Regulation & Policy

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.

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.”

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News in Brief

Shell Energy ordered to refund overcharged UK customers

June 17 – UK energy regulator Ofgem has ordered Shell Energy Retail to refund around 12000 customers who were overcharged after the Government’s cap on gas and electricity prices came into force in January. Shell Energy Retail s agreed to refund these customers by paying £29,000 in compensation (£5 per fuel), and also pay an additional £200,000 into Ofgem’s voluntary redress fund.

BASF enters battery market

June 14 – German chemical company BASF is using NGK Insulators’ sodium sulfur batteries as its entry point into the energy market. The Japanese manufacturer NGK is currently the only maker of the large-scale sodium sulfur (NAS) batteries, capable to store several hours of energy. A joint project in northern Germany uses NAS batteries that store energy for five hours, while a recently completed project in Abu Dhabi using 108MW / 648MWh of the systems with a full six hours storage duration.

CNPC boosts domestic gas production

June 13 – China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), the largest Chinese oil and gas company, has announced plans for domestic natural gas output to reach 55% of overall domestic supply by 2025. Last year, CNPC managed to boost production by 5.9% to reach 138.02 billion cubic metres, while also increasing imports of pipeline gas and LNG.

Gazprom taps new gas deposits for Nord Stream 2

June 12 – Gazprom is fast-tracking hydrocarbon production in northwest Russia to boost reserves for export through the Nord Stream 2 pipeline (55 Bcm/y), currently being built through the Baltic Sea. At a meeting with Nord Stream shareholders, Gazprom noted that its Yuzhno-Russkoye field has yielded about 276 Bcm of natural gas, including 0.9 Bcm of hard-to-recover Turonian gas, since the start of operations. Turonian gas reserves, consisting of about 99% methane with no heavy residues, lie at a depth of 800–850 meters in reservoirs with low permeability. Commercial production at the Turonian deposit is scheduled to start in late 2019.

PG&E turns off electricity to avoid wild fires

June 11 – Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has turned off electricity for some Californian communities at risk of a wildfire during the lastest heat wave. The authorized blackout started on Saturday in Napa, Solano and Yolo counties, with electricity being gradually restored over the course of Monday. Approximately 16,000 customers have been affected.

Gazprom to build power plants in Serbia

June 10 – Gazprom Energoholding has signed an Agreement of Intent (AoI) to build an upgrade several gas-fired power plants in Serbia. Together with Novi Sad, Gazprom Energoholding is already building a CCGT with some 200 MW capacity near a refinery in the Serbian town of Pancevo.

U.S. fund splashes out $4bn to buy El Paso Electric

June 7 – Infrastructure Investment Fund (IIF), a private investment vehicle within J.P. Morgan Inc., has agreed to acquire the U.S. utility El Paso Electric Co for $68.25 per share in a cash transaction. The enterprise value on the transaction is estimated at $4.3 billion. El Paso Electric customers will receive a total $21 million in bill credits over three years.

Caterpillar gensets back up Finnish data center

June 6 – The Swedish telecom giant Telia has ordered 12 Caterpillar gensets to provide standby emergency power to back up operations at its new data center in Helsinki. The Cat dealer Witraktor figured a system which includes eight Cat 3516B and four 3516E generator sets. The Telia Helsinki Data Center is the largest such facility in Finland, and its primary electric power supply comes from a combination of wind, hydroelectric and biomass.

Capstone wins orders in Iraq

June 5 – Micro-turbine producer Capstone has secured an order for two C600 Signature Series microturbines to provide 1.2 MW of energy to power a triethylene glycol (TEG) dehydration facility near Basra, in southern Iraq. The contract also includes Capstone’s new self-cleaning pulse filtration system, allowing the turbines to better withstand hot and sandy conditions with minimal maintenance.

Gas to supply record 43% of US power needs

June 4 – This summer, natural gas is forecast to cover between 40% and 43% of 2019 peak electricity demand in all U.S. states except Texas, according to projections by the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Gas demand soared to nearly 10,700 billion cubic feet (Bcf) last summer, a 16% rise from 2017 levels. Should there be another heat wave this year, that record may well be broken. Capacity wise, natural gas is on course to top its 45% share in the U.S. power mix.

Lukoil to upgrade CHP at Krasnodar

June 3 – Russia’s oil and gas company Lukoil has received government approval to modernize and expand three combined heat and power units in Krasnodar. The gas-fired CHP units have more than 400,000 hours and ran an average 74% utilization rate, the operator said. The upgrade will add 150 MW of power generation capacity and Lukoil said it expects the revamped power plant to be ready for commissioning as early as 2022.

GE commissions Al-Qudus CCGT in Iraq

May 31 – GE Power has installed and commissioned a new 9E gas turbine at the Al-Qudus combined-cycle gas power plant, run by the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity’s (MoE). The CCGT was previously capable of generating up to 1,125 MW and the turbine upgrade adds another 125 MW of capacity.

Groundbreaking takes place for Ohio CCGT project

May 30 – This Thursday morning, groundbreaking will take place for the $500 million Long Ridge Energy Generation Project in Hannibal, Ohio. Long Ridge, a 485 MW combined-cycle power project, is being developed by Fortress Transportation and Infrastructure Investors (FTAI). It will create up to 350 construction jobs and some 25 permanent jobs. The CCGT is expected to open in 2021.

Asia to spend more on renewables than oil & gas by 2020

May 29 – Utilities in Asia-Pacific region will invest more in renewables than on oil and gas exploration by 2020. Total capital expenditure in renewables will rise above $30 billion in the region by 2020, according to forecast of the consultancy Rystad Energy. India, Australia, Japan, Vietnam and South Korea will led the way in Asia’s green energy transition.

Ichthys LNG looses court claim against power sub-contractor

May 28 – JKC Australia LNG consortium, developer of the US$34 billion Inpex-built Ichthys LNG plant near Darwin, has lost a US$1.9 billion court case claim against a power station sub-contractor. Construction of the power station was subcontracted to UGL-led group which CIMIC took over in 2016 and subsequently cancelled the Ichthys power contract. The Western Australian Supreme Court in Perth now dismissed an application by JKC Australia LNG for upfront payment of damages. The power plant’s five gas turbines have already been handed over to Inpex, and KBR aims for the plant to be ready for commissioning this autumn.

San Miguel Energy claims $6.19bn subsidy for Ilijan plant

May 24 – South Premier Power Corp. (SPPC), San Miguel Energy’s development vehicle for the 1,200-MW Ilijan gas power project, has claimed that it already paid $6.19 billion in subsidies to state-run Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp (PSALM) for its financial obligations as independent administrator. The build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract for the Ilijan plant will expire in 2022; and by that time, SPPC will get ownership of the plant.

Evolve approved as energy storage for VPPs

May 23 – Eguana Technologies’ new Evolve system has been officially approved as an energy storage system for Simply Energy’s Simply Extra VPP (virtual power plant) offer in South Australia. Customers who purchase an Evolve system can sign up for the Simply Extra VPP offer and receive up to $5,100 in VPP Access Credits. These credits will be calculated on a daily basis at $3.49 per day to a maximum of A$5,100, credited over a five year period.