Regulation & Policy

Energy industry stakeholders have unanimously condemned U.S. President Trump’s latest market interference by directing the Department of Energy (DOE) to stop, what he calls, “impending retirements of fuel-secure power facilities.” Rebuking the move, several energy industry associates called the action “misguided” as it would be effectively subsidizing “failing coal and nuclear plants.”

Improving power system flexibility is vital for cost-effective management of variability and uncertainty in both supply and demand, the International Energy Agency (IEA) finds. Hence the agency calls for a proactive response from regulators and policy makers to help manage today’s fundamental a transformation of energy markets.

China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) will unify China’s residential and industrial city-gate natural gas pricing systems from June 10 to better reflect rising demand and costs. The new mechanism will allow gas prices to rise by no more than 20% from a benchmark price, NDRC stated, which is “more flexible” than the existing one which since 2010 kept a ceiling on residential gas prices at at 1.4 yuan (about $0.22) per cubic metres.

Canada’s current policies, combined with energy efficiency investment, could deliver final energy savings of 1.9% per year on average through 2050, the International Energy Agency (IEA) finds. Sectors with the greatest energy savings potential would be buildings (28%), followed by transport (25%), oil and gas extraction (21%) and industry (12%).

Dirty king coal is no longer vital for Germany’s security of power supply. In fact, about half of the country’s coal-fired power generation capacity could be shut down over the coming years if planned grid extension and the additional gas-fired plants start operating according to schedule, said Jochen Homann, head of the German energy regulator.

Deployment of electric vehicles so far has fallen short of expectations hence penalizing policy measures, like London’s new Emissions Surcharge, or T-Charge, have been introduced to spur growth. Penalising offending vehicles is one part of the solution, finds Jacob Klimstra, Senior Energy Consultant and Member of the Advisory Board for Electrify Europe. He highlighted plans by the Dutch government for all new cars to be zero-emissions vehicles by 2030 – others, including Paris, are already following suit.

Chicago-based Exelon has approached the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), suggesting it would keep operating two gas-fired power plants and the LNG import facility in Everett between 2022 and 2024, if it gets permission to collect about $1 per month from all electricity customers in New England. The Mystic gas-fired power plants are some of the largest generators in New England, but they are not economical in the current market environment.

Painting a bleak picture of the planet’s climate, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned if countries limit their clean energy efforts to their  nationally determined contributions (NDCs) in the Paris Agreement, this will set us on a path consistent with about 2.7°C warming by 2100. Yet, as the adage goes, “that which is measured, improves,” says IEA Climate Change Policy Analyst, Caroline Lee, so there is hope that natural gas and renewables will help turn the tide towards more sustainable electricity supply.

Beginning June 1, New England will become the first US grid operator to fully integrate demand-response (DR) resources into its daily energy dispatch and reserve processes. The ISO estimates that about 408 MW of DR will be available which will participate in real time in the energy markets. Pay-for-performance incentives will be in effect starting June 1.  With this instrument, the ISO is confident to meet peak summer demand. 

Federal financial interventions and subsidies in U.S. energy markets have been in a steep decline over the past five years. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), federal monies spent in energy markets nearly halved in the period 2013-16, falling from $29.3 billion in the 2013 fiscal year to $15.0 billion in FY2016.

Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) has approved DTE Electric’s certificates of necessity filing to build a 1,100 Gigawatt gas-fired power station in St. Clair County at a cost of nearly $1 billion. Construction will now start in early 2019, DTE said, aiming to get the plant commissioned by 2022.

The Government of Vietnam has approved plans by PetroVietnam Power Corp, or PV Power, to build two gas-fired power plants in southern Vietnam at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion. The Nhon Trach units 3 and 4, with a combined capacity of 1,500MW, are scheduled to start operation in 2020 and 2021.

Urging for quick action to smarten up electricity transmission networks, Enel CEO Franceso Starace has criticised the lack of support from regulators and policy makers. The need for digitalisation “is very difficult for regulators to understand,” he said at an industry conference in Berlin, but “if you forget the networks, dear ministers, they will not carry on.” For utilities, transiting from fossil fuels to renewables, the grids are seen as a “very sexy part” of the value chain but needed a lot of investment.

Unfazed by Ukraine’s vocal protest, permitting is advancing quickly for Nord Stream-2 AG to build a second pipeline through the Baltic Sea. Finland has just given the green light for pipe laying in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), all German permits are on the table, but final approval under the Finish Water Act is still pending. Gazprom, the main project sponsor, is now pushing to start construction, stressing the pipeline will “deliver the additional gas required by Europe at a competitive price.”

Initial optimism of global LNG suppliers that South Korea’s new electricity policy might lead to higher demand growth has been replaced by the recognition that more needs to be done for natural gas to replace coal and nuclear in Korea's power generation mix. The 13th Long-term Natural Gas Supply Plan for 2018 to 2031, released by the Government on April 5, anticipates LNG demand to reach 40.5 million tons (Mt) by the end of the forecast period, up just 3 Mt from 2017-levels.

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News in Brief

Tohoku Electric tenders for LNG cargo

Aug 19 – Tohoku Electric Power, the fourth-largest electric utility in Japan in terms of revenue behind Tepco, Kepco and Chubu, is understood to be seeking an LNG cargo for delivery in September. A tender process is ongoing.

Cost for decarbonizing industry tops $21tr

Aug 16 – Total costs to fully decarbonize the four most polluting industries – cement, steel, ammonia and ethylene – are estimated to amount to $21 trillion between today and 2050. McKinsey said this could be lowered to about $11 trillion if zero-carbon electricity prices come down further compared to fossil fuel prices. In this event, industry could switch to using electricity for heating processes.

Co-firing Braskem plant with hydrogen

Aug 15 – Siemens is making fossil energy greener at the Braskem onsite power plant in Brazil. In this modernization project two SGT-600 gas turbines are co-fired up to 60% with hydrogen, enhancing efficiency for the production process of the adjacent the petrochemical complex.

Canada's CO2 tax to hit CCGTs

Aug 5 – Change in Canada’s carbon emissions tax regulation for new power plants has changed to also affect cleaner-burning, gas combined-cycle power stations starting from 2021. The move could significantly lower the profitability of gas generation and could prompt SaskPower reconsider its planned Moose Jaw gas power station.

GE CFO steps down

Aug 2 – Jamie S. Miller, General Electric’s chief financial officer, has decided to quit after two years in the job and 11 years with the company. Having overseen GE’s fiscal activities during a period of intense restructuring, Miller will remain in office while the GE board is looking for a successor.

Siemens HR boss quits

Aug 1 – Janina Kugel, Siemens chief HR officer, is leaving the company amid an apparently scattered working relationship and stark personal differences with CEO Joe Kaeser. Her contract will expire by mutual agreement on January 31, 2020.

ABB standardizes eBus chargers

July 31 – Zurich-based ABB, a member of the ASSURED consortium, is working on standardizing the specifications for automatic charging of heavy vehicles. The aim is to drive down the total cost of ownership for electric fleet operators, helping increase adoption of eBuses and eTrucks. Conformance and interoperability tests will be carried out in Q4-2019.

U.S. Senate helps fund EV charging stations

July 30 – The need for expanded electric vehicle charging infrastructure is greater than expected given that there had been over 1.75 million electric vehicles (EV) in North America at the end of 2018, a nearly 60% increase from the previous year. To help fund additional charging stations, among other things, the U.S. Senate approved the $287 billion America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA).

PNOC, Lloyds to develop merchant LNG-to-Power projects

July 29 – Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Lloyds Energy to develop a 1,200 MW LNG-fuelled power plant in partnership with Mitsubishi. Dubai-based Lloyds Energy is looking at ways to develop integrated LNG import facilities and gas power plants on a merchant basis in Bataan and Batangas provinces.

Macquarie finances CCGT in Mexico

July 26 – Macquarie Capital has chosen Credit Agricole, Natixis and SMBC to co-finance a $380 million combined-cycle gas power plant. The 560 MW plant is designated to be built in San Louis Potosi, a city in central Mexico.

Naturgy cashes in on gas network

July 25 – Spanish gas utility Naturgy has posted a 7% rise in core earnings for the first half of the year due to strong gains from its gas network business that helped offset falling revenues from power generation and slimmer LNG margins.

French court rejects appeal against Total CCGT

July 24 – Judges at an appeal court in Nantes have thrown out an appeal by environmentalist against Total’s planned Landivisiau combined-cycle gas power plant in Brittany. The 440 MW project, initiated by Direct Energy which was since acquired by Total, is over two years behind schedule. The French grid operator RTE has singled out the Landivisiau CCGT as “critical” in guaranteeing supply security in winter 2020/21 due to the planned shutdown of four coal power plants.

U.S. gas production falls in wake of ‘Barry’

July 23 – Shut-ins related to Hurricane Barry have scaled back U.S. gas production by 1.6 billion cubic feet per day, compared to last week, while power sector gas demand rose by just over 2.0 bcf/d. Consequently, there is significantly less gas available for storage so the injection rate has halved, according to Energy Aspects figures.

Blackout after fire at Madison substation

July 22 – Electricity is gradually being restored at Madison, Wisconsin, after 13,000 people experience a blackout following an explosion at a substation near Madison Gas & Electric’s 100 MW gas-fired Blount Generating Station. No injuries were reported.

Fuel switch could abate 1.2bn tons of CO2

July 19 – Some 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 could be abated by switching to gas using existing infrastructure, if prices and regulation are supportive. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), this would be enough to bring global CO2 emissions back down to where they were in 2013.

IEA launches methane tracker

July 18 – A new ‘methane tracker’, launched by the International Energy Agency (IEA), provides up-to-date estimates of current oil and gas methane emissions by drawing on the best available data. Analysts stressed methane emissions could be reduced by nearly half at no net cost.

Canada’s CO2 tax also affects gas power

July 17 – Change in Canada’s carbon tax regulation for new power plants has changed to also affect cleaner-burning, gas combined-cycle power stations starting from 2021. The move could cause SaskPower to reconsider its planned upcoming Moose Jaw gas power station.