Regulation & Policy

Chinese authorities have mandated power producers in some regions to return to burning coal, responding to acute gas shortages. Coal imports rebounded from a three-month low in November as utilities seek to replenish stocks prior to the period of peak winter demand.

Toning down its green energy ambitions, the Government of South Korea has backed away from plans to convert four out of nine planed coal-fired power plant projects to run on natural gas. Instead, only one coal-to-gas conversion is now likely to go ahead, the country’s energy minister said over the weekend.

South Africa’s national utility, Eskom, would benefit its ratepayers and investors by decommissioning its older coal-fired power units and scaling back construction of the controversial 4,800-MW Kusile coal power plant project, said Grové Steyn, lead economist at Meridian Economics in Cape Town. In his view, “South Africa does not for the foreseeable future need a new national nuclear-, coal- or gas-to-power construction program.”

US regulators have reached a settlement with Mississippi Power on the split of the remaining costs associated with the troubled $7.5 billion Kemper County power plant – once intended as a pilot coal gasfication plant before developers pulled the plug over technical issues.  After months of quarrels at court, Southern Co. agreed to lower the price tag on the project by $85 million to $853 million, lowering the burden on ratepayers.

As persistent overhang in global gas supplies reduces state revenues, energy ministers from Qatar, Iran, Russia and Venezuela are gathering at this week’s Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The question is how GECF countries – often referred to as the Gas OPEC – should react to the rampant US gas exports which has adopted a price-setting function on global spot LNG markets.

Differences on energy policy and migration have brought down lengthy and difficult coalition talks between Germany’s Conservatives, the Green Party and the Liberals (FDP). Shortly before midnight on Sunday, FDP head Christian Lindner abandoned negotiations, stating: “The four discussion partners have no common vision for the modernisation of the country, and lack a common basis of trust.”

Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party (CDU) sees the much-debated option of a successive closure of coal power plants as a “last resort to meet Germany’s 2020 climate goals.” However, the timeline of such a coal exit is subject to fierce debate in the ongoing talks to form a coalition government, with the Conservatives stressing the importance of “reliable and reasonably priced power supply.”

Coal has been singled out as one of the key culprits for global warming at the Bonn climate talks and several European countries have come forward with plans to phase out coal-fired power plants. Italy aims to exit coal by 2025 and boost the role of renewables, the government in Rome said on Friday. In Berlin meanwhile, the issue is a subject to fierce debate as coalition talks drag on between the Conservatives, Liberals and the Green Party.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, has been proposed as a solution to Australia’s current energy crisis, with advocates calling for the removal of state bans to allow the production of unconventional oil and gas resources. Matthew Meagher, researcher at Northern Australia and Landcare Research Programme says “fracking is cheaper than current renewable technologies and refurbishing old coal-fired plants.”

Greece has made noticeable progress in recent years on plans to state-owned energy companies and liberalize electricity and gas markets, and the IEA Executive Dr Fatih Birol expects this “impressive programme will lead to more competitive and financially viable energy markets offering choices and low prices to consumers.”

Several major US energy companies plan to accompany US President Donald Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on a visit to Beijing, starting November 8. The aim is to close deals on selling US LNG to China, along with other American-made products, in order to close the widening trade deficit between the world’s two biggest economies.

Neil Chatterjee, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), has dismissed comments from PJM Interconnection saying coal power plants are more prone to cold-weather failures than natural gas-fired plants. Chatterjee, who leads FERC’s evaluation of Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s plan to subsidize coal and nuclear power stations, insisted both are “firm, non-interruptible fuel sources.” He announced FERC will conclude its review by December 11.

Andrew Ott, CEO PJM Interconnection, the independent operator of electricity wholesale markets in 13 U.S. states, has dismissed a proposal by the Department of Energy (DOE) to subsidize nuclear and old coal plants “simply unworkable.” In a press conference, he went even further by saying: "We believe it is contrary to law."

In a surprising gist, the South Korea President Moon Jae-in has signalled his readiness to accept findings of government advisors and restart mothballed nuclear reactors. LNG exporters are disappointed given that the President’s U-turn on his election promise means that there is unlikely to be the anticipated around 10 million ton (Mt) of extra LNG demand by 2030.

The Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has made a political U-turn on energy, dismissing earlier instated 'clean energy targets' in favour of stipulating guarantees for reliable power supply and emissions reductions as the two new pillars of his new policy. Utilities will henceforth be obliged to deliver electricity at times of peak demand.

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