Regulation & Policy

South Carolina Electric & Gas has submitted an application with state regulators, saying it will need to build a new combined-cycle gas power plant in the next five years to meet peak winter demand, given the failure of its nuclear power project. Costs and location of the proposed CCGT are not yet decided, but SCE&G has already reserved most of the capacity of Dominion’s newly expanded gas pipeline network in South Carolina.

Electric vehicles hold enormous potential but their deployment so far has fallen short. According to The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders, some 3,500 of the UK’s newly registered cars were electric or hybrid in 2013, growing to over 63,000 by the end of 2017. However, for electric vehicles become truly mainstream the industry needs to overcome some challenging obstacles, finds Jacob Klimstra, Senior Energy Consultant and Member of the Advisory Board for Electrify Europe. 

Eager to clean up air pollution, the Chinese government has mandated several million households in China’s northern provinces to stop relying on coal heating in winter. Gas use and LNG imports have surged as a consequence, with China surpassing South Korea in late 2017 to become the world’s second-largest LNG importer.

UK capacity markets, pitched by proponents as a necessary to balance rising amounts of variable generation, “simply are no longer needed,” IEEFA’s Gerard Wynn claims. He referred to some European markets with far higher levels of variable renewables that are investing in flexible grids, capable of sourcing up to 50% of their energy from wind and solar.

The New Northern Policy, launched by the South Korean president Moon Jae-in, is seeking new growth drivers in Russia and Northeast Asia. The Korean energy ministry announced Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) will sign a memorandum of understanding with Russia's energy firm Rosseti later this year. The aim is to create a multinational power grid interconnection in the Northeast Asia region that also includes China and Japan.

West-to-east power flows on the ERCOT transmission system are bound to rise substantially, following a surge in wind capacity addition in the Panhandle northwestern Texas, and new solar PV resources in far southwest Texas. Rising supply of inherently intermittent renewable energy is proving difficult to integrate; hence transmission line upgrades need to be fast-tracked to allow the grid operator ERCOT balance wind energy in the Northwest with flexible gas-fired generation in the eastern part of the state.

Aspirations to build and extend heat networks across the UK have been rekindled by Whitehall’s recently published Clean Growth Strategy. If all implemented, the recommended measures could deliver capital cost reductions of 30 to 40% and save the UK grid operator up to £30 billion.

US President Donald Trump has made reforms of the environmental permitting process for pipelines a key part of his $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan. Speeding up regulatory approvals will help fast-track both gas export pipelines to Mexico and interstate pipelines to transport cheap, domestic shale gas to the second wave of US LNG export projects.

China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) imposed a cap on thermal coal prices imports through Qinhuangdao port at RMB750/t from 5 February. Strong demand due to colder-than-normal weather in January had propelled up prices to a record RMB780/t for FOB Qinhuangdao 5500 kcal/kg coal. According to WoodMackenzie estimates, the new price cap will have an impact from now until mid-March.

Passing the final verdict after an eight-year quarrel over the failed Kemper “clean coal” power plant, the Mississippi Public Service Commission (MPSC) ordered to keep the plant running solely on natural gas and not pass any losses on to ratepayers. Commissioners voted unanimously that all risk needs to be removed from ratepayers for the lignite coal related assets at the facility. More so, a forthcoming compliance filing will decrease the bill of an average residential customer by 2.4%, or over $3.00 per month.

CNMC, the Spanish energy regulator has rejected a government proposal to prop up the nation’s oldest and most polluting coal power plants. Dealing a blow to subsidies for coal-fired generating capacity, the regulator suggested a “significant part” of the Spain’s coal fleet could be closed without putting national energy security at risk.

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.

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News in Brief

Brexit will not impact UK gas supply

Oct 16 – Security of power and gas supply in the UK will not be jeopardized this winter by the country’s imminent departure from the European Union, even in the event of a hard Brexit, National Grid said. In its assessment, the TSO factored in a halt to flows via the Belgium and Dutch gas interconnectors “from EU exit day one”, but said ongoing deliveries from Norway, the UK Continental Shelf and storage will continue as usual.

Ferrybridge C gets demolished

Oct 15 – Four cooling towers at the Ferrybridge Power Station have been taken down as the coal-fired power station will make way to a new, high-efficiency gas power station. Operator SSE shut down the 500 MW Ferrybridge C unit in March 2016 and now started to tear it down.

Global energy storage tops 10 GW by 2025

Oct 14 – The global market for grid-connected energy storage will grow by 6,900 MW, or 16.6% to reach over 10,500 MW by the end of 2025, according to Reportlinker.com. Germany will add over 267 MW energy storage installations over the next five to six years, while 330 MW will come from other European markets. These numbers are dwarfed by China, where up to 1,200 MW energy storage units could be connected to the grid by 2025.

Wärtsilä services EDL plant

Oct 11 – Energy Developments Ltd (EDL) of Australia has awarded Wärtsilä a service contract for gas engine-based baseload power plant at the McArthur River zinc mine in Northern Territory. The maintenance approach for the 53 MW onsite power plant is no longer pre-planned and scheduled but has been changed to condition-based and predictive maintenance, with an advisory contract.

EPH buys CCGT in Galway

Oct 10 – The Czech energy company EPH has received regulatory approval to purchase an 80% stake in the 400 MW Tynagh Energy combined-cycle gas power plant in Galway, Ireland. Mountainside Partners will continue to own the remaining stake in the CCGT, which operates based on a security-of-supply contract from the Irish TSO based on guaranteed power prices.

ITM gets £38m boost from Linde

Oct 9 – Sheffield-based ITM Power, maker of electrolysers for hydrogen production, has been boosted by a £38 million cash injection, as Linde acquired a 20% stake in ITM at 40 pence per share. Looking ahead, ITM said it is seeking to raise £14 million from new and existing institutional investors.

Drax to convert two power units

Oct 8 – Drax Group has received government approval to convert up to two coal-fired generating units at its power station in North Yorkshire to run on natural gas. With this ruling, the UK regulator overturned objections by ClientEarth, stressing some fossil power is vital for the UK to backup intermittent renewable power source.

Storage use tops 80% in key U.S. regions

Oct 7 – Gas storage utilization in the United States is rising in the autumn, with net injections topping 112 billion cubic feet (Bcf) in the first week of October. According to EIA figures, underground storages are at least 80% full in the East, Midwest, and South Central non-salt regions, allowing for seasonal withdrawals to help meet peak-day gas demand throughout the upcoming winter.

Maine, NY aspire to 100% clean energy

Oct 4 – Three U.S. states—Maine, New York, and Ohio—have updated their renewable portfolio standards (RPS), since May 2019. As a result, Maine and New York joined California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia in requiring 100% clean electricity by 2050.

TransAlta to built CHP in Alberta

Oct 3 – Canada-based Transalta and SemCAMS Midstream have agreed to develop, construct and operate a new cogeneration facility at the Kaybob South No. 3 sour gas processing plant in Alberta. To be built at a cost of some 105 million, the CHP will have an installed capacity of 40 MW. Start of commercial operation is targeted for late 2021.

GE’s 100th HA turbine sold in Greece

Oct 2 – Greek industrial firm Mytilineos has ordered a GE 9HA.02 gas turbine to be the heart of the 826 MW Agios Nikolaos combined-cycle gas power plant. This deal also marks the 100th unit of GE’s HA gas turbine sold. Construction of the CCGT is due to start before the end of the year.

ABB launches M4M analyzer

Oct 1 – Swiss technology firm ABB has launches its first Bluetooth-equipped network analyzers, called M4M. The system gathers data from distribution grids and connects them to a cloud-based control system, allowing users to react on energy consumption and on-site power generation trends.

Microsoft invests in wind power

Sept 30 – Microsoft and ENGIE have entered a long-term solar and wind energy power purchase agreement (PPA) in the United States. The deal will see Microsoft purchase a total of 230 MW from two ENGIE projects in Texas, bringing Microsoft’s renewable energy portfolio to more than 1,900 MW.

Gazprom tackles issue of ownerless gas grid

Sept 27 – Gazprom, the main supplier of pipeline gas to Europe, is trying to settle the issue of ownerless gas pipelines – a relic of the former Soviet Union. Abandoned gas transmission pipeline spanned 6,651 kilometers as of March 1, with the issue seen as “especially acute” in the North Caucasus region where half of this infrastructure is located. If no owner registers these facilities within three months, Gazprom will take over to ensure reliability and safety.

Investors flock to Myanmar

Sept 26 – Fitch Ratings has singled out Myanmar’s power sector as one of the largest beneficiaries of foreign direct investments (FDI) worldwide. Nearly $21.2 billion was poured into power generation and energy infrastructure projects thus far in 2019, which is 27% of total FDI under the Myanmar Investment Law.

Is hydrogen Singapore’s future fuel?

Sept 25 – KBR and Argus have been selected to conduct a feasibility study on hydrogen imports and downstream applications for Singapore through to 2050. The aim is to assess the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of hydrogen use in Singapore’s power generation and transport sectors

Diablo Unit-2 offline

Sept 24 – Unit-2 at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California is offline for a scheduled maintenance and refuelling, the operator PG&E said. During the outage, several gas-fired power plants will be dispatched to make up for the missing capacity.