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UK offshore wind plans hit new snag

August 8th, 2014

Plans to build a new generation of offshore wind turbines off the UK coast have suffered a setback after the country’s energy regulator Ofgem refused to approve a request to allow “compulsory rights of entry” for wind farm companies to lay cables across private land.

Ofgem’s decision is being greeted as a victory for landowners.

The situation arose when RWE, which planned to build 288 wind turbines off the Lincolnshire coast, turned to legislation after five landowners refused entry for laying of cables.
Offshore wind turbines
The utility applied for consent, citing what it believed was its right under the Electricity Act of 1989.

Ofgem has now told RWE and the landowners that it is "minded to refuse consent" because the act only grants the right in order to construct and extend a generating station. Laying cables onshore cannot be described as extending the wind turbines, it argued.

The landowners had argued that digging up the ground could permanently affect drainage systems, increasing the risk of flooding. They also feared their fields could be devalued as there would have to be inspection areas every 750 metres (0.5 miles) along the cables.

RenewableUK’s Director of External Affairs, Jennifer Webber,told Power Engineering International, “RenewableUK has noted this with interest. Consultations are ongoing - obviously it’s important that developers are able to survey relevant land”.

John Constable of the Renewable Energy Foundation told UK newspaper The Times: "This important case will give courage to landowners faced with unpopular offshore wind connection schemes, perhaps putting the brakes on the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s ambitions for this technology."

Court of appeal deals blow to Drax on subsidy

August 8th, 2014

A decision just two weeks ago by the UK High Court, which requested that the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) reconsider its decision to exclude a unit at Drax power plant from the renewable subsidies scheme, has been reversed by the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal ruled that the government department was within its rights in excluding Drax from having the scheme applied for two of its units. The news saw the company’s shares drop by a tenth.
Drax
In April DECC backtracked on a plan to offer enhanced subsidy contracts for two of six power units at the Yorkshire site, which are planned for conversion from coal to biomass.

DECC instead offered the investment contract to just one of the two units, which negatively impacts the company’s efforts for a successful conversion.

The high court appeared to have thwarted that about-turn a fortnight ago when it ruled that DECC should reconsider its decision to exclude the disputed unit from the renewable subsidies scheme.

The latest twist occurred when the Court of Appeal found that DECC was within its rights to reduce the subsidy available to Drax in favour of supporting a competing wind farm project. The Financial Times reports that the company had argued that the project offered less value to the taxpayer in meeting climate change targets.

In a statement, Drax said it was abandoning its legal challenge and would push ahead with the conversion of the disputed unit to biomass feedstock, even though the renewables obligation regime under which it will still receive subsidy was less attractive.

India ‘committed’ to growing nuclear share – WNA

August 7th, 2014

The World Nuclear Association’s top adviser in India says the country is determined to grow its nuclear power capacity, despite "considerable challenges" that must be met.

Shah Nawaz Ahmad, WNA Senior Adviser India, told Power Engineering International, "The Indian government remains committed to the blueprint of greatly increasing the nuclear power component in its energy mix. Long-term goals will beShah Nawaz Ahmad met through a judicious mix of the indigenous pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) and fast breeder reactor (FBR) technology as well as imported reactors.”

The International Energy Agency recently published a report stressing the need for India to grow its nuclear power capacity up to 15 times its existing base. Ahmad says that the government is mindful of obstacles to a nuclear strategy that, it is hoped, will help bring electricity to 300 million people, as well as optimize economic potential.

“Of-course the programme faces considerable challenges in the areas of finances, projected costs, manpower and resolution of concerns regarding liability,” Ahmad told PEi, before adding, “Indian experts, however, are confident these will not be major stumbling blocks.”

“WNA has a presence in India and expects to play a significant role in facilitating the expansion of the Indian civil nuclear sector".

For more nuclear power news

 

World Bank acknowledges coal’s potential to improve Africa

August 7th, 2014

Despite announcing last year that it would only support coal-fired power projects in rare cases, the head of the World Bank told a Washington forum this week that more consideration must be given to coal if African economies are to grow.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim provided strong indications of that mindset, saying that African “demand for access to power” may lead the lender to support coal-fired power projects on the world’s poorest continent.
Dr Jim-Yong-Kim
“We are very sensitive to the idea that Africa deserves to have power,” Kim said, referring to the possibility of supporting coal projects. “There’s never been a country that has developed with intermittent power.”

This represents a further softening towards financing coal. Last year this was ruled out except “where there are no feasible alternatives available to meet basic energy needs and other sources of financing are absent.”

Bloomberg reports that Africa is experiencing an “almost energy apartheid,” where two-thirds of the population lacks access to power, Kim said in a Bloomberg Television interview at the Africa Business Forum in Washington.

He added that investment will be made in renewables sources as much as possible. He had one proviso: “But at the same time, we’ve got to respect the Africans’ demand for access to power.”

The World Bank also used the forum to announce that it will be committing $5bn to boost electricity generation in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania.

Energy shortages are a major obstacle to growth in Africa, with about 70 per cent of the population lacking electricity, according to the International Energy Agency.

Barack Obama’s administration has proposed a Power Africa programme, which still requires action by Congress. It is a five-year, $7bn plan to double access to power in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania.

For more Africa power generation news

 

Interest grows in E.ON’s Spanish assets

August 6th, 2014

Germany’s top utility is examining the possibility of offloading its Spanish assets, with interest already being shown by a number of companies from Europe and further afield.

E.ON (FWB: EOAN) is attempting to reduce a $41bn debt and it is estimated that its portfolio in Spain could garner around $2.7bn, according to Reuters.
E.ON building
Parties expected to submit non-binding bids for all or some of the assets including private equity firm CVC; a consortium consisting of Canada's Borealis Infrastructure and Portuguese utility EDP; and a group comprising private equity firm Riverstone and Swiss energy company Alpiq, insiders told the news agency.

KKR, Macquarie and Spain's Grupo Villar Mir are also expected to express an interest and first bids are expected to be submitted by an 11 August deadline, the sources said.

E.ON owns 3.2 GW worth of thermal plants as well as 1.1 GW of renewable capacity in Spain. It also operates a 32,000 km power distribution network with a so-called regulated asset base (RAB) of about $1.1bn.

The power grid is expected to be one of the most attractive assets in E.ON's portfolio, as investors are looking for stable and guaranteed returns amid low interest rates, something which regulated energy assets provide.

 

IEA recommends significant nuclear power investment in India

August 6th, 2014

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has recently recommended that India needs to grow its nuclear power capacity by 15 times if it is to successfully transition away from coal-fired power.

The IEA says the Indian government needs to hugely expand its nuclear power strength in or order to bring electricity to 300 million people, while meeting international environmental obligations.

Per capita electricity consumption in India is less than one quarter of the global average, said the IEA, highlighting its analysis of India's electricity system published in its Energy Technology Persepctives 2014.

A "first priority" for India is to raise this level of power consumption.
India nuclear power plant
To do this will require investment across the country's entire power sector, with renewables and nuclear power at the fore if a low-carbon mix is to be achieved. Under the IEA's '2DS' scenario, where carbon dioxide emissions are curtailed enough to limit average global temperature increases to 2ºC, a range of renewables would provide 40 per cent of electricity with nuclear supplying 15 per cent by 2050. The use of carbon-intensive coal for power generation would fall from today's 80 per cent to less than 20 per cent.

World Nuclear News reports that such a scenario would see nuclear power grow faster than the power sector as a whole, from a total capacity of 5.3 GWe today to 80 GWe in 2050 - some fifteen times more.

India's official stated goals for nuclear power are more ambitious than the IEA's scenario, aiming for 25 per cent of electricity supply by 2050.

For more nuclear power generation news

Siemens looks to financial arm to unlock power potential

August 5th, 2014

Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser is leaning on the company’s financial division as a means of funding new technologies in its energy division.

The $25bn financial services division is being seen as a means of growing the company’s infrastructure and energy projects, as Banks continue to show reluctance to lend, according to Bloomberg.

In particular it is now promoting the energy assets that Siemens bought for $1.3bn from Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc (RR/). The technology has applications in solar and wind plants, an area where SFS helps clients fund investments, unit head Roland Chalons-Browne said.
Siemens sign
“If it’s a renewables project that’s using new or relatively untested equipment, we participate in that with equity or debt,” Chalons-Browne told Bloomberg. “That’s seen as an incremental endorsement of the technology. It raises the level of comfort of third-party investors.”

The installation of the smaller fossil-fuelled turbines acquired from Rolls-Royce in renewables plants is an example of technology whose application is promising but still relatively untested in the eyes of customers, necessitating extra financing support.

They can be deployed in so-called hybrid projects, providing a backup to wind or solar plants by supplying power to the grid when the sun isn’t shining or wind isn’t blowing, Kirk Edelman, the head of energy financing at Siemens Financial Services, said in the same interview last week.

“We’re excited about that because the acquisition of Rolls-Royce gives us some fast-start aero-derivative technology which lends itself very nicely to these hybrid projects,” he said. An increasing number of US developers are considering adding these fast-start combustion turbines to their renewable plants, according to Edelman.

Coal lobby presses the case for investment in clean coal technology

August 4th, 2014

The head of the World Coal Association says that leaders are wrong not to give more consideration to investment in clean coal technology and that doing so ignores coal’s positive role in economic development and poverty reduction.

Milton Catelin, Chief Executive of the World Coal Association, told Power Engineering International that the key question for the world should not be how to phase out coal but how to access the its benefits while minimising climate impacts.
Milton Catelin World Coal Assoc
“Coal has fuelled national and global economies and will continue to play a critical role for the foreseeable future. This is good news for economic development and poverty reduction," he said. "It is precisely because coal will continue to be used that the world needs to invest in high efficiency, low emissions technologies, and eventually carbon capture use and storage (CCUS).”

Catelin is highly critical of how governments view coal-fired power, and said that leaders should look to the example of Japan, which recently announced that it was stepping up its support for coal in developing nations.

“Governments are basing decisions on incorrect facts and political correctness. Public policy in all areas – and on energy and the environment in particular – needs to be based on science and facts, no matter how inconvenient those facts are. We should be applauding the Japanese government for encouraging the adoption of the most efficient coal technology as a realistic way to cut CO2,” Catelin said.

“Despite inaccurate forecasting, there remains both a fundamental and substantial demand for coal globally. Large scale infrastructure projects to everyday energy needs at home or the office are met by coal. According to Greenpeace, coal fuels the majority of the world’s data centres. IBM, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter Google, Yahoo – all run data centres fuelled by coal.”

Global supplies of coal look set to far outlast other fuels and the chief lobbyist says the world needs to get to grips with the positive implications of coal.

At current rates of consumption, the IEA forecasts that coal will last 142 years, compared to 61 years for gas and only 54 years for oil.

“Energy efficiency through the use of advanced coal technologies and CCUS are part of the consideration,” Catelin emphasized to PEi. “The most important near-term action to reduce CO2 emissions is to increase the efficiency of coal-fired power plants, since a 1 per cent point rise in plant efficiency equals a 2-3 per cent decrease in CO2 emissions.  However, most national policies, and multilateral development banks, ignore the potential of increasing coal plant efficiency.”

Coal’s critics are vehement on the polluting effects it has as a source of power generation, but Catelin is keen to get across that the use of coal and the lowering of emissions are not mutually exclusive.

What is most unfathomable to policymakers at present is the prospect of coal being supported to contribute to a lower carbon future, a view Catelin strongly (and unsurprisingly) advocates. On top of that, he points to the innovations already being made that can justify any future investment.

“Real solutions to climate change will only come through technological change and action on all low carbon options. A low emissions pathway does exist for coal, but it requires the collective investment in advanced coal technologies by governments, policymakers, development banks and the international community. The global coal industry stands ready to support development along that pathway.

“We don’t ‘push’ particular clean coal technologies over others.  However, recent news coming out of the US on chemical looping looks promising. This process removes up to 99 per cent of pollution from coal, including greenhouse gases. Conventional combustion is a chemical reaction that consumes oxygen and produces heat, but also carbon dioxide. Chemical looping heats coal using iron-oxide pellets for an oxygen source and contains the reaction in a small, heated chamber from which pollutants cannot escape. The only waste product is therefore water and coal ash -- no greenhouse gases.”

The most negative publicity the coal-fired power sector is currently experiencing can be found in China, where the government has been forced to reexamine the place of coal in powering its economy, as smog chokes its cities.

Again Catelin points to the innovations being carried out in China, which point to coal continuing to be a pragmatic option, not yet ready to be consigned to the past.

“China’s National Institute for Clean and Low Carbon Energy (NICE) is working on a promising technology for coal refining. Depending on local geology, coals could have from 15-40 per cent of moisture content and 3-20 per cent of ash content. The technology that NICE is developing would mean that most of the water and ash can be removed before coal is even shipped or used in a power plant,” he said.

“Coal refining could also remove other impurities such as mercury and sulphur," he added. "This technology could be a game changer for coal.  However, the best earliest action on mitigation that could be undertaken now with off-the-shelf technology would be to raise the global average efficiency at coal power plants from their current 34 per cent to 40 per cent."

For more coal-fired power emissions control news

Enel leads project to examine hybrid power system

August 4th, 2014

Italy’s Enel Green Power has announced its partnership in a US-based project amied at exploring the potential of the company’s Stillwater hybrid power plant.

The participants are interested in exploring and quantifying the benefits of integrating renewable energy technologies at the same site.

The 2 MW Stillwater Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Project is currently under construction in Fallon, Nevada and, upon completion, it will operate alongside the existing 33 MW Stillwater geothermal power plant, which is already paired with a 26 MW photovoltaic facility.
Stillwater Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Project hybrid
This is the first hybrid plant in the world able to bring together at the same site the continuous generating capacity of binary-cycle, medium-enthalpy geothermal power with solar photovoltaic and solar thermodynamic.

Enel Green Power (EGP), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Idaho National Laboratory (INL), under the oversight of the U.S. Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) have signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to realise the potential of the project.

Under the agreement, the integration of geothermal and CSP to generate power will be studied over the coming year. EGP, NREL, INL and the GTO will work together to model the combination of geothermal and CSP systems, validating simulated results with real-world data from the Stillwater facility. The fruits of this work will be used to explore and quantify the potential benefits of different operating strategies and integration scheme.

Construction at the Stillwater CSP plant began in April 2014, and is expected to be completed within the third quarter of this year. The concentrating solar panels field extends over 21 acres of property, just adjacent to the geothermal and photovoltaic plants.

Agreement sees Bulgarian nuclear plant move a step closer

August 1st, 2014

Westinghouse Electric Company today announced that it has signed a shareholder agreement following consultations with all Bulgarian political parties for the expansion of the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant. 

In the agreement, the Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear power plant was selected by Bulgarian Energy Holding EAD (BEH EAD), Kozloduy NPP plc and Kozloduy NPP-New Builds plc. These parties entered into exclusive talks in December 2013, following a feasibility study which was conducted under a competitive tender. Westinghouse will provide all of the plant equipment, design, engineering and fuel. Within the next year, Westinghouse will issue a competitive tender, in line with European Union (EU) and Bulgarian public procurement rules, for the plant construction.
AP1000 reactor
This process is expected to involve Bulgarian and global construction companies. The AP1000 reactor is projected to be online by 2023, and is zero-carbon baseload power that meets EU and Bulgarian requirements of competitive and low-carbon energy for the following 60 years.

Danny Roderick, Westinghouse president and CEO said, “The AP1000 nuclear power plant will offer a unique combination of benefits to Bulgaria: unequalled safety, licensing and project certainty, job creation through sustainable localization and technology and fuel diversification, in line with EU policies and objectives. There are no other alternatives that deliver all of these important objectives and on this scale.”

“The AP1000 reactor will create over 20,000 direct and indirect jobs in Bulgaria, as well as sustain jobs in the United States. The project also will facilitate dozens of Bulgarian-U.S. commercial nuclear and other manufacturing partnerships, and establish permanent academic and technology sharing and development.”

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