* Axpo, Alpiq, BKW take a third each in project company
* Decision on timing, priorities due in mid-2012
FRANKFURT, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Swiss utility companies Axpo, Alpiq (ALPH.S) and BKW BKWN.S have decided to club together in their plans for two new nuclear power stations to replace existing capacity, they said on Thursday.
Although new capacity is probably a decade away, the plans show Swiss operators are determined to keep control of some 3,200 megawatts of capacity that currently supply 40 percent of Swiss electricity usage from five generation units. [POWER/CH]
“This represents a milestone in the bid to ensure security of supply in Switzerland,” said a statement issued by Axpo.
“This will speed up the political process and official procedures, enable synergies to be exploited in the evaluation process, and save on costs,” it added.
The aim is to compensate for existing plants reaching the end of their operating lives and for French import agreements that are due to expire, it said.
Switzerland’s role is pivotal in central European power markets, where prices are converging. Nuclear serves as a basis while its big hydropower sector supplies neighbours in years with high water supply but necessitates imports in dry years.
Under the latest plans, the three companies will further develop previously separate projects jointly and be given equal shareholdings each in a joint planning and project company, which might also become a joint operating company in the future.
Decisions on sites and the prioritisation were expected to be made in mid-2012, they said.
Sites at Niederamt, Beznau and Muehleberg have already been declared suitable for replacement plants and further feasibility studies are under way.
The ratio of power procurement entitlements has also been laid down, with some minor adjustments. It will roughly be 59 percent for Axpo and its subsidiaries Axpo AG and CKW, 25.5 percent for Alpiq and 15.5 percent for BKW, commensurate with their existing share of current production capacity.
The existing Swiss capacity is split betwen the three firms, with some participation of cities and Cantons, and Germany’s E.ON (EONGn.DE), which has a 20 percent share in Muehleberg. (Reporting by Vera Eckert; editing by James Jukwey)