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Regulation & Policy

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.

The UK government is likely to oppose an EU renewables target for 2030 which is considered "inflexible and unnecessary", energy secretary Ed Davey said. He made the comment after the European Parliament on Monday extended a deadline for the submission of amendments to a proposal to intervene in the carbon market.

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News in Brief

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.

UK coal-free for two months

June 11 – The UK managed to keep the lights on without using coal for power generation for two months by now, National Grid figures show. Lower demand due to lockdowns and a rising contribution from gas and renewables has rendered less-efficient coal power units uneconomic. All unabated coal power stations are mandated to close by 2025, though Britain’s largest fossil power station Drax has converted its coal units to biomass.

Valmet transforms landfill gas into fuels

June 10 – Valmet, developer of process technologies for the energy industry, has won an order by the Dutch company CarbonOrO to supply and install a gas clean-up system at Viridor’s Dunbar Landfill site in East Lothian, Scotland, UK. Thy system will transforms landfill gas into transport fuels while capturing carbon.