by Staff Writers
Sofia (AFP) Feb 9, 2012
The United States increased pressure on Bulgaria Thursday to diversify its energy sector during a visit here of US special envoy for Eurasian energy Richard Morningstar.
"The major point is how important it is for Bulgaria to have transparency in the energy sector as well as diversification," Morningstar told journalists after talks with Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev Thursday.
"That includes the nuclear area, the area of gas supply as well as renewables and other unconventional areas," he added.
Morningstar arrived on a two-day trip to Sofia as a follow-up to the visit here Sunday by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that also focused on energy.
Bulgaria is almost totally dependent on Russia for its natural gas and oil and has also contracted Russian company Atomstroyexport to build a 2,000-megawatt nuclear power plant at Belene on the Danube, even if the project has been put on ice over price haggling.
In talks with Economy and Energy Minister Traicho Traikov also Thursday, Morningstar was cited as having "confirmed the interest of US companies to participate in projects concerning the country's existing nuclear capacities and its plans to build new ones."
Bulgaria currently has only two 1,000-megawatt reactors in operation at its plant in Kozloduy, also on the Danube, and the government is considering the possibility to add a new reactor to the plant.
The minister also discussed with Morningstar "the potential of shale gas as a possible alternative for diversifying the country's gas supplies," his office said in a statement.
Bulgaria withdrew in January a shale gas exploration permit it had granted to US oil giant Chevron and subsequently banned altogether the commonly used shale gas testing and exploration technique of hydro-fracking over environmental concerns.
The US diplomat is expected to meet Friday with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.
Germany forced to tap into electricity reserves
The country's four main power operators requested the reserve generator at a coal-powered plant in southern Germany and two plants in Austria be activated, the regional environment ministry in the southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg said.
The power station in Germany, in the southern city of Mannheim, would continue to be used Thursday, a spokesman said.
"We do not have a problem of supply, of quantity, it's principally a question of stabilising the network," a spokeswoman for the Germany electricity market regulator said.
Germany also had to tap its reserves in early December. The system was set up in August to avoid shortages and stabilise the network for the country's winter power production.
Under the reserve plan, five generators in Germany have been designated, which are powered by coal or gas and normally not in operation, as well as several in neighbouring Austria.
They can only be used at the request of the electricity network operators in case of need or as a preventive step.
In the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan last March, which prompted radiation to leak at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Germany decided to phase out nuclear power by 2022.
Eight of Germany's 17 reactors have already been switched off and the nine reactors currently on line are due to be turned off between 2015 and 2022.
Concerns were raised after the decision that Germany, Europe's top economy, could suffer power shortages during the winter.
This week, temperatures that have fallen as low as minus 20 Celsius (minus 4 Fahrrenheit) have combined with supply difficulties of Russian gas to squeeze capacity, said the state ministry of Baden-Wuerttemberg, a highly populated and industrial region.
Germany as a whole produces enough electricity for its needs, but much of its production capacity, especially offshore, is located in the north while much of the demand is in the south.
This means operators occasionally have to step in to stabilise the network.
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Prague to scale back nuclear ambition: minister
Prague (AFP) Feb 8, 2012
The Czech Republic is to scale back its nuclear energy ambitions, the industry minister said Wednesday in a newspaper interview. "It wouldn't be realistic to produce up to 80 percent of electricity by way of nuclear power," Martin Kuba told Hospodarske Noviny. "And there isn't enough room (in the Czech Republic) to build new nuclear power plants," he added. The pro-nuclear Czech gove ... read more