Czech mining company Czech Coal says it has agreed plans with the country’s high voltage grid operator ČEPS to build a 660 MW coal-fired power plant in the north-west of the country. The brown coal mining company said the power plant could cost around Kč 30 billion to build, on the basis of similar plants being constructed around the world, with connection to the power grid expected in 2021.
The latest plans are a considerable scale down from the company’s original ambitions to construct a plant of up to 1,300 MW drawing on its own coal reserves. “The capacity of Czech Coal’s new power station has been designed taking into account coal availability throughout its service life, specifically only brown coal with lower calorific value from the Vršany surface mine,” the company said in a statement.
It added that the new plant could achieve a 45 percent efficiency for converting coal into electricity, a figure so far unattained by another existing power in operation or being built in the country. Heat and hot water could be piped to local towns if they are interested, said the mining group, previously known as Mostecké uhelné společnost (MUS). ‘[It] might take some eight to 10 years between the plan and the commissioning.’
Czech Coal said that it is now preparing an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project, an application for state authorization and a change in land planning for the site. When these are granted, construction can begin. “The experience of our neighbors in Germany and Poland, where brown coal fired stations are currently being built, indicate that it might take some eight to 10 years between the plan and the commissioning. It is therefore too early now to talk about a specific commissioning date.”
State-controlled grid operator ČEPS warned Czech Coal when it put in its original application for a 1,300 MW power plant that capacity was severely limited in the region because of local and foreign demand for access. Before giving a final verdict, it invited Czech Coal to submit its full plans and suggestions of how the grid could be strengthened to cope with its connection demands.
In spite of its scaled-down plans, Czech Coal’s plans should represent a possible new source of competition to local dominant electricity player, state-controlled ČEZ, which together with its ally of recent years, Energetický a Prúmyslový Holding (EPH), has been building up its hold over the Czech power market. This will become even more market should ČEZ go ahead with plans to build two new nuclear reactors at its current Temelín site. Czech Coal has accused ČEZ of trying to block it from branching into electricity production; the charge is being investigated by Brussels
Czech Coal has in the past accused ČEZ of trying to block it from branching into electricity production, a complaint to that effect is currently the subject of a probe by the European Commission’s competition directorate in Brussels. The investigation is specifically examining whether ČEZ was hogging capacity on the power lines to and from the north Bohemian area of Počerady, where ČEZ is looking to build a large gas-fired power plant.
The mining group and ČEZ are also in dispute over the validity of long-term coal supply deals with ČEZ alleging that Czech Coal, owned by local businessman Pavel Tykač, is in breach of contract.