Regulation & Policy

Capacity auctions in the UK are due to be launched in 2014 to bring forward investment for new projects that will start operations in 2018 or 2019. However, this is "not fast enough" to avert the risk of blackouts amid tightening reserve margins, Keith Anderson, chief corporate officer at Scottish Power warned.

The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has today announced plans to exploit newfound shale gas reserves, but this may not mean cheap power. “Shale gas’s impact on price will be much less than what we have seen in the US. The roll-out is likely to be a bit slower [than in the US] due to community resistance against fracking,” Tim Yeo, Chairman of the UK Energy and Climate Select Committee said at a conference in London. 

First auctions under the UK's capacity market will take place - subject to State Aid approval - in 2014, for the delivery of flexible electricity capacity from the winter of 2018-19, the government said today. The Capacity Market, along with long-term Contract for Differences (CfDs) is meant to spur infrastructure investment of up to 100 billion pounds.

The US executive's new carbon emissions rules, that will impact existing fossil-fuel power generation are seen to be "positive overall for gas-fired power and coal", said Tudor, Pickering, Holt (TPH) Energy Research. "Coal is not going to be outlawed tomorrow, a warming-up to natural gas and renewables is promoted, but this is largely rhetorical," said TPH Energy Research.

US President Barak Obama has proposed an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation to start limiting carbon emissions for both new and existing fossil power plants, while installing wind and solar installations on federal land.

Policy makers in Texas have signed new legislation into law with the aim of increasing cogeneration capacity in the state as an emergency power source in the event of a hurricane.

The introduction of a capacity mechanism is not absolutely necessary to spur the building of new gas-fired power plants in the UK, Clare Duffy, General Manager UK at the Irish utility Electricity Supply Board (ESB) told Gas to Power Journal in an interview.

"ESB has always been equivocal about the need for a capacity mechanism in the GB market and has demonstrated that investments can be made in the absence of a capacity mechanism through our investments in Carrington CCGT," she said.

The US president's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has raised its estimate of the social cost of carbon emissions by 59% percent in a move likely to impact policy decisions favouring the use of natural gas over coal as a fuel for fossil power plants in the United States.

Criticising the UK government's slow delivery of introduction capacity payments as part of a wider Electricity Market Reform (EMR), Tony Cocker, chief executive of E.on UK said "there needs to be greater transparency in discussion about the costs and implications of energy policy decisions."

What surprises forecasters at National Grid "is the segment of unabated coal generation, which has seen many coal plants close earlier than expected as they have already used up their allotted runtime hours," said Chris Train, Operations Director at National Grid. The British power transmission system operator had come up with three 2012 UK Energy Scenarios to evaluate the pathways towards meeting the country's renewable integration and carbon reduction targets.

As high-performance, newly built power plants are not running sufficiently to earn back investment, Lothar Balling, Siemens' Head of Gas Turbine Power Solutions, is calling on policy makers to change Germany's power market design and adopt capacity mechanisms. "Support for rapid response and reliable gas turbines and CCGTs are required to keep the power flowing," he said with reference to this year's motto of PowerGen Europe.

A critical decision on whether the EU-backed Nabucco pipeline or the Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline (TANAP) will emerge as the chosen project for transporting gas from Azerbaijan through Turkey to Europe will be taken before the end of June, the Austrian federal minister for energy, Reinhold Mitterlehner said in Vienna today.

Addressing delegates at Power-Gen Europe 2013, Europe's biggest trade show for the power industry, he highlighted Austria's role as hub to help diversify sources of gas imports away from Russia.

Investment in new gas-fired power plants in the UK is "critical" in the upcoming years, especially if the country is to transition to a low carbon economy, Jonathan Holyoak, Head of Gas Generation at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) told the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum's keynote seminar in London. "There is a remarkable amount of political consensus about the need to do something about [building new] gas generation...as over time we see the capacity outlook deteriorating," he said.

New investments in gas-fired capacity in the UK are being put on hold until there is clarity surrounding the government's ongoing Energy Market Reform (EMR), George Grant, Director at Stag Energy told Gas to Power Journal at the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum keynote seminar in London. "The industry acknowledges that we are waiting for the EMR, part of which is the capacity mechanism that's being talked about [and] there isn't going to be any new investment in gas until that's clarified. So the phrase that's being thrown out about there being a dash for gas is just incorrect," he said.

The implementation of a capacity mechanism as part of the UK's Energy Market Reform (EMR) should be done "as soon as possible" in order to spur investment and prevent electricity shortfalls in the coming decade, Stephen Davies, Energy and Environmental Policy at E.on UK told Gas to Power Journal at the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum keynote seminar in London. "From our point of view a capacity mechanism is necessary. It's very difficult for any investor to build right now and looking at the spark spread, the market is very challenging for gas," he said.

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News in Brief

Slow start of STT pipeline

Oct 18 – U.S. gas exports to Mexico have not picked up substantially despite the start of the Sur de Texas-Tuxpan (STT) pipeline. Exports are still below 6.0 billion cubic feet per day (bcf/d), although there no current postings regarding maintenance on the Sistrangas pipeline that feeds from NET Mexico.

EIB defers ban on fossil projects

Oct 17 – Luxembourg-based European Investment Bank (EIB) has bowed to pressure from Germany and the European Commission and deferred its decision to ban loans to fossil-fuel projects until mid-November. Germany wants the bank to keep financing gas-fired power projects as it views the cleaner-burning fossil fuel as a vital backup for renewable energy sources.

Brexit will not impact UK gas supply

Oct 16 – Security of power and gas supply in the UK will not be jeopardized this winter by the country’s imminent departure from the European Union, even in the event of a hard Brexit, National Grid said. In its assessment, the TSO factored in a halt to flows via the Belgium and Dutch gas interconnectors “from EU exit day one”, but said ongoing deliveries from Norway, the UK Continental Shelf and storage will continue as usual.

Ferrybridge C gets demolished

Oct 15 – Four cooling towers at the Ferrybridge Power Station have been taken down as the coal-fired power station will make way to a new, high-efficiency gas power station. Operator SSE shut down the 500 MW Ferrybridge C unit in March 2016 and now started to tear it down.

Global energy storage tops 10 GW by 2025

Oct 14 – The global market for grid-connected energy storage will grow by 6,900 MW, or 16.6% to reach over 10,500 MW by the end of 2025, according to Reportlinker.com. Germany will add over 267 MW energy storage installations over the next five to six years, while 330 MW will come from other European markets. These numbers are dwarfed by China, where up to 1,200 MW energy storage units could be connected to the grid by 2025.

Wärtsilä services EDL plant

Oct 11 – Energy Developments Ltd (EDL) of Australia has awarded Wärtsilä a service contract for gas engine-based baseload power plant at the McArthur River zinc mine in Northern Territory. The maintenance approach for the 53 MW onsite power plant is no longer pre-planned and scheduled but has been changed to condition-based and predictive maintenance, with an advisory contract.

EPH buys CCGT in Galway

Oct 10 – The Czech energy company EPH has received regulatory approval to purchase an 80% stake in the 400 MW Tynagh Energy combined-cycle gas power plant in Galway, Ireland. Mountainside Partners will continue to own the remaining stake in the CCGT, which operates based on a security-of-supply contract from the Irish TSO based on guaranteed power prices.

ITM gets £38m boost from Linde

Oct 9 – Sheffield-based ITM Power, maker of electrolysers for hydrogen production, has been boosted by a £38 million cash injection, as Linde acquired a 20% stake in ITM at 40 pence per share. Looking ahead, ITM said it is seeking to raise £14 million from new and existing institutional investors.

Drax to convert two power units

Oct 8 – Drax Group has received government approval to convert up to two coal-fired generating units at its power station in North Yorkshire to run on natural gas. With this ruling, the UK regulator overturned objections by ClientEarth, stressing some fossil power is vital for the UK to backup intermittent renewable power source.

Storage use tops 80% in key U.S. regions

Oct 7 – Gas storage utilization in the United States is rising in the autumn, with net injections topping 112 billion cubic feet (Bcf) in the first week of October. According to EIA figures, underground storages are at least 80% full in the East, Midwest, and South Central non-salt regions, allowing for seasonal withdrawals to help meet peak-day gas demand throughout the upcoming winter.

Maine, NY aspire to 100% clean energy

Oct 4 – Three U.S. states—Maine, New York, and Ohio—have updated their renewable portfolio standards (RPS), since May 2019. As a result, Maine and New York joined California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia in requiring 100% clean electricity by 2050.

TransAlta to built CHP in Alberta

Oct 3 – Canada-based Transalta and SemCAMS Midstream have agreed to develop, construct and operate a new cogeneration facility at the Kaybob South No. 3 sour gas processing plant in Alberta. To be built at a cost of some 105 million, the CHP will have an installed capacity of 40 MW. Start of commercial operation is targeted for late 2021.

GE’s 100th HA turbine sold in Greece

Oct 2 – Greek industrial firm Mytilineos has ordered a GE 9HA.02 gas turbine to be the heart of the 826 MW Agios Nikolaos combined-cycle gas power plant. This deal also marks the 100th unit of GE’s HA gas turbine sold. Construction of the CCGT is due to start before the end of the year.

ABB launches M4M analyzer

Oct 1 – Swiss technology firm ABB has launches its first Bluetooth-equipped network analyzers, called M4M. The system gathers data from distribution grids and connects them to a cloud-based control system, allowing users to react on energy consumption and on-site power generation trends.

Microsoft invests in wind power

Sept 30 – Microsoft and ENGIE have entered a long-term solar and wind energy power purchase agreement (PPA) in the United States. The deal will see Microsoft purchase a total of 230 MW from two ENGIE projects in Texas, bringing Microsoft’s renewable energy portfolio to more than 1,900 MW.

Gazprom tackles issue of ownerless gas grid

Sept 27 – Gazprom, the main supplier of pipeline gas to Europe, is trying to settle the issue of ownerless gas pipelines – a relic of the former Soviet Union. Abandoned gas transmission pipeline spanned 6,651 kilometers as of March 1, with the issue seen as “especially acute” in the North Caucasus region where half of this infrastructure is located. If no owner registers these facilities within three months, Gazprom will take over to ensure reliability and safety.

Investors flock to Myanmar

Sept 26 – Fitch Ratings has singled out Myanmar’s power sector as one of the largest beneficiaries of foreign direct investments (FDI) worldwide. Nearly $21.2 billion was poured into power generation and energy infrastructure projects thus far in 2019, which is 27% of total FDI under the Myanmar Investment Law.