Regulation & Policy

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.

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.  

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News in Brief

Tohoku Electric tenders for LNG cargo

Aug 19 – Tohoku Electric Power, the fourth-largest electric utility in Japan in terms of revenue behind Tepco, Kepco and Chubu, is understood to be seeking an LNG cargo for delivery in September. A tender process is ongoing.

Cost for decarbonizing industry tops $21tr

Aug 16 – Total costs to fully decarbonize the four most polluting industries – cement, steel, ammonia and ethylene – are estimated to amount to $21 trillion between today and 2050. McKinsey said this could be lowered to about $11 trillion if zero-carbon electricity prices come down further compared to fossil fuel prices. In this event, industry could switch to using electricity for heating processes.

Co-firing Braskem plant with hydrogen

Aug 15 – Siemens is making fossil energy greener at the Braskem onsite power plant in Brazil. In this modernization project two SGT-600 gas turbines are co-fired up to 60% with hydrogen, enhancing efficiency for the production process of the adjacent the petrochemical complex.

Canada's CO2 tax to hit CCGTs

Aug 5 – Change in Canada’s carbon emissions tax regulation for new power plants has changed to also affect cleaner-burning, gas combined-cycle power stations starting from 2021. The move could significantly lower the profitability of gas generation and could prompt SaskPower reconsider its planned Moose Jaw gas power station.

GE CFO steps down

Aug 2 – Jamie S. Miller, General Electric’s chief financial officer, has decided to quit after two years in the job and 11 years with the company. Having overseen GE’s fiscal activities during a period of intense restructuring, Miller will remain in office while the GE board is looking for a successor.

Siemens HR boss quits

Aug 1 – Janina Kugel, Siemens chief HR officer, is leaving the company amid an apparently scattered working relationship and stark personal differences with CEO Joe Kaeser. Her contract will expire by mutual agreement on January 31, 2020.

ABB standardizes eBus chargers

July 31 – Zurich-based ABB, a member of the ASSURED consortium, is working on standardizing the specifications for automatic charging of heavy vehicles. The aim is to drive down the total cost of ownership for electric fleet operators, helping increase adoption of eBuses and eTrucks. Conformance and interoperability tests will be carried out in Q4-2019.

U.S. Senate helps fund EV charging stations

July 30 – The need for expanded electric vehicle charging infrastructure is greater than expected given that there had been over 1.75 million electric vehicles (EV) in North America at the end of 2018, a nearly 60% increase from the previous year. To help fund additional charging stations, among other things, the U.S. Senate approved the $287 billion America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA).

PNOC, Lloyds to develop merchant LNG-to-Power projects

July 29 – Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Lloyds Energy to develop a 1,200 MW LNG-fuelled power plant in partnership with Mitsubishi. Dubai-based Lloyds Energy is looking at ways to develop integrated LNG import facilities and gas power plants on a merchant basis in Bataan and Batangas provinces.

Macquarie finances CCGT in Mexico

July 26 – Macquarie Capital has chosen Credit Agricole, Natixis and SMBC to co-finance a $380 million combined-cycle gas power plant. The 560 MW plant is designated to be built in San Louis Potosi, a city in central Mexico.

Naturgy cashes in on gas network

July 25 – Spanish gas utility Naturgy has posted a 7% rise in core earnings for the first half of the year due to strong gains from its gas network business that helped offset falling revenues from power generation and slimmer LNG margins.

French court rejects appeal against Total CCGT

July 24 – Judges at an appeal court in Nantes have thrown out an appeal by environmentalist against Total’s planned Landivisiau combined-cycle gas power plant in Brittany. The 440 MW project, initiated by Direct Energy which was since acquired by Total, is over two years behind schedule. The French grid operator RTE has singled out the Landivisiau CCGT as “critical” in guaranteeing supply security in winter 2020/21 due to the planned shutdown of four coal power plants.

U.S. gas production falls in wake of ‘Barry’

July 23 – Shut-ins related to Hurricane Barry have scaled back U.S. gas production by 1.6 billion cubic feet per day, compared to last week, while power sector gas demand rose by just over 2.0 bcf/d. Consequently, there is significantly less gas available for storage so the injection rate has halved, according to Energy Aspects figures.

Blackout after fire at Madison substation

July 22 – Electricity is gradually being restored at Madison, Wisconsin, after 13,000 people experience a blackout following an explosion at a substation near Madison Gas & Electric’s 100 MW gas-fired Blount Generating Station. No injuries were reported.

Fuel switch could abate 1.2bn tons of CO2

July 19 – Some 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 could be abated by switching to gas using existing infrastructure, if prices and regulation are supportive. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), this would be enough to bring global CO2 emissions back down to where they were in 2013.

IEA launches methane tracker

July 18 – A new ‘methane tracker’, launched by the International Energy Agency (IEA), provides up-to-date estimates of current oil and gas methane emissions by drawing on the best available data. Analysts stressed methane emissions could be reduced by nearly half at no net cost.

Canada’s CO2 tax also affects gas power

July 17 – Change in Canada’s carbon tax regulation for new power plants has changed to also affect cleaner-burning, gas combined-cycle power stations starting from 2021. The move could cause SaskPower to reconsider its planned upcoming Moose Jaw gas power station.