Regulation & Policy

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has singled out Norway’s large hydropower generation as a “valuable asset” for European electricity markets at a time when renewable energy supply is growing. More interconnectors will allow for hydropower to balance regional variations in demand and supply, the IEA said, but it called on Nordic countries to better coordinate their renewable energy incentives.

As mankind enters a period of change akin to the last industrial revolution, Rudy Koenig, Principal at QENIQ Advisory and POWER-GEN Europe, discusses three trends – digitalisation, decarbonisation and decentralisation. Peter Terium, CEO of Innogy, called attention to these mega-trends last year. Koenig examines the three Ds through the prism of Germany as a key industrial nation, and suggests they will shape the power generation industry for years to come.

Risk of power cuts in Britain seems unheard of for most electricity customers. But if coal power capacity comes off the grid more quickly than in 7 to 10 years’ time, subsidy-free renewables expand, and less interconnectors get built in the wake of Brexit – fast-ramping gas generator sets are best placed to fill the supply gap, Phil Grant partner at Baringa consultancy told industry stakeholders at the Finish embassy in London.

The cleanest and safest power plant is the one you don’t have to build thanks to higher energy efficiency, says Noé van Hulst, OECD ambassador of the Netherlands and IEA board chairman. Dubbed the “hidden fuel”, energy efficiency is demand-side driven, meaning it lacks the headline-grabbing milestones of big power plant projects, or other energy supply infrastructure. And through the energy efficiency trend accelerates, “progress on a global scale is still happening too slowly.”

Mexico has published a preliminary schedule for a third power auction and is calling for bids, with the winners set to sign long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) for clean energy supply, the energy secretariat SENER and the state energy control centre CENACE stated.

The spread of policy drivers, as well as falling costs of solar and wind power, will ensure the de-carbonisation of the energy system continues globally, according to projections made by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Analysts cautioned however that the extent to which Mr Trump reverses the momentum of the Obama administration on green issues, and whether he will pull out of the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement, will be a key development to watch.

Nigeria has approached the World Bank for a $5.2 billion loan to expand power generation capacity and help the West African nation recover from its first recession in over two decades. Observers doubt, however, that the government in Abuja can reach its goal to triple Nigeria’s installed electric capacity by 2025.

In the run-up to the 2017 UK General Election, Theresa May has promised to impose a cap on standard variable power tariffs in the Tory manifesto to end what she calls the “injustice” of rising energy costs. Under the proposed plan, the energy regulator Ofgem would set a limit for the standard variable tariffs that customers move to by default after their existing deals run out. This measure is meant to save about 17 million customers up to £100 a year.

The UK energy regulator Ofgem has been reviewing, and revising downward, some incentive schemes for small gas- and diesel-fired power plants. Proponents of decentralized power solution warn a withdrawal of subsidies could make developers scrap 2,000 MW of planned capacity. In contrast, operators of larger power plants claim that larger payouts to distributed gensets would lead to a ‘market distortion’ and discourage investments in flexible combined-cycle gas power units.

Decentralized power generation is high on the agenda in Tanzania, with the Rural Energy Agency (REA) pleading support for individuals or companies that intend to supply ‘mini-grid electricity’. This initiative is meant to help close Tanzania's 1,290MW power deficit and give more of its rural population access to electricity.

Ofgem, the UK energy regulator, has awarded National Grid’s gas distribution arm together with DNV GL a £4.8 million, three-year contract to improve the way gas bills are calculated. The new billing method seeks to specifically assign the energy content of gas, rather than using the present flow-weighted average calorific value.

As Ireland moves towards an Integrated Single Electricity Market (I-SEM), the regulator has just set out a methodology for a transition to competitive power auctions in a bid to attract investment in new capacity. The first auction will be held on December 15 for the rest of the delivery year 2017/18.

Activists have staged an animal-themed invasion of a public relations firm to protest against fracking in the UK.

U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2016 totalled 5,170 million metric tons (MMmt), 1.7% below their 2015 levels, after dropping 2.7% between 2014 and 2015, according to the Energy Information Agency (EIA).

Only 5.5% of households switched to new electricity suppliers after Japan’s retail power market was liberalized in April 2016, industry data shows, leaving the big utilities relatively unscathed.

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News in Brief

Sembcorp powers up first BESS unit in the UK

Nov 12 – Sembcorp Energy UK, part of Singapore-based Sempcorp Group, has started to operate the first 60 MW unit of its battery energy storage system (BESS) fleet, supplied by GE. Combined, the three storage units in Leicestershire and Cheshire will bring Sembcorp Energy UK’s total energy portfolio to 973 MW.

Global gas glut may clear in 2021

Nov 11 – Economics of exporting American liquefied natural gas to Europe no longer add up. With Henry Hub spot prices around $2.7/MMBtu, moving LNG cargoes from the U.S. Gulf Coast to Europe is “not workable,” BP analysts said, indicating that production shut-ins could help clear the massive supply overhang towards the end of 2021.

Gazprom reassures Germany of Ukraine gas transits

Nov 8 – Alexey Miller, chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee, has been trying to reassure the German government commissioner Georg Graf Waldersee that Russia was ready to signing a new transit contract with Naftogaz if both companies mutually waive claims. Before gas flows can proceed, however, Ukraine will have to create an independent gas transmission operator by January 1, 2020.

GE makes gains in wind power

Nov 7 – GE Power is gradually turning away from its loss-making fossil power segment to focus on the fast-growing renewable business. This week, GE struck a deal for its new Haliade-X turbines to be used at Dogger Bank Wind Farms. The three 1.2 GW Dogger Bank projects, situated offshore the UK’s Yorkshire coast, are expected to trigger approximately £9 billion of capital investment between 2020 and 2026.

PetroVietnam eyes LNG-to-Power project

Nov 6 – PetroVietnam has signed an agreement with B.Grimm Power Public Company (BGRIM) to jointly study the development of an integrated LNG import and power generation project. The aim is to build a 3,000 MW gas-fuelled power plant and an adjacent LNG import terminal. The location of the project has not been disclosed.

ABB launches ‘Smart City’

Nov 5 – Electrification specialists of the Swiss manufacturer ABB have designed an interactive ‘Smart City’ that contains smart buildings, e-mobility, energy management and data centers. The use of smart technologies and digitalization are encouraged by the United Nations as a way to help decarbonize cities around the world.

Gazprom, BASF cooperate on sulfur separation

Nov 4 – The Russian major Gazprom and the German chemical company BASF have agreed to devise a comprehensive solution for separation of sulfur from natural gas. The aim is to  enhance eco-efficiency of the Astrakhan gas processing plant and improve operational efficiency of BASF’s amine gas treatment units at the Orenburg gas-fired power plant.

Germany’s emission fall ‘markedly’

Nov 1 – Germany is headed for second consecutive year of substantial reductions in carbon emissions, amid a sharp drop in coal-burn in the power sector and an overall decline in energy use in 2019. If this trend continues, the country could get much closer to its 2020 climate target than widely anticipated.

Exmar to refinance Tango FLNG

Oct 31 – Exmar, the Belgian shipping company, is trying to refinance the Tango FLNG vessel, moored offshore Argentina on behalf of YPF. The aim is to generate around $60 million in additional capital, Exmar said, suggesting a deal will likely be struck in the first months of 2020.

Petronet doubles net profit

Oct 30 – Indian LNG importer Petronet has nearly doubled its net profits in the third quarter although revenues fell by 13%. Net profits came in at 1,089 crore rupees ($153.6m), an increase of 90% on the same period in 2018 as the company benefited from India’s lower corporate tax rates. Third-quarter revenues, in contrast, fell to 9,449 crore rupees ($1.33 billion).

Wildfires spread around LA

Oct 29 – Thousands of Los Angeles residents have been evacuated as wildfires spread fast around the metropolis and power outages brought life close to a standstill. The risk of fires caused by overland transmission lines prompted Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to prolong precautionary blackouts that could last up to three days.

Dominion embraces solar & storage

Oct 28 – Dominion Energy South Carolina has signed contracts for more than 1,000 MW of solar capacity. About half of that capacity has entered service. To complement intermittent solar energy supply, Dominion earlier announced several energy storage projects.

Wärtsilä downgrades outlook for its energy business

Oct 25 – Wärtsilä has downgraded the outlook of its Energy Business from “soft” to “weak” amid low equipment demand, although the its services activity “remains sound.” The current order book for 2019 deliveries is 1,708 million Euros, comprised mainly of equipment deliveries, Wärtsilä stated today when posting mixed Q3 results. Looking ahead, the company said its operating result for full-year 2019 will be approximately 100 million Euros lower than in the 2018 result of 577 million Euros.

Siemens names new CIO

Oct 24 – Hanna Hennig will be appointed as new Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Siemens starting from January 2020. The change at Siemens’ IT organization supports the execution of the company’s Vision 2020+.

GE to service Austrian CHP

Oct 23 – Sappi Austria, provider of sustainable woodfibre products, has handed GE Power a multi-year service agreement to for its 42 MW onsite power plant.  GE will carry out a cross-fleet turbine and combustor upgrade to help Sappi reduce costs through a maintenance interval extension and better plant performance.

Brookfield invest $2bn in Cove Point LNG

Oct 22 – Brookfield Asset Management, an investor in energy infrastructure and power storage, has agreed to take a 25% stake in Cove Point LNG for just over $2 billion in cash. The alternative investor also owns assets in hydro (7.9 GW), wind (4.9 GW), solar (1.7 GW), distributed generation (400 MW) and energy storage (2.7 GW).

Ansaldo appoints new CEO

Oct 21 – Ansaldo Energia’s board of directors has appointed Giuseppe Marino as new CEO. Together with the chairman, Giuseppe Zampini, he will decide on the company’s strategy particularly relating to the new Chinese joint ventures.