Growth prospects for gas-distribution utilities are at risk in several American states, as decarbonization policies on state level and rising cost-competitiveness of renewables undermine the role of gas. According to McKinsey analysis, this could pose a challenge to gas distributors in some states as early as 2026, and in most of them by 2030.
Power producers in Europe, as well as parts of the U.S. and Australia, have been feeling the pinch due to a decline in wholesale energy prices brought about by stagnant demand, low gas prices and higher output of generation with low marginal costs, notably renewables. New-builds are no longer profitable which puts reserve margins at risk, hence the International Energy Agency (IEA) calls for a re-design of competitive power markets.
Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) chief executive Kenji Ando has used his New Year address to warn of a difficult business environment in 2019, with “turbid conditions” in the thermal power generation sector. “Our competitors are also seeing sharp declines in business results,” he said, stressing MHPS will forge ahead with business restructuring.
The spread in natural gas spot prices between the Henry Hub in Louisiana and the Appalachian region continued to narrow over the year just past. Prices fell at Henry Hub throughout December, and as of January 2, 2019, they were at around $2.79/mmBtu while Appalachian prices kept trading at a discount due to pipeline constraints.
Dominion Energy is completing the takeover of SCANA Corp. adding customers in Georgia and the Carolinas to its 18-state footprint. The merged assets, worth over $6.8 million, align well with Dominion’s regulated energy businesses. “These are well-run regulated operations that will help improve our risk profile and growth outlook," said CEO Thomas F. Farrell.
Gas-burn in the electric power sector is forecast to peak around 2035 and start declining from 2040, by when wind and solar are set to become the dominant energy sources. Data by the classification society DNV GL shows that gas demand in Europe already peaked in 2010, and will do so in North America by 2020, whereas in South-East Asia and China it will only peak in the mid-2030s.
Demand growth for natural gas in China is outpacing supply. Despite rapidly rising LNG imports, some domestic shale gas production and the scheduled start of an additional 38 Bcm of Russian gas supplies through the ‘Power of Siberia Pipeline’ before the end of 2019, analysts expect a gas deficit in in the China market from 2020 onwards.
Consultations have officially started as to whether Uniper will divest all its French power plant assets to the Central European energy investment group EPH, majority-owned by the billionaire Daniel Kretinsky. Uniper confirmed it received a unilateral binding offer from EPH, but did not disclose the value of a potential deal.