Regulation & Policy

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.

California Independent System Operator (CAISO) has approved a proposal by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to provide a 'clean energy alternative' that will replace a decades-old fossil power plant in the city of Oakland. A Request for Offers (RfO) will be launched shortly, inviting distributed energy  providers to propose appropriate solutions. Depending on the exact resource mix, the solicitation will result in 20MW to 45MW of capacity.

Tax credit extensions for renewables in the 2018 US Budget Bill, passed in mid-February, are expected to shape funding for clean energy technologies. The bill raises the existing so-called “45Q” tax credit for storing CO2 permanently underground from $22 today to $50 in 2026. According to IEA Energy Technology Analysts Simon Bennett and Tristan Stanley, this could “provide the first significant stimulus to carbon capture for several years.”

Despite posting a veto threat on twitter, US President Donald Trump on Friday night signed the $1.3 trillion spending bill that passed Congress just after midnight. In an improvised news conference, Trump stressed he “will never sign another bill like this again.” The omnibus spending bill limits federal spent on energy but it avoids drastic cuts, still granting grants the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) a total of $43.2 billion – almost $9 billion above the budget requested by the White House.

Fuel oil imports by South Korean power producers have surged to 200,000 tonnes in March so far, up from 92,000 tonnes in February, according to a Reuters tender. Burning heavy fuel oil (HFO) produces more emissions than natural gas, but it is less carbon-intensive than coal and hence considered compliant with the government’s clean air policies. In February, South Korea’s trade ministry decided to suspend the operation of five coal power stations (2.32GW combined capacity), from March to June.

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News in Brief

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.

Is hydrogen Singapore’s future fuel?

Sept 25 – KBR and Argus have been selected to conduct a feasibility study on hydrogen imports and downstream applications for Singapore through to 2050. The aim is to assess the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of hydrogen use in Singapore’s power generation and transport sectors

Diablo Unit-2 offline

Sept 24 – Unit-2 at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California is offline for a scheduled maintenance and refuelling, the operator PG&E said. During the outage, several gas-fired power plants will be dispatched to make up for the missing capacity.