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Slovak PM calls for talks with Ukraine, Russia, EU on gas flows

By Jan Lopatka PRAGUE (Reuters) - Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico on Thursday called for talks with Ukraine, Russia and the European Commission to ensure his country can reverse natural gas flows to Ukraine without violating existing contracts. Fico told reporters he supported projects to send gas to Ukraine but needed to ensure his country gets paid and avoids violating contracts with Russian gas supplier Gazprom.

French prosecutor probes Areva buy of Canadian miner

France's financial prosecutor has opened a preliminary probe into state-controlled nuclear giant Areva's controversial 2007 purchase of a Canadian uranium miner, a judicial source said Thursday. The probe focuses on the $2.5 billion (1.8 billion euro) purchase by Areva of UraMin at a height of demand for enriched uranium. Areva was later forced to revalue its UraMin uranium mines to only 410 million euros. Canadian media reports have suggested the sale was preceded by suspicious stock trades.

Baltic states use Ukraine crisis to boost LNG import capacities

By Henning Gloystein LONDON (Reuters) - Spurred by the Ukraine crisis, the Baltic region is fast-tracking plans to boost its liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports, hoping to drastically cut Moscow's grip on the region's supply. Russia's seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region has chilled political relations between Russia and the European Union, prompting governments across the bloc to look at ways to cut its reliance on Russian supplies, which meet around a third of the bloc's gas demand.

Czech utility company CEZ cancels tender to build 2 nuclear blocs at Temelin plant

PRAGUE - Czech state-run power utility CEZ says it has cancelled a tender to build two more nuclear reactors at the Temelin power station because falling electricity prices have made the multi-billion dollar project less feasible. U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric Co. and a consortium led by Russia's Atomstroyexport were bidding to build the reactors. The U.S. embassy is Prague said in a statement the U.S. government was "deeply disappointed" by the decision. CEZ's statement Thursday came a day after the government refused to provide financial guarantees for the plan.

Czech energy firm scraps nuclear plant expansion

Czech energy giant CEZ said Thursday it was scrapping the planned construction of two new reactors at its Temelin nuclear plant, citing "turbulent" conditions in the European energy sector. "CEZ has cancelled the bidding process for the construction of two new units at Temelin. This decision has been announced to all parties," the firm said. It blamed turbulence in the European energy sector where power prices have been affected by new shale gas projects and a focus on renewable energy.

Panasonic solar cell achieves world-record conversion efficiency

Panasonic Corp. said Thursday its newly developed solar cell has achieved the world's highest conversion efficiency of 25.6 percent, breaking the 25.0 percent world record set by Australia's University of New South Wales in 1999. The cell is a major component of the Japanese electronics company's HIT solar panels for homes, and the manufacturer hopes to cash in on the cell's high conversion efficiency in competing with Chinese and South Korean rivals that sell similar products at lower prices.

EU gas imports from Russia could drop a quarter by 2020

By Henning Gloystein LONDON (Reuters) - Europe is stitching together a patchwork of measures that could reduce its natural gas imports from Russia by over a quarter by the end of the decade as a result of the Ukraine crisis, halting Moscow's tightening grip over the region's energy.

EU moves to rein in state support for renewable energy

The European Union announced Wednesday sweeping new guidelines to curtail state support for renewable energy production, while still allowing governments to shield energy-intensive industries from high power bills. The new guidelines released by the European Commission, the EU's executive, require the EU's 28 member countries to gradually replace ad hoc renewable energy subsidies with a competitive bidding process for allocating public support.

Dutch postpone Russian trade mission over Ukraine crisis

By Thomas Escritt AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Netherlands on Wednesday postponed a mission on energy trade to Russia planned for May because of Moscow's annexation of Crimea and increased tensions in eastern Ukraine. The Netherlands is looking at ways to safeguard its energy supply after earthquakes caused by gas production forced it to cut output from the huge Groningen gas field this year. Combined with dwindling reserves, that may increase the country's demand for imported gas.

New EU rules on energy funding phase out subsidies for renewables

By Barbara Lewis and Foo Yun Chee BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Funding green energy will become harder under EU rules published on Wednesday designed to replace subsidies with market-based schemes, just when the Ukraine crisis has heightened the need for alternatives to imported fossil fuel. The executive European Commission said the guidelines, which will be gradually phased in, strike a necessary balance after fierce political debate about the cost of green subsidies.
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