– The free electricity and electrification programs of the South Africa government are gathering momentum, with residents in Ga-Mapangula in Northern Province receiving electricity for the first time, and expansion into Mathopestat near Magaliesburg. Under the plan, poor households receive free electricity of 50 kWh a month. – American Power Conversion will sell what it calls the largest static Uninterruptible Power System on the market with a new Symmetra unit that will offer up to 1.6 MW of power in a scalable design. The modular unit allows expansion of power capacity in 200 kW increments. – The National Coal Council has angered environmentalists by calling for the relaxation of clean air requirements to allow older coal plants to increase production. The Clean Air Task Force, an environmental group in Boston, says the study is an attempt to give coal generator plants that are grandfathered from many CAA requirements “a new lease on life.” The NCC says an extra 40,000 MW could come from improvements to older plants. – A process has started to catch up with Europe on the U.S. marketing of an unusual technology using a 3 kW Stirling engine to generate electricity and heat for individual homes. An agreement has been reached between Powerco US and EPRIsolutions to begin commercialization of the home based CHP system. Evaluation for market readiness in the U.S. follows a similar program in Europe that has been underway for the last year. The Stirling heat engine can use various fuels to generate electricity and heat for individual buildings. Powerco says there has never been a better time to bring clean new energy products to the market, for both economic and reliability concerns. – Germany’s coalition government will delay passage of a law to promote use of combined heat and power generation. There is disagreement over whether support for cogeneration plants should be extended from 2010 to 2015, because a limited timeframe may not give sufficient incentives for investment in new CHP plants. The amended draft law will proceed this year with CHP plants accounting for 10% of total power production in Germany, half run by municipalities and half by industry. – Abbott Laboratories will partner with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as one of 17 founding members of the Combined Heat & Power Partnership. EPA says cogeneration is better than conventional generation at reducing air pollution and fuel consumption, more reliable and costs less. – U.S. energy secretary Spencer Abraham says the Department of Energy will extend its contract with Battelle Memorial Institute to manage the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for an additional five years. Abraham says Battelle has done “an extraordinary job” at PNNL, which has 3,500 employees and an annual budget of US$540 million. – Boralex and Gaz Métropolitain will develop gas-fired electricity and steam cogeneration facilities in Québec, in preparation for Hydro-Québec’s pending launch of a call for tenders among private power producers for 4.6 TWh of electricity in 2006. The companies say a partnership offers business opportunities for a number of industrial firms throughout Québec, and large users of steam can enhance their competitive position by controlling energy costs. – Huey D. Johnson, an environmentalist known for his work on protecting the earth’s natural resources, has won the prestigious US$200,000 UNEP Sasakawa Environment Prize. Johnson helped spearhead green management plans to reduce energy use and cut pollution, and instituted the ‘Investing For Prosperity’ program, a 100-year initiative to channel funds into investments to enhance long-term productivity of California’s natural resource assets. The IFP program developed cost-effective renewable energy technologies that are emulated around the world. – Hitachi and Atomic Energy of Canada will work on development of the ‘Next Generation’ CANDU nuclear reactor. The two companies are collaborating on construction of two 700 MW CANDU reactors in Qinshan, China. This agreement will see Hitachi concentrate on turbine generators while AECL will focus on the nuclear steam plant. The NG reactor is a medium-sized plant based on the CANDU design, but includes a compact reactor core, improved thermal efficiency and extended fuel life. – A proposal by the U.S. Senate to restrict power plant emissions of four pollutants could increase the cost of electricity by 50 percent by 2015, according to senior government officials. The bill, sponsored by Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont, could lead to massive switching from coal to natural gas as generating fuel, “threatening fuel diversity” as the U.S. tries to reduce dependence on imported energy, says EPA assistant administrator Jeffrey Holmstead. The bill would require reductions in power plant emissions by 2007 of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by 75 percent, and mercury emissions by 90 percent. It would also require a rollback in emissions of the carbon dioxide to 1990 levels. – China is developing a market for power generation from waste methane, with Nanjing, Beijing, Shenzhen and Beihai, among other cities, setting up facilities. China has ten million methane ponds. – U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) is the new chairman of the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE), succeeding Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) who served as chair for nine years. Dorgan is the third ranking member of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee.