Regulation & Policy

U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry told press that “clean coal” will be at the centre of his energy agenda, using “American innovation” to advance cleaner, cheaper coal which is also meant to help create jobs. Speaking after a visit of the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in Pittsburgh, he was impressed by research into innovative “cracker plants.” These facilities use special catalysers to crack molecules within the natural gas to arrive at byproducts such as ethane and ethylene.

Off-grid distributed energy systems (DES) – using renewable energy but backed up by flexible gas or diesel generators – are mushrooming throughout the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as technology costs keep falling. This trend helps alleviate electricity shortages of some 133 million people in the region’s rural areas.  

National Grid projections show that growing use of electric vehicles in the UK could increase peak power demand by 3.5 GW by 2030 and 18 GW by 2050. Today, UK peak power demand is approximately 60 GW. Under the “Consumer Power Scenario,” National Grid anticipates electric vehicle (EV) sales to account for more than 90% of all cars by 2050.

Decarbonising heat is cheaper than tackling emissions in many other sectors, according to the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) who calls on policy makers to adopt an “integrated systems approach” across Britain to show how low carbon heat provision delivers consumer-value. According to ETI chief engineer, Andrew Haslett, “the challenge is one of replacing natural gas-based heating in its present form, possibly by allowing consumers to buy low carbon heating packages.”

Though burning coal for generating electricity is cheap, and Japan is home to supercritical high-efficiency coal power stations, key ministers warned that if all proposed coal-fired capacity got built this would put Japan’s emission reduction targets in jeopardy. "It doesn't matter if they are highly efficient or not, power stations using coal are seen outdated as EU and other countries are moving away from them," environment minister Kouichi Yamamoto said.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has held its 2nd Global Conference on Energy Efficiency in Paris last week, attended by business executives and senior government officials from around the world, including all G20 countries. Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director pointed out that only 30% of energy use is subject to efficiency standards. “This means there is huge room for improvement.”

The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) focus on financing infrastructure in India’s lagging states helped promote inclusive economic growth, spurred the development of some power generation projects to help increase electrification rates. During the year 2016-17, total energy availability increased by 4.1% over the previous year and the peak met increased by 5.7%, according to India’s Central Electricity Authority (CEA).

The Louisiana Public Service Commission has approved construction of the Lake Charles Power Station, a 994-MW combined-cycle gas power plant in Westlake. Entergy Louisiana called the Lake Charles CCGT is a “key element of its plan to provide the clean, efficient energy” – the operator also said expects to issue full notice to proceed to construction by August 1.

Wasteful flaring of natural gas is meant to be a thing of the past, yet the wasteful burning of gas at wellhead increased over the past few years – notably in the United States during the rush to tap hydrocarbon-rich shale rock formations. ‘Zero Routine Flaring by 2030’ is the explicit aim of the World Bank-led Global Gas Flaring Reduction (GGFR) initiative – but there is a risk that funding for gas-gathering initiatives runs dry because this goal is losing political traction under the Trump Presidency.

Pulling the plug on the Kemper County Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power project, the Mississippi state energy regulator has passed a motion instructing its legal counsel to propose a solution that would end the Mississippi Power’s gasification project following years of delays and cost overruns. The watchdog encouraged Mississippi Power, however, to re-license the plant and produce electricity based on natural gas instead.

Though Centrica CEO Ian Conn told the BBC this morning that closure of its 3.4 Bcm Rough gas storage facility will not destabilize Britain’s gas supply – given the possibility to import LNG and source gas from Norway and the EU through several interconnectors – some analysts see it differently. Commenting on Centrica’s move, Wood Mackenzie analyst Graham Freedman said the decision not reopen Rough storage comes as “no surprise” and makes “good commercial sense” for Centrica. However, he believes the implications on the UK's future security of gas supply “will no doubt lead to a UK Government review of its position, particularly in light of current Brexit negotiations.”

Enel, Europe’s biggest utility by market value, is about to shut down two large coal power plants in Spain by 2018, following through with a decision by CEO Francesco Starace to close the company’s entire coal and lignite generation by 2030. His new strategy shows the impact of new EU pollution limits, particularly the revised Best Available Techniques Reference Document, known as BREF.

The US state of California has teamed up with several German states in the ‘Under2Coaltion’ to tackle climate change. Edmund G. Brown, Governor of California said US President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement underscored the “significance of subnational actors.” California, the sixth-largest economy in the world, is adamant to pursue its clean energy targets and, together, with several German federal states, aims to provide strong leadership in the COP23 climate talks in Bonn this November.

Alan Finkel, Australia’s top scientist and author of a prominent energy market review, has urged the Government to set a clean energy target that does not be put any fuel-type at a disadvantage. His modelling work shows a scenario under which power prices could fall, if Australia’s stringent emission targets are lowered.

Ambitious plans, set out by South Korea’s newly instated Government, herald a U-turn away from coal and nuclear towards cleaner-burning natural gas and renewables. Responding to public concern over air pollution the administration of President Moon Jae-in, who took office in early May, is considering a construction stop for several coal and nuclear projects – a move poised to cause electricity prices spikes and medium-term capacity shortages.

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