The European Commission this week told France the state could not help Alstom out of its current difficulties. This means Paris will have to decide whether to let the engineering firm go bust or allow it to make partnerships with foreign firms.

The EU executive said it would only allow the French state to help Alstom financially if the firm agreed to secure one or more partners for a central part of the business within a fixed length of time.

Alstom could choose whichever partner or partners it desires, provided they are not state-owned. Sources have, however, speculated that the Commission’s restrictions were designed to encourage a deal between Alstom and Siemens.

Where Alstom produces the TGV high-speed train, Siemens makes the German equivalent, the ICE. Sources close to Siemens have, however, said the German firm is not interested in making a bid for Alstom’s transport division, with a joining of the ICE and TGV proving difficult for competition reasons. Siemens has, instead, previously expressed interest in Alstom’s turbine business.

The Commission also said Alstom must simplify its business structure to save money – a common obligation for state-aid cases. The firm has, nevertheless, already sold parts of its business to boost necessary revenue.

Seen at the Sunday Times Motor Show Live press day today was the G-Wiz car. This is said to be 100% emission-free, consumes one-quarter of the energy of an average petrol car and is the most energy-efficient car on the road according to the Energy Saving Trust.

With a list price of £7,499, it is estimated to cost 1p per mile to run, without incurring road tax, and falls in the lowest insurance group (1). It is exempt from the Congestion Charge in central London and boasts several free parking arrangements on meters, in display bays and in over 25 car parks, some with free charging.

Other benefits include up to 83% discounts on residential parking permits. Businesses receive a 100% year-one tax write down allowance and G-Wiz company car drivers pay the lowest rate of company car tax at only 9%.

The G-Wiz Automatic Electric Vehicle from the Reva Electric Car Company is a 2.6m-long two-door hatchback with a top speed of 40mph and a range of up to 40 miles. Full charging requires six hours on RCD protected sockets.

Visit www.goingreen.co.uk for more information.

UK manufacturers complaining about cheap imports should find the comments of Rock Hsu, chairman of Taiwan’s Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers Association, of interest.

This week he said global demand had boosted Taiwan’s output of electrical goods and consumer electronics by 7.4% last a year

“Taiwan’s double-E (electrical and electronic) industry has made a great contribution to the nation’s economy,” said Rock. Taiwan’s double-E sector accounted for US$136.5bn last year, benefiting from rising demand for mobile phones, computers and electrical goods and accounted for nearly 50% of Taiwan’s total industrial output

Rock Hsu said the double-E industry’s export value alone reached US$65.2bn, a 10.4% growth over last year. To reflect increased optimism for export growth the Taiwanese government has raised its economic forecast for this year to 5.41% from 4.7%.

Powergen, the UK’s largest electricity supplier to the business sector, will take the brand name of its German owner E.On. It says this will help the company to tap into a powerful pan-European brand and overcome its electricity-only image.

With the UK set to become a net importer of gas in the next few years, and the growing role of gas in the country’s energy sector, this is set to boost E.On Energy’s (as Powergen’s business will now be known) competitive positioning. By dropping “power” from its name (except for its mass-market and small business customers), the company will try to win a similar position in gas to that it enjoys in electricity.

As far as price is concerned, E.On Energy will now be able to draw fully on the parent company’s trading and risk-management expertise, keeping price levels in line with the market trends and offering pricing formulas that are flexible enough to meet the diversity of customer requirements.

The company should also be able to offer improved multi-fuel and added-value offerings. A city analyst said the question that many will be asking is whether the change of brand will have repercussions for the company’s customer retention rates.

Aggreko, an international supplier of temporary power, cooling and compressed air services, has opened a National Rental Centre in Cannock, Staffordshire. It is the first in a series that the company intends to establish worldwide and is a positive step towards restructuring the company. It will be a single point of contact for all customer enquiries – sales, service and technical advice – and will be linked to Aggreko’s global IT systems providing customer service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The centre manager, Rebecca Cope-Lewis, said: “Our customers rightly expect a consistent response from us no matter what time of day or night, or where in the country the project is – this is what the NRC will ensure.”

Visit www.aggreko.com for more information

SES has installed a 7m-long, 16-cylinder, turbo-charged diesel generator at the bespoke Energy Centre of its £10m building services contract at Defra in Weybridge.

The 16-tonne generator, which has a rating of 2,000kVA, 1,600KW at a 0.8 power factor, will be used as the back-up energy source for a new large laboratory block if there is any disruption to the building’s regular power supply.

Currently still under construction, the installation forms part of the total £31.7m Veterinary Laboratories Agency’s Phase 1 Redevelopment Project comprising the construction of a new 10,000m2 combined laboratory and office building with a separate 1,200m2 Energy Centre.

The principal contractor for the Phase 1 Development is Shepherd Construction and the building is due to open officially in spring 2005.

Wire mesh cable tray and ladder for the Queen Mary 2, the largest and most expensive passenger liner built, has been supplied by Cablofil.

The tray, 54mm deep and ranging in width from 50 to 500mm, supports cables throughout the £430m ship. In the machinery rooms it carries power and data cables. Elsewhere, it distributes electricity from the QM2’s power plant. It routes cables from a central spine to all corners of the vessel including the cabins, which are container-sized modules that were assembled off site and slotted into the ship’s structure.

Cablofil tray also supports power and data cables behind false ceilings in the QM2’s communal areas, including the restaurants, galleries, theatre and a sea-going planetarium.

The vessel was under construction at Alstom’s Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in saint-Nazaire from the end of 2000.

The Scottish Executive this week launched a project that will involve rooftop wind turbines being attached to five primary schools. Wee Tam vowed to bring in his catapult the morn's morn...

The Scottish deputy enterprise minister, Lewis Macdonald, was at Collydean primary school, Glenrothes, on Tuesday to watch the first installation of the Swift wind turbine, made by Scottish company Renewable Devices

Other Fife schools will be fitted with the turbines and, if this pilot project proves successful, the turbines could appear on buildings across Scotland.

Macdonald said: "This is an exciting development and I’m delighted that a leading edge Scottish company is at the forefront of this research."

The Scottish Executive said it would increase the amount of electricity in Scotland produced by renewable energy to 40% by 2020.

The IIE has had its licence for registering chartered engineers confirmed following its recent five-yearly review by EC(UK).

Originally, IIE members that made the transition to CEng registration were required to register via another institution. Last year the institution was awarded additional licenses to register chartered engineers. These, alongside the licences for registering engineering technicians and incorporated engineers, have now been confirmed, meaning the institution can now offer a full one-stop service to all its members.

“We are delighted to have passed the review with flying colours,” said chief executive, Peter Wason. “IIE will remain the champion of the applications engineer and the technician in addition to being able to provide value for money in supporting members’ career development aspirations across all categories of registration.”

The IIE’s council is now considering the way ahead for the organisation in the wake of the suspension of talks between itself, the IEE and ImechE.

While the council hopes efforts to further the “substantial progress” made between the institutions can continue – possibly to the extent of returning to the negotiation table – it recognises the need to plan the institution as a continuing separate entity.

The council concluded that there should be no fundamental changes in its strategy; it is appropriate to examine in detail how IIE can maximise efficiency in delivering value to members. Under a ‘work smarter’ remit, Wason and his staff will carry out a root-and-branch review of operations seeking to automate routine tasks further to free up staff time. In addition, IIE will focus on strengthening partnerships with employers and academics to encourage increases in membership.

UVDBlive, an event for professionals involved in the utility supply chain, takes place at the NAC complex at Stoneleigh Park, near Coventry, from 28-30 September.

Organised by the Achilles group, in association with Electrical Review, the exhibition enables direct buyer and supplier contact in a dedicated B2B environment with focus on the Utilities Vendor Database (UVDB) community of 65 utility organisations, who will host their steering group meeting at the venue.

At UVDBlive, managers will be able to assess important services like software development, fleet management, hazardous-materials handling and risk assessment. Visitors to the event are likely to include directors, buyers and engineers from the gas, water, electricity and telecommunications industries, as well as contractors.

For further details, visit www.achilles.com/uvdblive.

Forssa, 100km west of Helsinki, was the first medium-sized CHP plant in Finland to be fired solely on wood-derived fuels. Today, the plant also burns municipal waste and peat with peak and stand-by steam supplies catered for by two heavy-fuel oil boilers. With an output of 17.2MWe of electricity and 48MWth heat, the Forssan plant, operating in CHP mode, is 90% efficient.

Ari Simola, plant manager, told Electrical Review that it takes 4,000 trucks a year to supply the sawdust, bark and small branches from the local logging industry that Forssa uses. “The price we pay for the fuel is dependent on its moisture content,” he said. “Wood is burnt during summer and peat in winter for this reason.” He also said that the household waste it currently burns will no longer be available when the EU’s 2005 waste directive on emissions comes into force in Finland

Built in 1996 at a cost of 1000euros per megawatt, Forssa has been a model for subsequent bio-fuelled plant although with the opening up of Nordic electricity markets the electrical output is no longer competitive. The bubbling fluidised-bed boiler, built by Foster Wheeler, is capable of burning a variety of fuels, generating steam at 22.8 kg/s, 61 bar and at 510 degreesC.

Hot corrosion, possibly due to chlorine from green chips, has been a problem and superheater tubes need to be replaced occasionally.

30% of Finland’s energy needs are met through renewable sources such as hydropower, forestry products and residues from the pulp and paper industries. The world’s largest bio-power plant is on the west coast next to the Wisaforest saw mill. Its circulating fluid bed boiler generates 240Mwe, 100MWth of process steam and 60MWth for district heating.

Today, Finland has adequate plant to meet its district heating needs but electricity demand is out stripping the country’s ability to generate or import sufficient supplies. A new 1,600MW nuclear power plant, the country’s fifth, is planned for 2010.