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Day 1 at POWER-GEN Europe and Renewable Energy Europe 2013: Co-operation crucial at trying time for Europe’s power generation industry

POWER-GEN Europe and its co-located show, Renewable Energy Europe opened in style today as industry thought leaders delivered keynote speeches to a packed auditorium in the heart of Vienna’s business district. An unprecedented five keynote speakers took to the lectern to provide a complete picture of the industry with opinions from senior politicians, energy providers and engineers.

Although the keynote session explored the European power generation market as a whole, with speakers hailing from across the continent, it also offered a platform for an in-depth look at the energy industry in Russia, Turkey, Austria and France. Each speaker offered a unique insight based on their experience in their respective regions.

Reinhold Mitterlehner, Austria’s Federal Minister, Economy, Family & Youth, stressed the importance of diversification and flexibility within the industry and highlighted the need for Europe to make a decision on shale gas if it is to keep up with the US and China. Next Hasan Murcat Mercan, Deputy Minister for Energy and Natural Resources, Turkey urged the EU to consider countries outside its membership when deciding on sources and buyers of energy and Russia’s State Secretary and Deputy Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation discussed his countries recent success meeting energy demand with sources of oil and coal yielding a record breaking number of megawatts.

Marc Hall, Director of Energy at Wiener Stadtwerke, Austria, appealed to those in the industry to look for innovative ways of saving energy whilst keeping the lights on through improved efficiency of existing power generating technologies and investment in emerging technologies like thermal generation and energy storage solutions. Philippe Cochet of Alstom Power closed the session by asking for a long term power generation strategy that looked beyond 2020 targets and allowed for the construction of power plants that can be sustainable until 2050.

Despite distinct differences in opinion, the speakers did have shared views and opinions. All called for more co-operation and integration across Europe and despite the decline in investment in renewables, it was agreed that they need to make up a more significant percentage of the energy mix in Europe as a whole. It was also agreed that the European energy industry is in a period of flux and that there are many challenges ahead as the continent works towards a common aim. Despite the expertise and insight demonstrated during the keynote speeches they generated yet more questions about the future of the industry. However, as Yury Sentyurin said in his speech, POWER-GEN Europe is a perfect place to find answers.


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A meeting of minds – integration of solar and gas power

In the third guest blog from Alstom Power, Christian Bohtz, Product manager gas power plant applications, Alstom Switzerland explains how solar and gas power can be used in tandem to great effect

Attempts to combat global warming are moving power generation towards an increasing role for renewable energies – C02 reduction is a priority for all. The Middle East has seen several countries introduce renewable targets of up to 20 per cent. The area has abundant open space and sunshine, making solar power central to power strategies in the region.

Solar power, however, is cyclical, the power it can generate during night time is minimal. An advantage is that solar power generation does create peaks at times of high requirement; it will generate the greatest power levels around midday when demand peaks. However, during times of weak sun, solar may struggle to meet demand and needs ‘back-up’ to ensure constant supply. Therefore, finding a suitable back up is the major question for any solar power station.
For the Middle East, an area rich in fossil fuels, and power stations extracting them, an effective answer lies in the Combined Cycle Power Plants (CCPPs) that are already utilising the region’s natural gas.

CCPPs offer a constant supply of power, but ALSO create CO2. Alstom Power has the ability to integrate a CCPP with a solar plant using equipment and infrastructure of the CCPP to generate solar power; an Integrated Solar Combined Cycle (ISCC) power plant. This allows operators to create a power plant that USES clean, low cost solar energy at peak times whilst a constant, assured flow of electricity is generated even when solar generation is limited, from natural gas production.

The ISCC approach utilises the components of a CCPP: no extra power block is needed, the steam turbine, generator, water steam cycle (WSC), plant infrastructure and grid access of the CCPP is in shared use with the solar field. The additional steam produced in a solar receiver through concentration of solar energy is integrated in the CCPP and expanded in the steam turbine, converting solar energy to electricity.

Consequently, initial installation costs are reduced as a full solar power plant doesn’t need to be installed. Generation costs of the solar power are significantly reduced and no back-up boilers are required to cover cloudy periods or sudden spikes in demand.

The efficiencies created by this combined, flexible approach are also significant. ISCCs can acheive efficiencies above 80 per cent and can boost energy production at peak times by 20 per cent through solar boost mode. Energy production levels can also be maintained at a constant level whilst lowering natural gas consumption to improve a plant’s environmental footprint.

Alstom is partnering with solar technology provider, BrightSource, to build ISCCs using the most efficient solar tower technology. One Brightsource project, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) in the Mojave Desert saw its first steam produced in 2012 and will be completed this year. The plant will power 140,000 homes during peak hours and will reduce CO2 emissions by more than 400,000 tons per year.

Integrated Solar Combined Cycles – CO2 reduction is a priority for all. However, renewable energies don’t currently supply constant energy. For instance, solar energy’s power generation capabilities are cyclical across the day – its output will peak at midday and reduce as the day matures. By integrating solar thermal technology with gas power stations, we can guarantee power continuity whilst reducing CO2 output.

Stop by our seminar and speaker sessions and visit us on stand at B2968

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Integration is the only way forward for energy in Europe

In a second guest blog from Alstom Power, Giles Dickson, VP environmental policies & global advocacy, Alstom France explains why co-operation and unity are needed across the continent if the power generation industry is to develop

Europe’s energy security is declining. Robust measures are needed to stop it falling into crisis. Generation capacity is dropping as plants close and insufficient investment is made in new large plants. Progress in grid upgrades and back-up capacity must be faster and further reaching in order to fully integrate and support new renewable capacity. Member States sometimes behave in isolation from one another, but important decisions about the energy mix in one country can have effects on others.

In many areas we accept that a deeper level of co-operation and integration is necessary to solve European-wide problems – the current economic crisis is a case in point. Energy is no different: aside from failing to safeguard the future of Europe’s energy supply, poorly co-ordinated support schemes are compounding the cost of low-carbon generation and back-up and costing consumers more money. This is made worse by a lack of coherence between different policies.

The diversity of Europe’s climate should be benefitting its inhabitants, but a lack of co-ordination between Member States has caused investments to be made where they are not necessarily the most effective. In times of economic difficulty, it is more important than ever that a lack of co-ordination is not allowed to distort investment and reduce returns. To succeed, co-operation must be present at both the political and technical levels of policy making.

Unity would not just change the way Europe’s energy future looks from within, but improve the way in which it is perceived by international energy partners, strengthening its voice on the world stage.

There are five main areas in which greater integration would help to overcome these problems.

• Co-ordination and convergence of national support schemes for renewables and back-up capacity. The national approach to renewable energy policy has led to important market distortions. For example, the withdrawal of German nuclear capacity has had major technical and economic impacts on the European grid and required massive investments in new transmission networks. By co-ordinating our approach, we can ensure that investments yield the best possible return and maximise Europe’s influence with international energy partners

• Full interconnection between national transmission networks. The EU has set a goal of achieving interconnection in ten per cent of installed energy production capacity – only limited progress has been made towards this so far. Significant further outlay must be made to unlock investment in interconnectors and reduce cross-border bottle necks

• A strategic European approach to the location and deployment of baseload, intermittent capacity, back-up and storage. A co-ordinated approach to investments in storage and back-up capacity could facilitate cross-border market balancing. If carefully planned, this can be delivered without undermining the role of Member States in defining their own energy mix

• An effective EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) that drives investment in new and more efficient generation capacity. The emissions reduction currently under way in Europe is more the result of economic crisis than the Emissions Trading Scheme. Although the ETS remains Europe’s best bet as a policy instrument to cut emissions, this will only be viable following coherent reform. This reform is likely to entail tackling the huge surplus of allowances and the permanent withdrawal of backloaded allowances.

• Greater co-ordination of innovation in emerging energy technologies. Increasingly, the emphasis on technology support is on the demonstration and scale-up of technologies that have already completed their R&D. It is likely that many larger demonstrations will need to be funded and operated on a collaborative basis between Member States.

To hear more of Alstom Power’s take on flexibility in the new energy world, stop by our seminar and speaker sessions and visit us on stand at B2968.

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Keeping Europe’s Power Flowing

With plans well underway for POWER-GEN Europe 2013 and Renewable Energy World Europe 2013, conference director Nigel Blackaby has written two blogs examining some of the key themes that will drive the debate in Vienna

Keeping Europe’s power flowing is the theme of POWER-GEN Europe 2013 and Renewable Energy World Europe 2013 and it is one of the key issues facing the power generation industry this year. The demand for power has never been greater in Europe and there is a real danger of the lights going out across the continent if this need is not met. This year’s conference and exhibition will explore the challenges Europe faces and the possible solutions.

Rapid growth in renewable infrastructure is placing considerable pressure on Europe’s power system. Renewables predominately generate power intermittently, meaning their increasing prominence in the energy mix poses new challenges in respect to security of supply. System flexibility, back-up and storage are therefore pressing priorities.

In particular, intermittency of supply means backup generation is critical to ensuring consistent stability in load at all times. Power generation technology development has focused heavily on the area of flexible gas-fired solutions, with manufacturers designing gas turbines to be fast ramping in order to achieve maximum load as quickly as possible and with the capability to operate efficiently in part-load conditions.

Similarly, manufacturers of gas engines are looking to improve their efficiency. For example, power plants are now being constructed with a dozen fast-starting gas engines, which provide the plant operator with the capability to use a small number where necessary and quickly fire-up additional ones should demand increase.

There have also been significant advances in storage technologies. Hydro power pump storage in particular is gaining traction in countries such as Austria and Switzerland. Here, the electricity generated by renewables can be used to pump water from a lake at the bottom of a mountain to another lake or storage facility at the top. When needed, the water is then released back down the hill and passes through a hydro turbine in order to generate power that is fed back into the grid.

The integration of renewables into the energy mix also means a marrying of the technologies themselves, such as designs allowing the construction of hybrid power plants. With hybrid concentrating solar power (H-CSP) for example, a solar add-on is fitted in a conventional power plant to take over a part of its steam supply otherwise supplied by fossil fuel. H-CSP can make significant savings in terms of fuel consumption, cut the level of CO2 emissions, and increase both the power plant’s peak load capability and efficiency.

In my next blog I will discuss the importance of ingenuity in keeping Europe’s power flowing and how older technology can be enhanced to compliment modern innovations, but in the mean time, if you would like to attend the event and conference please visit our registration page

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Integration shapes conference programme for Renewable Energy World Europe 2012

The integration of renewable energy into the conventional power grid is a challenge that has fast taken centre stage across Europe and will this year shape the conference programme at Renewable Energy World Europe.

Industry experts will be offered the opportunity to discuss the challenges of integration in a series of conference sessions anticipated to spark compelling debate on how to best service the evolving energy sector.

The three-day event will deliver an unequalled programme of strategic, technical, keynote and plenary sessions across two conference tracks – integration and renewable. The Integration track will feature sessions on ‘Pathways to Integration’, ‘Storage’, ‘Smart Grids’ and ‘Infrastructure Management & Grid Development’. On the Renewable track, ‘The Race for Solar Success’, ‘Renewable Energy Policy & Finance’, ‘Roads to a Wind Powered Europe’, ‘Water Power’ and ‘Bioenergies’ will be hot button issues topping the agenda.

Germany has been a global leader in renewable energy for two decades, making this year’s key theme of ‘Integrating the renewables sector’ particularly resonant.

For more information about the show and to view the full conference programme, please visit: http://www.renewableenergyworld-europe.com

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