Milan at the centre for power

PEi presents a report on the recent meeting of European power industry professionals in Milan, Italy

For one week in early June the Italian city of Milan took centre stage as the home of Europe’s largest power industry event. Around 12 500 power industry professionals headed for the Fiera Milano City between 3-5 June to be part of three power events under one roof à‚— POWER-GEN Europe, Renewable Energy World Europe and POWERGRID Europe. The three conferences and exhibitions brought together the interests of the traditional power generation and fast-emerging renewable energy sector, alongside those of the all-important transmission and distribution sector.

The Fiera Milano City saw more than 12 500 power professionals attend the 16th annual POWER-GEN Europe
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Conference delegates had the option of attending any of the 46 sessions across the three conferences, involving around 240 individual speakers. Many of the conference sessions attracted well over 100 delegates, featuring presentations such as gas turbine technology and low to zero CO2 proving the most popular.

At an opening keynote session attended by close to 600 delegates and visitors, conference director, Nigel Blackaby referred to the dynamic state of the power industry, saying that energy and power generation were rarely out of the news these days. “All around the world, the demand for electricity is increasing, stretching the industry’s ability to respond and putting pressure on the supply of raw materials,” said Blackaby.

When introducing the keynote speakers he said that the context in which this year’s event was taking place was a rising demand for electricity across Europe with volatile and rising prices and increasing attention from European policymakers, looking to increase competition and further liberalize gas and electricity markets.

Italian nuclear renaissance

The first keynote, Roberto Poti, executive vice president of corporate business development for Edison SpA, offered a utility’s view of European and Italian energy markets. He said that, in the light of recent decisions, Italy faces a “now or never moment” for a return to nuclear. He said over the next two years, work would likely progress to identify up to four sites capable of supporting 2-3 GW each of nuclear capacity. By 2012 the first nuclear generating unit could be authorized with the plant being operational in 2019.

He warned however, that any nuclear revival could run into difficulties, including defining the power plants, disposing of nuclear waste and developing competencies. He said the Italian nuclear renaissance would depend on the formal adoption of a nuclear power policy, the revision of codes and standards, development of permitting procedures and a framework to dispose of nuclear waste.

Giuseppe Zampini, CEO of Ansaldo Energia, echoed the sentiment in his own address to delegates, saying that “nuclear is coming back even stronger than we might have supposed last year.” Zampini went on to say that meeting future electricity demand by his company would be based on four main strategies. First, to continue pursuing efficiency, flexibility and availability of Ansaldo’s gas fired capacity. Second, to reinforce the possibility of new nuclear power construction. Third, to develop new energy sources such as synthetic fuels and municipal solid waste gasification. And fourth, to identify energy savings in manufacturing processes.

The third keynote speaker was Dr Jacob Klimstra from Finnish engine manufacturer and plant construction firm Wärtsilä, who called on members of the audience to accelerate the pace of innovation in their companies and capture what he called the “challenge of change” by being increasingly willing to work at smaller scales. “We need to leave the idea that we need more and more centralized power,” he said. Klimstra called on political leaders across Europe to have an integrated vision of energy and that consumers must exercise responsibility. “It’s not an easy future for us in Europe,” he said.

Six in accord

“There will be no turning back on climate-related energy policy,” was the conclusion of the six members of the international panel who took part in the joint-conference ‘talk show’ session on the second day of the event.

Roger Harrabin, BBC environment analyst, steered the discussion through a range of topics, including energy efficiency, nuclear, through renewables, to carbon capture and storage, on how the global power industry is responding to the challenge of climate change à‚— a risk issue that Harrabin described in his opening as “like no other”.

The highly-engaging Jacob Klimstra (right) of Wartsila speaks during the Keynote Sesssion at POWER-GEN Europe
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Harrabin launched the discussion by asking how confident the panel was that the European Union would stick to the ambitious energy targets it set itself last year, known as the ’20-20-20 package’, and potentially pushing for the 30 per cent cut in carbon emissions.

Reassuringly, the consensus of the panel was a relatively optimistic one, with Dr. Michael Suess of Siemens saying that now, contrary to five years ago, a “clear commitment” exists from the EU, national governments and industry, and that despite unhappiness over escalating energy prices, the general public is now realizing that there has to be a change.

Most of greenhouse gas modelling conducted up to now has focused on a 50 per cent reduction in carbon. A new report by the Bellona Foundation looks at a reduction in the range of 80 per cent. “It is important to make sure that strategies adopted to achieve 50 per cent reductions do not actually close doors to others that might be more important in the longer term” said Fredric Hauge, President of the Bellona Foundation.

On the future of nuclear energy in Europe, Sanker Bhattacharya of the International Energy Agency said that the IEA predicted strong contribution from nuclear, alongside renewables, but he insisted that it would require strong political will and collaboration between industry and governments.

Harrabin quizzed US speaker and energy consultant Chuck Newton on likely post-Bush climate policy. Confident that the eventual candidates will stand firm on climate-related policy he said that ultimately the policy that is adopted would depend on congress rather than the future president. But an election year is not the time to expect significant legislation.

The discussion moved on to electricity transmission and distribution. North America currently leads in smart metering technology, and European utilities are showing increasing interest in adopting this entire value proposition to help adjust loads on the grids, said Newton. He quoted potential T&D grid efficiency improvements of between 30-40 per cent, and described AMI (advanced metering infrastructure) as a “hot button” in the sector.

Most of the speakers believed that renewable energy would make a significant contribution to the future energy mix à‚— especially electric power supply. Quizzed by Harrabin about how realistic it is that the current European targets for renewables (20 per cent of total energy consumption by 2020) will be achieved, Jackie Jones, Editor of Renewable Energy World magazine, said the signs were good à‚— the national targets have been set in order to stimulate markets yet also be achievable, and the renewable energy equipment manufacturers are confident that they can deliver.

On carbon capture and storage (CCS), Hauge said that the European Commission has now placed a lot of emphasis on CCS. Alstom’s Phillippe Paelinck spoke of post-combustion pilot projects being implemented in both Germany and the US. When Harrabin questioned him on whether there would be enough storage potential, Paelinck insisted that there were more than sufficient suitable sites worldwide.

Product launches

Siemens chose POWER-GEN Europe to announce the latest uprating of one its largest heavy-duty gas turbines, the SGT5-4000F. Speaking at a press conference, Harald Huttmann, head of new equipment sales for Siemens Energy in Europe, said, “A series of small modifications have resulted in a significant difference in both efficiency and performance.”

The SGT5-4000F first went into commercial operation in 1996 with a rating of 240 MW and an efficiency level of 37 per cent and currently there are 144 in commercial operation, with 221 units under contract. This latest upgrade is the third to be achieved by Siemens and brings the rating of the machine up to 292 MW in combined-cycle mode, with an efficiency level of 39.9 per cent.

This latest upgrade has been focused on the turbine blades and vanes and the metallic heat shield in the combustor and involves improved thermal barrier coatings, minor casting changes as well as the extended use of proven vane sealing plates.

Engine manufacturer MAN Diesel also launched a new product in Milan, presenting for the first time its D2862 à‚— an innovative V12 diesel engine for local power generation. Tapping new markets, MAN extends its product portfolio into the rating category up 10 1250 kVA at 1800 rpm.

The BBC’s environment analyst Roger Harrabin (left) hosted a fascinating plenary session on the power industry’s climate change challenge.
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The D2862 is the first in MAN’s new generation of V engines, which feature higher efficiency utilizing innovative technology that raises output and saves fuel at the same time.

Meanwhile, Capstone Turbine Corporation unveiled its new C200, the world’s largest single-unit air bearing microturbine. Up to five of the units can be housed into a single, 8.5-m-long ISO container to create Capstone’s C1000. This is a powerful turbine system that can be multipacked to produce up to 5 MW of clean electricity.

Conference awards

Representatives from utilities, equipment manufacturers and turnkey plant companies were among the seven winners of the prestigious Best Paper Awards at POWER-GEN Europe. The awards were made on the final day of the three-day conference with a trophy being presented to the winner in each conference track, as judged by a special sub-committee of the Advisory Board for the conference.

Conference director, PennWell’s Nigel Blackaby, said that the winners represented, “the best of the best,” from the conference. He added that the judges were looking for papers that advanced knowledge, were innovative and would help with the future development of the market.

The winners were:

  • Track 1: Gabor Bercsi, Sinergy Ltd à‚— ‘Strategy for the new generation capacity in Hungary’
  • Track 2: Bernd von der Heide, Mehldau & Steinfath Umwelttechnik à‚— ‘SNCR process – Best available technology for NOx reduction in waste-to-energy plants’
  • Track 3: Dr Stephano Sigali, Enel Ricerca à‚— ‘Low NOx hydrogen fuelled GT features and environmental performances’
  • Track 4: Sara Ruiz, Tecnatom Fossil à‚— ‘Future of biofuels: use of Cynara cardunculus biomass in fossil power plants’
  • Track 5: Gael de Bressy, Sergi Holding à‚— ‘An answer to prevent transformer explosion and fire: live test and simulations on large transformers’
  • Track 6: Dr Enrico Pignoné, Ansaldo Energia à‚— ‘Monitoring and diagnostic of power plants: AEN experience’
  • Track 7 à‚— Dr Martin Aten, E.ON Engineering à‚— ‘Energy Storage Applications to facilitate a high penetration of renewable generators’

Germany ahead

Glenn Ensor, PennWell’s international director of events concluded: “Milan has proven to be a great venue for POWER-GEN Europe and its co-located events Renewable Energy World Europe and POWERGRID Europe. POWER-GEN Europe in particular has reached an interesting point in its development and by working with partner companies like Ansaldo Energia, we will take the event to a new level when we stage POWER-GEN Europe 2009 in Cologne, Germany on 26 – 28 May next year”.

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