“We will certainly sleep better in this chaos on the European energy market,” said Branislav Strycek, the chief executive officer of Slovenske Elektrarne AS, the country’s main utility and owner of the new reactor. “Slovakia will become self-sufficient in electricity, we won’t depend on imports anymore.”
More generating capacity is helping shield consumers against rocketing prices. In a deal contingent on the new reactor’s start, Prime Minister Eduard Heger’s cabinet signed a memorandum obliging Slovenske Elektrarne to provide households with electricity at a maximum 61 euros ($60) per megawatt-hour in 2023. That’s less than a third of the wholesale rate in the day-ahead power market.
For one thing, the price limits for households don’t extend to businesses. Almost half of the country’s companies haven’t hedged their electricity costs for next year, according to the finance ministry, exposing them to wholesale prices that are six times higher than a year ago. Big energy users, such as aluminum producer Slovalco and fertilizer maker Duslo, have already closed or suspended production because of high prices.
Another headwind is that Slovakia will struggle to benefit from a European Commission proposal to cap electricity market revenues for renewable and nuclear companies at 180 euros per megawatt-hour. Any income above that level is directed to help energy users.
And despite the advantages of nuclear, Slovakia is completely dependent on Russia’s TVEL for its reactor fuel under a contract that runs until 2026. While Moscow hasn’t yet curbed uranium shipments, Strycek may seek a supply deal with Westinghouse Electric Co. The US-based company is due to provide fuel to Ukraine next spring for the same Soviet-designed VVER 440 reactors that Slovakia uses.
Nuclear energy is still key to Slovakia. Slovenske Elektrarne is working on another reactor at Mochovce that should be ready in two years. Once finished, it will add another 471 megawatts of generating capacity and turn the country into an electricity exporter.
Source: The Windsor Star