News digest

Denmark: Denmark’s Energy Ministry has called for interested companies to prequalify for a g275m ($335m) contract to build a 200 MW extension to the existing Horns Reef offshore wind farm.

France: Areva has signed a contract with Electricité de France (EDF) for the treatment of 5250 t of used nuclear fuel. Under the contract, recyclable materials will be retrieved, final residues contained and 100 t of MOX fuel supplied annually.

France: The EDF-GDF reform bill has now been ratified by the French parliament, transforming the utilities from public to private companies. The French government still retains 70 per cent of the firms’ capital.

Germany: The German government has approved a bill aimed at reforming the energy market, introducing a regulator to ensure that grid operators charge fairly for network access. The law still requires parliamentary approval.

Germany: Powerlight Corporation, K & S Consulting Group and Deutsche Structured Finance have announced an initiative to build the world’s largest solar photovoltaic project in Bavaria, Germany. The 10 MW Bavaria Solarpark will consist of three systems and use 57 600 photovoltaic panels.

Ireland: International specialist banking group Investec says it has successfully arranged the g400m ($487m) financing of a 400 MW combined cycle plant at Tynagh, Co. Galway, Republic of Ireland.

Italy: Three utility companies in the Emilia-Romagna region, Amps, Agac and Tesa, plan to merge into one new utility, expected to become operational 1 January 2005.

Sweden: GE Energy has been selected by Vattenfall AB for an uprate project at the Messaure hydropower station on the Lule River in Sweden. GE will provide new runners and will refurbish two Francis hydro turbines at the plant.

UK: A joint venture, known as Infinergy, consisting of Koop Duurzaame and FPD Savills, is planning to build a £185m ($331m) 225 MW onshore wind farm located near Inverness, scheduled for start up in 2008.

UK: UK energy regulator Ofgem has confirmed a £700 000 ($1.25m) penalty on E.ON unit Powergen, after the company unfairly stopped domestic customers from switching to new gas or electricity suppliers.

UK: An important milestone in the creation of a single electricity market across Great Britain was passed in mid-August with the publication of the proposed designation text for Betta, which is due to be introduced in April 2005.

EDP ups stake in Hidrocantábrico

Electricidade de Portugal (EDP) has increased its stake in Hidroeléctrica del Cantábrico (Hidrocantábrico) to 95.7 per cent having agreed with Germany’s Energie Baden-Württemberg (EnBW) and various Spanish interests to buy their 56.2 per cent stake in the Spanish utility for g1.19bn ($2.14bn). As part of the transaction, Caja de Ahorros de Asturias (Cajstur) will receive shares equivalent to 5.4-5.8 per cent of EDP share capital.

The deal is aimed at optimizing the combined gas and electricity operations of the two companies ahead of the forthcoming liberalization of the domestic market and introduction of the Iberian energy market (known as Mibel). Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s placed EDP on ‘Watch Negative’ in the wake of the announcement, due to concerns over a potentially weaker financial and business profile. Uncertainty also exists over the termination of EDP’s power purchase agreements.

Meanwhile, the European Commission is planning to launch an investigation into the planned purchase of Gas de Portugal (GDP) by EDP and the Italian company, Eni. The European Commission fears that the deal would allow EDP too much domestic market dominance.

SSE acquires AEP’s UK plants

Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) has bought two major UK coal fired power stations from US energy group AEP. The total consideration for the 2000 MW Ferrybridge plant in Yorkshire and the 2000 MW Fiddler’s Ferry plant in northwest England, including associated coal stocks and commodity contracts, was $456m. AEP paid $650m when it acquired the two plants from Edison Mission Energy in 2001.

The sale completes AEP’s exit from the UK market and will reduce debt and strengthen the company’s balance sheet. SSE has now grown to become the third largest electricity generator in the UK with interests totalling 10 GW.

Acorn Power is expecting to receive the necessary financial backing to revive its proposed £300m ($538m) 800 MW CCGT plant at Port Talbot in South Wales.

Euro foot dragging

A review carried out by market analysts Datamonitor of progress made towards the establishment of a fully competitive European energy market has concluded that liberalization has advanced only slowly over the past eight years and that the goal remains as far away as ever.

It said that as of July 1, out of the 25 EU member states, only the Netherlands and Slovenia have fully complied with the second European directive on energy liberalization by passing national legislation and informing the European Commission. The second directive requires an open market for domestic consumers by July 1, 2007 but Datamonitor believes that compliance is likely to be patchy.

Wave power generator starts up

Ocean Power Delivery’s Pelamis, the world’s first commercial scale floating wave energy converter, has been installed at the newly opened European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney and completed its first weeks of electricity generation. Pelamis has a rated power output of 750 kW, which could supply the annual electricity needs of 500 UK homes.

The deployment is a significant step towards commercialization of the device and follows extensive offshore tests earlier this year.

The UK government has announced the establishment of a £50m ($89.6m) fund for the development of wave and tidal technologies – effectively trebling the level of support afforded to this area of renewable energy research.

EHN researches hydrogen

Renewable energy company EHN has begun a research project to obtain hydrogen through electricity generated from wind power. The experiment seeks to achieve the clean and competitive production of a fuel which is forecast to play a key role in the future.

The project involves simulating power generation conditions of a wind farm and analysing the effects in an electrolyser. The data will assist with the design of wind turbines and electrolysers used in hydrogen production.

HotModule fuel cell record

A HotModule fuel cell facility from MTU CFC Solutions, installed at the Rhön-Klinikum hospital in Bad Neustadt in Germany, has set a new world record for high temperature fuel cells by achieving over 21 000 operating hours. The Rhön-Klinikum clinic was the first worldwide to exploit this technology, which provides thermal energy in the form of high-pressure water vapour that can be used in hospital sterilization procedures, as well as electricity.

The facility can deliver up to 250 kW electric and 180 kW thermal power and operates at almost 50 per cent electrical efficiency. The module can also act as an emergency power generator offering an uninterruptible power supply to operating theatres and intensive care units.