Regulation & Policy

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed her new Climate Cabinet is seeking ways for the country to reach climate neutrality. Should the ministers find a “sound” way to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, Germany would be able to join France and Sweden, in drafting a long-term EU climate strategy, said Merkel at the 10th Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin.

The Nigerian government has announced plans to implement a new gas pricing regime on May 29 in an effort to reduce chronic supply shortfalls and subsequent electric power cuts. Payment issues, and problems with debt collections, have so far made it difficult to enforce domestic gas supply obligations for critical infrastructure such as power stations.

“The path towards a de-carbonised future is unstoppable,” claims David Ledesma, Energy & Strategy Consultant and Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (OIES). The industry must, therefore, develop long-term strategies as to what it will do to achieve the European carbon emission targets and set out what additional costs will be incurred and who will pay them.

The French government has decided to put a cap on carbon emissions from its coal-fired power plants starting from 2022. The measure is meant to ensure that “they are forced out of the market,” energy minister Francois de Rugy said when announcing the new draft law.

Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) states – will be able to auction their emission allowances on the common EU Emission Trading System (EU-ETS) starting from June. The European Energy Exchange (EEX) said it is about to publish an auction calendar that includes the EFTA states volumes.

The UK Shale Gas Commissioner Natascha Engel has resigned after just six months in office, stating she quit over “ridiculously low” tremor limits which effectively prevent fracking. Under current law, the fracking process must be halted every time a 0.5 magnitude tremor occurs. Opposing these stringent rules, Ms Engel said this cautious approach had created a ‘de-facto ban on fracking’.

The UK Government has been urged by the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee that it needs to do more, and act quicker, on vital clean energy technology such as carbon capture and storage (CCS). The Committee calls for firm targets for storing CO₂, and to deploy CCS sooner and in more places than government’s current plan.

South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) has released a briefing note, detailing the nation’s ambition to move away from coal and towards renewable energy. If realized, these policies are expected to significantly reduce Korea’s coal imports from Australia. Analysts see significant implications for KEPCO’s Bylong Coal mine proposal.

“Enormous efforts” still have to be made if Germany wants to reach its climate and energy targets in the transport and buildings sectors. Government calculations show that renewables will cover more than their target share but energy use in transport keeps growing and is likely to exceed 2005 levels next year and in 2030.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to expand the reach of National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for stationary combustion turbines. Lifting a 15-year stay on NESHAP standards, the environmental watchdog is now working on a long overdue residual risk and technology review (RTR). New rules will impact lean pre-mix and diffusion flame gas combustion turbines.

Lawmakers in the U.S. state of Colorado are debating a bill that proposes the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) should consider the ‘social cost of carbon emissions’ before issuing permits for new fossil power plants. The concept seeks to put a price on harms caused by emissions and, if enacted, the new carbon tax would be $46/ton of CO2 emitted, starting from 2020.

Just prior to the first meeting of Germany’s newly installed ‘climate cabinet’ this week, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz has tabled his vision of the country’s energy transition. In his ‘Energy Concept 2038’, Scholz urges the government to show “more commitment for climate action” and focus on electricity supply and grid stability.

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News in Brief

EPRI tests early warning system

July 6– The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is conducting trial tests with multiple utilities across the United States of an early warning system. It can detect an off-gassing event as a precursor to thermal runaway up to 30 minutes prior to a cascading failure. This gives plant operators time to mitigate the problem or shut down the system.

KKR buys stake in First Gen

July 3 – Valorous Asia Holdings, owned by KKR investment funds, has bought a 11.9% stake in First Gen through a voluntary tender offer. First Gen, one of the Philippines’ largest independent power producers with 3,492 MW installed capacity, is owned by First Philippine Holdings which is controlled by the Lopez family. KKR’s acquisition of the First Gen stake is worth nearly $192.3 million.

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.