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.”
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.