Regulation & Policy

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.

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.

Page 13 of 72

News in Brief

Tokyo Gas snaps up US shale assets

July 31 – The Japanese utility Tokyo Gas has agreed to raise its stake in the U.S. firm Castleton Resources to 70 percent from 46 percent to increase its foothold in shale gas production in Texas and Louisiana.  Castleton Resources holds acreage in the Haynesville and Cotton Valley formations. The transaction is scheduled to be completed on August 14.

Electrical PE market to grow 1.7% through 2027

July 30 – The market for electrical protective equipment (PE) in North America, valued at $2,787 million in 2019, is forecast to rise at an annual rate of 1.7 percent to reach $3,163 million by 2027. Main growth drivers, according to ResearchandMarkets, are ongoing power transmission projects in the context with U.S. LNG export infrastructure expansions.

GE wins turbine order from Italian paper mill

July 29 – DS Smith Paper Italia has ordered a GE LM6000PF aero-derivative gas turbine for its paper mill in Lucca, Italy. The paper mill is currently powered by two aero-derivative turbines, and the additional unit will increase plant efficiency by 2%, while assuring steam supply for the industrial process.

Aceleron secures £2m green energy investment

July 28 – UK battery developer Aceleron today announced receipt of a £2 million equity investment from BGF and Mercia Asset Management. Aceleron is BGF’s second investment into a pure clean technology, signalling a shift in behaviour as more and more fund managers support a green recovery and the UK’s policy of net-zero carbon by 2050.

NRG buys Centrica’s North American arm for over $3.6bn

July 27 – U.S. utility NRG Energy has agreed with Centrica to acquire the latter’s North American subsidiary Direct Energy for $3.625 billion in an all-cash transaction. The transaction will diversify NRG’s earnings by adding more than three million retail customers and generate an estimated $740 million in adjusted EBITDA upon closing.

Siemens rolls out Comfy app

July 24 – Siemens is deploying its workplace experience solution Comfy across its global offices, including major utility customers. The aim is to equip approximately 600 company locations by October 2020.

BlackRock puts $18bn into sustainable investment

July 23 – Sustainability aspects are poised to bring about "fundamental change" to the way financial market actors operate, said Philipp Hildebrand, vice head of U.S. investment company BlackRock. About 18 billion dollars have been put into BlackRock's sustainable investment products since the beginning of 2020, he told the German business daily FAZ, arguing this would be "only the beginning" of a much larger shift in investment practices.

Vaca Muerta output slows

July 22 – Argentina has resorted to importing LNG for the Southern Hemisphere winter as domestic production at the vast Vaca Muerta shale formation fell in the first half of 2020. State-owned IEASA purchased 28 LNG cargoes at average prices of $2.87 million British thermal units (mmBtu).

GE to implement air quality control systems in India

July 21 – GE Power India Ltd (GEPIL) has won three contracts with a combined value of $112.57 million to supply air quality control systems. One semi-dry flue-gas desulfurization (FDG) unit will be installed for Hindalco Industries’ 1x150MW power plant at the Aditya aluminium smelter in Sambalpur. A wet FDGs system will be installed on behalf of NTPC for their Feroze Gandhi Unchahar thermal power plant (2x210MW plus 2x210 MW plus 1x210MW units) in Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh.

Wärtsilä CEO sees “tough” H2 ahead

July 20 – Wärtsilä CEO Jaakko Eskola has told analysts he sees a “tough second half of the year ahead,” as the Finish manufacturer seeks to mitigate Covid-related business disruptions. In the segment of up to 500 MW, Wärtsilä’s market share fell from 9% to 8%, while orders for gas- and liquid- power plants increased by 1% to 17.8 GW during the twelve-month period ending in March 2020.

GE launches update to digital plant software

July 17 – GE Digital has unveiled updates to its digital power plant software: Proficy Plant Applications, Proficy Operations Hub, Proficy Historian, and Proficy CSense. The software accelerates digitization for industries and integrates related onsite power generation units.

Germany EEG fund slips into the red

July 16 – Germany's green energy fund, funded through the renewable energy surcharge (EEG levy), has slipped into the red for the first time since 2013, according to TSO data. The account, funded by end-customers through a surcharge on their power bill, fell from about €2 billion in available funds to €-1.16 billion in the first six months of 2020.

China seen overtake Japan as worlds’ largest LNG buyer by 2025

July 15 – The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects China to overtake Japan as the world’s biggest LNG buyer with imports of 128 Bcm a year by 2025, equivalent to around 174 million tonnes. However, IEA analysts cautioned this scenario is “highly dependent on China’s future policy direction” and whether that includes an ongoing push for coal-to-gas switching for industry, residential heating and power generation.

IEA stages Clean Energy Transitions Summit

July 14 – Ministers from dozens of countries, accounting for over 80% of the world economy, have participated in the first Clean Energy Transitions Summit organised by the International Energy Agency (IEA). Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, said there “clearly is momentum” behind a sustainable recovery from the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. Participants agreed to reconvene in mid-2021.

Siemens Energy to exit coal

Jul 13 – Newly formed technology company Siemens Energy wants to phase-out any operations and technology to related to coal-fired power generation, CEO Joe Kaeser said, without giving a specific timeline. Siemens had been harshly criticised earlier this year for participating in the Adani coal mine project in Australia.

Statkraft, GE enhance GB grid stability

July 10 – Statkraft and GE Power Conversion are working together to stabilise Britain’s power grid. To that end, GE will manufacture and install two Rotating Stabiliser synchronous machines at Statkraft’s site in Keith, Moray. Statkraft was awarded four stability contracts (two at Keith and two at Lister Drive) by National Grid ESO (NGESO) earlier this year.

Siemens Energy spin-off approved

July 9 – A large majority of Siemens shareholders have voted to approve the spin-off of the company’s energy business. The spin-off was approved by 99.36 percent of capital stock represented at today’s extraordinary shareholders’ meeting.

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