Regulation & Policy

Urging for quick action to smarten up electricity transmission networks, Enel CEO Franceso Starace has criticised the lack of support from regulators and policy makers. The need for digitalisation “is very difficult for regulators to understand,” he said at an industry conference in Berlin, but “if you forget the networks, dear ministers, they will not carry on.” For utilities, transiting from fossil fuels to renewables, the grids are seen as a “very sexy part” of the value chain but needed a lot of investment.

Unfazed by Ukraine’s vocal protest, permitting is advancing quickly for Nord Stream-2 AG to build a second pipeline through the Baltic Sea. Finland has just given the green light for pipe laying in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), all German permits are on the table, but final approval under the Finish Water Act is still pending. Gazprom, the main project sponsor, is now pushing to start construction, stressing the pipeline will “deliver the additional gas required by Europe at a competitive price.”

Initial optimism of global LNG suppliers that South Korea’s new electricity policy might lead to higher demand growth has been replaced by the recognition that more needs to be done for natural gas to replace coal and nuclear in Korea's power generation mix. The 13th Long-term Natural Gas Supply Plan for 2018 to 2031, released by the Government on April 5, anticipates LNG demand to reach 40.5 million tons (Mt) by the end of the forecast period, up just 3 Mt from 2017-levels.

California Independent System Operator (CAISO) has approved a proposal by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to provide a 'clean energy alternative' that will replace a decades-old fossil power plant in the city of Oakland. A Request for Offers (RfO) will be launched shortly, inviting distributed energy  providers to propose appropriate solutions. Depending on the exact resource mix, the solicitation will result in 20MW to 45MW of capacity.

Tax credit extensions for renewables in the 2018 US Budget Bill, passed in mid-February, are expected to shape funding for clean energy technologies. The bill raises the existing so-called “45Q” tax credit for storing CO2 permanently underground from $22 today to $50 in 2026. According to IEA Energy Technology Analysts Simon Bennett and Tristan Stanley, this could “provide the first significant stimulus to carbon capture for several years.”

Despite posting a veto threat on twitter, US President Donald Trump on Friday night signed the $1.3 trillion spending bill that passed Congress just after midnight. In an improvised news conference, Trump stressed he “will never sign another bill like this again.” The omnibus spending bill limits federal spent on energy but it avoids drastic cuts, still granting grants the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) a total of $43.2 billion – almost $9 billion above the budget requested by the White House.

Fuel oil imports by South Korean power producers have surged to 200,000 tonnes in March so far, up from 92,000 tonnes in February, according to a Reuters tender. Burning heavy fuel oil (HFO) produces more emissions than natural gas, but it is less carbon-intensive than coal and hence considered compliant with the government’s clean air policies. In February, South Korea’s trade ministry decided to suspend the operation of five coal power stations (2.32GW combined capacity), from March to June.

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.

Page 9 of 55

News in Brief

Wärtsilä wins contract in Barbados

Jan 24 – Barbados Light & Power Company Ltd (BLPC) has contracted Wärtsilä to fast-track the supply of a 33 MW flexible power plant, as an EPC project. The plant, set to run on four Wärtsilä-32 engines, will be built at a site adjacent to BLPC’s 10 MW solar photovoltaic plant at Trents, St. Lucy, located on the northwestern coast of Barbados.

Azito power plant takes FID

Jan 23 – Globeleq and IPS have reached financial close on a 253 MW expansion of the Azito gas-fired power plant near Abidjan. An MXL3 upgrade will boost the capacity of the combined-cycle plant from 460 MW currently to 713 MW, equaling about 30 percent Ivory Coast’s total capacity installed.

Climate risks become urgent

Jan 22 – Adaptation to climate change is now “urgent,” McKinsey claims, suggesting there would be “many adaptation opportunities.” Climate science shows that the risk from further warming can only be stopped by achieving zero net greenhouse gas emissions through renewable built-out and energy storage.

India’s electricity demand may triple, IEA finds

Jan 21 – Energy demand in India is set to double by 2040, and its electricity demand may triple, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Oil consumption in India is seen grow faster than that of any other major economy, making energy security a key priority, the IEA said in its first in-depth review of India’s energy policies. Amid strong growth, renewables now account for almost 23 percent of India’s installed capacity, while energy efficiency improvements helped avoid 15 percent of India’s additional energy demand, oil and gas imports, and air pollution.

Regulators approve CCGT in Wisconsin

Jan 20 – State regulators have approved a permit for Dairyland Power Cooperative to build a $700 million combined-cycle gas power plant in northwestern Wisconsin. The Nemadji Trail Energy Center will produce 625 MW and is scheduled to begin operations by 2025.

ExxonMobil enhances turbine oils

Jan 17 – New high performance turbine oils, developed by ExxonMobil Lubricants, are  entering the market which are formulated to prevent build-up of lacquer, varnish and deposits. The oils are designed to protect against thermal and oxidative degradation, one of the root causes of deposit build-up.

Wärtsilä signs O&M deals in the Bahamas

Jan 16 – Following the commissioning of a Wärtsilä-built 132 MW power plant in Bahamas in December, the Finish manufacturer now signed a two-year operation and maintenance (O&M) accord with the plant owner, the Bahamas Power and Light Company (BPL). Wärtsilä will transition, train, and develop the owner’s Bahamian work force and provide key performance guarantees.

China, S'Korea curtail coal to tackle air pollution

Jan 15 – Beijing city government’s aggressive approach to tackling air pollution is working and South Korea’s spring coal-fired curtailments show some success in cutting seasonal emissions. According to Wood Mackenzie, this should benefit LNG, particularly while spot prices remain low.

Sri Lanka at brink of power shortages

Jan 14 – Sri Lanka could face power cuts by March, after plans for a large-scale coal power plant were been cancelled just prior to start of construction, and a tender for a 300 MW diesel plants ended up in court. On the demand side, pressure is building up as the region is moving into the dry season in February and March. Weather warnings say the island is likely to receive lower than average rainfall in the first quarter of 2020.

Caterpillar’s new genset comply with UK & German grid codes

Jan 13 – Caterpillar Inc. has launched a series of new generator sets that comply with the new G99 United Kingdom, VDE-AR-N 4110 German and Belgium C10/C11 grid codes. The following gensets – G3500H, CG132B, CG170, and CG260 (rated from 280-4,500kVA) – have been verified to be able to accommodate different reactive power modes, active power functions, and connection conditions for normal operation or reconnection after mains decoupling.

Transneft launches battery-based power supply for ILI tools

Jan 10 – Transneft Diascan, the largest Russian inspection service provider for pipelines, has developed and put into operation a power supply system for in-line inspection (ILI) tools based on rechargeable batteries. Flaw detectors performing inspections of trunk oil pipelines, gas pipelines and oil product pipelines can now use the energy from rechargeable batteries, which helps save time and reduces the cost of in-line inspection.

Pavilion starts trading LNG out of Madrid

Jan 9 – Singapore-based Pavilion Energy has completed the acquisition of all gas and LNG assets of the Spanish utility Iberdrola. From its new European headquarters in Madrid, Pavilion said has launched 2020 LNG trading operations with supplies focusing on Spain and the UK market.

Gazprom extends gas transits via Belarus until 2021

Jan 8 – Gazprom and Gazprom Transgaz Belarus have sealed additional agreements to extend the contracts for gas supplies to and gas transportation across Belarus until 2021. According to the newly-signed documents, the contractual supply and transit volumes in 2020 will remain at the level of 2019.

EastMed pipeline to take FID by 2022

Jan 7 – Greece, Cyprus and Israel have signed an agreement to build the 1,900-kilometre EastMed pipeline at an estimated cost of 6 billion Euros. The subsea pipeline, spanning over 1,900-kilometres would initially carry 10 Bcm of gas per annum from Israeli and Cypriot waters to Crete and then on to the Greek mainland and into the European gas network via Italy. A final investment decision (FID) is meant to be reached in 2022, given that the pipeline is scheduled for completion by 2025.

U.S. energy-related emissions drop over 2%

Jan 6 – Fewer emissions from coal consumption, combined with lower energy demand, have helped to significantly reduce the overall energy-related carbon emissions in the United States. According to government statistics, energy-related CO2 emissions fell 2.2 percent last year, and the downward trend is forecast to continue into 2020.

Brent crude prices surge

Jan 3 – North Sea Brent crude prices have risen to their highest level since September 2019, up nearly $3 per barrel because of Middle East tensions coupled with improved Chinese economic forecasts. Brent crude futures for March 2020 delivery were last seen trading at 69.21 per barrel the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE). This bullish price sentiment will feed through to oil-indexed natural gas contracts and LNG deliveries, linked to the Japanese crude cocktail (JCC) basket price.

IEA says coal’s fate tied to Asia

Dec 23 – Rapid rise of wind and solar power in many parts of the world has pushed coal-fired power generation into steep decline in most developed countries. "But this is not the end of coal, since demand continues to expand in Asia," analysts at the International Energy Agency commented: "The region’s share of global coal power generation has climbed from just over 20 percent in 1990 to almost 80 percent in 2019, meaning coal’s fate is increasingly tied to decisions made in Asian capitals."