3.5 GW was fitted, slightly more 20 per cent of total capacity.

Germany’s solar subsidies reported to face cut in April

Germany’s Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen and Economy Minister Philipp Roesler are in talks over solar subsidies, which may be cut as early as April, according to the Rheinische Post.

The ministers met on 1 February and plan to table a combined proposal to adjust solar power subsidies “as quickly as possible,” said Frauke Stamer, a spokeswoman for Roettgen

Germany may cut support as early as April to curb an expected rush in installations, said the paper.

France: President Sarkozy has decided to extend the lifespan of France’s nuclear power plants so they can operate beyond 40 years, said Industry Minister Eric Besson. But prolonging any plant’s life requires approval by nuclear-safety watchdog Autorite de Surete Nucleaire.

Finland: A 140 MW biomass plant is to be built with €18m ($24m) from the Nordic Investment Bank. The plant in Vaasa, to be built by Vaskiluodon Voima, will be connected to an existing plant and will substitute coal with peat, forest residues and biomaterials such as reed.

France: Bitterly cold weather is expected to push gas and electricity consumption in France to record highs this month. Consumption is expected to hit 97 000 MW. The surge is due to many households using electric heating systems.

Macedonia: Power utility ELEM has signed a $72.13m deal with a consortium of Greek builder Terna and German engineering firm Siemens to build Macedonia’s first wind farm, which will total 37 MW.

Poland: Iberdrola has been picked to build a 400 MW heat and power plant for Poland’s Elektrocieplownia Stalowa Wola SA. In December, Radoslaw Dudzinski, a deputy chief executive officer of Gornictwo, said Iberdrola placed the lowest bid of 1.6bn zloty ($504m).

Siberia: The first phase of a centralised interim storage facility has been completed at the Mining and Chemical Combine at Zheleznogorsk near Krasnoyarsk, where about 8129 tonnes of used fuel from RBMK-1000 reactors from plants in Leningrad, Kursk and Smolensk will be stored.

Sweden: What is described as the world’s longest and most powerful underground high-voltage cable is to be built by Alstom Grid and ABB. The 1440 MW South-West Link will run 200 km from Barkeryd to Hurva.

UK: SSE is generating over 1 GW from onshore wind for the first time. The company has commissioned more than 300 MW of onshore capacity since April last year.

Ukraine: Stakes in power distributor companies Centrenergo (CEEN) and Donbasenergo (DOEN) will be sold in June this year, said the state property fund. A 53 per cent holding in PAT DAK Centrenergo and 61 per cent in PAT Donbasenergo will be offered.

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