Small Towns Take On the Energy GiantsSunday, Apr 25 2010 06:02 After selling off their electricity and gas networks to large energy corporations in the early 1990s, small towns in Germany are now banding together to buy back their energy infrastructure. Their bid to get into the energy market may provide opportunities to make money, but it also involves taking on the energy giants at their own game.
The small German towns of Olfen, Ascheberg, Havixbeck, Billerbeck, Nordkirchen, Senden, Rosendahl and Lüdinghausen rarely make it into the headlines. That will soon change, however. The eight towns, located close to the city of Münster in western Germany, want to wrest away control of the electricity power supply in their region from German energy giant RWE.
Last summer, the towns set up a joint publicly owned electric utility company. In 2013, the group, together with a partner, wants to take over the local power grid from RWE. It is a struggle that pits the municipalities, with their combined population of 115,000, against the mighty RWE, which employs 65,000 people.
That local example reflects a nationwide trend. Ever since a group of public utility companies purchased the private utility Thüga from the Düsseldorf-based energy giant E.on for €2.9 billion ($4 billion) last fall, municipalities all over Germany have wanted to get into the energy business. "Every local authority which wants to act responsibly is looking into this issue at the moment," says Christian Marthol, a lawyer and energy expert with the Nuremberg-based law firm Rödl & Partner.
Indeed, it has been a long time since the opportunities for getting into the energy business have been as favorable as they are at the moment. In the next two years alone, roughly 2,000 license agreements, with which many cities and municipalities put their energy and gas networks into the hands of private energy companies in the early 1990s, will expire. Back then, many municipalities, which had traditionally owned their own utilities, regarded managing their own energy supply to be too much work and too costly. Selling off their networks seemed like an attractive source of revenue.
Now, however, many towns and municipalities have changed their minds. Electricity is once again regarded as an attractive investment, and electricity networks are seen as infrastructure which towns can use to make good money. Profit margins are often around 6 - 7 percent.
Furthermore, buying back their energy networks offers towns and municipalities a chance to improve their carbon footprint. It allows them to buy environmentally friendly electricity on the open market, or produce it themselves, and then distribute it via their own power grids. "Many communities want to encourage the use of renewable energy and promote the construction of biogas facilities or solar energy plants," Marthol says. "Taking control of the energy network is just the first step. The second step often involves setting up a sales and marketing department and creating their own facilities for energy production."
Hamburg Energie, a public utility that was set up last year, is currently winning between 50 and 100 new customers each day. The energy it distributes comes from combined heat and power plants, hydroelectric power and its own wind- and solar-energy facilities. The utility might also take over the power grid when the concession contracts with Swedish energy company Vattenfall expire at the end of 2014. "The city is currently looking into that possibility," says Carsten Roth, a spokesman for Hamburg Energie.
Conflict between public utilities and private companies will be inevitable during the coming two years. It's likely that many municipalities will choose not to extend their license agreements with the energy giants. The energy companies are therefore trying to make a bit of extra money out of the grids before they lose control of them. During the period that the private sector has controlled municipalities' infrastructure, they have invested money to expand the distribution networks. Now they are asking the municipalities to pay a financial consideration in return.
Battle for Control
In the small town of Wolfhagen in the state of Hesse, negotiations between the municipal utility and E.on over repurchasing the grid have dragged on for more than five years. In Springe, near Hanover, E.on and the town fought in court over the value of the grid. On Lake Constance, where seven municipalities wanted to take over the power and gas networks from Energie Baden-Württemberg (EnBW), it took the intervention of the Federal Network Agency, the German electricity and gas regulator, to persuade the firm to hand back control.
The poker game with the energy behemoths is only one of many obstacles that municipalities have to negotiate on their way to becoming an energy provider. Nevertheless, many municipalities are determined to become players in the fiercely competitive market and are taking on the big guys, even though the energy giants have a massive headstart in terms of know-how.
The energy giants are fighting bitterly to win customers. There are also legal risks that municipalities need to take into account when taking control of networks: As yet, no legal precedent has been set regarding how to calculate the actual value of a power grid.
Complex and Costly
From a technical perspective too, taking over a network is no cinch. Separating the grids can be very complex and costly, explains says energy expert Christian Marthol. Additionally, municipalities often lack the necessary know-how to operate the power grid.
And they will face other significant challenges. For instance, the decentralized feeding-in of electricity from wind and solar facilities is rapidly increasing in Germany. This means that the energy supply becomes more erratic, and the grid has to be able to compensate for ever-increasing fluctuations. Upgrading to so-called "smart grids" that could deal with these kinds of challenges could cost billions of euros, however.
The energy giants are already warning their future competitors about the risks involved. "Municipalities that take over an electricity or gas network need to first of all pay the purchase price for the facilities," says RWE spokesman Wolfgang Schley. "They are taking on responsibility for a business that offers opportunities, but that also has technical and economic risks."
in Spiegel Online
What is InnovationFriday, Apr 23 2010 12:33
Fundo EDP para a BiodiversidadeFriday, Apr 23 2010 10:27 A EDP abriu a 22 de Abril, Dia da Terra, o período de candidaturas à edição 2010 – a terceira - do seu Fundo para a Biodiversidade. Os interessados poderão apresentar os seus projectos até 30 de Junho.
O Fundo EDP para a Biodiversidade foi criado em 2008 e dotado então de um montante global de 2 milhões e meio de euros, a ser distribuído gradualmente até 2011. A edição deste ano, a exemplo do que aconteceu nas anteriores, disponibiliza uma verba de 500 mil euros para os projectos que vierem a ser distinguidos.
O Regulamento e as informações relevantes podem ser consultados no sítio da Fundação EDP na Internet, em www.fundacao.edp.pt (na página www.edp.pt/pt/
Para mais informações e apoio: email@example.com
Empreendedorismo e InovaçãoWednesday, Apr 21 2010 05:37
Recomendamos a leitura de 2 artigos relacionados com inovação e empreendedorismo.
O primeiro, no blog Janela na Web da autoria de Jorge Nascimento Rodrigues, no qual alerta para a necessidade do sistema financeiro apostar no investimento para o fomento da inovação.
O segundo é um texto sobre os diferentes tipos de empreendedores no Brasil que bem pode ser adaptado a Portugal.
Foto: Helder J Barreto via Olhares.com
Switch Conference, 15 e 16 de Maio em CoimbraTuesday, Apr 20 2010 10:25
The conference aim is to gather scientists, entrepreneurs, do-ers, thinkers, technologists and everyone in between to discuss the present and the future in a knowledge and idea sharing experience. It will be all about diversity (of ideas, people and themes) and will count on portuguese and international speakers.
Besides the conference itself taking place in the main room, there will be a startup competition (in Room 2) and stands & outside activities provided by our partners.
SWiTCH is a 2-day conference to be held in the University of Coimbra, Portugal , on the 15th and 16th of May, 2010. We do want, however, to make SWiTCH way more than a conference. We want to make it an authentic 2-day discovering experience. Attendees will get in touch with scientists, entrepreneurs, thinkers, do-er and everyone in between to share their knowledge, their experience and their ideias aiming to create awareness on scientific and technological matters, preparing us to a better defined future and a helthier society. We want and promote earth-shaking ideas, impossible breakthroughts and incredible life stories.
The conference will take place on a weekend to let those who are unable to leave work for the whole week to attend the conference sharing their experience and vision.
SWiTCH will have a main room where presentations will fully run from day 1 to day 2, a second room where the startup competition and deep discussions will take place and, finally, outside areas when all sort of fun activities will take place and where partners and sponsors stands will be located.
SWiTCH main theme will be “Web & Development” but our bet is on diversity. Diversity of cultures, ideas, discussions, persons and, of course, themes. You can find the full list of topics for this year’s conference here.
In the 2nd Room will take place the startup competition hosted by Webreakstuff. We want to act as a plattaform for networking, but also as as a way for you to meet with investors and to make your business project known by the crowd. The startup competition will sort out the best startups around and promote them with investors and media. Read more here.
We hope to host up to 400 persons in Coimbra to join this unique experience. The profile of our attendees, as the conference, is expected to be diverse. We will have entrepreneurs, scientists, thinkers, technologists among others.
Finally, all videos from SWiTCH presentations will be posted online so the wonderful insights our speakers will give you can also be shared with relatives, friends and everyone who opted to not join the SWiTCH experience.
Any other information may be requested to firstname.lastname@example.org
The brief in the post digital ageMonday, Apr 19 2010 02:40
Prepara-te para vencerMonday, Apr 19 2010 11:35
Celebra-se entre 25 de Maio e 1 de Junho a Semana Europeia das PME, sob o lema "Prepara-te para vencer".
Lançada em 2009, a Semana Europeia das PME é coordenada pela Direcção-Geral das Empresas e da Indústria da Comissão Europeia como uma das medidas de implementação do Princípio 1 da Lei das Pequenas Empresas Europeias (LPE), que especifica que “a UE e os Estados Membros deverão criar um ambiente em que os empresários e as empresas familiares possam prosperar e o empreendedorismo seja recompensado”.
A página do evento tem recursos interessantes para quem está a iniciar-se no empreendedorismo. Destacamos a secção Perfis de Empreendedores que mais não é do que testemunhos de empreendedores de sucesso da EU27.
Link Semana Europeia das PME 2010
Augusto FrancoFriday, Apr 16 2010 10:42
Innoversia: o novo interface para a inovaçãoTuesday, Apr 13 2010 11:09 O blog de Francisco Banha é uma fonte diária de informação preciosa. Destacamos hoje a divulgação do site www.inoversia.net que nos parece uma excelente plataforma para investigadores e empresários poderem desenvolver produtos/serviços de elevado valor acrescentado.
Seminário “Inovação Social e Empreendedorismo” #ise2010Monday, Apr 12 2010 09:22
Este seminário tem como objectivos:
Sensibilizar e partilhar ideias quanto à importância e relevância do desenvolvimento de novos processos de inovação social e o papel do empreendedorismo neste contexto;
Apresentar casos concretos de iniciativas e projectos bem sucedidos de inovação e empreendedorismo social;
Fomentar a adopção de uma nova cultura mais inovadora e de natureza empreendedora junto das organizações e dos agentes de desenvolvimento socioeconómico do Alto Minho.
As inscrições para participar no Seminário deverão feitas para o seguinte email: email@example.com
Consulte aqui o programa detalhado do evento: http://bit.ly/cf18ZF
Telefone: 258 510 050