EUROPE

EC in talks with Russia to free up Baltic electricity ‘island’

The European Commission is to open talks with Russia and Belarus in a bid to integrate the Baltic States’ electricity system with other parts of Europe.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are currently part of Russia’s UPS IPS grid which was built as part of the Soviet system.

While it is accepted that, in the short term, Russia’s electricity system is incompatible with that of the rest of Europe ” Russia has no means of auctioning interconnector capacity ” the EC regards building links to the Baltic ‘electricity island’ as a key stepping stone to wider European energy security.

It would like to see the three Baltic states link with Finland, Poland, Germany, Denmark and Sweden and there are also plans for a north-south interconnector between the Baltic states and central and southeastern Europe.

Meanwhile, work has started on the Baltic nuclear power plant in Kaliningrad.

Two units of the VVER-1200 design are due to be commissioned in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

The plant will not only supply power to the Kaliningrad region, but will also provide energy exports to the Baltic states and northwest Europe.

German fury at solar subsidy cuts plan

The German government has drafted legislation to cut solar power subsidies, a move slammed by the renewables industry.

Carsten Koernig, head of the BSW Solar industry group, said the plan was “dangerous as it would destroy investment security. We fear a rollback in clean energy and climate policy at a time when Germany wants to lead.”

Germany, the world’s largest solar market, wants to halve the annual number of installations after incentives for the industry pushed capacity past government targets.

The draft bill, to be debated later this month, would drastically cut solar subsidies and eliminate them altogether for the largest photovoltaic plants.

Ukraine green lights shale exploration

Ukraine has opened up its shale gas reserves to exploration, a move that could help reduce its heavy dependence on increasingly expensive gas imports from its eastern neighbour Russia.

The Ukrainian government said it would hold two tenders for rights to explore for unconventional gas in two vast areas, one in the east of the country and the other in the west.

Ukraine is one of several European countries eager to replicate the shale gas boom in the US.

Scotland may extend nuclear plants to ease renewable switch

Scotland may extend the life of the country’s two nuclear power plants ࢀ” Torness and Hunterston, which are operated by EDF ࢀ” to help the transition to producing all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

The Scottish government said it still plans to phase out nuclear power and rely on cleaner thermal energy to reduce carbon emissions, adding it was on track to meet the target in eight years’ time.

“This does not preclude extending the operating life of Scotland’s existing nuclear stations to help maintain security of supply over the next decade,” it said. “Subject to the relevant safety cases being made, the government would not oppose operating life extension applications at these sites.”

Scotland’s nuclear policy differs from that of the UK government, which has agreed to build more power stations as part of its strategy of meeting EU targets to cut carbon emissions.

EDF wants to extend the operating life of Torness and Hunterston by at least five years.

Enea targets gas joint venture deal

Polish utility Enea is considering a joint venture with Poland’s largest gas company gas PGNiG to build a series of gas fired power plants.

Enea chairman Maciej Owczarek said that the companies were considering building “not one, but several gas-fired power plants”.

Owczarek also said that Enea was looking into shale gas opportunities ” Poland has the largest reserves of shale gas in Europe and is the EU’s most pro-shale advocate.

“It would be unreasonable for Enea to remain completely disengaged from shale gas,” he said, but added: “We shouldn’t rush with the decision.”

Fire shuts down world’s biggest biomass plant

The largest biomass power station in the world was shut down by a fire which engulfed several thousand tonnes of wood pellets.

The 750 MW plant at Tilbury in the UK, run by RWE npower, had only been fully operational for a few weeks when the fire broke out earlier this month.

Of the plant’s three units, one is expected back online in April while the other two, which were directly affected by the fire, are not expected to be operational until July.

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Bulgaria: The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has given a €10m loan to Bulgaria to help it promote energy efficiency measures across the country.

Austria: Chancellor Werner Faymann believes the European Union will this year face pressure to abandon nuclear power. He said he expects anti-nuclear petitions to start in at least six EU states. Petitions that attract at least 1 million signatures can seek legislative proposals from the European Commission.

Europe: Italy and the Nordic regions are leading the way in smart meter deployments, according to technology company Sentec. Research from the company shows the countries have an installed smart meter capacity of 94 per cent and 70 per cent respectively.

Europe: European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger has said that national elections are bad news for energy policies. With voting this year in France, Russia and the US, Oettinger said that power generation and elections are “not a good couple”, because energy policies are “quite complicated” for an electoral debate.

Poland: Poland vetoed a plan backed by 26 other EU states to set targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020. Poland was the only country to vote against plans to cut emissions by 40 per cent by 2030, 60 per cent by 2040, and 80 per cent by 2050.

Russia: Gas giant Gazprom and Danish energy company Dong Energy are planning to invest in power plants in north west Europe. Gazprom said the two companies “agreed a plan of action concerning existing gas fired power plants and the construction of a new, modern steam-gas plant.”

UK: A Green Investment Bank will be based in Edinburgh with a smaller office in London. The bank, announced in 2010, will have an initial à‚£1 billion budget to help fund renewable projects in the UK.

UK: Horizon Nuclear Power is in the “final stages” of selecting the design for its proposed new nuclear power station in Wales from the AP1000 from Westinghouse or the European Pressurised Reactor from Areva.

UK: E.ON is to close its Kingsnorth coal fired power station in March 2013. The 1940 MW plant will have reached the end of its allocated running hours under the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive.

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