Energy regulator Ofgem yesterday announced plans to fine Powergen £700,000 after the company unfairly stopped more than 20,000 domestic customers from switching to new gas or electricity suppliers.

The financial penalty follows an investigation by Ofgem covering the period between October 2002 and July 2003.

Sir John Mogg, Ofgem chairman, said in a statement yesterday: “This was a clear breach of the special rules relating to customers in debt. These customers entered in to agreements under which they were making regular payments for their energy supplies. They were then unfairly stopped from switching to a new supplier.

“While Powergen co-operated fully in the investigation, Ofgem still finds this to be unacceptable behaviour which is why we have proposed a financial penalty.”

Three other energy companies, British Gas, npower and ScottishPower, have all faced a £200,000 fine for

The first turbine at Scroby Sands, the offshore wind farm being developed by E.On UK, has started to generate electricity.

The turbine began turning on 19 July and will undergo a 10-day test period.

Once all 30 turbines have completed a test period, seeing them run for 240 hours continuously before E.On officially takes charge, they will be capable of producing enough electricity to supply around 41,000 homes.

The wind farm, located 2.5km from Great Yarmouth, should be complete by the end of August 2004.

The latest on the proposed umbrella engineering institution is that the IIE and IEE are now discussing a two-way merger – and are open to proposals from other bodies wishing to join them either at the outset or at a later date.

The IIE says the new Institution would be “interdisciplinary/multidisciplinary in approach” and would include all engineering and technology professionals across a wide range of industry and technology sectors.

Were IEE and IIE to be the only partners at the outset, the new Institution's scope would at least equal the full scope currently covered by both.

Further progress will depend upon whether an appropriately broad title for such a new Institution – and one that would incorporate those bodies wishing to join at a later date – can be secured. “Institution of Engineering and Technology” has been mooted. This is being explored with the DTI, Privy Council, other engineering Institutions and interested parties.

Should the merger talks come to naught, the IIE says its council has already adopted a strong alternative strategy for moving the Institution forward as an independent body – without ruling out a possible integrated institution if the opportunity should arise.

Mike Taylor has been elected president of the HVCA for 2004/2005.

Mike’s huge experience spans almost 50 years of industry – beginning his career as an apprentice with national contractor Matthew Hall in 1957.

After almost 30 years with the company he became divisional director of its maintenance division in 1986 before leaving for Lorne Stewart in 1990 where he is now head of its HR department.

He has been closely involved with the HVCA for over two decades and became president of the association at its annual general meeting on 15 July 2004. At the same meeting Geoffrey Robinson of Geoffrey Robinson Ltd was elected to the office of president elect.

Areva’s Transmission and Distribution division has won a Euro20m contract with National Grid Transco (NGT), the UK’s largest transmission network owner and operator, to upgrade the electricity grid in central England.

The project will improve voltage stability and respond to increasing power demand in the West Midlands industrial region.

The first stage is to install two 400kV Mechanically Switched Capacitor Bank Damping Networks (MSCDN) in two locations to ensure voltage stability across the region. This is needed as a result of a changing generation market. The equipment boosts reactive power on the grid, thus stabilising the voltage. Areva T&D will design, install and commission MSCDNs at NGT’s Hams Hall and Drakelow substations.

The second stage is to extend NGT’s Feckenham 400/66kV main feeder substation to allow the local distribution network operator to satisfy the area’s rising consumer and industrial demand for energy.

For both solutions, Areva T&D will also provide the design, delivery and installation of all the digital protection and control systems required and undertake the civil construction works. The substation extension will be operational in March 2006 and the MSCDNs in October 2005.

Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) has launched Ireland’s first-ever Energy Awards scheme.

The awards, organised by SEI and sponsored by the state electricity company, are to encourage, recognise and reward excellence in energy management in the industrial, commercial and public sectors.

There are 18 awards across seven categories: Coordinated Energy Management Programme; Electrical Energy Project; Thermal Energy Project; Energy Awareness Campaign; Energy Service or Supply Company; Excellence in Design or Specification; and Energy Manager.

The prime minister of communist Vietnam, Phan Van Khai, has allowed the creation of a US$342m hydro-electric plant to cater for the country’s increasing demand for electricity, according to a state official.

The Ninh Binh 2 project, to be located in the province of Ninh Binh, will have a capacity of 300MW and use water from the River Day. Construction will begin next year and should be completed by 2008.

The Vietnamese government says the country will be short of around eight billion kilowatts of electricity by 2015, with the figure rising to between 35 billion and 60 billion by 2020.

Electricity of Vietnam, the state-owned utility, has planned to construct 32 power stations between 2003 and 2010. Twenty of these are likely to be hydro-electric plants.

David Dennison, managing director of DM Engineering – an electrical contracting firm based in Belfast – is the new president of the electrical industry’s charity EEIBA. He paid tribute to his predecessor at EEIBA, Keith Ralls. “Keith steered the EEIBA’s fortunes in a sound way,” he said. David was the ECA president in 2002.

Eneco – a UK design, development and manufacturing firm behind a range of low-emission vehicles for urban environments – is to hold a conference on hybrid-vehicle technology on 8 and 9 September in Churchill College, Cambridge.

Speakers will include Professor David Howe of the University of Sheffield, John Wood of MIRA and Stephen Hart of the Energy Savings Trust. The talks will cover topics such as fuel cells and batteries; motors and controls; and control systems. There will be vehicle demonstrations – with the opportunity for a test drive – and lunch, afternoon tea and dinner are included.

For further conference information, or details regarding sponsorship, exhibition and speaking opportunities, please contact Kathryn Liggett, the conference organiser, on 01403 790114 or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A team from Fulcrum Consulting has won CIBSE’s Carbon 60 Challenge.

The aim of the competition was to find the best way of reducing carbon emissions from the Institution's headquarters building in London by 60%.

The team of engineers comprised Kate Crawford, Chani Leahong, Susie Woolett, David Frank and Nick Boid. The winners will be presented with the award at the CIBSE President's Awards Dinner in October.

The winning ideas will be implemented by CIBSE as part of a general refurbishment of its two buildings: a converted Victorian mansion and an adjacent 1980s multi-purpose conference centre.

The 2004 CIBSE National Conference takes place from 29-30 September in London Docklands with the theme “Delivering Sustainable Construction”. Book your place before 25 July and receive a £50 early-bird discount. All the details of the conference can be found at http://www.cibse.org/nationalconference, where you can also book online.

The European Commission has criticised the large majority of member states for delays in opening up their gas and power markets to competition.

European legislation sets 1 July 2004 as the date when the two markets were to be open for all business consumers. This should have enabled businesses in the EU to benefit from competition for their energy supply. Many EU states are, however, late in implementing this legislation.

The EU energy commissioner, Loyola de Palacio, said: “Member States agreed in 2003 on the legal framework for competitive and fair electricity and gas markets, including effective regulation, unbundling of networks and far reaching consumer protection.

“It is now up to them to live up to their responsibilities and fulfil the firm engagement they took to open the markets by this month.”

The directives, accepted last June, state that from 1 July 2004 all businesses must be able to choose their electricity and gas supplier freely, with household consumers to follow by July 2007 at the latest.

The directives state that network operators have to be separated from the parts of the gas and electricity activities where competition is possible and all member states have to appoint an independent regulator. The directives also foresee the possibility for the member states to impose public service obligations – such as security, regularity, quality and price of supplies – and to ensure the provision of universal service to small enterprises.

Many markets are still dominated by just a few suppliers, according to the Third Benchmarking Report on the Implementation of the Internal Electricity and Gas Market. Market opening has, however, led to a drop in electricity prices, which have fallen by 10 to 15% in real terms since 1995.

Picture © Xunta de Galicia - 2003