Regulation & Policy

The German government has come under pressure from climate lawyers to ban all fossil fuel projects from the list of those eligible for European Investment Bank (EIB) support. Luxemburg-based EIB deferred its decision to ban loans to fossil-fuel projects until mid-November after Germany had urged the bank to keep financing gas-fired power projects.

Payouts of about £1 billion under the GB capacity market scheme are due in November. But this is “likely to prove problematic,” analysts warned, as some suppliers may not have been billing large customers – particularly those on “pass-through” contracts – during the EU’s earlier suspension of the scheme.

Just weeks before the UK goes to the polls on 12 December, the government has suspended fracking as analysts found it is not possible to predict the size and frequency of earthquakes caused by this practice. Activity by Cuadrilla had resulted in a 2.9 magnitude tremor at its site in Lancashire in August.

Striving to meet China’s hunger for gas, the government in Beijing is stepping up subsidies to boost domestic production and reduce the country’s dependency on imported pipeline gas and LNG. New incentives are set for producing gas from tight formation through to 2023.

Taking action against air pollution, South Korea has decided to suspend some of the county’s most polluting power stations in the upcoming winter. Up to 27 coal-fired power station will be taken offline from December 2019 until March 2020, and diesel cars could also be banned from the streets.

Germany’s renewable energy levy (EEG surcharge) that consumers pay with their electricity bills will rise up by 5% to 6.756 cents per kilowatt hour (ct/kWh) in 2020. It could be the surcharge’s last increase as the government promised to reduce the levy and other taxes on power prices from 2021.

At times of negative power prices in Germany, when production exceeds demand, only a small fraction of conventional power plants would need to keep running, the energy regulator BNetzA found. To reduce costly oversupply, utilities are advised to invest in flexibility and energy storage.

Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) has been urged by the Californian energy regulator to guarantee stable gas deliveries to utility customers. SoCalGas is required to inject more gas into storage to mitigate the risk of fuel shortages for power generation in the upcoming winter.

The American Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has introduced a three rules. Operators need, among others, reconfirm the material strength of their lines to ensure safe transport of the abundant U.S. natural gas production to LNG export terminals, domestic industry and power generators.

Government auctions aimed at shutting down Germany’s hard coal-fired power plants are estimated to cost the state some 1.2 billion Euros in ‘decommissioning premiums’ by 2030. But these substantial payments will likely not be enough to make operators shut down 13 GW by 2030, as planned.

After months of bickering, the German ruling coalition came together on Friday and agreed to levy a fixed price of 10 Euros per tonne on emissions from transport and the buildings sector starting from 2021, and invest more than 54 billion Euros by 2023 to accelerate the energy transition.

New York-based Con Edison and eight other U.S. utilities have filed a legal challenge against the Trump administration’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule. The claimants say the rule undermines efforts to curb emissions by investing in renewables and energy efficiency.

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News in Brief

Zhonghua’s profits halve

April 1 – Hong Kong-listed Zhonghua Gas Holdings has recorded a staggering 46.7% fall in profit, citing a lower margin for LNG supplies and reduced subsidies, although full-year revenue rose by 7.3%. In December, Zhonghua partnered with Shanghai Shenergy to supply LNG in the Yangtze River Delta region, and also has strong business relationships with Tractebel Engineering and Tianjin Jinre Heat-Supply Group.

Endesa donates $28m to fight coronavirus

March 31 – Endesa has created a 25 million euros ($27.8 million) fund to help fight the coronavirus pandemic in Spain. The Spanish utility, subsidiary of Enel, said the fund will be designated for purchases of protective equipment for health-care workers.

 

MAN develops liquid methane terminal in Swedish port

March 30 – OxGas has commissioned MAN Energy Solutions to act as ‘owners engineer’ to develop and build a liquefied methane-based fuels terminal in the Swedish Port of Oxelösund. The terminal will feed both LNG and green methane derived from bio gas to SSAB ’s local steel production, and to re-distribute it via train and trailers to other parts of Sweden for use in the steel industry and decentralized power generation.

American ISOs to delay grid investments

March 27 – North America’s independent system operators (ISO) are considering delaying investments in grid upgrades and enhancement as electricity demand weakens due to industry shutdowns to contain the coronavirus pandemic. PJM Interconnection, the largest U.S. bulk power market which spans 13 Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states, revised its daily forecast of about 100,000 MW of load but actual demand came in at 95,500 MW.

Wärtsilä starts combustion trials using ammonia

March 26 – The Finish technology group Wärtsilä has initiated combustion trials using ammonia in an effort to reduce emissions. Based on initial results, the tests will be continued on both dual-fuel and spark-ignited gas engines, followed by field tests in collaboration with ship owners from 2022, and potentially also with energy customers.

Xodus sees growth in cable services

March 25 – Xodus Group has stepped up services related to subsea power cables over the last twelve months. The number of new consulting assignments grew by more than 50%, resulting in more than 70 active work streams that are handled by more 30 permanent staff.

Electricity “more indispensible than ever”

March 24 – Disruptions caused by the coronavirus crisis lay bare how much modern societies rely on electricity, according to the International Energy Agency (IAE). Millions of people are mandated to stay home, causing a surge in teleworking, e-commerce and video streaming which pushes up domestic electricity use.

U.S. frackers cut Capex

March 23 – Sharp cuts in capital spending among Appalachian gas producers are now being replicated in other U.S. basis, with Energy Aspects anticipating the deepest impact on production and earnings to take place starting from the second half of 2020. So far, E&P companies just hedged 52% of this year’s expected production even though some Appalachian producers are seen “lock in some pure gas volumes at prices above the curve.”

EV makers face bankrupcy

March 20 – Electric vehicles (EVs) remain particularly exposed to the corona effect of supply-side constraints and demand erosion. Gigafactory facilities are likely to be delayed and fledging EV manufacturers could face bankruptcy, Wood Mackenzie warns. On the flip side, declines in EV sector demand may be gains for the stationary energy storage segment.

Manufacturing rebounds in Asia

March 19 – Asian-dominant supply chains for solar and energy storage are gradually rebounding after contractions in February. Moving forward, Wood Mackenzie expects near-term development activity and local logistics in leading European and North American markets will outweigh lingering supply issues.

Italy’s gas demand plunges

March 18 – Corona-struck Italy has seen demand for natural gas plunge 8% from the previous week, with similar declines likely in other EU countries as national governments impose lockdowns to contain the virus. Industrial demand is “particularly volatile,” while gas generators will bear the brunt of demand loss, Wood Mackenzie says, as a carbon price decline is bolstering thermal coal.

Nexif raises funds for Rayong CHP

March 17 – Nexif Energy, a joint venture between Singapore-based Nexif and Denham Capital, has raised project financing for the Rayong gas-fired cogeneration project in Thailand. The 92 MW plant is being developed project with Ratch Group, based on 25-year power purchase agreement with Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT).

ADB provides $10m loan for Afghan IPP

March 16 – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has agreed to provide $10 million in debt financing for a gas-fired power unit in Mazari Sharif with a capacity of nearly 60 MW. Phase-1 of the Independent Power Project (IPP) will get another $10 million loan from the Leading Asia's Private Sector Infrastructure Fund (LEAP).

IEA models 50% Carbon-Free Generation

March 13 – Analysts at the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) have drawn up the 50% Carbon-Free Generation case - assuming a stark shift in state-level policies. In this event, the U.S. would have 19% more nuclear power generation, 10% more wind power and 17% more solar PV contribution than in its Annual Energy Outlook 2020 (AEO2020) reference case.

E-charging market to top $15bn by 2030

March 12 – By 2030, the U.S. market for energy-optimisation in support of charging electric-vehicles could be worth $15 billion per year, McKinsey finds. The consultancy expects high demand for home-charging appliances as residential power tariffs are comparatively cheap and most charging can happen overnight when off-peak electricity prices are lower.

Oversupply builds up

March 10 – Energy Aspects’ end-March forecast has added on another 100+ billion cubic feet of natural gas supply while demand remains subdued. In the U.S., the seasonal decline in heating degree days nearly halved the natural gas withdrawal rate. Gas-burn in the power sector and residential/commercial demand are forecast to fall by 1.7 billion cubic feet per day (bcf/d) and 4.0 bcf/d, respectively.

Small-scale LNG cuts cost for power plants

March 10 – Decentralized gas power plants in remote locations can source cheaper fuel from small-scale LNG regas terminals than from trucking the super-chilled gas across long distances. “Trucking LNG further inland would entail additional costs as well as logistical challenges,” IEA analysts noted. For example, a 100 MW baseload power plant would require, on average, around 20 daily deliveries from tanker trucks.