Regulation & Policy

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has thrown her political weight behind the introduction of a price on CO2 emissions in the transport and buildings sector, although her climate cabinet will have the last say on September 20. “I advocate such a price,” Merkel said, stressing new paths had to be tried to reach the country’s climate targets.

Germany’s Council of Economic Experts have urged the government to put a price on carbon emissions in the transport and heating sector as a quick and easy fix to help meet the country’s climate goals. This unilateral move would work as an interim solution before integrating the sectors into the European Emission Trading System (EU-ETS).

Transforming India to a “gas-based economy” has been President Narendra Modi’s vision for years but the country can ill afford subsidizing LNG imports to reduce fuel costs for power plants. Banks invested some Rs50,000 crores ($7.18bn) in these projects – many unable to repay their debt, leaving Indian public money at risk.

Trump-alley Andrew Wheeler, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has signed a final ruling that roles back Obama-era emission limits for thermal power plants. The new rule gives U.S. states wide discretion in deciding whether coal power plants need efficiency upgrades or retrofits, hence benefiting the local mining industry.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) is calling on governments and businesses around the world to increase the use of clean hydrogen not only for power generation but also for transport and heating. There are currently around 11,200 hydrogen-fuelled cars on the road worldwide. Existing government targets call for that number to increase dramatically to 2.5 million by 2030.

Outgoing UK Prime Minister Theresa May has committed to a 2050 emissions target of reducing emissions by 80% to “almost zero”. Massive investment in clean energy generation – renewables, hydrogen, flexible gas power and energy storage – will be needed to achieve this goal, but funding is still uncertain.  

Burning wood pellets is deemed “carbon neutral” under new EU policy rules, and so-called “biomass energy” is also increasingly popular in Japan and Korea. But some scientists dismiss the policy as “shortsighted” or outright damaging, given that is leads to old forests being chopped down in rural parts of the U.S. and in Eastern Europe.

By mid-June, the German government will receive a comprehensive report on the effects of a carbon price compared with the option of allowing sectoral pathways to reduce emissions. “Transport, buildings and agriculture so far have no form of [carbon] pricing but just some more or less effective mix of measures,” Chancellor Angela Merkel remarked as her cabinet is divided on how to meet Germany’s 2030 climate targets.

Johannes Teyssen, CEO of the European energy giant E.ON, is supporting plans for a CO2 price to be levied on all sectors of the German economy: power generation, transport and housing. “We propose a cross-sector CO2 tax of 30 Euros starting from next year, which could be gradually increased to 35 Euros,” he told German media.

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed her new Climate Cabinet is seeking ways for the country to reach climate neutrality. Should the ministers find a “sound” way to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, Germany would be able to join France and Sweden, in drafting a long-term EU climate strategy, said Merkel at the 10th Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin.

The Nigerian government has announced plans to implement a new gas pricing regime on May 29 in an effort to reduce chronic supply shortfalls and subsequent electric power cuts. Payment issues, and problems with debt collections, have so far made it difficult to enforce domestic gas supply obligations for critical infrastructure such as power stations.

“The path towards a de-carbonised future is unstoppable,” claims David Ledesma, Energy & Strategy Consultant and Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (OIES). The industry must, therefore, develop long-term strategies as to what it will do to achieve the European carbon emission targets and set out what additional costs will be incurred and who will pay them.

The French government has decided to put a cap on carbon emissions from its coal-fired power plants starting from 2022. The measure is meant to ensure that “they are forced out of the market,” energy minister Francois de Rugy said when announcing the new draft law.

Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) states – will be able to auction their emission allowances on the common EU Emission Trading System (EU-ETS) starting from June. The European Energy Exchange (EEX) said it is about to publish an auction calendar that includes the EFTA states volumes.

The UK Shale Gas Commissioner Natascha Engel has resigned after just six months in office, stating she quit over “ridiculously low” tremor limits which effectively prevent fracking. Under current law, the fracking process must be halted every time a 0.5 magnitude tremor occurs. Opposing these stringent rules, Ms Engel said this cautious approach had created a ‘de-facto ban on fracking’.

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News in Brief

Fuel cell vehicle market gathers speed

Aug 20 – Sales revenue from fuel cell vehicles will soar to $255.2 billion in 2032, up from just $400 million last year, driven by fast growth in China and wider Asia. Hydrogen fuel cells achieve an energy conversion efficiency of 50% to 60% amid zero emissions and a low maintenance cost thanks to the engine’s modular design.

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.