African countries agree joint power project

The five African countries of Angola, Botswana, Congo, Namibia and South Africa have agreed to establish a joint power project aimed at boosting the supply of low cost electricity. The venture will be called the Western Power Corridor Project and will be put together by power utilities in the five countries, each of which will have an equal share in a new joint venture company to be registered in Botswana’s capital, Gaborone.

The project is part of the New Partnership for African Development, a programme adopted by the African Union for economic development of Africa. It is intended to be environmentally friendly and designed to ensure that the economic development of the region will not be constrained by energy shortages.

The goals of the project include building hydropower stations in the Congo, Angola and Namibia and increasing trade in electricity by investing in joint venture projects that allow sharing of capital costs.

Utilities seek Ignalina shutdown delay

Utility companies from countries neighbouring Lithuania have written to the Lithuanian Prime Minister, asking for a postponement in the planned shutdown of Unit One of the Ignalina nuclear power plant. The 15000 MW unit is due to be switched off by 1 January 2005, in order to comply with an undertaking given to the European Union, in exchange for financial assistance. The utilities have requested that this be deferred until a new 450 MW thermoelectric power plant in Kalingrad is opened in November 2005.

The Ignalina NPP was inherited from the former Soviet Union and although considerable safety measures have been taken, its lack of radioactive containment means it falls short of international standards.

Belenergo, Russian JES Rossii, Estonian Eesti Energioa and Latvian Latvenergo pointed out that shutting down the Ignalina unit before the new plant was opened could destabilize the power systems in neighbouring countries. The unit shutdown is expected to result in power exports falling substantially due to the planned closure at the end of this year. Lietuvos Energija exported 7.5 TWh of electricity in 2003.

SE Europe grid reconnected

The Union for the Co-ordination of Transmission of Electricity (UCTE), the organization that co-ordinates the interests of transmission system operators in 22 European countries, has announced that, as of 1 November, South East Europe’s power system was reconnected to the rest of its system after a 13-year interval.

The resynchronization of the two UCTE zones has been a matter of highest priority to UCTE for many years after disconnection occurred resulting from the war events in ex-Yugoslavia.

In a statement the UCTE said, “From Lisbon to Athens, to Sofia and Bucharest, the same UCTE frequency is now beating again in the heart of electrical Europe.”

Pebble Bed investment

South Africa has agreed to additional finance of R500m ($83.2m) for the state-backed Pebble Bed Modular Reactor company for new turbine machinery and running costs. The nuclear reactor development programme is part of South Africa’s drive to diversify its energy sources.

Following the withdrawal of US-based Exelon from the project in 2002, the government has been searching for an equity partner to provide the R1.2bn required for the facility and to finance a fuel plant. The additional finance agreed by the government was required due to the delay in securing a partner, although talks with local and international potential investors are said to be ongoing.

The project has come under opposition from environmentalists, who have appealed against government approval.

Gazprom, E.ON cooperation

German utility group E.ON is looking to further its natural gas and power generation interests in Russia through expanded cooperation with Gazprom. For its part, Gazprom is seeking to branch out into power generation activities through the relationship with Europe’s second-largest utility.

E.ON plans to secure “strategic projects” in natural gas and electricity production in Russia and in fuel exports and marketing in Europe, Gazprom said in a statement. The utility, which has a 6.5 per cent stake in Gazprom, has agreed to buy 23bn cubic metres of gas a year to ship to Germany and Switzerland.

Gazprom has built up its position in power generation through a ten per cent interest in Russian utility Unified Energy Systems (UES), as well as a “significant” stake in Moscow’s main utility, Mosenergo.

News digest

Bulgaria: Germany’s E.ON has acquired the Bulgarian regional electricity utilities Gorna Oryahovitza and Varna, which together have a 25 per cent market share. E.ON has taken a 67 per cent stake in each company for a total of €141m ($184m).

Ghana: The Electricity Company of Ghana has begun a five-year government-backed exercise to replace its entire power transmission systems in order to ensure sustainable power supply in the country.

Iran: Iran began filling its biggest reservoir dam with water in November. The hydropower plant that will be built beside the Karoun 3 dam will have an installed capacity of 2000 MW and produce 4 TWh of electricity each year.

Israel: Ben Gurion International Airport is to build its own 80 MW private power station as part of the airport’s new Terminal 3. Construction of the plant is dependent on a link-up with the national natural gas pipeline and surplus power would feed into the national grid.

Israel: Israel Electric Corporation has awarded a $2.5m contract to Emerson Process Management for the modernization of turbine and boiler feed pump control systems at the four unit 1400 MW Maor David Power Station A in Hadera. Emerson is to install a redundant Ovation control system at each unit, linked to the existing Emerson WDPF data processing and monitoring system.

Oman: Areva’s Transmission and Distribution division has won an $18m contract in Oman for the supply of high-voltage gas insulated switchgear. Areva will build and install three 220 kV substations for Bahwan Engineering Company, subcontracted by Oman’s Ministry of Housing, Electricity & Water.

Syria: Syria’s Public Establishment of Electricity for Generation & Transmission has selected Germany’s Fichtner to evaluate bids to build a 750 MW combined cycle power plant at Deir Ezor in the North East. The turnkey contract for the estimated $350m plant involves the supply of two 250 MW gas turbines and a 250 MW steam turbines.

UAE: The first wind power plant in the UAE has been opened. The experimental plant on Sir Bani Yas island, Abu Dhabi, cost Dh9.33m ($2.54m) and has a capacity of 850 kW. If successful, more such plants are planned.

Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe’s Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) has reported a record annual loss of $163bn in 2003. Power tariffs, a rising bill for power imports and a huge debt burden were blamed. ZESA has been criticised for being without a board of directors for nearly a year.

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