Regulation & Policy

Chicago-based Exelon has approached the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), suggesting it would keep operating two gas-fired power plants and the LNG import facility in Everett between 2022 and 2024, if it gets permission to collect about $1 per month from all electricity customers in New England. The Mystic gas-fired power plants are some of the largest generators in New England, but they are not economical in the current market environment.

Painting a bleak picture of the planet’s climate, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned if countries limit their clean energy efforts to their  nationally determined contributions (NDCs) in the Paris Agreement, this will set us on a path consistent with about 2.7°C warming by 2100. Yet, as the adage goes, “that which is measured, improves,” says IEA Climate Change Policy Analyst, Caroline Lee, so there is hope that natural gas and renewables will help turn the tide towards more sustainable electricity supply.

Beginning June 1, New England will become the first US grid operator to fully integrate demand-response (DR) resources into its daily energy dispatch and reserve processes. The ISO estimates that about 408 MW of DR will be available which will participate in real time in the energy markets. Pay-for-performance incentives will be in effect starting June 1.  With this instrument, the ISO is confident to meet peak summer demand. 

Federal financial interventions and subsidies in U.S. energy markets have been in a steep decline over the past five years. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), federal monies spent in energy markets nearly halved in the period 2013-16, falling from $29.3 billion in the 2013 fiscal year to $15.0 billion in FY2016.

Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) has approved DTE Electric’s certificates of necessity filing to build a 1,100 Gigawatt gas-fired power station in St. Clair County at a cost of nearly $1 billion. Construction will now start in early 2019, DTE said, aiming to get the plant commissioned by 2022.

The Government of Vietnam has approved plans by PetroVietnam Power Corp, or PV Power, to build two gas-fired power plants in southern Vietnam at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion. The Nhon Trach units 3 and 4, with a combined capacity of 1,500MW, are scheduled to start operation in 2020 and 2021.

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.

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News in Brief

Denmark paves the way for Nord Stream 2

July 7– Denmark on late Monday gave the Nord Stream 2 consortium permission to utilize pipe-laying vessels with anchors in Danish waters, paving the way for the Gazprom-led consortium to complete the interconnector. Construction of the 1,230-kilometre pipeline is nearly complete, except for a final stretch of about 120-kilometers in Danish waters. The project was halted in December when the Swiss-Dutch pipe-laying company Allseas suspended works over threats of U.S. sanctions.

EPRI tests early warning system

July 6– The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is conducting trial tests with multiple utilities across the United States of an early warning system. It can detect an off-gassing event as a precursor to thermal runaway up to 30 minutes prior to a cascading failure. This gives plant operators time to mitigate the problem or shut down the system.

KKR buys stake in First Gen

July 3 – Valorous Asia Holdings, owned by KKR investment funds, has bought a 11.9% stake in First Gen through a voluntary tender offer. First Gen, one of the Philippines’ largest independent power producers with 3,492 MW installed capacity, is owned by First Philippine Holdings which is controlled by the Lopez family. KKR’s acquisition of the First Gen stake is worth nearly $192.3 million.

Gazprom’s ‘BBB’ rating affirmed

July 2 – S&P Global Ratings, Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings have affirmed Gazprom's long-term credit ratings as part of their annual reviews. The ‘BBB’ ratings for Gazprom from S&P and Fitch are in line with the sovereign credit rating of the Russian Federation, while Moody's ‘Baa2’ rating is a notch higher.

MHIEC to refurbish WtE plant in Kushiro

July 1 – Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Environmental & Chemical Engineering Co (MHIEC) has received an order from the Kushiro Wide-Area Federation to repair and improve the core equipment at the local Waste-to-Energy plant in Takayama. The WtE plant has a capacity of 240 tonnes per day (tpd). Renovation will increase the energy efficiency of the fluidized bed type gasification and ash melting furnace facility, reducing emissions by around 15% annually. Works are due completed in September 2023.

Nigeria: Only two of six power projects on target

June 30 – Nigeria’s Bureau of Public Enterprises has disclosed that only two out of six privatized power plants were delivered on target. Only Transcorp Power Ltd and Geregu Power Ltd out of the six privatised electricity generation companies (GENCOs) were said to have met their performance targets since taking over.

German investors prefer solar over wind

June 29 – Energy infrastructure investors are keen to build solar power projects in Germany, but shun wind parks. In the latest solar power auction, investors offered to build almost 450 MW of capacity – more than four times the 96 MW of volume on offer– with the average successful bid at 5.27 cents per kilowatt-hour (ct/kWh). The wind auction, in contrast, was undersubscribed: The German network agency  (BNetzA) tendered around 826 MW, but successful bids only totalled 464 MW, at an average price of 6.14 ct/KWh.

MAN ventures into synthetic fuels

June 26 – MAN Energy Solutions has entered the hydrogen economy with the recent pro rata acquisition of H-TEC SYSTEMS, an electrolysis tech firm. The German OEM also committed itself to upgrading its gas turbines to run on 100% hydrogen by 2030.

Varegro starts using Cummins gas genset

June 25 – Belgian-based horticultural company Varegro, has started to use a Cummins HSK78G gas generator to power its greenhouses in Oostrozebeke, West Flanders. Varegro said it selected the Cummins HSK78G genset to produce combined heat and power (CHP) on its premises at a competitive cost for use in energy-intensive greenhouse facilities.

GE names Deloitte as independent auditor

June 24 – GE’s audit committee has selected Deloitte as the company’s independent auditor for the 2021 fiscal year, replacing KPMG. The selection of Deloitte concludes GE’s latest audit tender process.

Northern German states push for hydrogen pilot cluster

June 23 – Northern German states are pushing for greater hydrogen use with a pilot project cluster. Some 12 large demonstration plants for the production and use of green hydrogen are meant to be realised in Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The aim is to demonstrate how 75% of CO2 emissions can be saved in the region by 2035.

Wärtsilä to design and equip battery-powered ferries

June 22– The Finish engine maker Wärtsilä has been awarded a contract to design and equip two new zero-emissions ferries on behalf of the Norwegian operator Boreal Sjö. For each ferry Wärtsilä will supply the thruster motors, batteries, onboard and shore-based battery charging equipment, the back-up generators, and various electrical systems. The equipment is scheduled for delivery to the yard in early 2021 for the ships to start commercial operations in autumn 2021.

Subsidy cut slashes Chinese wind turbine margins

June 19 – China’s wind turbine original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) could have their gross profit margins halved due to subsidy cuts, Wood Mackenzie forecasts. Commissioned onshore wind power capacity is expected to drop by more than 16% to 19 gigawatts (GW) from 2020 to 2021 as government subsidies were terminated. This could also lead to a 27% drop in turbine prices over the next five years, slashing OEMs’ gross profit margins by half.

PowerPHASE converts gas peakers into storage engine

June 18 – U.S. emergency power provider PowerPHASE has developed an upgrade to convert 7F gas turbine-based peaking plants (350 MW each) to a so-called Storage Engine (400 MW). The unit would be able to store 3500 MWh daily and discharge 4800 MWh daily. CEO Bob Kraft claims utility customers could dispatch the Storage Engine, despite its lower heat rate (4000), ahead of higher heat rate options (9000 for gas peakers) in a competitive market like ERCOT in Texas.

Cummins names Davis head of New Power unit

June 17 – Cummins has appointed Amy Davis as Vice President and President of the company’s New Power Segment, effective July 1. The new unit includes Cummins’ electrified powertrains, battery design and assembly, battery management, fuel cell and hydrogen generation.

GE powers USS Zumwalt

June 16 – The US Navy has taken delivery of the USS Zumwalt, its first full-electric power and propulsion ship, equipped by GE’s Power Conversion. The ship features a high-voltage system, propulsion drive trains with multi-phase VDM25000 power converters and advanced induction motors. Kevin Byrne, head of GE’s North America marine segment said “the full-electric power and propulsion ship has the flexibility to direct energy where it is needed on the platform.”

New England power prices down 40%

June 15 – Spot electricity prices in New England (NE) has fallen since winter 2019/20 when it stood at an average $28/MWh, down 40% from an average $47/MWh in the previous winter. Low natural gas prices, warmer-than-normal temperatures, lower loads, and reduced needs to run expensive peakload generators were the cause for the substantial drop in NE’s winter electricity prices, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) finds.