Saturday, June 30, 2012

Slovak Gas Information Systems belong to the World Class

At the 24th World Gas Conference,  held in Buernos Aires (Argentina), Slovak experts from the sector of natural gas, introduced the results of a research project. It helped to produce a unique way of evaluating risk at gas compressor stations. Until now, no one was able to cover risk on pipe systems in such a complex manner. Along with other modern modules, the Slovak Gas Information System belongs to the world class.

 

The same data but the different viewpoints

 

A manager planning a repair of any part of the gas transportation network works with data about the breakdowns and failures (e.g.: corrosion, isolation, etc.). He must equally take into account other risks on the chosen network part as well as possible impact on external systems and environment.  The repairing of gas transportation system requires the cooperation of the team: on expert looks at the technological schemes, the other sets out the exact point of intervention and the third one works with 3D model. Workers on site get technical documents via their mobile devices and get additional safety instructions and equipment with regards to concrete situation.

Both operation and maintenance of modern gas transportation pipe system require different viewpoints and analysis of the same data. All information cannot be processed by one basic information system, it is inevitable to analyze all data, digital documents as well as technological information together, via specific professional modules, which are interoperable. In addition, modern company needs complete picture made of various professional viewpoints, including those coming from experts operating on site, all in real time.

Spatial management and 3D

 

The common denominator of the majority of modules is GIS system. Unlike basic GIS systems, energy ones include also 3D models. 3D modeling significantly increase information value and realistically displays equipment located underground on site. It visualizes complicated technological units that are under the surface and therefore invisible for the human eye.

3D model, for example, can specify the real length of the transit pipe very precisely. It eliminates the distortion that occurs with regards to the projection of 3D object into 2D reality. And data on the real length of the transit pipeline are not only important for documentation purposes, they help companies with the other activities like calculation of transit costs or elimination of losses that might be linked to that calculations.

Safety with Digital Simulation

 

The key requirement of TSO company is to know and work with concrete risks - so called modeling of pipeline risks (MPR). MPR concern risks located deep in the ground and exposed to environmental influences, pressure, corrosion, floods, landslides, human interferences, crossing with other utilities, etc. They also concern risks on equipment that is not able to be checked by standard methods, because they are whether parts of complicated connections or are situated on unreachable places. MPR use a huge amount of real and anticipated data and estimate the probability of occurrence of a risk event. It simulates the changes of risk in accordance with concrete steps undertaken by company in order to fix emergency situation. MPR also analyse the cost of such action and compare it to the expected change of risk.

HSE with Controlled Risk    

 

Unlike common HSE systems (HSE stands for Health, Safety and Environment), the gas information system integrates the HSE agenda with the procurement agenda. It means that the system automatically predicts the future need of personal protection equipment. Therefore it simplifies the difficult logistics and administration linked to HSE agenda. All in all, it helps with human resources optimization.

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Slovaks and Austrians exchanged information on nuclear issues

Delegations of Slovakia and Austria met to discuss current issues of nuclear safety and radiation protection.

Regular bilateral meeting with representatives of Slovakia and Austria was held from 25th to 26th June in Laa an der Thaya (Austria) according to agreement between both governments on issues of common interest in connection with nuclear safety and radiation protection.

Slovakia has nine nuclear power reactors at two sites (Bohunice, Mochovce): 3 units are in decommissioning, four units are in operation and two units under construction. Slovakia has no other fuel cycle facilities or research reactors. As of 2010, nuclear power contributed 50.7 percent of the country’s electricity production.
Slovakia also has a central interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel, a centre for waste treatment and a national repository for low and intermediate activity radioactive waste.

Participants of the meeting included representatives of four relevant Austrian ministries, Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) governments of Vienna and four states (Bundesländer), as well as representatives of Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Slovak Republic (ÚJD), two ministries and three companies operating in nuclear industry – Slovenské elektrárne, JAVYS and JESS.

They focused on legislation of legislation applied in the area of use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, radiation monitoring, emergency preparedness and proper management of radioactive waste. The attendess also discussed results of stress tests carried out at two nuclear power plants (NPPs) in Mochovce and Jaslovské Bohunice in accordance to common Europe-wide criteria. These followed as a reaction to the nuclear accident in Fukushima in March 2011.

Members of Austrian delegation were interested particularly in construction of units 3 and 4 in Mochovce, the state of safety at power plants being in operation, severe accident management programme, and feasibility study of realization of a new NPP which is planned to be built in Bohunice.

They also debated the results of recent follow-up OSART mission of Bohunice NPP. The review covered the areas of Management, Organisation and Administration; Operations; Maintenance; Technical Support; Operating Experience; Radiation Protection; Chemistry; and Long Term Operation. The conclusions of the follow-up review are based on the IAEA's Safety Standards and proven good international practices.
Of the 19 issues identified at the OSART mission in 2010, it was evaluated by the follow-up team that 9 of these issues had been resolved, 10 issues had made satisfactory progress to date and there was no issue with insufficient progress of resolution.

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Study: The Future of Natural Gas Security in the V4 Countries: A Scenario Analysis and the EU Dimension

The project assesses the impacts of new transit gas pipeline infrastructure on the security of supplies to the Czech Republic and other V4 countries. It also deals with the impacts of Treaty of Lisbon on energy policy as such. The research team presents number of scenarios corresponding with particular routes of supplies and further evaluates them using formal modelling. The study results in the choice of economically optimal distribution of supplies within the infrastructure network, the assessment of scenarios and the options to pursue them on the multilateral and European level.

Structure of the Study

1. Introduction
2. SWOT Analysis of the V4 Countries
     2.1. Czech Repulic
     2.2. Slovak Republic
     2.3. Polish Republic
     2.4. Hungary
3. Scenarios of Transit Infrastructure Projects and Their Impact on the V4 Countries
4. EU and Czech Energy Interests Advocacy
5. Conclusion to the Results of the Study and Final Recommendation

Methodology

The methodology of the research project is based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative data is represented by the MEOS modeling tool. The qualitative data were obtained from primary or secondary literature, specialized reports, indepth interviews and field trip experience. The research method consists of a multi-criteria assessment of various supply, demand and infrastructure scenarios.

Scenarios

A combination of two demand scenarios (Baseline and High), two supply scenarios (Baseline and LNG Glut) and six infrastructure scenarios (Reference, Nord Stream, Nord Stream and Nabucco, Nord Stream and South Stream, Nord Stream and South Stream and Nabucco, Nord Stream and North – South Gas Corridor) is being evaluated in the study by two following tools:

MEOS model

The MEOS model combines the specific features of models GASMOND and EUGAS, which have been previously successfully used for network and flow simulations. The aim of MEOS model is to determine an economically optimal allocation of flows in the network, i.e. primarily to use the least expensive sources and distribute them through the least expensive routes. The MEOS model is a nodes and edges computing model built on the network of more than sixty gas transit routes through Western, Eastern, Central and Southern Europe and their respective characteristics such as direction, length, capacity and transit tariffs.

Indexes serve as a bridge between solely quantitative nature of outcomes provided by the model and otherwise qualitative nature of the research data. The indexes cover the four most relevant dimensions of the energy security:
  • To assess the diversification of sources and routes, the Hirschman-Herfindahl index is used. The HH index is a sum of squares of ratios of the respective sources or routes. The interval values stretch from 0 (perfect distribution) to 10.000 (1002) for a total concentration.
  • The substitutability index is a representation of the dominant source/route ratio, which can be substituted by the rest of sources or routes.
  • The reliability index is based on the Business Monitor International intelligence reports. The index represents a weighted average of BMI's country risk ratings for producing and transit countries included in given scenarios.
  • The costs index is again based on the weighted average of the production costs of the relevant sources and of the sums of transit tariffs in respective transit countries for each scenario.
Recommendations

If we accept the partial assumption that in the Central European context the reliability of supplies is derived from the variability of transport routes and that low prices are derived from the variability of sources, the Czech Republic should consider the following points:

An understanding of the security of supply as the dominant aspect of Czech energy security in the gas sector:
  • A preference for the variability of resources, which brings the possibility of choice and competition among suppliers;
  • Interconnection with spot markets – Baumgarten, LNG Poland;
  • Pressure on the flexibility of long-term contracts and minimization of the take or pay clause; on the other hand, acceptance of the importance of long-term contracts for the investment cycle;
  • State support for the construction of critical infrastructure in the case of failure of economic stimuli (for example, LNG Adria or Hungary-Slovakia interconnection).

Support for infrastructure (and measures) that contribute most to the transformation of the linear character of transit to the network character:
  • LNG terminals in Poland and Croatia as real resource alternatives
  • Nabucco as a provider of quantitatively significant volumes complementing the importance of LNG
  • The North-South Gas Corridor as a key project of breaching the linear nature of transit
  • Institutional integration of the markets (such as the NETS project) as a stimulus for the entry of new traders, limitation of the influence of domestic monopolists, and thus increase in pressure on the construction of new transit infrastructure

The Dimension of the European Union and Its Energy Policy

In the part dealing with the European Union, we have been attempting to answer the question of the extent to which European energy policy, which can be currently viewed as one of the most important areas of interest of the EU altogether, has changed in relation to the approval of the Treaty of Lisbon.

The answer is as follows. The Treaty of Lisbon legally anchored the status quo, in which Title XXI Energy introduces a separate policy and includes it in the shared competence. The Treaty nevertheless also leaves key questions of the energy mix, usage of own resources and fiscal instruments fully in the hands of national states. The clause dealing with the mechanism of solidarity in the case of (a mainly energy-related) crisis is by contrast vague to the extent that one cannot expect its practical use unless it is elaborated in more detail.

On the other hand, an increase in activities in the area related to energy is obvious in the EU, be it in the external dimension, in the area of a common energy market or in the energy-environmental area.

We state here that European energy policy will influence the energy sectors of national states with growing intensity. These states should therefore devote corresponding attention to the EU level. In the case of the Czech Republic, this means the need to substantially strengthen the European dimension of the energy sector.

This is also related to the need to reassess the energy priorities and interests of the Czech Republic and to complement them at the EU level, i.e. to determine how one or other priority can ideally be addressed in the EU and which stance should be adopted by the Czech Republic in the related questions.

This EU level should be regularly updated through cooperation between the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of the Environment, and the Office of the Government and by means of consultations with non-state subjects.

From the perspective of efficiency of interest representation, we then recommend more detailed analysis of the existing system from both the formal side, i.e. with regard to the distribution of competences and organization of work, and from the perspective of the real efficiency of this structure’s operation, typically using comparison with comparable countries.

-----

Filip Černoch, Břetislav Dančák, Jana Kovačovská, Petr Ocelík, Jan Osička, Tomáš Vlček, Veronika Zapletalová: The Future of Natural Gas Security in the V4 Countries: A Scenario Analysis and the EU Dimension, first issue, International Institute of Political Studies of Masaryk University (IIPS), Brno, 2011, 312 pages.
The data set used in the study was collected in 2010.
The study is available in English.

International Institute of Political Science of Masaryk University
Jostova 10
602 00 Brno
Czech Republic
Web: http://www.iips.cz

To order the study click here.
For further information please contact jirusek@ics.muni.cz

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The third energy liberalization package has passed the first reading

Week in Slovakia (June 25 - July 1, 2012)

Monday - 25th June 2012

Regulatory Office for Network Industries wants to control the companies which did not evaluate the quality standards last year. It will control as well as firms that according to the assessment did not noticed any incident relating to compliance with quality standards. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

A private investor who wants to build a combined cycle power plant in Strazske received a certificate of compliance with long-term investment plan concept of energy policy from the Ministry of Economy of the Slovak Republic. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

According to the amendment of the excise tax on electricity, coal and natural gas, which was signed on Monday by the President Ivan Gašparovič, small producers of "green energy" will be exempt from the taxes. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

 

Tuesday - 26th June 2012

Differences in fuel prices are mainly caused by production costs and taxes. The final price of motor fuel, according to analyst Michal Hudec from web portal energia.sk, consists of four components - the cost of crude oil prices from the processing, transportation, insurance, distribution storage and excise tax and value added tax. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate) 

 

Wednesday - 27th June 2012

Slovakia will have after the completion of Mochovce slight surplus in electricity production. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)


New thermal distribution will be build in Košice. The project is funded from external sources through bank loans, the total estimated cost is about 17 million euros. The company TEKO will invest 5.5 million euros and TEHO 11.5 million euros. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

 

Thursday - 28th June 2012

The third energy liberalization package has passed the first reading. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

According to the member of the party SAS Juraj Miškov, the current government takes "incredible power" to the Chairman of the Regulatory Office for Network Industries. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate) 

The company Slovenský plynárenský priemysel (SPP) wants to raise gas prices for households by 17%.  According to the spokesman of the SPP Peter Bednár, the reason for the proposed price adjustment is the fact that the company had no opportunity to consider their actual costs from the beginning of this year. At the gas prices adversely impinges also exchange rate of U.S. dollar against the euro. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Jukka Laaksonen: Rosatom has a long-term ambition to construct nuclear reactors in the USA

The Russian state-owned nuclear company Rosatom is interested in developing nuclear power plants not only in countries like Slovakia or Czech Republic but also in the USA or United Kingdom, said Finnish expert and Rosatom Overseas's vice-president Jukka Laaksonen. According to him, stress tests in the EU have helped to improve the level of safety. The interview took place in May 2012 at 7th annual meeting of European Nuclear Energy Forum (ENEF) in Bratislava, Slovakia.

It's been more than one year since the nuclear accident in Fukushima happened in Japan. What is your reflection of previous 15 months and how would you evaluate the consequences of this damage for nuclear industry? How did it affect Rosatom company?

First of all, we have to think about political impact. It was smaller than what was expected by the experts before the accident. We always say that an accident anywhere is an accident everywhere. It can kill the whole nuclear power globally because everybody remembers these terrible consequences. It was a surprise that only very few countries, especially Germany, made this drastic decision to give up nuclear power plants in certain time interval. In Italy it might have impacted the referendum result not to start building new nuclear power plant. We have an Italian colleague and he believes that even without Fukushima the referendum result would be the same because Italy is strongly anti-nuclear. In Switzerland they are taking some time to consider the situation. Otherwise, we have seen a very little impact and public opinion has not changed.

Do you really believe that public opinion has not changed?

Yes. The polls have shown that maybe there was a very small drop in the positive opinion among citizens but it's definitely back again. It's surprising that in many countries nowadays is public opinion more positive about nuclear use than it was before Fukushima accident. What is going on in Japan, of course this is something we have to see what happens. Now we know that there is no nuclear power in operation. The regulators and the government would start them up but local authorities are against, they are afraid. So it will certainly take some time in Japan to recover nuclear production. I believe it's just a question of time. Otherwise construction will continue as before.

Technically, positive impact of Fukushima is that there has been what we call „stress-tests“ in all countries. This has brought many new ideas of how we improve the safety in nuclear power plant. As a consequence of Fukushima, we can expect that the existing power plants will be made safer than they used to be and especially in the new plants we will take into account the less. All of this shows that the plants can still be made safer. We thought that we have already achieved an extreme and we can't do much big changes. Many ideas have been generated in these stress-tests discussions which show how we can still improve safety. This is a positive consequence.

You mentioned stress-tests in the EU countries. Some critics say it was rushed decision without much of content. What's your view?

Critique comes from people who don't understand the process at all. Everybody who was involved in the process has been very positively surprised how good the process was and how much new understanding it generated, how to harmonize the safety in EU and how to enhance the level of safety. We have now many new ideas on the table as a consequence of the stress tests. And this was actually the goal. The goal was not to demonstrate the plants are safe or not. The goal was from the very beginning when we planned these tests, to make the plants safer. Our plan is to gather new ideas and this has been very successful. So those who make critiques, I don't know what were their expectations. But the expectations of people who have been planning these tests and have been involved, they consider the results very positive.

It is still an ongoing process, isn't it?

Yes, it will continue. It generated a lot of ideas and now we have to implement them in practice.  Some ofthem have been implemented but you can't do this overnight. You need some time. If we take the Russian point of view, I'm very sorry that Russia finally decided to not participate. I personally tried to attract Russian regulators to participate and Russian industry to be with us but they said this pear review would be very difficult to process because their best experts don't speak English. This is of course true. When you look at the outcome and compare it with Russian reactors they had come out very well. That's because those ideas were emphasized in stress-tests. They have already been implemented because it's a new generation of reactors so it's not surprising that the new Russian reactors need these ideas.

You act as an expert at Rusatom Overseas, which is a company promoting the construction of Russian-designed nuclear reactors in the world.  Do you have any concrete and promising projects in western countries like U.S., Canada or Western-European ones?

Firstly, I joined Rusatom Overseas only very recently. I have my own ideas what I want to do and I have been able to start something but it will take time in any case with what we want to do. This has already been discussed with the management and they said „We want to spread the market globally“ and to those countries, a very first users of nuclear power like United Kingdom (UK) and USA. We are now going to start generic designer assessment of building nuclear reactor with UK regulators. This is something new because very strong old regulators which have now reviewed DPR that is a French power plant and they have reviewed AP 1000 which is American Westinghouse design. Now they have very good background to compare VVER reactors with those 2 other competitors. It's right time now to ask them when they are finished with those 2 projects to start the reviewing VVER plant. It is a long distance to one day start constructing Russian reactors in UK which is an open market. At least it looks like that now. Similar and even in longer term is construction of Russian reactors in the USA. I have already taken some contacts becauseI know all the top regulators who are responsible for this. I hope that within certain time we can start similar exercise also in the USA.

Ambitions in the U.S. or UK seem to be very interesting. Would you tell more about the plans in those states? How real could be the deployment of Russian nuclear technology there?

It's not unrealistic. It's not my idea, the idea was generated by Rosatom but I'm very much welcome in this because I personally know regulators working in both countries. I have an easy communication with all of them. So I think we can start real progress with both of them. Especially when we start and go ahead with the UK, it is certainly very good for the people in other European countries which are interested in VVER's. I mean specifically Czech republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria. For people of those countries it is good to know there is one strong operator in the UK which has done the review. So it gives them more firm confirmation that this is safety sign. We can have positive review in the UK and certainly we will have some remarks which is normal in such processes and then Rosatom just has to fix those points in reactors which may be under discussion. I don't expect such things. I expect that regulators in the UK will be positively surprised how well these reactors are.

What about the other European countries? There are plenty of talks about projects in Poland, Hungary, Lithuania or Turkey...

Yes, Hungary is very prospective customer for Rosatom. They know the technology already and they are fond of VVER reactors. They are certain ideas of how to help them to make these investments. Problem of Hungary at the moment is that they have shortage of investments money. There are some proposals and Rosatom can help them with this problem.

My understanding is that in Turkey is already a firm agreement between countries and the project has started. Of course the problem is that Turkey has no infrastructure. They don't have an experienced regulator and this is something we have to help Turkey with. It's also very unique project because it will be the very first time that the foreign company comes and operates the plant in one country. Usually the operator and country are responsible for safety of nuclear power on the states territory. Now we are facing situation that the operator would be Rosatom. Basically it will be Russian team which will take care of operations. This is something which has not been tested elsewhere. How can communication between Turkish regulator and Russian operating organization function. But this is a project that will go ahead.

You also asked about Poland. My impression is that they're not considering Russian reactors and also in Lithuania they have made a deal with the Japanese company. In both cases, the question is not the technology. The question is just some political tensions between those countries. It's not politically interesting for those countries to have Russian reactors. It is a bit sad but as I said it's not about technology.

Our Prime Minister Mr. Robert Fico confirmed during the opening speech at ENEF 2012 in Bratislava that the Slovak government will support the construction of new reactor in Jaslovské Bohunice site. JESS Company would use an existing infrastructure of shut-down V1 nuclear power plant. Is Rosatom interested in this project?

Yes, sure. If there'san interest on Slovak side then I'm sure Rosatom is interested as well and will help Slovakia in the same manner as Hungary. It's really generic problem how to find money for investment. If Slovakia has strong will to go ahead, Rosatom will come and help and asks concerns of technology. Technology is well known to Slovaks because they have experience from Jaslovské Bohunice. They're now constructing Mochovce and I'm sure that the same companies which are now learning in Mochovce would be ready to continue the construction of Bohunice's new reactor. The situation has not been so easy in Mochovce. I spoke yesterday with my Slovak friends who work there and they told me that the situation is like what we have seen in Western Europe: with certain period of not constructing nuclear plant, the competence has disappeared to some extent and we have to rebuild the competency. This has also been the problem with Areva that they had to re-educate the factories to make high quality. Their first factories failed and then on second term they succeeded and made good components. First pieces had to be rejected. It seem to be from what I've learned, that in Mochovce similar experience has been with Czech and Slovak companies who were very strong when they constructed Mochovce 1 and 2 and now they have to re-learn how to produce quality. They have learned and now they would be ready to construct another Russian plant in Bohunice.

You mentioned the issue of investments in nuclear industry. How would you evaluate the "mood" for investments into nuclear? What is the view of Rosatom company?

Rosatom has innovated packages. They have money in the pockets and that's the point because other companies don't have that. This is not possible in Slovakia because Bohunice 3 and 4 are owned by Enel and also Mochovce. They can't buy into this but there must be some other means. Certainly they're willing to become part owners of the facility and they are ready to invest money. So it depends on Slovak government whether Slovak government wants to have a control of the new plant, control of the new company that is building the new units in Bohunice. In that case Slovakia needs to find money which is more than 50 % of the investment cost but I'm sure that Rosatom would be interested to come with the rest that is needed. Of course, there is now Czech ownership but it may happen that Czech would rather want to put their money to Temelín and Dukovany than to Bohunice.

Formerly you worked at Finnish regulator for radiation.  Basically, you come from a public sector. Nowadays you work for private state-owned company Rosatom Overseas. What would you like to bring to the company from your former professional exprerience?

First of all, my impression is that Rosatom Overseas is not a private company. It's a government owned company but it works like a private company.  That means they can use bigger Russian resources. This is also important backbone.

As for me and what I'm bringing to the company, I know western regulators. Practically, this is a small family and all of them are like my personal friends for a long time. I know many people who to contact with and I also know what is needed to demonstrate to the customer country that the powerplant is safe enough. So this is something which I would like to promote – this safety demonstration not only by Russian experts but I want to bring this international aspect to Rosatom projects. We have international review teams so on our side I want to have some strong team, not only Russian experts but experts who have knowledge of VVER technology. That means people from these territories - Hungary, Slovakia, Czech republic or perhaps Finland and Germany. There's lot of information about VVER's also in countries of EU like United Kingdom, Germany or France. People have been working on safety of VVER reactors In Kozloduj power plant in Bulgaria or elsewhere. There is already a lot of knowledge about VVER technology among the Western European experts. I want to bring those people in the picture. We need to have very good standardof safety analyzation reports which is the basic document that is needed to licence of reactors. I want to make that of high-quality so that we can use the same safety analysis in all customer countries. So we don't have to make different package everytime.

What do you think about the view of Western-European nuclear regulatory authorities about the Russian nuclear design? Do they consider Russian technology to be safe, especially if we talk about VVER reactors - is there a mutual respect or undercover disbelief?

You said the right word – disbelief. It's rather deep rooted and it's based on experience of Chernobyl accident. I was involved in this western regulators review of new candidate countries to the EU. It was conducted in 1999 and in 2000 was the report issued. I would noticed that people from big countries like UK and France had much suspicion against VVER technology. Even if we had a task for switch-made specific assessment of VVER same visited in Slovakia and Hungary and Bulgaria. Our task for western regulators associates made a very positive assessment. It was difficult to convince top regulators who did not have that much knowledge. The whole assessment report was kind of rounded up. It was not negative of VVER's but it wasn't extremely positive either. It wasn't result of our review, it was already very firm political position that was taken in 1992, more than 10 years before Slovakia, Hungary and Czech republic joined EU. They had some ranking that wasn't based on facts. It was based just on some common beliefs of Western experts. It said that Russian designed plants like Bohunice, V1 in Jaslovske Bohunice and Kozloduj in Bulgaria, a very first generation of reactors, can't be created with reasonable investments to meet the Western European standards. That was just nonsense because Slovakia made heavy investments on Bohunice's V1. It was certainly at least as good as the old French reactors. Still, there was this suspicion. Also Slovak politicians, the same happened in Bulgaria, they made an assessment that for them it was more important to become members of EU than to keep those plants in operation So they gave up and they decided “Ok , we will close reactors as a condition to join EU.“ Perhaps it had not been necessary but they gave up too easily. My point is, it wasn't about technology problem. It was political things and I happen to know those people who in 1992 said that they these reactors are not good enough. They changed their mind later on when they learned. I don't want to name those people but they were very influential experts in Germany, France and UK. Later on, they learned to know better VVER technology and admitted that it was a mistake.

So basically, your ambition is to convince „West“ about the safety of Russian reactors. Is it right?

Yes. We have to give Russian reactors the reputation they really deserve.

Finally, only few years ago there were plenty of talks about so called renaissance of nuclear energy. In 2011 NPP in Fukushima collapsed. All-in-all, what do you expect from the future from a viewpoint of nuclear energy sector?

It won't be a big renaissance but there will be new power plants. China will continue construction. South Korea is continuing building of nuclear reactors. We have seen that United Arab Emirates started constructing four new units and they are planning already development of nuclear energy in Saudi Arabia. In the USA four units have received combined construction and operating licence. In the USA the situation is not depending on politics, it's just a business. Currently the gas prices in the US are so low it's right now difficult to motivate American regulators to make decisions for new units. We have seen that certain companies have long term vision and they see that gas prices will one day go up again. Gas is also not sustainable source of energy. There are still many applications for construction and operation of nuclear power plants by US utilities. When they get those licences they are valid for a certain time and they can make decisions later on if not immediately. As I said, now four new units are under construction in the US. Very important is what happens in UK. The expectation is that next year the first new build will start in UK. This will be followed by some others. Of course, in my own country Finland there is one nuclear power plant under construction and two new units will be started in a couple of years.

Will they have a Russian technology?

No. Finland is a big country and they need big power plants. So they are not interested in plants which Russia is supplying. They want to have bigger ones. It depends on our very special political and licencing process. First power companies need to get political decision which takes four years. When they get it, they want to build as big nuclear power plants as possible. Nuclear energy is much cheaper than anything else in Finland. If they have a licence theyask why to build 1200 MW nuclear plant when they build 1600 MW plant.So 400 MW installed capacity is a big difference as concerned to costs. That's why they are looking for bigger units.

Notice: The interview was prepared in cooperation with energia.sk's Mr. Michal Jesenič.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Few Slovak projects apply for “common interest“ status


The European Commission launched public consultation on priority energy projects. Among almost 420 submitted projects you may also find some that refer to Slovakia.

In the process of sorting out energy infrastructure projects according to their potential for common European interest the European Commission (EC) launched an online consultation which should help to decide which projects will gain more advantageous position in the Union energy system.
For practical reasons the indicative list of potential Projects of Common Interest (PCIs) has been divided into one list for electricity projects - which contains 279 items, and one list for gas projects - with 137 projects enlisted.
Deadline to participate is September 20th, 2012, and target groups include wide scale of public authorities, private organisations, industry associations, citizens, NGOs, consumer groups, trade unions and other relevant stakeholders. 

Support for PCIs
In October 2011 the EC tabled a plan for €50 billion investments to Europe's transport, energy and digital networks (Connecting Europe Facility) in the new multiannual financial framework 2014-2020. The energy sector can look forward to €9.1 billion boost acting as a leverage for more funding from other private and public investors.
This is the first time that the EU is co-financing the construction of large energy infrastructure from its regular budget.
Projects of common interest will benefit from a special easier, faster and more transparent permit granting procedure which will not exceed 3 years. They will be eligible for the above-mentioned EU funding, be it grants, project bonds or guarantees. However, PCIs should involve at least two Member States and investors will have to prove that they are commercially not viable.
The Union-wide list of PCIs is proposed to be established for the first time in 2013 and then updated every two years.
The legislative proposals of October 2011 identified 12 priority corridors which apply to specific Member States and thematic areas where all EU member states are concerned. 

Slovak projects
Four of the European energy priority corridors involve Slovakia: North-South electricity interconnections in Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe; North-South gas interconnections in CE and SE Europe; Southern Gas Corridor designed to transport gas from the Caspian Basin, Central Asia, the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean Basin to the EU; and Oil supply connections in CE Europe.

List for electricity projects includes six projects referring to Slovakia. The company Slovenská elektrizačná prenosová sústava (SEPS), which operates transmission system in the Slovak Republic, acts as promoter of two projects:
(1) Building of new 2x400kV lines between two substations Veľký Ďur and Gabčíkovo with line length of 93 kilometres. It should help to evacuate power from two new blocks being built in Mochovce Nuclear Power Plant.
(2) Modernization of Voľa point of splitting in the East of Slovakia. 

SEPS together with Hungarian transmission operator MAVIR also promote new electricity line between Gabčíkovo and Gönyű substation on the Hungarian side as well as connection between substations Rimavská Sobota (SK) and Sajóivánka (HU) - both with new 2x400 kV line. MAVIR also submitted project of erection of new high-voltage overhead transmission lines between Slovak substation Veľké Kapušany and Hungarian substation which is still to be defined in the area of Kisvárda.

The company NAFTA, which operates domestic hydrocarbon production and underground natural gas storage (UGS) facilities, promotes regional electricity storage and balancing project in CE at its UGS Láb. It would consist of installation of electric driven compressors and steam turbine that will enable production of electricity from turbines exhaust gases.

Modernization of Láb UGS facility is also the purpose of six projects in the gas list of potential PCIs. These were submitted by companies NAFTA and POZAGAS.

Slovak gas TSO Eustream and its Hungarian partner MGT submitted project of new two-way pipeline interconnection between Veľký Krtíš (SK) and Vecsés in the suburbs of Budapest. With length of approximately 115 kilometres and annual transmission capacity of 5 billion cubic metres, the project will also ensure Slovak access to prepared Southern Gas Corridor projects or LNG terminal in Croatia. Both companies agreed that new interconnector will start commercial operation on 1. January 2015.

Another potential PCI is Poland – Slovakia gas interconnection planned by Eustream and Polish company GAZ-SYSTEM with yet undefined final route nor capacity. Start of commercial operation is predicted for 2017. 

You may find the public consultation here.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Slovak government will have greater say in the energy prices of large companies

Week in Slovakia (June 18 - June 24, 2012)

 

Monday - 18th June 2012

Foreign shareholders of the company SPP  admitted negotiations with EPH. According to the Ministry of Economy of the Slovak republic negotions about the sale of 49-percent share of the company have made a positive progress. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

The private investor plans to build a biogas power plants in the village Prosiek. The investnent will be about 3,3 million euro. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

According to the National Action Plan for Renewable Energy Slovakia should have more than 930-thousand square meters of solar collectors. This is according to experts impossible. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

Slovakia has justified the high level of safety in treating with spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste during the fourth session of the assessment of the Joint Convention. It was held on the ground of the International Atomic Energy Agency. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

Wednesday - 20th June 2012

The Slovak government will have greater say in the energy prices of large companies. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

 

Thursday - 21st June 2012

The District Prosecutor's Office in Michalovce according to initiatives of the Regulatory Office for Network Industries lodged on May 28,2012 two protests against building permits, which have allowed construction of photovoltaic plants. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

Material of the Ministry of Economy, which announced about the negotiations with the company Energetický a průmyslový holding was withdrawn from yesterday's talks of the Government. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

Small producers of electricity from renewables will be exempt from tax. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

 

Friday - 22nd June 2012

Former top managers do not want to give up the severance pay. They claim as a compensation 175.000 euro. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Bratislava has a next filling station for CNG

Week in Slovakia (June 11 - June 17, 2012)


Monday - 11th June 2012

Protesters will protest in front of The Regulatory Office for Network Industries with sunny piglets. "We have chosen such an unusual form of protest. The competent people have not to close their eyes to the sun and the solar energy," said Executive Director of the Slovak Association of Photovoltaic Industry (SAPI) Veronika Galeková. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

The hydro power plant Gabčíkovo will celebrate the 20th years of the operation. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

An international team of experts under the leadership of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) evaluated the situation in the Slovak nuclear power plant Jaslovské Bohunice V2. Their aim was to determine how plant designs and implements the recommendations of the mission and operational security controls (Operational Safety Assessment Review Team - OSART) held in 2010. It showed 19 open areas durníng the last control. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

The electricity import to Slovakia was 11.227 GWh last year. The export reached 10.500 GWh and the balance with the excess of import amounted 727 GWh. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

Households dare to change electricity supplier. More than 40.000 households changer their electricity supplier last year which is more over 13.000 than in the year before. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

 

Tuesday - 12th June 2012

The company Slovenské elektrárne will build a new hydropower plant Dobšiná III, which grows on river flows Hnilec and Dobšinský potok. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

 

Wednesday - 13th June 2012

The petroleum products have leaked into river Danube in Bratislava port, said the spokoewoman of the Fire and Rescue force Daniela Kapustová. Firefighters tried to eliminate leakages with walls in the intervention sections. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

 

Thursday - 14th June 2012

The company Slovenský plynárenský priemysel opened a next filling station for vehicles powered by CNG (Compresed Natural Gas) in Bratislava. "The eighth filling station will will be available for all our customers who own CNG-powered vehicle," said the spokesman of the comapny Peter Bednár . (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

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Friday, June 8, 2012

Electricity consumption stagnated last year

Week in Slovakia (June 4 - June 10, 2012)


Monday - 4th June 2012

Consumers burned up 28,862 GWh of electricity. It is 101 GWh of electricity more than in the previous year. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

Slovnaft plans to build a refinery in the Asian province of Binh Duong. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

The private investor plans to build an agricultural biogas plant in the village of Trnovec nad Váhom. The investment wiil be  4 million euro. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

Tuesday - 5th June 2012

The nuclear power had divided the relationships between Slovakia and Austria, said the Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

Wednesday - 6th June 2012

The share of electricity energy companies ZSE, SSE a VSE was nearly 51 % on the total electricity consumption last year. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

Thursday - 7 th June 2012

The heat manufacturers are unpleasantly surprised. They do not considered the accumulated function of Chairman of the Regulatory Office for Network Industries and the Chief of the Regulatory Board desirable. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

Tepláreň Košice (TEKO) had finished the heating season at the end of May, said Jana Bačenková, the specialist for marketing communications of TEKO. "In this season we have delivered heat during 208 days, from 9th October 2011 to 20th May. The lowest average daily temperature was measured in Košice (2nd February) when it reached - 14.2 degrees Celsius," said Bačenková. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

Friday - 8th June 2012

The heating plant in Bratislava delivered 962 GWh of heat last year. The heating plant reached gross profit. 2,5 million euro (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Michal Hudec: Proposals of energy law could be changed by members of the Parliament

On 31th May 2012 the Slovak government approved two proposals of new energy acts – energy and regulation. There were only little changes in comparison with the previous version. A follow-up discussion in the parliament will be crucial for final wording of both. Of course, if there ever would be some discussion.

In late May members of the Slovak government were given one week to study proposals of new energy law. Slovakia as an EU member is obliged to transpose EU’s 3rd energy package into the domestic law. Despite this “reading week” (and parallel informal meetings between public and private energy representatives), there haven't been many major changes in the texts of both drafts - energy and regulation acts.

There were some minor changes between presented and approved versions of energy act proposal. Just very briefly, they have been linked to issues of unbundling, rules for selling-out of “small” distribution networks to super ordinate distribution companies and some technical details linked to exploiting the unused capacities in underground gas storage systems.

The biggest positive change in the proposal of energy act has been the increase of price limit for goods and services, above which the public procurement would be required from regulated energy companies. The former proposal assumed the price limit at level EUR 10,000, approved draft by the government had increased it to EUR 100,000. When in comes to the draft of regulation act, some changes have been made with regards to membership in Regulation Council, the role of Ministry of Environment in process of creating the Regulation Policy and the price limit for water usage in network industries. Under the future regulation acts, the chairman of Regulatory Office (URSO) would be obliged to choose regulatory office’s vice-chairman within 2 month after his own appointment.

On the other hand and despite a few positive changes, some issues and specific elements remain in both drafts, while it would be better to remove or change them. For example, the definition of “fuel poverty” is quite vague and very broad. In case of no additional clarification, there would be a risk of various interpretations, what “substantial part of household’s income” might be. The other issue is personal union between the chairman of Regulation Office and the chairman of Regulation Council. The first one if 1st level regulator, the second one should act as an appeal body and creator of Regulation Policy. At the same time, the future energy act proposes the price regulation of electricity deliveries for small and medium enterprises, which is not in line with the trend supported by European Commission.

After governmental approval, the final decision is up to Members of National Council of Slovak Republic (Slovak Parliament), in which the majority of seats is held by ruling social democrats – SMER-SD party. Despite this, proposals and comments from the opposition parties could be very beneficial, but at the same time, the chance that they come up with them is already minimal, because former governmental coalition is quite fragmented and acts usually on its own.

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Michal Hudec: The role of consumers and social changes

From the viewpoint of common consumers, e.g. the household energy consumers, the unified invoicing standards should be applicable as a rule. The bills for energies should be of identical structure and due payment frequency in every EU country. Therefore, the EU member countries and energy corporations will have to find the way how to make energy consumption metering more efficient.

„Smart metering“ should be the case. New directive does not stipulate, however, precisely sufficiently to determine which consumption spots are appropriate. It means that although it determines the issue related to costs and yields, it does not specify accurately an adequate consumption to be metered by the said smart metering device to be of economic significance. It has been estimated that to furnish the consumption spots with smart metering device will require additional costs amounting to about twenty euro in the moment of installing the electric metering device in comparison with conventional technologies. Further, the fact has to be emphasized that smart metering is introduced nowadays apparently in those locations where the unambiguous economic benefits are proved as evidence. However, the mater concerns with consumption spots in industrial manufacturing works as a rule.

The issue of smart metering devices installation Slovakia-wide raised technical debates. Slovakia will either accept the regulated obligations, or will ask the European Commission to postpone officially the scheduled smart metering components by September 2012. The implementation study planned by the Ministry of Economy to be submitted this 3rd September 2012 should be the supporting document decisive for decision to be made. Besides, the study has been developed on the basis of the two already existing analyses.

The first analysis has been developed by request of energy distribution companies objecting smart metering devices installation Slovakia-wide as the economic disadvantage; the second analysis has been developed as the customised job by request of the Energy Suppliers Association. The document is pointing out a slightly moderate economic advantage under the conservative assumptions. Thus, it may be assumed that official position of the Ministry and the Government will reflect the standpoints of both groups.

The  report was published in magazine Euroreport plus.

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Lenka Preisingerová: Additional taxation of companies requires specification

According to new proposal on additional taxation of regulated entities, it is not clear on whom the government will impose an extra tax. However, it is evident that it will be only temporarily.

The Minister of Finance of the Slovak Republic Mr. Peter Kažimír presented a proposal that will impose an extra tax on some energy companies. The estimated additional tax will be linked to regulated entities. In wording of proposal regulated entity states for “corporate body, which is authorized to act in the field of energy under a permit issued by the Regulatory Office for Network Industries.”

Interpretation of this proposal is not clear. The extra tax would have to pay each energy company that had received the license from the Regulatory Office and simultaneously makes its annual profit at least EUR 3 million, while at least 50 % of total revenues come from regulated activities. But the question is whether such interpretation is correct. On the other hand, it would mean that each company selling its goods and services for regulated price would have to pay an extra tax. Generally speaking, a regulated activity can be also the operation of power plant, although the producer sells electricity for unregulated, market price. More similar examples could be found.

There is also another question: Is the extra taxation of the regulated entities fair? The current Slovak government is ideologically committed to the social democracy, so it is oriented politically left. In addition, it has to deal with the issue of public money and state budget, which is the issue in the whole Eurozone, not only in Slovakia. In comparison with the other European countries, companies in Slovakia enjoy one of the lowest tax burdens in general. The extra 4,2 % tax will change almost nothing.

Apart from ideological debates, the rules of the tax system must be respected by each company. Regulated entities may theoretically initiate arbitration court, or they will accept an additional tax and take it as a “necessary evil”.

In all cases, companies will have to wait for specification of the law proposal. Currently, only one aspect is certain; the extra tax will be applied only for limited period.

Written by Ms Lenka Preisingerova, editor at energia.sk

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Slovakia additionally impose a tax on the regulated subjects

Week in Slovakia (May 28 - June 3, 2012)

 

Monday - 28th May 2012

The pipeline project Bratislava-Schwechat is according to the Ministry of Economy of the Slovak Republic peline still actual. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

Alternative gas supplier RWE Gas Slovakia received a one year tens of thousands of customers in the household segment during one year. The company is on the Slovak natural gas market the largest competitor to the traditional gas supplier. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

Wednesday - 30th May 2012

Bratislava teplárenská plans to upgrade pumps. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

Slovakia would like to get at least 300 million euro from the European Commission for the decommissioning of the nuclear power plant Jaslovské Bohunice, said chief of Slovak diplomacy Miroslav Lajčak after Tuesday's negotiations of European Foreign Ministers in Brussels. The Commission is ready to support the proces with only 115 million euro. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

The Slovak government will impose on companies in the regulated sector of energy, telecommunications and postal services special tax - 4,2 % of annual profits. The tax will be applied this and next year. Its purpose was to strengthen the state budget revenues and stabilite the public finances, said Prime Minister Robert Fico. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

Thursday - 31st May 2012

Tripartite recommended the implementation of the third energy package. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

Friday - 1st June 2012

Slovakia has more than two years the obligation to implement into the Slovak legislation the statute liberalization of electricity and gas market. It will improve the consumer rights and strengthen the authority and independence of regulator. These changes of the third energy package includes a new Energy Act, which was adopted with comments by the government ministers. (more information - automatic translation via Google Translate)

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Michal Hudec: Remarks about new proposals of energy acts

The Parliament will comment the proposals of energy and regulation acts for the second time in this year. Slovakia as a member state of the EU needs to transpose so called 3rd energy package into domestic legislation as soon as possible, because former government missed original deadline (March 2011) and later in early 2012 it failed to gain support in national parliament.

Current proposals are (formally) based on previous ones, submitted by former Minister of Economy Mr. Juraj Miškov. When it comes to energy act proposal, not many changes were done, only some details and one paragraph related to 10-year plan for development of the electricity transmission grid. On the contrary, the draft of regulation act seems to have completely new wording and in many fundaments also the meaning.

Personal union of chairmen of regulatory bodies

Experts are divided for example in view on personal union between chairmen of Regulatory Office (first-level regulatory authority) and Regulatory Council (appeal authority). Chairman of any institution is its supreme representative in internal as well as in external way. Not only from the legal but also from the practical point of view, there is a question if there could be any unbiased and impartial appeal procedure also in case that chairman would have not the right to vote. He chairs all meetings, leads the collective, steer the work of the members of Regulatory Council and has other related responsibilities.

And the problem arises here: the same person should act as a chairman at Regulatory Office in the first level and at the same time as a chairman at Regulatory Council in the second one. The same person should therefore lead the body, which sets the price limits for regulated energy companies as well as the body that is responsible for matter-of-fact reviewing those decisions.

All in all, under the current proposal of regulation act, Regulatory Office would have very strong position in energy sector. In principle it is not bad, but on the other hand independent authority needs some effective controlling mechanism. Strong energy regulator without an effective checks and balances could easily become the entity that will not only regulate the energy market, but also manage it and disrupt the competition. And that’s risky.

Fuel Poverty

The future regulation act defines the term of "fuel poverty". In a wording of current proposal, fuel poverty is a status, “when the average monthly household’s expenditures on electricity, gas, heating and hot water represent significant part of the average monthly household’s income”. It opens very broad space for interpretation. There is no reference on special legislative document (secondary or tertiary legislative act), which would clarify the evaluation criteria linked to “fuel poverty”. Therefore current proposal includes a potential risk of very individual or heterogeneous interpretation of the term “significant part”, which might be very easily misused for example for political purposes.

Electricity for SMEs: Will the price be regulated again?

The new law proposal assumes repeated price regulation of electricity deliveries for small and medium enterprises. This segment of customers has been deregulated since the past. Nowadays, on Slovakian market there are enough electricity suppliers, every customer has the right to choose and move to the competing company, which offers more favorable conditions or price. All in all, the price regulation for electricity deliveries for SMEs is necessary any more.

Also it is a fact that the prices of electricity jumped in comparison with the previous year. But at the same time the question might be, if the price jump cannot be the result of regulatory framework setting – in other words if the price jump can or cannot be interpreted as a failure of the market and whether the competition can or cannot effectively control the prices. In addition to this, the final price is composed of six items. Among them, the electricity as a commodity represents just one among them; the others are linked to services provided by natural monopolies, so they would be regulated or defined directly by the legislation continuously.

Clear and transparent final price

The draft of energy act retains the status quo, when it comes to the structure of the final price of electricity for households and SMEs. According to the third energy package, the consumer should have the right for clear and transparent price and its structure. It is not transparent to join various services under one item, like distribution and transmission just under “distribution” or system operation, renewable energy support and the subsidies for brown coal mining under the “TPS”, which states for “system operation tariff”.

Each consumer should have been given clear, transparent and detailed information about the final price, which he or she pays according the invoice. It means also the awareness about the amount of money paid for each service as well as money paid for the other purposes like renewables or brown coal mining.

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