EPA concludes greenhouse gas emissions are health risk

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a proposed finding that greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution that may endanger public health or welfare.

The statement from the EPA following the conclusion of a scientific review ordered in 2007 by the US Supreme Court. The new position on greenhouse gases marks a fundamental shift which could accelerate the moves by the US Administration to implement carbon emission controls.

In April 2007, the US Supreme Court found by a majority of five to four that carbon dioxide was a pollutant under the Clear Air Act of 1970, and ordered the EPA to decide if greenhouse gases endangered public health. The EPA sent a draft report to the White House but it was ignored by the administration of president George Bush. The position has now changed and president Barak Obama has embraced the need for action on carbon emissions.

Any new legislation to combat global warming must still pass through the US Congress and this is not likely to be an easy passage. Interest groups such as the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, which represents may fossil fuel users, has already warned that this could have a negative impact on traditional industries. They fear that the EPA finding may be used as a back door to introduce controls.

Rodeio Bonito turbine tests start

Turbine testing at the Rodeio Bonito small hydro plant in Brazil has began after the reservoir for the power plant was filled in March.

The first 14.7 MW turbine was due to be tested in April and the remaining two turbines in May and June, with the plant scheduled to enter service in June. The project is being built by French independent power producer Velcan Energy using its own financial resources.

The company also hopes to build three further small hydro schemes in the state of Minas Gerais. According to Velcan Energy the company aims to expand its capacity in Brazil to 500 MW by 2015 but it is advancing cautiously in the face of the global economic crisis.

US Department of Energy abandons domestic component of GNEP initiative

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has decided to abandon the domestic programme instituted by the Bush Administration associated with its membership of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP).

The international component of the GNEP is also under review. The near-term deployment of nuclear fuel recycling facilities and fast reactors is not now being pursued although long-term fuel cycle research and development will continue.

The GNEP was launched to accelerate development of advanced reactors and to continue research in an effort to close the nuclear fuel cycle. However, the organization has attracted criticism from anti-nuclear organizations.

Chilean energy sector investment reaches $21bn

The Chilean government has invested $21bn in the country’s energy sector according to the energy minister, Marcelo Tokman, and projects with a total value of $7bn are currently under construction.

These include thermal and hydropower plants, re-gasification plants for liquefied natural gas, wind projects and transmission and distribution schemes.

The country’s first shipment of liquefied natural gas is due to arrive at Quintero in June where a new regasification plant is under construction. Much of the gas from the plant is expected to be used to supply combined cycle power plants, providing greater fuel diversity for the country’s Central Interconnected System. A second regasification plant in Mejillones, in the north of Chile, is expected to enter service in 2010.

Santiago is in the process of creating a new Energy Ministry, expected to come into being by 2010.

Barrier to US marine generation projects removed

The US Department of the Interior and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) have agreed that FERC will issue licenses while the Interior Ministry’s Mineral Management Service (MMS) will issue rights-of-way for power generating projects in outer continental shelf waters.

The agreement clears an inter-departmental jurisdictional issue that could have prevented licensing of such projects. How the MMS will address criticism of its proposed regulations for such projects has not been resolved, and no final date for a ruling has been issued, but it is hoped that the ruling will be made this year.

Quebec to wheel power to North American market

Newfoundland has reached a deal with Hydro-Quebec, allowing Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro to wheel power through Quebec to the Canadian-US border.

The five-year transmission service agreement will allow power from the Upper Churchill Hydroelectric plant to be sold into the US market.

The five-year transmission deal, under which 130 MW of power can be wheeled into New York state, is expected to be worth between $40m and $80m for Newfoundland and $19m for Hydro Quebec.

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Brazil: Neoenergia has awarded ABB a $22m contract to supply a substation for the city of Salvador. The 230/69 kV, 200 MVA substation will incorporate gas-insulated switchgear and a micro Scada automation system.

Mexico: State power company CFE is seeking international tenders for construction of a 100 MW geothermal power plant at the Cerro Prieto geothermal field in Baja California. The proposed plant will include two 50 MW turbines, a 161 kV substation, steam supply system and associated equipment.

Mexico: CFE is planning to convert three oil fired units at power plants in Tamaulipas state to coal or coke firing. One is a 300 MW unit at the Emilio Portes Gil plant in Rio Bravo while the other two are at the 800 MW Altamira plant.

Panama: Spanish utility Union Fenosa is seeking bids from turbine manufacturers for a 40 MW wind farm for the Hornitos area of Chiriqu province, Panama.

Trinidad and Tobago: The state government plans to encourage a renewable energy industry to help diversify its oil-dependent economy. Tax breaks, subsidies and grants for renewable technologies are likely to be made available.

USA: Drilling is nearing completion for a carbon storage demonstration project in Illinois. The scheme will store up to 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the Archer Daniels Midland ethanol plant into a deep saline formation.

USA: Work is to start on two AP1000 nuclear reactors at the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant site near Augusta Georgia, following certification from the Georgia Public Service Commission.

USA: Sempra Energy is to build a 48 MW extension to its solar photovoltaic power plant near Boulder City. The plant is due to enter service by late 2010.

USA: The California Public Utilities Commission has approved an amended 600 MW power purchase agreement for the Russell City Energy Center, owned jointly by Calpine Corp and GE Energy Financial Services. Under the new agreement, the full 600 MW output of the advanced combined cycle plant will be sold to Pacific Gas and Electric.