Regulation & Policy

Investment in US wind power is expected to plunge this year in spite Congress agreeing to a one-year extension of the wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credits (ITC), analysts warn. Gas power generation at record low costs and a flurry of wind capacity start-ups in Q4-2012 is set to put a lid on new projects.

"Disruptive changes" such as slowing electric load growth, falling peak-load power prices due to demand response mechanisms and expanding distributive generation are challenging power producers in the US. "We as an industry have to meet the challenge and embrace these trends. If we don't, they are going to run over us," says Jon Wellinghoff, chairman, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Flexible rather than conventional gas generation could save Britain between £380 million to £550 million by 2020 and up to £1.54 billion by 2030 alone through reduced balancing costs incurred by National Grid, research commissioned by Wärtsilä through Redpoint Energy and Imperial College London shows. The modelling is based on replacing 4.8GW of conventional CCGTs with 4.8GW of gas-fired Smart Power Generation.

E.ON, Germany's largest utility by market value, will take legal action before December 20 against Germany's energy regulator BNA over compensation levels for power plant re-dispatch, it confirmed today.

The launch of capacity markets may come too late, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) has acknowledged, and decreasing generation margins are threatening Europe's energy trading market. "Decc may well find that once they intervene, find they have to intervene again which causes the risk that we will go back to a regulated energy market," says Jim Fitzgerald, associate partner at The Advisory House.

A 'dash for gas' scenario, unveiled by UK Chancellor George Osborne as part of the Gas Generation Strategy, may threaten the country's climate targets, critics warn. As one of three proposed scenarios, the 'dash for gas' case calls for 37 GW of new gas-fired power plant capacity, or up to 40 plants, by 2030 and implies a rewrite of a draft law that sets out Britain's carbon emissions reduction goals by the mid-2020s.

Prospects of a carbon floor price, introduced as part of the UK Electricity Market Reform (EMR), could render coal uneconomic compared with gas generation which may led to plant closures, says David Brewer, director general of the confederation of UK Coal Producers (CoalPro).

Up to 40 gas-fired power plants will have to be build across the UK by 2030, raising the need for new gas generation capacity to 37 GW - up from current estimates of 20 GW, according to the Gas Generation Strategy. 

Britain's Chancellor George Osborne has put his political weight behind realising new gas-fired capacity to provide baseload electricity beyond 2030, rather than using it merely as backup capacity for renewables. The Chancellor will use his Autumn Statement on December 5 to unveil the much-awaited Gas Generation Strategy.

The UK energy bill, unveiled today, does not specify details on 'strike prices' – the financial support levels to be available to low-carbon generation. Strike prices are of central importance under the planned contract for difference (CfD) regime, aimed at incentivising new-build capacity by guaranteeing operators a steady return of the plant's lifetime. 

The British government has published proposals to "dramatically reduce" electricity demand across the whole economy with a view to reducing the need for new power generation capacity.

The Beijing government has stepped back from interfering with pricing of coal as a fuel for power stations, adopting a hands-off approach following a 25 percent drop in the price of the fuel. This move may herald a liberalisation in the tight electricity tariff regime which would prompt investment in more gas generation for peak-load power demand.

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News in Brief

BelGAS launches new pressure regulator

May 29 – BelGAS has introduced its new P1098 High-Capacity Pressure Reducing Regulator, a large-volume regulator for natural gas, propane and other fuels. The pilot-operated device has a large-area actuator diaphragm, allowing for fast and accurate response to modulating gas flow conditions. It is adaptable for low to extra-high pressure—up to 400 psi main valve inlet.

GE to sell lightning business

May 28 – GE has signed a definitive agreement to sell its lighting business to Savant Systems, a provider of smart homes. CEO H. Lawrence Culp called the divestment “an important step in the transformation of GE into a more focused industrial company.” The transaction is expected to close in mid-2020.

China’s fuel demand recovers

May 27 – The Chinese government has lifted restrictions on private travel since April which pushed up demand for transport fuels. Gasoline demand has recovered particularly fast and is expected to return to last year’s levels by June 2020. Wood Mackenzie estimates gasoline consumption to reach 3.4 million barrels per day (b/d) in the second quarter, down just a 0.8% year on year. Diesel or gasoil demand is expected to reach 3.4 million b/d in Q2 2020, a 3% decline year-on-year. Overall, China’s oil demand is seen rise a “modest” 13.6 million bpd, or 2.3%, in the second half of 2020.

Wärtsilä to retrofit CHP in Spain

May 26 – The Finish engine maker Wärtsilä has bagged an order to supply and install a 34SG gas-fuelled engine generating set for Rofeica Energia's combined heat and power plant in Barcelona, Spain. The installation of the gas engine will allow Rofeica to switch the CHP from heavy fuel oil to gas-fuelled operation, reducing emissions.

New York body rejects William’s plans for gas pipeline expansion

May 21 – New York’s and New Jersey’s state bodies for environmental conservation have rejected Williams’ plans for the Northeast Supply Enhancement project, designed to transport 400 million cubic feet per day of gas from Pennsylvania to New York. The state bodies had already denied wetland permits in 2019, but Williams pipeline subsidiary Transco filed another application with the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), arguing firm services under the project were agreed with UK’s National Grid for customers in New York City districts of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island.

UK inflation at 4-year low amid falling energy costs

May 20 – The rate of inflation in the UK has fallen to a four-year low as the pandemic pushed down global oil and fuel prices which translate into lower wholesale power prices. The consumer price index fell to an annual rate of 0.8% in April, down from 1.5% in March, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Deficit grows in German green energy fund

May 19 – German regional grid operator TransnetBW has warned of a growing shortfall in the country’s fund for green energy sources, financed under the so-called renewable energy (EEG) levy. TransnetBW, the TSO in southwest Germany, said “due to the EEG cost allocations defined for 2020, we anticipate there will be a negative year end bank account balance in the high three-digit million euro range for 2020.”

Spanish gas companies ‘resilient’

May 18 – Spain’s regulated gas companies “should prove to be resilient” to external shocks arising from coronavirus containment measures, Standard & Poor’s analysis finds, calculating with an average drop in EBITBA at less than 3% in 2020. A new remuneration framework for 2021-2026, recently enacted by the Spanish government, provides enhanced visibility rated grid operators amid the pandemic.

German electricity prices second highest in EU

May 15 – Taxes and the renewable energy surcharge have pushed up Germany’s household electricity prices to the second highest level in Europe, topped only by prices in Denmark. While Danish households paid 29.2 Euros per 100 kWh on average in the second half of 2019, prices in Germany averaged 28.7 Euros, according to the EU statistics office Eurostat.

Calpine’s Q1 earnings fall

May 14 – Calpine, America’s largest generator of electricity from gas and geothermal, has reported a net income of $128 million for the first quarter of 2020, down from $175 million in the prior year period. Lower commodity margins and unfavourable change in income taxes were partially offset by earnings from hedge positions for the three month ending March 31.

Siemens to supply hybrid plant in the Philippines

May 13 – Berkley Energy has contracted Siemens Energy to build a hybrid power project on the island of Mindoro in the Philippines. The project links 16 MW wind power with battery storage, stabilizing energy supply in a remote location with a weak link to the grid and reducing its dependence on diesel.

U.S. energy emissions fall

May 12 – Energy-related carbon emissions in the United States have fallen more than energy consumption, down 2.8% over the course of last year to 5,130 million metric tons (MMmt). Power sector emissions were down 145 MMmt, due to a switch from coal to gas and renewables. In April 2020, emissions experienced another unprecedented fall in due to Covid-19 lockdowns.

MAN expands Omincare concept

March 11 – MAN Energy Solutions’ service brand has extended its ‘PrimeServ Omnicare’ concept from turbomachinery to the marine and power segments. The one-stop service solution is now also applicable for maintenance of third-party machinery, including engines, turbochargers and related auxiliaries.

MIVOLT launches cooling fluid

May 7 – MIVOLT, part of the British company M&I Materials, has launched two specialist fluids to improve cooling efficiency at data centres. The electricity demand of data centres is forecast to rise to 20% of global supply to accommodate lifestyle changes like 5G internet network, autonomous vehicles and bitcoin mining.

Germany adds 1,300 km to power grid

May 6 – Germany has made progress in expanding its strained power grid. According to the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA), over 1,300 kilometres of new power transmission lines have been built and another 830km approved. A further 3,600km are planned to be built by 2030 to alleviate grid bottlenecks and allow transporting rising volumes of offshore wind southbound.

 

 

 

Oman nationalizes first IPP

May 5 – Manah Power, the first privately-run Independent Power Project (IPP) in Oman, has been transferred to state ownership, following the expiry of a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) between United Power Company and state-owned OPWP. Manah IPP was developed under Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (BOOT) model, which stipulates an eventual nationalization of the assets – a feature absent in subsequent IPPs.

U.S inventories at record highs

May 4 – Inventories for crude oil and natural gas have reached a new record high in the United States, as fuel demand declines both for transport and the electric power sector. From March 13 – when a national emergency was declared due to the Covid-19 pandemic – to April 24, U.S. commercial crude oil inventories increased by 74 million barrels, or 16%, according to government figures. The acute scarcity of crude storage on April 20 led to a sell-off of future contracts at negative prices.