PlanetWire: Monthly round-up of transmission news around the world

This month’s installment of TransmissionHub’s PlanetWire sheds light on such news as Greece receiving a loan to add to and extend its transmission and distribution networks to allow the efficient use of renewable generation sources, as well as a deal between Saudi Arabia and Egypt to connect their power grids.

Plan in Japan to break monopolies into separate generation and transmission companies

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan is “well-positioned for victory” in efforts to break up regional monopolies – the most ambitious attempt at electricity industry reform since 1951, Thomson Reuters reported on May 16.

Japan’s power companies, such as Tokyo Electric Power Co and Kansai Electric Power Co, supply nearly 98% of the country’s electricity and terms for access to their transmission lines make it onerous for new entrants, the report said.

Wrenching control of transmission from regional monopolies to create a national grid is a key issue after the March 2011 earthquake that sparked the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the report said, adding that the monopolies were set up in 1951 during the American occupation after World War II and followed the U.S. model at the time, with regional utilities controlling all aspects of power generation and transmission with legally sanctioned profitability.

While the market to supply to customers using more than 50 kilowatts opened up in 2005, utilities can still block supply from independent power producers since they control transmission lines.

The report added that efforts envision breaking the monopolies into separate generation and transmission companies by 2020 and abolishing all price controls.

Chilean unit of Colombia’s state run ISA plans $1bn transmission line

The Chilean unit of Colombia’s state-run energy company, ISA, could look to international capital markets to finance more than half of its planned $1bn electricity transmission line, Reuters reported on May 20.

Its Interchile unit may seek project financing of more than $500m to build and operate three 500-kV double-circuit transmission lines that stretch 757 kilometers, the report said.

The project should be operational by 2018 and is expected to bring annual income worth $63m.

The report also noted that the ISA is 51%-owned by the Colombian government and has units in Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil and Central America. Its high-voltage electricity lines run nearly 40,000 kilometers across the region, the report said.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt sign deal to connect power grids

Saudi Arabia and Egypt have signed a £1.05bn agreement to connect their electricity grids, which will allow power trading between the two nations, according to a June 1 Reuters report posted on Yahoo!7 News website.

Saudi Electricity Co and Egyptian Electric Holding Co will share the cost of the 3,000 MW undersea transmission cable, the report said, noting that Saudi Arabia will be able to export power to Egypt.

Peak-time summer power consumption in Saudi Arabia occurs between noon and mid-afternoon when air conditioners are most used, and peak time in Egypt is after sunset, according to the report.

According to a June 2 report from the Saudi Gazette, Egypt’s electricity minister said the project is expected to take 24 to 30 months to complete, with Egypt paying about 40% and Saudi Arabia paying the remaining 60%.

The Saudi minister of water and electricity said that the project, when completed, will lead to linking the power grids of 14 Arab countries, including the six-member  Gulf Cooperation Council.

The report added that the project is expected to be finalized by 2016.

India looks to renewable energy

PennWell’s PennEnergy reported on May 28 that the Indian government has awarded a contract to state-owned public transmission utility, Powergrid Corp. of India for the adaptation of the national power grid to renewable energy output.

The country plans to invest $7.74bn in the green energy corridor, which is designed to synchronize the electricity produced from renewable power sources with conventional power stations.

PennEnergy also noted that India plans to make its power grid more dynamic to cope with the difficulties in integrating renewable energy generation due to the varying voltage and supply.

The country’s installed renewable energy capacity stands at 27,542 MW, excluding hydropower plants, according to the report.

Belgium’s Elia considering taking stakes in two neighboring grid operators

Belgium’s transmission system operator, Elia, is considering buying stakes in two neighboring grid operators, TenneT of the Netherlands and RTE (Reseau de Transport d’Electricite) of France, PennEnergy reported on May 22, citing Reuters.

In March, TenneT’s chief executive confirmed that the Dutch government was considering selling part of TenneT in an initial public offering to raise $644m to invest in upgrading the grid in the north of the country and allowing the connection of wind farms, the report said.

The Belgian business paper, L’Echo, has reported that the French government wants state-controlled EDF to sell its subsidiary RTE.

Elia’s chief executive has confirmed that he would be interested in taking stakes in the two grid operators if certain conditions were met, the report added.

Greece provided two loans, including one for transmission, distribution

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has provided two loans worth a total of $276m for gas and electricity projects in Greece, including a €190m to the Greek Public Power Corporation that will be used to add to and extend Greece’s transmission and distribution networks to allow the efficient use of renewable generation sources, PennEnergy reported on May 17.

Following an EIB loan of €30m signed in 2012, an additional €25m will go to the Hellenic National Gas System Operator for introducing natural gas in the currently unserved Peloponnesus, through a new high pressure pipeline from Aghioi Theodoroi to Megalopolis, the report said.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3150 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.