Germany Approves Plan to Slash Carbon Emissions. Germany’s cabinet on Dec. 3 approved a new policy package to meet ambitious targets that would reduce the nation’s carbon emissions at least 40% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. The plan proposes that 22 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions will be saved by power plants, though it is murky on how the savings will be implemented. It also includes the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan, which will require the government to spend, starting in 2015, €1 billion over five years to provide tax reductions to homeowners. Without the carbon reductions, Germany will miss its target by 5% to 8%, the government said.

Amid Opposition, India Advances Reforms to 2003 Electricity Act. India’s cabinet on Dec. 10 approved several amendments to the Electricity Act of 2003, including measures to promote competition and efficiency, enhance grid safety, unbundle the distribution sector, and rationalize tariffs. The Electricity (Amendment) Bill of 2014 now moves to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s bicameral parliament. The All-India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF), however, has opposed amendments that seek to unbundle the distribution sector, saying that because India suffers power capacity deficits, reducing prices through competition is impractical. “The competition is possible only in a situation of surplus, not scarcity of electricity that the country was facing. At present, nearly 40% population of country does not have access to power as they cannot afford power even at the existing rates. Therefore, giving multiple licenses of supply will lead to chaos, heavy losses of [distribution companies], endless litigations and sky-high tariffs for common people,” said the AIPEF.

Power Minister Piyush Goyal has called India’s distribution infrastructure “dismal,” noting in a September 2014 document that records the new government’s achievements in its first 100 days that distribution companies (DisComs, as they are known in India) suffer annual operating losses of about $11 billion. Losses persist largely due to “rampant and unbridled” power theft, he said. India’s national average for annual technical and commercial losses is about 25%, though in states like Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Odisha, losses are as high as 40% to 60%.

Another Chinese Nuclear Unit Begins Operations. The first of two reactors at the Fangjiashan site in China’s Zhejiang province entered commercial operation on Dec. 11. The 1,080-MW CPR-1000 reactor is 72% owned by the China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC), with the remainder owned by Zhejiang Provincial Energy Group Co. Construction on Unit 1 began in December 2008. First concrete was poured for Unit 2 in 2009, and that reactor will reportedly start up in October 2015. For more on China’s nuclear ambitions, see POWER’s November 2014 BIG PICTURE infographic.

CEZ to Mothball 1.3-GW Bulgarian Coal Plant. Czech utility CEZ will be forced to mothball its 1.3-GW Varna coal-fired power plant in southeastern Bulgaria near the Black Sea because it failed to secure an exemption from European Union (EU) environmental rules. Brussels in October announced it would allow Varna to operate for a few months longer after the expiration of work permits for the plant in January to guard against a possible gas supply crisis that is expected as a result of tensions with Russia. CEZ hoped to get the EU’s green light by Dec. 10, which would have allowed it to purchase enough coal for the winter. However, the plant did not receive a formal letter in time. Varna, CEZ’s largest conventional generator, has largely served as a backup for Bulgaria’s power grid. The plant’s staff of about 300 will be laid off after it closes, and CEZ will seek ways to sell or rent the plant, it said.

Russia Scraps South Stream Pipeline. Russia on Dec. 1 announced it would abandon construction of the $45 billion South Stream gas pipeline. The route under the Black Sea would have allowed Russia’s Gazprom to feed the European Union, bypassing the Ukraine. Russia said it would concentrate on supplying gas to Turkey through a different Black Sea pipeline. The so-called “Blue Stream” pipeline will reportedly ship 63 billion cubic meters a year from Russia to Turkey and the Balkans using infrastructure built in preparation for South Stream.

Russia to Supply 12 Reactors to India Through 2035. Russia’s state-owned Rosatom on Dec. 11 said it would supply at least 12 nuclear reactors to India over 20 years under a newly signed agreement to boost nuclear cooperation between the two countries. The Russian firm built the recently commissioned 1-GW Kudankulam Unit 1 in Tamil Nadu—a 2014 POWER Top Plant but also a project plagued with cost overruns and decade-long delays. Unit 2 is expected to be commissioned later this year. Russia will build two more VVER-1000 reactors at Kudankulam (Units 3 and 4), but experts warn those units may turn out to be the most expensive ever built in the country. The nuclear cooperation agreement between India and Russia says both sides will seek “to minimise the total cost and time of construction of nuclear power.” During Russian President Vladimir Putin’s much-publicized visit to New Delhi in early December, the countries also agreed to cooperate on oil and gas developments, including studying a Russia-India natural gas pipeline.

Kyocera Announces Plan for 13.4-MW Floating Solar Array in Japan. A joint venture between Kyocera Corp. and Century Tokyo Leasing Corp. will develop and operate a 13.4-MW floating solar power plant on the Yamakura Dam reservoir, which is managed by the Public Enterprises Agency of Chiba Prefecture in Japan for industrial water services. The project will comprise about 50,000 Kyocera modules installed over a water-surface area of 180,000 square meters. The modules will be installed on floating platforms built by French firm Ciel et Terre. When operational (anticipated in March 2016), it could generate about 15,635 MWh per year—making it the biggest installation of its kind in the world. Kyocera and Century Tokyo Leasing plan to begin operating 1.7-MW and 1.2-MW arrays in Hyogo Prefecture in Western Japan in April 2015. ■

Sonal Patel, associate editor