Regulation & Policy

Thailand’s oldest industrial conglomerate, the B.Grimm Group, has filed an application for a second LNG import license to the Thai Energy Regulatory Commission. The aim is to increase fuel supplies for the utility's proposed new gas-fired power plants.

German government advisors say a market-driven and quicker than planned coal exit is “necessary” to accelerate the energy transition. Taxes and levies need to be reformed, with industry calling for a steep cut in the renewable energy surcharge in line with the European Green Deal.

Germany’s long-delayed national hydrogen strategy has been approved, with the government placing a large bet on hydrogen made with renewable energies, the so-called green hydrogen. The policy permits, however, the use of grey hydrogen made from natural gas using carbon capture storage (CCS) “on a transitional basis.”

Wholesale power prices in Germany have fallen to record lows in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. About 5,000 onshore wind turbines with 3.7 Gigawatt combined capacity are at risk of being taken offline next year when their support from Germany’s renewable surcharge (EEG levy) runs out, prompting calls to extend the scheme.

Though China’s economy gathers speed, the government has not decided if it wants to set specific targets for coal-to-gas switching this year. More coal-fired power plants are being approved, but LNG demand is still expected to grow by a “modest” 5 million tons in winter 2020/21.

Sharp decline of coal-burn in Germany, falling to less than 16% of the energy mix in April during the lockdown, shows that the country’s plan to exit coal by 2038 has been “overtaken by reality.” Environmentalists hence urge the Government to “prepare for a much earlier coal phase-out.”

Climate policy linked to the European Green Deal and the digital transformation will be “at the centre” of the German EU Council presidency in the second half of 2020, Chancellor Merkel told parliament. “Recovery after the crisis must be a ‘green recovery,’” a strategy paper by the foreign office reads.

Baltic Pipe, connecting the Polish gas grid with Norway, has secured construction permits through Sweden’s territorial waters - the final permits required before works can begin. The pipeline will have nearly 1 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of capacity and is due on stream by October 2022.

Thailand’s energy regulator has approved Gulf Energy’s application to import 0.3 million tons of LNG for use in 19 small-scale power plants, operated by the state-owned utility EGAT. Hin Kong Power Holding, 49% owned by Gulf Energy, also won a license to import 1.4 mtpa of LNG, bringing the total to 1.7 mtpa.

Europe’s two largest economies, Germany and France, stand united in stressing the role of a sustainable stimulus package for the trade bloc’s recovery. The EU Green Deal accelerates a shift to green power sources and energy storage as both states aim for net-zero emissions by 2050.

The Germany regulator has turned down Gazprom’s application to exempt the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline (55 Bcm per year) from common EU market rules that stipulate the unbundling of gas producer and supplier. Under EU rules, Nord Stream-2 would also need to open up to third party suppliers.

German research minister Anja Karliczek has called on the government not to “waste any more time debating” and come to a prompt decision on a national hydrogen strategy. The latest draft focuses on green hydrogen from renewable energy, as well as blue hydrogen, produced via carbon capture storage (CCS).

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News in Brief

KKR buys stake in First Gen

July 3 – Valorous Asia Holdings, owned by KKR investment funds, has bought a 11.9% stake in First Gen through a voluntary tender offer. First Gen, one of the Philippines’ largest independent power producers with 3,492 MW installed capacity, is owned by First Philippine Holdings which is controlled by the Lopez family. KKR’s acquisition of the First Gen stake is worth nearly $192.3 million.

Gazprom’s ‘BBB’ rating affirmed

July 2 – S&P Global Ratings, Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings have affirmed Gazprom's long-term credit ratings as part of their annual reviews. The ‘BBB’ ratings for Gazprom from S&P and Fitch are in line with the sovereign credit rating of the Russian Federation, while Moody's ‘Baa2’ rating is a notch higher.

MHIEC to refurbish WtE plant in Kushiro

July 1 – Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Environmental & Chemical Engineering Co (MHIEC) has received an order from the Kushiro Wide-Area Federation to repair and improve the core equipment at the local Waste-to-Energy plant in Takayama. The WtE plant has a capacity of 240 tonnes per day (tpd). Renovation will increase the energy efficiency of the fluidized bed type gasification and ash melting furnace facility, reducing emissions by around 15% annually. Works are due completed in September 2023.

Nigeria: Only two of six power projects on target

June 30 – Nigeria’s Bureau of Public Enterprises has disclosed that only two out of six privatized power plants were delivered on target. Only Transcorp Power Ltd and Geregu Power Ltd out of the six privatised electricity generation companies (GENCOs) were said to have met their performance targets since taking over.

German investors prefer solar over wind

June 29 – Energy infrastructure investors are keen to build solar power projects in Germany, but shun wind parks. In the latest solar power auction, investors offered to build almost 450 MW of capacity – more than four times the 96 MW of volume on offer– with the average successful bid at 5.27 cents per kilowatt-hour (ct/kWh). The wind auction, in contrast, was undersubscribed: The German network agency  (BNetzA) tendered around 826 MW, but successful bids only totalled 464 MW, at an average price of 6.14 ct/KWh.

MAN ventures into synthetic fuels

June 26 – MAN Energy Solutions has entered the hydrogen economy with the recent pro rata acquisition of H-TEC SYSTEMS, an electrolysis tech firm. The German OEM also committed itself to upgrading its gas turbines to run on 100% hydrogen by 2030.

Varegro starts using Cummins gas genset

June 25 – Belgian-based horticultural company Varegro, has started to use a Cummins HSK78G gas generator to power its greenhouses in Oostrozebeke, West Flanders. Varegro said it selected the Cummins HSK78G genset to produce combined heat and power (CHP) on its premises at a competitive cost for use in energy-intensive greenhouse facilities.

GE names Deloitte as independent auditor

June 24 – GE’s audit committee has selected Deloitte as the company’s independent auditor for the 2021 fiscal year, replacing KPMG. The selection of Deloitte concludes GE’s latest audit tender process.

Northern German states push for hydrogen pilot cluster

June 23 – Northern German states are pushing for greater hydrogen use with a pilot project cluster. Some 12 large demonstration plants for the production and use of green hydrogen are meant to be realised in Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The aim is to demonstrate how 75% of CO2 emissions can be saved in the region by 2035.

Wärtsilä to design and equip battery-powered ferries

June 22– The Finish engine maker Wärtsilä has been awarded a contract to design and equip two new zero-emissions ferries on behalf of the Norwegian operator Boreal Sjö. For each ferry Wärtsilä will supply the thruster motors, batteries, onboard and shore-based battery charging equipment, the back-up generators, and various electrical systems. The equipment is scheduled for delivery to the yard in early 2021 for the ships to start commercial operations in autumn 2021.

Subsidy cut slashes Chinese wind turbine margins

June 19 – China’s wind turbine original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) could have their gross profit margins halved due to subsidy cuts, Wood Mackenzie forecasts. Commissioned onshore wind power capacity is expected to drop by more than 16% to 19 gigawatts (GW) from 2020 to 2021 as government subsidies were terminated. This could also lead to a 27% drop in turbine prices over the next five years, slashing OEMs’ gross profit margins by half.

PowerPHASE converts gas peakers into storage engine

June 18 – U.S. emergency power provider PowerPHASE has developed an upgrade to convert 7F gas turbine-based peaking plants (350 MW each) to a so-called Storage Engine (400 MW). The unit would be able to store 3500 MWh daily and discharge 4800 MWh daily. CEO Bob Kraft claims utility customers could dispatch the Storage Engine, despite its lower heat rate (4000), ahead of higher heat rate options (9000 for gas peakers) in a competitive market like ERCOT in Texas.

Cummins names Davis head of New Power unit

June 17 – Cummins has appointed Amy Davis as Vice President and President of the company’s New Power Segment, effective July 1. The new unit includes Cummins’ electrified powertrains, battery design and assembly, battery management, fuel cell and hydrogen generation.

GE powers USS Zumwalt

June 16 – The US Navy has taken delivery of the USS Zumwalt, its first full-electric power and propulsion ship, equipped by GE’s Power Conversion. The ship features a high-voltage system, propulsion drive trains with multi-phase VDM25000 power converters and advanced induction motors. Kevin Byrne, head of GE’s North America marine segment said “the full-electric power and propulsion ship has the flexibility to direct energy where it is needed on the platform.”

New England power prices down 40%

June 15 – Spot electricity prices in New England (NE) has fallen since winter 2019/20 when it stood at an average $28/MWh, down 40% from an average $47/MWh in the previous winter. Low natural gas prices, warmer-than-normal temperatures, lower loads, and reduced needs to run expensive peakload generators were the cause for the substantial drop in NE’s winter electricity prices, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) finds.

Calpine closes $1.1bn in financing for Geysers Power

June 12 – Calpine Corp has closed $1.1 billion Climate Bonds Certified financing for its subsidiary, Geysers Power, the largest complex of geothermal power plants in the U.S. Geyers will use the proceeds to repay some debt it owes to Calpine and to fund ongoing operations and maintenance.

UK coal-free for two months

June 11 – The UK managed to keep the lights on without using coal for power generation for two months by now, National Grid figures show. Lower demand due to lockdowns and a rising contribution from gas and renewables has rendered less-efficient coal power units uneconomic. All unabated coal power stations are mandated to close by 2025, though Britain’s largest fossil power station Drax has converted its coal units to biomass.