Regulation & Policy

Persistently high power prices and energy shortages along the East Coast of Australia could be solved by a trans-continental gas pipeline that connects the resource-rich Northwest to existing infrastructure in central Australia, says Colin Barnett former premier of Western Australia. Though the 3,000km interconnector costs an estimated $5billion, he stressed expenses need to be put in context with $49 billion spent for a national broadband project.

Southern Co. has rejected a revised offer on rates for the Kemper County power plant. The offer would have enabled Mississippi Power to collect an additional $100 million in assets. After abandoning efforts to complete the Kemper gasifier, Southern had to take up nearly $6 billion in losses on the $7.5 billion project – but the regulator say some of the costs it now wants to recoup are “unjustified.”

A draft policy paper published by South Korea’s energy ministry this week signals a strategy of adding between 5-10 GW to the county’s installed capacity, mostly from LNG-to-power projects and renewables. The envisaged new clean energy plants would expand Korea’s installed capacity by about 10%.

The UK government plans to publish the long-delayed £50 billion hydrogen strategy to clean up emissions from the country’s heat, transport and industrial sectors within weeks. Jon Slowe, a director at Delta-ee, singled out decarbonising heat as “the biggest challenge in reducing carbon emissions.”

“Market designs may be inadequate” to keep “traditional” power generation online, cautions a long-awaited report by the Department of Energy (DoE) on the security of the U.S. power grid. To alleviate risks, the study calls on regulators to facilitate easier permitting for coal, nuclear and hydropower plants.

Taiwan’s recent massive blackout raises questions of the government’s wider energy policy which, according to Dr. Guo Yu, principal Asia analyst at Maplecroft, “does not pose an immediate threat to government stability.” However, it may determine the political fortunes of President Tsai and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party as we approach the next election cycle in 2020.

Turning his back on former President Obama’s clean energy aspirations, the new FERC chairman Neil Chatterjee calls for coal to be “properly compensated” for baseload power and “recognized as an essential part of the fuel mix.” Asserting his commitment to the “resilience and reliability” of the US electric system, he said in a podcast released by FERC this week that ensuring security of supply would merit keeping even uneconomic coal and nuclear power plants operational. “These are essential to national security,” he claimed.

The European Commission is to crack down on all Large Combustion Plants (LCPs), mandating that they conform with best practice. It adopted an implementing act to introduce "Best Available Technique" (BAT) conclusions for some 3,500 power plants of 50 MW or larger, irrespective of their fuel. Stricter emission standards for all LCPS are meant to be in place by mid-2021.

New York State has an ambiguous relation with natural gas: Although manufacturers and power producers are benefitting from cheap shale gas from Marcellus, two major transmission pipeline projects – Constitution and Millennium Pipeline – have been halted by state regulators. Project developers pursue their options at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and in court.

Decentralized power provider UK Power Reserve has called on policy makers to strengthen the role of the Connection and Use of System Code (CUSC) panel as an independent body. In light of proposed modifications to the CMP285 CUSC governance reform, UKPR has spoken out against what it perceives to be an “overwhelming dominance of the Big 6 in [Britain’s] industry governance.”

U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry told press that “clean coal” will be at the centre of his energy agenda, using “American innovation” to advance cleaner, cheaper coal which is also meant to help create jobs. Speaking after a visit of the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in Pittsburgh, he was impressed by research into innovative “cracker plants.” These facilities use special catalysers to crack molecules within the natural gas to arrive at byproducts such as ethane and ethylene.

Off-grid distributed energy systems (DES) – using renewable energy but backed up by flexible gas or diesel generators – are mushrooming throughout the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as technology costs keep falling. This trend helps alleviate electricity shortages of some 133 million people in the region’s rural areas.  

National Grid projections show that growing use of electric vehicles in the UK could increase peak power demand by 3.5 GW by 2030 and 18 GW by 2050. Today, UK peak power demand is approximately 60 GW. Under the “Consumer Power Scenario,” National Grid anticipates electric vehicle (EV) sales to account for more than 90% of all cars by 2050.

Decarbonising heat is cheaper than tackling emissions in many other sectors, according to the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) who calls on policy makers to adopt an “integrated systems approach” across Britain to show how low carbon heat provision delivers consumer-value. According to ETI chief engineer, Andrew Haslett, “the challenge is one of replacing natural gas-based heating in its present form, possibly by allowing consumers to buy low carbon heating packages.”

Though burning coal for generating electricity is cheap, and Japan is home to supercritical high-efficiency coal power stations, key ministers warned that if all proposed coal-fired capacity got built this would put Japan’s emission reduction targets in jeopardy. "It doesn't matter if they are highly efficient or not, power stations using coal are seen outdated as EU and other countries are moving away from them," environment minister Kouichi Yamamoto said.

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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.