News digest

Austria: Alstom has been chosen by VA Tech Hydro to supply a heat recovery steam generator (HRSG) as part of a new gas fuelled municipal heating plant being built on a turnkey basis in Linz, Austria. Alstom will be responsible for the design, supply, delivery and erection of the dual pressure, 123 t/hr HRSG, including feedwater system. The HRSG is a natural circulation vertical design and the boiler is provided with a SCR DeNOx system for environmentally-friendly operation.

Bulgaria: Enel has announced plans to “progressively” acquire Entergy Corporation’s stake in a Bulgarian company which operates the 840 MW Maritza East III power plant. Enel will pay E110-140m in total to acquire Entergy’s interests in the company, which is a joint venture with Bulgarian state power company NEK.

Germany: A building licence has been obtained for a new combined cycle district heating plant to be constructed for Stadtwerke München by a consortium led by VA Tech Hydro and MAB Anglagenbau Austria. Commissioning of the 400 MW plant, designed to increase generation and plant efficiency at the south Munich location, has been scheduled for October 2004.

The Netherlands: VA Tech Transmission & Distribution has completed a project for the Dutch transmission system operator TenneT, providing a link between Holland and Germany, involving the supply, installation and commissioning of two 380 kV converter bays and associated AIS equipment. This will, in stages, lead to a 25 per cent increase in cross-border transmission capacity.

Italy: Italy’s energy regulator has simplified procedures allowing medium and large businesses to switch electricity supplier. As part of its liberalization programme, 60 per cent of the market will now be free to choose provider. The dominance of former monopoly provider Enel is likely to be reduced as a result.

Portugal: German wind turbine manufacturer Nordex has won a contract worth E11.3m ($12.1m) to build the Vergao wind farm for Portuguese developer Generg Ventos de Proença-a-Nova on a turnkey basis. Nordex will supply ten N62 1.3 MW turbines and accompanying infrastructure.

UK: UK energy regulator Ofgem has approved changes to the balancing and settlement code applied by the National Grid Company (NGC) as it applies to distributed generation. The change is aimed at improving the position of small scale suppliers and means that NGC will pay generators directly for the reduced demand they place on the transmission system.

Renewable power advances in the UK

Government approval has been granted to a number of UK offshore wind projects including the largest in Scotland which will see 60 wind turbines located in the Solway Firth. Seven offshore wind farms have so far received consent in the first licensing round and another nine are likely to go ahead with a combined capacity of 1500 MW. A government grant of £40m ($60m) has been awarded to these offshore projects and a further £42m is planned.

The UK’s energy minister told a recent wind power conference that in order for offshore wind projects to succeed, Britain’s power grid would need to be upgraded and banks would need to back new schemes.

One of the UK’s largest power suppliers, Powergen, is to invest £120m ($187m) in renewable energy projects in the UK during 2003. It plans to add 1000 MW of renewable power to the grid by 2010. The money will be allocated mainly to four projects spanning wind, hydroelectric power and a biomass plant.

The low wholesale price of electricity in the UK is prompting some coal generators to consider biomass alternatives to take advantage of the value of Renewable Obligation Certificates which can triple the price obtained. AEP has registered to use biomass at its Ferrybridge and Fiddlers Ferry plants while RWE unit Innogy has been test burning wood chips along with coal at its Tilbury B station.

Germany to have energy regulator

Germany is to establish an energy regulator in compliance with European Union rules, despite longstanding opposition from some of the country’s major energy companies, like E.ON, RWE and Vattenfall, which fear the move will result in a substantial cut in their revenues. The decision by the German government to establish the regulatory office by July 2004 will please large energy users groups, which have been calling a reduction in energy bills that are among the highest in Europe. The move does have the support of Germany’s fourth largest power supplier, EnBW.

The announcement followed talks between the economy and environment ministries about the reform of the renewable energy law which industry has blamed for high power prices. Sources suggest a deal has been brokered to allow energy-intensive industries to pay a lower fee for electricity.

No decision has yet been made as to whether the regulatory body will be independent or connected to an existing authority. Germany’s federal cartel office has said it would be prepared to take on the role of a regulator. The regulator will set the rules for calculating fees for grid access and power networks, but will not cap the charges.

Network operators warned that if an independent regulator forced them to cut the fees they charge third parties for access to the gas and electricity networks, this might affect future investment in the grids. Network access fees in Germany are among the most volatile in Europe and can represent up to 40 per cent of the retail price of electricity.

ESB starts Basque plant construction

The Irish state-owned ESB International has achieved financial closure on its 755 MW combined cycle gas fired power plant near Bilbao in Spain’s Basque region. The construction phase has been launched and the plant is scheduled to go into operation in late 2005.

The X690m financing deal was led by The Royal Bank of Scotland and represents the largest ever inward investment in the region. The ESBI plant will be the first internationally owned independent power plant in Spain.

A consortium led by GE and Spanish construction company ACS has been awarded the contract for the overall construction. ESBI will be responsible for the management and operation of the plant.

The power plant has secured its key permits, having received a positive Environmental Impact Declaration from the Spanish government in 2001. It will be capable of providing 30 per cent of the region’s energy needs.

Finland issues tender for fifth nulcear plant

Framatome ANP has set out details of its tender to supply Finnish power company Teollisuuden Voima Oy (TVA) with a nuclear reactor, following the decision by the country’s parliament to approve the construction of a fifth unit.

Framatome is offering two reactor types, the EPR, a pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) and the SWR 1000, a Boiling Water Reactor.

TVO said it had received sufficient tenders for competitive bidding.