Mirant unloads WPD to PPL

Mirant Corporation continued its strategy of asset disposal when it sold its 49 per cent interest in Western Power Distribution (WPD), whose assets include the electricity networks of southwest England and south Wales, to PPL Corporation.

PPL was given first refusal for the sale as it already owns the remaining 51 per cent of WPD. PPL paid $235m which after taxes and sale related fees netted Mirant $228m.

“This sale is part of Mirant’s ongoing review and sale of non-strategic assets designed to strengthen our balance sheet and improve liquidity,” said Marce Fuller, Mirant’s president and CEO. So far this year, Mirant has carried out asset sales worth $1.7bn and has set a target of raising between $2.3bn and $2.7bn.

Weak market conditions meant Mirant having to take a write down totalling $326m on its interest in WPD since it began acquiring the UK assets in 1995.

Italenergia shareholders OK Edison restructuring

Shareholders in Italenergia, the holding company that controls Italian utility Edison, have agreed a plan to restructure the company’s debts and to permit Fiat to reduce its stake in Italenergia.

The agreement allows Edison to proceed with a €1bn borrowing backed by Italenergia shareholder Electricité de France, part of a €4bn restructuring aimed at establishing Edison as a major player in Italy’s liberalizing power market.

Munich utility orders two GE 9E gas turbines

A new Munich district heating facility owned by Stadtwerke Muenchen is to operate two PG9171E gas turbines to be supplied by GE Power Systems, built in Belfort, France.

GE is due to supply the 400 MW combined cycle power plant with turbines and associated equipment in the third quarter of 2003.

Each of the recently uprated 50 Hz Frame 9E turbines will have 126 MW output and will be equipped with GE Speedtronic Mark V control systems. Natural gas will be the primary fuel with light distillate as the backup fuel with the turbines using water injection for NOx reduction.

Vienna, Austria-based VA Tech Hydro will be the prime contractor for the project with GE providing technical assistance and on-site training services for the project.

Major players deny manipulation in Nordpool power market

An investigation into price manipulation on the Scandinavian Nord Pool electricity market has been underway since June and has drawn denials of wrongdoing from the major utilities operating in the region. Statkraft, Vattenfall and Fortum have all denied holding back electricity production to raise prices, which is the main focus of the probe.

The enquiry began after the Swedish financial watchdog received a tip-off in April following volatility in Nord Pool prices over the Easter period.

Nord Pool, set up ten years ago, is the world’s first electricity exchange and covers Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark. It has emerged unscathed from the sharp downturn in electricity trading seen in the rest of Europe following the collapse of Enron and the subsequent withdrawal of several other US energy traders.

Foster Wheeler to build Irish peat plant

Foster Wheeler Energia Oy, the Finnish subsidiary of Foster Wheeler Corp., has been awarded a $342.2m power plant EPC contract by the Irish state-owned Electricity Supply Board (ESB) for two peat-fired power plants in the Irish Midlands.

The two power stations will have 150 MW and 100 MW capacity respectively and will use Foster Wheeler’s advanced circulating fluidized bed boiler technology in order to fully comply with the European Union’s environmental emission standards.

Foster Wheeler said that that its order backlog is at its highest ever level following other recent power plant bookings in Poland, Estonia and Germany.

The ESB plants will be built over the next three years and when commissioned in 2004 will replace older plants at the same sites and aging plants at two other sites.

Italy’s Enel sets timetable for Interpower sale

Offer terms to buy Enel’s Interpower generating unit must be lodged by invited bidders by October 17. Interpower is being sold to allow Enel to comply with EU directives on energy deregulation requiring the disposal of 15 000 MW of capacity.

Analysts expect the 2611 MW asset to raise €1.2bn ($1.18bn). Enel sold the 7009 MW Eurogen in March for €2.9bn plus debt

Meanwhile, Italy’s competition watchdog said it might re-evaluate its previous ruling that Enel should dispose of an additional 5000 MW of generating capacity in order to win approval to take over telecoms group Infostrada. The re-think follows an appeals court ruling in June which, while accepting that Enel held a dominant position in the market, invited the watchdog to reassess its ruling.

News digest

Belgium: Electrabel has chosen SchlumbergerSema to integrate a work force management system which will give it greater control over networks – part of its overall strategy to harmonize the network operation systems and field work across business units.

Europe: The European Transmission System Operator group has presented draft plans for a new system of harmonized cross-border transmission fees to the European Commission for approval. The body, which speaks for Europe’s grid operators, wants the system in place next year.

Europe: The Renewable Energy Certification System (RECS) has been launched in Europe with some 170 companies across 13 out of the 15 European Union member states signing up. RECS are intended to encourage renewable energy generation and will provide proof of origin for “green” electricity.

France: Electricité de France’s Chooz-A nuclear power plant in the French Ardennes, which has been shut for ten years, is to be dismantled in an operation estimated to cost €260m. The project is to be completed by 2025.

Germany: Energy company E.ON’s controversial €10.3bn merger with Ruhrgas was granted government approval for a second time although subject to tougher conditions. These include the requirement for both companies to sell their respective stakes in Bavarian gas provider Bayerngas and utility Stadtwerke Bremen.

Germany: The creation of Vattenfall Europe has advanced further with both HEW and Veag agreeing to merge and adopt the new group name. The holding company, which will be the third largest energy group within the German power generation and retail market, will also include Bewag and Laubag.

Netherlands: Plans to privatize the Dutch regional power and gas networks are to be delayed until January 2004 in order to give the industry more time to simplify and strengthen regulations in the sector. The government said it wanted to ensure the capacity and reliability of the networks.

Portugal: Electricidade de Portugal (EDP) plans to separate wholesale power trading into a new dedicated unit, subject to appropriate market conditions and regulatory approval. EDP trading will serve larger clients who, thanks to liberalization, can choose their electricity provider.

UK: TXU Europe’s new building in Ipswich is to incorporate 87 000 photovoltaic cells supplied by BP Solar with an output of 200 kW. The building is due to be completed in December and will be the largest solar installation in the UK.