Taiwan Suffers New Blackout. Another massive blackout hit major cities in Taiwan on the morning of March 3, causing disruptions in the capital Taipei, Hsinchu, and Kaohsiung in the south. State-run electricity company Taiwan Power Co. in a Facebook post said the incident was prompted by a malfunction at Taiwan’s biggest power plant, the 4.3-GW coal-fired Hsinta facility in Kaohsiung. The malfunction caused a nearby substation to trip, triggering a cascading event that affected parts of northern and central Taiwan, the company suggested. The massive blackout is the second in two years. In May 2021, several cities, including Taipei, endured rolling blackouts after a trip at the Hsinta plant, though Taipower then pointed to insufficient electricity supply, exacerbated by reduced hydropower output.
AES Plans Coal Exit by 2025. AES Corp., a Virginia-based power company that has international assets, including in Latin America, on Feb. 24 announced an intent to exit coal by 2025. Previously, the company expected to reduce its coal generation to less than 10% of total generation by year-end 2025. The company said it would shutter its existing 7.5-GW coal fleet through “a combination of asset sales, fuel conversions, and retirements, while maintaining reliability and affordability, and subject to necessary approvals.” From 2022 through 2025, AES expects to receive $1 billion in asset sale proceeds, compared to its prior expectation of receiving $500 million of asset sale proceeds. In 2021, AES completed construction or the acquisition of 2 GW of renewables and energy storage, including 1.1 GW of solar, wind, and energy storage in the U.S.; 859 MW of hydro, wind, energy storage, and solar in Chile, Brazil, and Colombia; and 91 MW of solar in Panama and the Dominican Republic.
The Philippines and Nigeria Mulling Nuclear. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Feb. 28 signed an executive order that supports the inclusion of nuclear energy in the island nation’s future energy mix to bolster sustainability, reliability, and energy affordability targets. Executive Order No. 164 follows a pre-feasibility study and a public consultation conducted by the country’s Nuclear Energy Programme Inter-Agency Committee (NEP-IAC). The executive order directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop and implement the Nuclear Energy Programme. Efforts will include further studies on the viability of the Bataan nuclear power plant as well as other facilities. While construction of Bataan 1, a 621-MW Westinghouse pressurized water reactor, was completed in 1984, it was never loaded with fuel or operated owing to financial and safety concerns. According to the World Nuclear Association, while the plant was “mothballed” in response to the 1986 Chernobyl accident, it has been maintained at a cost of $800,000 per year.
Meanwhile, Dr. Yau Idris, director-general of the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Agency, on March 2, disclosed the country has commenced a bidding process to build a four-unit nuclear power plant that could have a capacity of as much as 4 GW. Speaking at the Nigerian International Energy Summit in Abuja, Idris said the nuclear plant, which would be Nigeria’s biggest power installation, could significantly improve the West African country’s power generation capacity. Nigeria, a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, must adhere to strict requirements for bids, which posit that necessary infrastructure must be developed “to the point of readiness” for a bidding process to acquire a nuclear plant. The preparatory phase preceding the bidding process includes numerous activities, such as energy system planning, siting and feasibility studies, environmental impact assessment, development of nuclear-related legislation, financing, and organization of a regulatory authority.
First Criticality for Pakistan Nuclear Plant. China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC) on March 4 connected Karachi 3, a 1,100-MW Chinese-designed Hualong One reactor, to the grid, becoming the fourth Hualong One reactor in the world to reach the milestone. Karachi 3 is the second of two Hualong One units to be built near Paradise Point in the province of Sindh. Construction of Karachi 2 and Karachi 3 began in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Karachi 2 entered commercial operation in May 2021. The units are notably CNNC’s first exports of the Hualong One. CNNC and China Nuclear Engineering and Construction Corp. were selected to build the PKR 959 billion ($9.6 billion) project on a turnkey basis. Karachi 3, which completed hot functional tests in November 2021, is slated to enter commercial operation later in 2022. Grid connection marks a significant milestone for the nation, which plans to install 8.8 GW of nuclear capacity by 2030 and 40 GW by 2050. Karachi 1, a 100-MWe Canadian pressurized heavy water reactor, shut down in 2021 after 50 years of operation. However, along with Karachi 2, Pakistan operates four CNNC-supplied CNP-300 pressurized water reactors at Chashma in Punjab. So far, another 1,100 MW Hualong One is under consideration for the 1,215 MW Chashma nuclear plant.
German Transmission Operator Readying for Massive Power Demand Ramp Up. German power transmission system operator (TSO) 50Hertz on Feb. 24 forecast a 30% to 40% increase in electricity demand in its grid area that covers the eastern German territorial states, Berlin, and Hamburg by 2030. The expansive demand growth will be spurred by the electrification of the industrial, transport, and heating sectors, it said. “[M]ore and more existing industries are decarbonizing their processes, and new, energy-intensive companies will settle, due to the existing high share of renewables in electricity consumption in the 50Hertz area,” it predicted. In 2021, electricity consumption in 50Hertz’s grid area had already risen by 3% year-on-year to 103 TWh. The TSO said it will invest €5.6 billion in power transmission grids over the 2022–2026 period to boost the connection capacity for large offshore wind parks in the Baltic and the North Sea from the current 1 GW to 7 GW in 2030. German energy regulator Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) last year approved the TSO’s Grid Development Plan 2035, which considers about 500 kilometers of new grid reinforcement and expansion investments in eastern Germany and Hamburg by 2035. Plans include a high-voltage direct current line between Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and the North Frisian coast.
Eskom Gets Moderate Tariff Hike. The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) on Feb. 24 granted struggling state-owned power utility Eskom a tariff hike of an average of 9.61% for its 2022/23 financial year. While the hike is much lower than the 20.5% Eskom had applied for, Eskom has indicated it plans to ask for a further 15.07% increase in 2024 and a 10% increase in 2025. Eskom said the increase was partly being driven by purchases from independent power producers and carbon taxes, two costs that it said are outside of its direct control. These two costs alone make up about 13.8% of the requested increase, it said. Eskom receives various forms of government support, including direct equity injections.
—Sonal Patel is a POWER senior associate editor.