Saudi Arabia Mulling Privatization of State-Owned Utility. State-controlled Saudi Electricity Co. (SEC) is to be split into four power generation firms by the end of 2016 to increase efficiency, Abdullah Al-Shehri, governor of the Electricity and Co-Generation Regulatory Authority, was widely quoted as telling a television station on March 1. Al-Sheri reportedly said that a ministerial committee has been tasked with weighing privatization, and that the process would be open to competition. SEC, which has both power generation and transmission and distribution assets, has a fleet of about 65 GW. While plunging oil prices have hurt the kingdom economically, power consumption in the nation has increased sharply. The government has forecast it will need $90 billion in investments to meet power demand by 2023.

BKW to Retire First Swiss Reactor in 2019. Swiss utility BKW on March 3 announced that it would retire its Mühleberg nuclear power plant on December 20, 2019, instead of in 2022, citing “uncertainty surrounding political and regulatory trends.” The 1972-built reactor will be the first Swiss nuclear plant to be decommissioned.

South African Regulator Rejects Eskom’s Desperate Bid for Tariff Hike. The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) on March 1 rejected a bid by state-owned utility Eskom for electricity tariff hikes worth 22.8 billion rand ($1.48 billion) that it says are critical to avoid load shedding. The regulator instead allowed Eskom to hike tariffs by 9.4% in the 2016–2017 fiscal year, representing an 11.2 billion rand ($710 million) adjustment for the cost incurred in power generation during the 2013–2014 financial year. NERSA’s decision was lauded by South Africa’s biggest power consumers, who have called on Eskom to make “internal savings.” Eskom Chief Executive Brian Molefe said the decision would put the utility under financial strain.

Sembcorp, NCC Launch 1,320-MW Coal Plant in India. Hong Kong–based Sembcorp Industries on February 27 launched the first unit of its 2,640-MW Sembcorp Gayatri Power Complex in Nellore, Andhra Pradesh. The $3 billion power complex—the largest foreign direct investment-driven project on a single site in the thermal energy sector in India to date—houses two 1,320-MW supercritical coal-fired power plants. The first power plant, Thermal Powertech Corp., India was successfully completed and commenced full commercial operation in September 2015. The second power plant, NCC Power Projects, is expected to be fully operational in 2016.

AES, Mitsubishi Team to Sell Energy Storage Solution in Asia, Oceania. The AES Corp., though its subsidiary AES Energy Storage, and Mitsubishi Corp. on February 9 announced they had signed an alliance agreement under which Mitsubishi will work with AES and local partners to offer AES’s Advancion energy storage platform in Asia and Oceania.

Japan and Egypt to Study Feasibility of Ultrasupercritical Coal Plant. Japan’s Marubeni Corp. and Egypt’s El Sewedy Electric on March 1 signed a memorandum of understanding with state-owned Egyptian Electricity Holding Co. to conduct a feasibility study into building an ultrasupercritical coal-fired power plant in the West Mattrouh region, 450 kilometers northwest of Cairo. Egypt, which is seeing soaring power demand, wants to install about 12.5 GW of coal plants by 2022.

NRA: Takahama 1 and 2 Units Meet Safety Standards. Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has determined that the first two units of the Takahama nuclear power plant meet safety standards introduced in July 2013. Takahama-1 and Takahama-2 are 780-MW pressurized water reactors that were commissioned in 1974 and 1975 and are operated by Kansai Electric. Takahama-3 restarted in late January 2016 and achieved 100% output on February 4, 2016. Takahama-4 is ready to be restarted and to resume full operation in late March 2016. ■

Sonal Patel is a POWER associate editor.