Regulation & Policy

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

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.

Calpine closes $1.1bn in financing for Geysers Power

June 12 – Calpine Corp has closed $1.1 billion Climate Bonds Certified financing for its subsidiary, Geysers Power, the largest complex of geothermal power plants in the U.S. Geyers will use the proceeds to repay some debt it owes to Calpine and to fund ongoing operations and maintenance.