Regulation & Policy

In a bid to increase the reliability of the U.S. power sector the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has ordered gas and electric providers to create closer ties to improve shipping and dispatch timetables. Providers must “better coordinate the scheduling of natural gas and electricity markets in light of increased reliance on natural gas for electric generation,” according to a FERC statement.

The chief executive of UK energy firm Centrica has stated the company has ‘concerns’ over the recently announced Competition and Markets Commission (CMA) inquiry into the UK energy market and suggested the company may hold off on any  investments in new gas power plants in the short term.

Any delay to the UK’s proposed capacity market mechanism could result in power brownouts and hold ups for power plant construction, according to the chief of National Grid's Electricity Market Reform team. “The risk has clearly increased and we are close to being in the position of experiencing brown outs". Mark Ripley, project director at National Grid said at the Future of Utilities conference in London.

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved plans to ship natural gas from Texas to Mexico via a border-crossing interconnector. FERC noted that the project was needed to “meet [Mexico’s] expanding fuel demand for power generation and industrial activity.”

Gas-fired power plants in Spain may be in line for government subsidy to prevent further closure of facilities. The government is understood to be in private negotiation with power providers in a bid to reduce the countries €30 billion electricity deficit.

The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has disclosed final aspects of the much discussed Capacity Market design ahead of the first auction being held in December this year, subject to state aid clearance. Capacity should then be in place by the winter of 2018.

UK chancellor George Osborne today announced that he would abandon any further increases in the Carbon Price Floor (CPF) in a bid to help reduce costs for fossil fuel based power producers. As part of his 2014 budget the chancellor announced a freeze at £18 per tonne from 2016 for the rest of the decade, up from currently around £16/t, and highlighted the need for lower energy prices to make British manufacturing more competitive globally.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ruled this week that it was not feasible to replace output from the retired San Onofre nuclear plant without including new natural gas-fired plants as part of the plan. Opponents had been pushing for a renewable-only option but this latest ruling will ensure that gas-fired power is included in the mix.

Keen to block tough new regulation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on new coal-fired power generating capacity Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have voted through a bill aimed at thwarting the rules. The vote in the Republican-controlled House passed by 229 to 183 but commentators are sceptical it will make it past the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Security at power plants in the United States is under threat from cyber-attacks, according to a recent report from the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC). “Evidence collected by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) suggests that cyber-attacks on key energy infrastructure—and on the electricity system in particular—are increasing, both in frequency and sophistication,” said Margot Anderson, lead author of the report and director at the BPC.

Republicans in the U.S. have tabled a bill in the House of Representatives in an attempt to block pending Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules that require new coal-fired power plants to use carbon capture which opponents claim would effectively ban new coal projects. In a debate this week Congressman Ed Whitfield challenged EPA rulings that are due to come into force next year and called for representatives to overturn the “latest threat by the Obama administration”.

The anti-competition regulator in Australia has ruled against a proposed purchase power generation assets worth $1.35 billion by AGL Energy. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) issued a statement blocking the sale on the grounds that it would “substantially lessen” competition in the electricity market.

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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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