Regulation & Policy

Divestment of the 650-MW Malaya coal power plant and its subsequent conversion to run on natural gas can only proceed if the current operator is able to prove the plant’s status as a “must-run-unit,” the Department of Energy (DOE) of the Philippines ruled. This new requirement risks to likely delay, if not derail, the coal-to-gas conversion.

One of the UK’s major remaining coal generators, the 1,960-MW Eggborough Power Station in North Yorkshire, is set to fizzle out in September 2018 after it failed to win a 2018-19 capacity contract. As a consequence, the operator has just updated its planning application to convert the 51-year-old Eggborough facility into a new 2-Gigawatt (GW) combined-cycle gas power plant.

Eco-friendly combined cycle power plants are serving as a “bridge” for South Korea along the road of an energy paradigm shift from nuclear power and coal-fired plants towards new and renewable energies, according to Kim Kyung-won, president of Korea District Heating Corp. (KDHC). Kim pointed out the strengths of the recently commissioned 800-MW Dongtan CCGT which powers Dongtan, a new town under development near Hwaseong City.

Tightening supply of thermal coal ahead of the Lunar New Year risks to cause power shortages in some of China’s northern metropolis, regional utilities warned. In a letter to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), four electric utilities pleaded the government to ease regulations that incentives a switch from coal to gas and increase coal supplies temporarily in order to put a lid on spiraling prices.

The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved the PennEast pipeline in a 4-1 vote, acknowledging the clear need for more gas transport infrastructure along the East Coast. The $1 billion PennEast interstate pipeline will bring up to 1 billion cubic feet of daily low-cost Marcellus gas to customers in southeast Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Oklahoma Gas and Electric (OG&E) has filed to the state’s public utilities commission for permission to increase rates, seeking to recover its $390 million investment in the Mustang Energy Center. The 462-MW peaking power plant is the first gas-fired generator that OG&E has built in more than 30 years.

New York mayor Bill de Blasio on January 10, 2018, announced a lawsuit against ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP and ConocoPhillips, claiming the companies intentionally misled the public about the effects of climate change in order to protect their profits.  Together with comptroller Scott Stringer, de Blasio submitted a resolution instructing the city's five pension funds to explore ways to divest their fossil fuel holdings.  Between them, the funds hold $5 billion worth of securities in over 190 fossil fuel-related companies. 

Aspirations of the Trump administration to prop up America’s coal industry have been dealt a blow by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) which rejected U.S. Energy Rick Perry’s proposal to subsidize coal and nuclear power stations if they stockpiled 90-days worth of fuel. Republican and Democrat members of FERC earlier this week unanimously voted against the Department of Energy’s (DoE) proposed “Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule.”

Clarity on the UK coal phase-out will bring the Conservative party’s long-awaited implementation plan which Theresa May will introduce in a speech on her party’s green energy policies this week. One of the UK’s eight remaining coal power stations is expected to shut down this year, the Government said as it reaffirms rules that mandate the closure of all unabated coal-fired generators. Poor economics of coal power stations, combined with effects of the UK carbon floor price and existing EU emission regulations, are likely to lead to all but 1.5 gigawatts of Britain's coal power stations to shut before the 2025 deadline.

South Korea today announced an energy roadmap for 2017-2031 which sets out steps on how to shift the country’s reliance on coal and nuclear power towards renewable energy and natural gas. Paik Ungyu, Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy confirmed the government's plan to shut down seven ageing coal power stations and convert six coal power projects to run on LNG.

France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK have announced at the One Planet Summit in Paris that they would “examine or introduce” an effective CO2 price in "relevant sectors." The UK already in April 2013 unilaterally introduced a carbon tax in the power sector, and the five EU energy ministers underlined their new joint initiative could be “an effective tool to comprehensively decarbonise the world economy.”

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.

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News in Brief

Tohoku Electric tenders for LNG cargo

Aug 19 – Tohoku Electric Power, the fourth-largest electric utility in Japan in terms of revenue behind Tepco, Kepco and Chubu, is understood to be seeking an LNG cargo for delivery in September. A tender process is ongoing.

Cost for decarbonizing industry tops $21tr

Aug 16 – Total costs to fully decarbonize the four most polluting industries – cement, steel, ammonia and ethylene – are estimated to amount to $21 trillion between today and 2050. McKinsey said this could be lowered to about $11 trillion if zero-carbon electricity prices come down further compared to fossil fuel prices. In this event, industry could switch to using electricity for heating processes.

Co-firing Braskem plant with hydrogen

Aug 15 – Siemens is making fossil energy greener at the Braskem onsite power plant in Brazil. In this modernization project two SGT-600 gas turbines are co-fired up to 60% with hydrogen, enhancing efficiency for the production process of the adjacent the petrochemical complex.

Canada's CO2 tax to hit CCGTs

Aug 5 – Change in Canada’s carbon emissions tax regulation for new power plants has changed to also affect cleaner-burning, gas combined-cycle power stations starting from 2021. The move could significantly lower the profitability of gas generation and could prompt SaskPower reconsider its planned Moose Jaw gas power station.

GE CFO steps down

Aug 2 – Jamie S. Miller, General Electric’s chief financial officer, has decided to quit after two years in the job and 11 years with the company. Having overseen GE’s fiscal activities during a period of intense restructuring, Miller will remain in office while the GE board is looking for a successor.

Siemens HR boss quits

Aug 1 – Janina Kugel, Siemens chief HR officer, is leaving the company amid an apparently scattered working relationship and stark personal differences with CEO Joe Kaeser. Her contract will expire by mutual agreement on January 31, 2020.

ABB standardizes eBus chargers

July 31 – Zurich-based ABB, a member of the ASSURED consortium, is working on standardizing the specifications for automatic charging of heavy vehicles. The aim is to drive down the total cost of ownership for electric fleet operators, helping increase adoption of eBuses and eTrucks. Conformance and interoperability tests will be carried out in Q4-2019.

U.S. Senate helps fund EV charging stations

July 30 – The need for expanded electric vehicle charging infrastructure is greater than expected given that there had been over 1.75 million electric vehicles (EV) in North America at the end of 2018, a nearly 60% increase from the previous year. To help fund additional charging stations, among other things, the U.S. Senate approved the $287 billion America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA).

PNOC, Lloyds to develop merchant LNG-to-Power projects

July 29 – Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Lloyds Energy to develop a 1,200 MW LNG-fuelled power plant in partnership with Mitsubishi. Dubai-based Lloyds Energy is looking at ways to develop integrated LNG import facilities and gas power plants on a merchant basis in Bataan and Batangas provinces.

Macquarie finances CCGT in Mexico

July 26 – Macquarie Capital has chosen Credit Agricole, Natixis and SMBC to co-finance a $380 million combined-cycle gas power plant. The 560 MW plant is designated to be built in San Louis Potosi, a city in central Mexico.

Naturgy cashes in on gas network

July 25 – Spanish gas utility Naturgy has posted a 7% rise in core earnings for the first half of the year due to strong gains from its gas network business that helped offset falling revenues from power generation and slimmer LNG margins.

French court rejects appeal against Total CCGT

July 24 – Judges at an appeal court in Nantes have thrown out an appeal by environmentalist against Total’s planned Landivisiau combined-cycle gas power plant in Brittany. The 440 MW project, initiated by Direct Energy which was since acquired by Total, is over two years behind schedule. The French grid operator RTE has singled out the Landivisiau CCGT as “critical” in guaranteeing supply security in winter 2020/21 due to the planned shutdown of four coal power plants.

U.S. gas production falls in wake of ‘Barry’

July 23 – Shut-ins related to Hurricane Barry have scaled back U.S. gas production by 1.6 billion cubic feet per day, compared to last week, while power sector gas demand rose by just over 2.0 bcf/d. Consequently, there is significantly less gas available for storage so the injection rate has halved, according to Energy Aspects figures.

Blackout after fire at Madison substation

July 22 – Electricity is gradually being restored at Madison, Wisconsin, after 13,000 people experience a blackout following an explosion at a substation near Madison Gas & Electric’s 100 MW gas-fired Blount Generating Station. No injuries were reported.

Fuel switch could abate 1.2bn tons of CO2

July 19 – Some 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 could be abated by switching to gas using existing infrastructure, if prices and regulation are supportive. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), this would be enough to bring global CO2 emissions back down to where they were in 2013.

IEA launches methane tracker

July 18 – A new ‘methane tracker’, launched by the International Energy Agency (IEA), provides up-to-date estimates of current oil and gas methane emissions by drawing on the best available data. Analysts stressed methane emissions could be reduced by nearly half at no net cost.

Canada’s CO2 tax also affects gas power

July 17 – Change in Canada’s carbon tax regulation for new power plants has changed to also affect cleaner-burning, gas combined-cycle power stations starting from 2021. The move could cause SaskPower to reconsider its planned upcoming Moose Jaw gas power station.