Regulation & Policy

Electric vehicles hold enormous potential but their deployment so far has fallen short. According to The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders, some 3,500 of the UK’s newly registered cars were electric or hybrid in 2013, growing to over 63,000 by the end of 2017. However, for electric vehicles become truly mainstream the industry needs to overcome some challenging obstacles, finds Jacob Klimstra, Senior Energy Consultant and Member of the Advisory Board for Electrify Europe. 

Eager to clean up air pollution, the Chinese government has mandated several million households in China’s northern provinces to stop relying on coal heating in winter. Gas use and LNG imports have surged as a consequence, with China surpassing South Korea in late 2017 to become the world’s second-largest LNG importer.

UK capacity markets, pitched by proponents as a necessary to balance rising amounts of variable generation, “simply are no longer needed,” IEEFA’s Gerard Wynn claims. He referred to some European markets with far higher levels of variable renewables that are investing in flexible grids, capable of sourcing up to 50% of their energy from wind and solar.

The New Northern Policy, launched by the South Korean president Moon Jae-in, is seeking new growth drivers in Russia and Northeast Asia. The Korean energy ministry announced Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) will sign a memorandum of understanding with Russia's energy firm Rosseti later this year. The aim is to create a multinational power grid interconnection in the Northeast Asia region that also includes China and Japan.

West-to-east power flows on the ERCOT transmission system are bound to rise substantially, following a surge in wind capacity addition in the Panhandle northwestern Texas, and new solar PV resources in far southwest Texas. Rising supply of inherently intermittent renewable energy is proving difficult to integrate; hence transmission line upgrades need to be fast-tracked to allow the grid operator ERCOT balance wind energy in the Northwest with flexible gas-fired generation in the eastern part of the state.

Aspirations to build and extend heat networks across the UK have been rekindled by Whitehall’s recently published Clean Growth Strategy. If all implemented, the recommended measures could deliver capital cost reductions of 30 to 40% and save the UK grid operator up to £30 billion.

US President Donald Trump has made reforms of the environmental permitting process for pipelines a key part of his $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan. Speeding up regulatory approvals will help fast-track both gas export pipelines to Mexico and interstate pipelines to transport cheap, domestic shale gas to the second wave of US LNG export projects.

China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) imposed a cap on thermal coal prices imports through Qinhuangdao port at RMB750/t from 5 February. Strong demand due to colder-than-normal weather in January had propelled up prices to a record RMB780/t for FOB Qinhuangdao 5500 kcal/kg coal. According to WoodMackenzie estimates, the new price cap will have an impact from now until mid-March.

Passing the final verdict after an eight-year quarrel over the failed Kemper “clean coal” power plant, the Mississippi Public Service Commission (MPSC) ordered to keep the plant running solely on natural gas and not pass any losses on to ratepayers. Commissioners voted unanimously that all risk needs to be removed from ratepayers for the lignite coal related assets at the facility. More so, a forthcoming compliance filing will decrease the bill of an average residential customer by 2.4%, or over $3.00 per month.

CNMC, the Spanish energy regulator has rejected a government proposal to prop up the nation’s oldest and most polluting coal power plants. Dealing a blow to subsidies for coal-fired generating capacity, the regulator suggested a “significant part” of the Spain’s coal fleet could be closed without putting national energy security at risk.

Divestment of the 650-MW Malaya coal power plant and its subsequent conversion to run on natural gas can only proceed if the current operator is able to prove the plant’s status as a “must-run-unit,” the Department of Energy (DOE) of the Philippines ruled. This new requirement risks to likely delay, if not derail, the coal-to-gas conversion.

One of the UK’s major remaining coal generators, the 1,960-MW Eggborough Power Station in North Yorkshire, is set to fizzle out in September 2018 after it failed to win a 2018-19 capacity contract. As a consequence, the operator has just updated its planning application to convert the 51-year-old Eggborough facility into a new 2-Gigawatt (GW) combined-cycle gas power plant.

Eco-friendly combined cycle power plants are serving as a “bridge” for South Korea along the road of an energy paradigm shift from nuclear power and coal-fired plants towards new and renewable energies, according to Kim Kyung-won, president of Korea District Heating Corp. (KDHC). Kim pointed out the strengths of the recently commissioned 800-MW Dongtan CCGT which powers Dongtan, a new town under development near Hwaseong City.

Tightening supply of thermal coal ahead of the Lunar New Year risks to cause power shortages in some of China’s northern metropolis, regional utilities warned. In a letter to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), four electric utilities pleaded the government to ease regulations that incentives a switch from coal to gas and increase coal supplies temporarily in order to put a lid on spiraling prices.

The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved the PennEast pipeline in a 4-1 vote, acknowledging the clear need for more gas transport infrastructure along the East Coast. The $1 billion PennEast interstate pipeline will bring up to 1 billion cubic feet of daily low-cost Marcellus gas to customers in southeast Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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News in Brief

Shell Energy ordered to refund overcharged UK customers

June 17 – UK energy regulator Ofgem has ordered Shell Energy Retail to refund around 12000 customers who were overcharged after the Government’s cap on gas and electricity prices came into force in January. Shell Energy Retail s agreed to refund these customers by paying £29,000 in compensation (£5 per fuel), and also pay an additional £200,000 into Ofgem’s voluntary redress fund.

BASF enters battery market

June 14 – German chemical company BASF is using NGK Insulators’ sodium sulfur batteries as its entry point into the energy market. The Japanese manufacturer NGK is currently the only maker of the large-scale sodium sulfur (NAS) batteries, capable to store several hours of energy. A joint project in northern Germany uses NAS batteries that store energy for five hours, while a recently completed project in Abu Dhabi using 108MW / 648MWh of the systems with a full six hours storage duration.

CNPC boosts domestic gas production

June 13 – China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), the largest Chinese oil and gas company, has announced plans for domestic natural gas output to reach 55% of overall domestic supply by 2025. Last year, CNPC managed to boost production by 5.9% to reach 138.02 billion cubic metres, while also increasing imports of pipeline gas and LNG.

Gazprom taps new gas deposits for Nord Stream 2

June 12 – Gazprom is fast-tracking hydrocarbon production in northwest Russia to boost reserves for export through the Nord Stream 2 pipeline (55 Bcm/y), currently being built through the Baltic Sea. At a meeting with Nord Stream shareholders, Gazprom noted that its Yuzhno-Russkoye field has yielded about 276 Bcm of natural gas, including 0.9 Bcm of hard-to-recover Turonian gas, since the start of operations. Turonian gas reserves, consisting of about 99% methane with no heavy residues, lie at a depth of 800–850 meters in reservoirs with low permeability. Commercial production at the Turonian deposit is scheduled to start in late 2019.

PG&E turns off electricity to avoid wild fires

June 11 – Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has turned off electricity for some Californian communities at risk of a wildfire during the lastest heat wave. The authorized blackout started on Saturday in Napa, Solano and Yolo counties, with electricity being gradually restored over the course of Monday. Approximately 16,000 customers have been affected.

Gazprom to build power plants in Serbia

June 10 – Gazprom Energoholding has signed an Agreement of Intent (AoI) to build an upgrade several gas-fired power plants in Serbia. Together with Novi Sad, Gazprom Energoholding is already building a CCGT with some 200 MW capacity near a refinery in the Serbian town of Pancevo.

U.S. fund splashes out $4bn to buy El Paso Electric

June 7 – Infrastructure Investment Fund (IIF), a private investment vehicle within J.P. Morgan Inc., has agreed to acquire the U.S. utility El Paso Electric Co for $68.25 per share in a cash transaction. The enterprise value on the transaction is estimated at $4.3 billion. El Paso Electric customers will receive a total $21 million in bill credits over three years.

Caterpillar gensets back up Finnish data center

June 6 – The Swedish telecom giant Telia has ordered 12 Caterpillar gensets to provide standby emergency power to back up operations at its new data center in Helsinki. The Cat dealer Witraktor figured a system which includes eight Cat 3516B and four 3516E generator sets. The Telia Helsinki Data Center is the largest such facility in Finland, and its primary electric power supply comes from a combination of wind, hydroelectric and biomass.

Capstone wins orders in Iraq

June 5 – Micro-turbine producer Capstone has secured an order for two C600 Signature Series microturbines to provide 1.2 MW of energy to power a triethylene glycol (TEG) dehydration facility near Basra, in southern Iraq. The contract also includes Capstone’s new self-cleaning pulse filtration system, allowing the turbines to better withstand hot and sandy conditions with minimal maintenance.

Gas to supply record 43% of US power needs

June 4 – This summer, natural gas is forecast to cover between 40% and 43% of 2019 peak electricity demand in all U.S. states except Texas, according to projections by the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Gas demand soared to nearly 10,700 billion cubic feet (Bcf) last summer, a 16% rise from 2017 levels. Should there be another heat wave this year, that record may well be broken. Capacity wise, natural gas is on course to top its 45% share in the U.S. power mix.

Lukoil to upgrade CHP at Krasnodar

June 3 – Russia’s oil and gas company Lukoil has received government approval to modernize and expand three combined heat and power units in Krasnodar. The gas-fired CHP units have more than 400,000 hours and ran an average 74% utilization rate, the operator said. The upgrade will add 150 MW of power generation capacity and Lukoil said it expects the revamped power plant to be ready for commissioning as early as 2022.

GE commissions Al-Qudus CCGT in Iraq

May 31 – GE Power has installed and commissioned a new 9E gas turbine at the Al-Qudus combined-cycle gas power plant, run by the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity’s (MoE). The CCGT was previously capable of generating up to 1,125 MW and the turbine upgrade adds another 125 MW of capacity.

Groundbreaking takes place for Ohio CCGT project

May 30 – This Thursday morning, groundbreaking will take place for the $500 million Long Ridge Energy Generation Project in Hannibal, Ohio. Long Ridge, a 485 MW combined-cycle power project, is being developed by Fortress Transportation and Infrastructure Investors (FTAI). It will create up to 350 construction jobs and some 25 permanent jobs. The CCGT is expected to open in 2021.

Asia to spend more on renewables than oil & gas by 2020

May 29 – Utilities in Asia-Pacific region will invest more in renewables than on oil and gas exploration by 2020. Total capital expenditure in renewables will rise above $30 billion in the region by 2020, according to forecast of the consultancy Rystad Energy. India, Australia, Japan, Vietnam and South Korea will led the way in Asia’s green energy transition.

Ichthys LNG looses court claim against power sub-contractor

May 28 – JKC Australia LNG consortium, developer of the US$34 billion Inpex-built Ichthys LNG plant near Darwin, has lost a US$1.9 billion court case claim against a power station sub-contractor. Construction of the power station was subcontracted to UGL-led group which CIMIC took over in 2016 and subsequently cancelled the Ichthys power contract. The Western Australian Supreme Court in Perth now dismissed an application by JKC Australia LNG for upfront payment of damages. The power plant’s five gas turbines have already been handed over to Inpex, and KBR aims for the plant to be ready for commissioning this autumn.

San Miguel Energy claims $6.19bn subsidy for Ilijan plant

May 24 – South Premier Power Corp. (SPPC), San Miguel Energy’s development vehicle for the 1,200-MW Ilijan gas power project, has claimed that it already paid $6.19 billion in subsidies to state-run Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp (PSALM) for its financial obligations as independent administrator. The build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract for the Ilijan plant will expire in 2022; and by that time, SPPC will get ownership of the plant.

Evolve approved as energy storage for VPPs

May 23 – Eguana Technologies’ new Evolve system has been officially approved as an energy storage system for Simply Energy’s Simply Extra VPP (virtual power plant) offer in South Australia. Customers who purchase an Evolve system can sign up for the Simply Extra VPP offer and receive up to $5,100 in VPP Access Credits. These credits will be calculated on a daily basis at $3.49 per day to a maximum of A$5,100, credited over a five year period.