Regulation & Policy

Southern Co. has rejected a revised offer on rates for the Kemper County power plant. The offer would have enabled Mississippi Power to collect an additional $100 million in assets. After abandoning efforts to complete the Kemper gasifier, Southern had to take up nearly $6 billion in losses on the $7.5 billion project – but the regulator say some of the costs it now wants to recoup are “unjustified.”

A draft policy paper published by South Korea’s energy ministry this week signals a strategy of adding between 5-10 GW to the county’s installed capacity, mostly from LNG-to-power projects and renewables. The envisaged new clean energy plants would expand Korea’s installed capacity by about 10%.

The UK government plans to publish the long-delayed £50 billion hydrogen strategy to clean up emissions from the country’s heat, transport and industrial sectors within weeks. Jon Slowe, a director at Delta-ee, singled out decarbonising heat as “the biggest challenge in reducing carbon emissions.”

Seeking to complement fossil power plants, South Australia has invited bids from investors in energy storage and bioenergy to share a $150 million fund. The tender is part of the government's wider $550 million energy plan that will see the world’s largest battery being built, and additional flexible gas power capacity. Applications for the $150 million fund close on September 28.

“Market designs may be inadequate” to keep “traditional” power generation online, cautions a long-awaited report by the Department of Energy (DoE) on the security of the U.S. power grid. To alleviate risks, the study calls on regulators to facilitate easier permitting for coal, nuclear and hydropower plants.

Taiwan’s recent massive blackout raises questions of the government’s wider energy policy which, according to Dr. Guo Yu, principal Asia analyst at Maplecroft, “does not pose an immediate threat to government stability.” However, it may determine the political fortunes of President Tsai and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party as we approach the next election cycle in 2020.

Turning his back on former President Obama’s clean energy aspirations, the new FERC chairman Neil Chatterjee calls for coal to be “properly compensated” for baseload power and “recognized as an essential part of the fuel mix.” Asserting his commitment to the “resilience and reliability” of the US electric system, he said in a podcast released by FERC this week that ensuring security of supply would merit keeping even uneconomic coal and nuclear power plants operational. “These are essential to national security,” he claimed.

The European Commission is to crack down on all Large Combustion Plants (LCPs), mandating that they conform with best practice. It adopted an implementing act to introduce "Best Available Technique" (BAT) conclusions for some 3,500 power plants of 50 MW or larger, irrespective of their fuel. Stricter emission standards for all LCPS are meant to be in place by mid-2021.

New York State has an ambiguous relation with natural gas: Although manufacturers and power producers are benefitting from cheap shale gas from Marcellus, two major transmission pipeline projects – Constitution and Millennium Pipeline – have been halted by state regulators. Project developers pursue their options at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and in court.

Decentralized power provider UK Power Reserve has called on policy makers to strengthen the role of the Connection and Use of System Code (CUSC) panel as an independent body. In light of proposed modifications to the CMP285 CUSC governance reform, UKPR has spoken out against what it perceives to be an “overwhelming dominance of the Big 6 in [Britain’s] industry governance.”

U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry told press that “clean coal” will be at the centre of his energy agenda, using “American innovation” to advance cleaner, cheaper coal which is also meant to help create jobs. Speaking after a visit of the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in Pittsburgh, he was impressed by research into innovative “cracker plants.” These facilities use special catalysers to crack molecules within the natural gas to arrive at byproducts such as ethane and ethylene.

Off-grid distributed energy systems (DES) – using renewable energy but backed up by flexible gas or diesel generators – are mushrooming throughout the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as technology costs keep falling. This trend helps alleviate electricity shortages of some 133 million people in the region’s rural areas.  

National Grid projections show that growing use of electric vehicles in the UK could increase peak power demand by 3.5 GW by 2030 and 18 GW by 2050. Today, UK peak power demand is approximately 60 GW. Under the “Consumer Power Scenario,” National Grid anticipates electric vehicle (EV) sales to account for more than 90% of all cars by 2050.

Decarbonising heat is cheaper than tackling emissions in many other sectors, according to the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) who calls on policy makers to adopt an “integrated systems approach” across Britain to show how low carbon heat provision delivers consumer-value. According to ETI chief engineer, Andrew Haslett, “the challenge is one of replacing natural gas-based heating in its present form, possibly by allowing consumers to buy low carbon heating packages.”

Though burning coal for generating electricity is cheap, and Japan is home to supercritical high-efficiency coal power stations, key ministers warned that if all proposed coal-fired capacity got built this would put Japan’s emission reduction targets in jeopardy. "It doesn't matter if they are highly efficient or not, power stations using coal are seen outdated as EU and other countries are moving away from them," environment minister Kouichi Yamamoto said.

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