Regulation & Policy

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.

US manufacturers Koch Industries and Dow Chemical are lobbying against the plan of Energy Secretary Rick Perry to subsidize nuclear and coal as a fuel for power generation. In a letter to Congress, manufacturers dismissed the Department of Energy’s (DoE) plan as “anti-competitive” and said it could distort or “destroy competitive wholesale electricity markets and increase the price of electricity to all consumers.”

Voicing plans to shut down all coal-fired power stations by 2030, the incoming Dutch government has sent a dramatic signal to energy markets that investments in coal is no longer safe. The far-reaching approach of the new coalition is striking, given that RWE, Uniper and Engie in the past few years commissioned three of Europe’s most modern coal power units in the Netherlands.

“The war on coal is over,” were the words used by Scott Pruitt, head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), when he announced the Trump administration will put an end to the Obama-era plan aimed at reducing power plant emissions. Pruitt argues that the Clean Power Plan violated federal law by “setting emission standards that power plants could not reasonably meet.”

The Trump administration is adamant about dismantling former President Obama’s signature plan to reduce emissions from power plants. Rather than mandating states to change their energy mix by imposing emission quotas, President Trump is expected to give utilities some guidance on how to operate their power plants more efficiently.

Crops for bioenergy are the only renewable source able to produce heat, power as well as liquid and gaseous fuels. Planting second generation non-food bioenergy crops could, according to the Energy Technology Institute (ETI), not only helps electrify Britain, but also created new jobs in the farming and forestry sectors, post Brexit.

Commentators have openly rebuked US Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposal for a bailout of coal and nuclear power plants. In a letter to FERC, Perry had directed the regulator to set up a rule, offering plants that can store 90 day’s worth of fuel onsite some extra compensation. Critics dismissed this plan as “nuts” as it would interfere in America’s unregulated wholesale power market, effectively reducing the price of electricity generated from burning coal.

Black-yellow-green: a Jamaica coalition between the Conservatives, Liberals and the Green Party is now the sole option for Germany’s new government – after the Social Democrats decided for the opposition. With the Greens participating, the time is ripe for a fierce debate in parliament in about the feasibility of phasing out coal-fired power plants; in close succession to Germany’s nuclear exist.

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News in Brief

China eases ban on coal power

April 23 – The Chinese National Energy Administration (NEA) has allowed 11 provinces to resume building coal power plants in a move that lies bare the country’s dependency on thermal coal even after several hundred billion dollars were invested cleaner energy sources, notable wind, solar and natural gas. Areas earmarked by NEA for new coal power plants include Qinghai, Chongqing, Guangxi, Guangdong, Yunnan, Guizhou and Henan.

$500m Birdsboro plant gets powered up

April 17 – Birdsboro Power, a subsidiary of EmberClear of Canada, is in the process of commissioning the $500 million Birdsboro open-cycle gas power plant. Built on a site of the former Amourcast steel foundry, and driven by a GE 7H02 turbine, the new power unit will generate about $500,000 in revenue for the Reading Area Water Authority and another $125,000 city of Reading, Pennsylvania. All electricity will be supplied into PJM Interconnection, the power grid operator in the U.S. Northeast.

Gas now dominant fossil fuel in Europe

April 17 – Rising cost of carbon emissions and closures of coal power stations throughout Europe have led to gas-fired generation overtaking the output of other fossil fuels for the first time. According to EnAppSys figures, gas power plants in the EU produced 117 TWh of electricity in the first quarter of 2019, compared with a combined 110.9 TWh from coal, lignite and gas-to-coal plants.

ABB, Porsche co-develop electric vehicle chargers

April 16 – ABB and Porsche have agreed to develop electric vehicle chargers for Porsche Japan’s new electric vehicles, including Tayan – the carmakers’ first fully electric car due to be launched in 2020. Under the deal, Porsche will install ABB chargers at its public facilities across Japan, creating a network of fast-charging stations for its electric vehicles. The first installation is set to go live in mid-2020.

Power gen from biomass flatlines

April 15 – Increases of U.S. electricity generation from biomass have stopped after a decade of growth. Power produced from biomass totaled 70.6 million megawatthours (MWh) in 2018, or about 2% of total U.S. electricity generation, according to EIA figures. Having grown from 2004 through 2014, and the 2018 output was 2% below its peak generation of 71.7 million MWh.

Aeroderivative GT market to top $3.5bn by 2024

April 12 – The global market for aeroderivative gas turbines is seen grow at a 7% rate to surpass $3.5 billion by 2024. A main growth driver, according to Global Markets Insight, will be the rising adoption of small-scale turbine-driven cogeneration plant and the trend towards decentralized energy supply.

Lumenaza creates regional green power grids

April 11 – Utility-in-a-box software, developed by Lumenaza, creates a regional green power grid by connecting producers and consumers of locally produced wind and solar energy. The system monitors renewable power output, balances supply and demand, and can help organize the billing process. Pilot projects have been implemented with two of Germany’s big utilities, E.ON and EnBW as well as with various smaller players.

MHPS licenses H-25 turbine production to Chinese manufacturer

April 10 – Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) has agreed to license production technology for its H-25 series gas turbines to the Chinese manufacturer CSIC Longjiang GH Gas Turbine Co. The agreement will establish a small local supply chain which helps expands MHPS’ share in the Chinese market, the Japan-based company stated. So far, MHPS received five orders for H-25 Series gas turbines, or nine units in total, from Chinese power plant developers.

SIEW 2019 to focus on energy transformation

April 9 – “Accelerating Energy Transformation” will be the theme for the Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW) 2019. This theme has been chosen by the Energy Market Authority (EMA) of Singapore to address mounting challenges in Asia over meeting climate change commitments against a backdrop of continuously rising energy demand.

ENGIE launches 1st mini-grid in Zambia

April 8 – The French utility ENGIE has inaugurated its first PowerCorner – an off-grid renewable energy solution – in the Zambian village of Chitandika. Located in the East of Zambia, Chitandika counts 1500 inhabitants who previously had no access to electricity.

Global gas engine market to reach $4.4 billion by 2020

April 5 – Over the next five years, the global gas turbine market is forecast to grow 11.1% annually in terms of revenue, reaching a market size of $24,100 million by 2024, up from $14,300 million in 2019. Market-leading companies include: GE, Siemens, Ansaldo Energia, MAN Energy Solutions, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems and Shanghai Electric Group.

EDAC, Siemens seek ‘industrial app’ for 3D-printing

April 4 – Siemens is intensifying its cooperation with the EDAG Group, an independent engineering company for the automotive industry, to promote industrial applications of additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing. The companies’ joint "NextGenerationSpaceframe 2.0" project is on show at the Hannover Messe this week.

ABB electrifies Lodi campus of Milan University

April 3 – The Swiss manufacturer ABB will ensure smarter, safer and more reliable electricity supply for students at the Milan University’s new campus in Lodi. Covering an area of 20,000 square meters, the campus has installed ABB’s UniSec switchgear and main distribution switchboard solution, System pro E power.

Chevron launches $90m Fund VII

April 2 – Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV) has set up Fund VII, a new $90 million fund focused on venture capital investment across the energy industry. Investments target early- to mid-stage companies as well as limited partnership funds with the aim of supporting breakthrough technologies that have the potential to improve Chevron’s oil and gas business performance.

Siemens to implement VW Industrial Cloud

April 1 – The German carmaker Volkswagen has chosen Siemens as integration partner for the VW Industrial Cloud. Based on Siemens’ MindSphere system, the VW Industrial Cloud will link production systems, machinery and equipment of various manufacturers at the 122 Volkswagen manufacturing plants worldwide. The resulting data transparency and analysis is meant to enhance productivity at the sites.

Marubeni, 4R Energy to deploy large refurbished batteries

March 29 – Marubeni Corp and 4R Energy, along with SIGNET EV have achieved a Proof of Concept (PoC) using 4RE’slarge refurbished batteries for the development of the world’s first mass-productional EV charger in Namie-machi, Fukushima-Prefecture. The installation, with an output of more than 50kW, helps the community reduce electricity demand from the central power grid, which saves costs.

Regulators approve £300m Belfast power project

March 28 – Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has approved plans for a £300 million gas-fired power project in Belfast. The 480 MW power station, developed by Belfast Power Holdings, will be situated in the city's Harbour Estate and provide energy to about 500,000 homes and businesses.