Summer blackouts may occur, customers in southern California are being told, as the grid operator puts power rationing measures in place. The state just decided to shut down its last nuclear power plant by 2025, while legislation is in place to build no new coal-fired plants. Replacing the Diablo Canyon nuke is deemed ambitious and ‘very expensive’ - new-build CCGTs and renewables need to fill the capacity gap rather swiftly.
Persian Gulf states, notably the UEA, are taking advantage of falling prices for solar PV installations, advancing green energy as an alternative to fuel oil- and gas-fired power plants. In contrast to other Gulf States, the UEA has to import most of the gas its utilities use for power generation; hence the drive to build four nuclear reactors and expand renewables deployment.
Citing an “extremely unfavourable economic context”, EDF Luminus has announced the permanent closure of four of its gas power plants in Belgium. Run-time hours of these plants had decreased to a point that rendered operation uneconomic – use of coal power to balance renewables tends to be cheaper in several EU countries, including Belgium.
Already one of the least carbon-intensive regions, the US Northeast is anticipated to further reduce its power sector carbon intensity from 1,037 pounds of CO2 per megawatthour last year to 986 lbs CO2/MWh in 2030. CO2 prices in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) fell to $4.53 per metric ton at the latest auction in June – 40% below their previous peak value.
China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Russia’s Gazprom have agreed to form a joint venture for gas-fired power generation and underground gas storage in China. The MoU was signed on Saturday after detailed discussions on Russian gas supplies via the western route – the so-called ‘Power of Siberia’ pipeline is already under construction.
Change, not only to technology, but more so to the role of the client and electricity offtaker, has sparked a “new wave of innovation in the power sector.” Falling margins increase the urgency for gas power operators to adapt to the needs of offtakers and grid operators. Letting small firms develop innovative solutions and snapping them up once the solutions are proven is one way, often adopted by large and more risk averse players.
The corner may well have been turned for the European power sector, as many operators of fossil plants now focus on balancing markets. Grid services and flexible power supply is seen to remain essential in the medium- to long-term, industry experts at Power-Gen Europe agree, while gas use for baseload power will be very limited, indeed, notably in Europe as well as in parts of the U.S.
‘Precarious’ is how industry experts characterise the state of security in Europe’s energy system. As for the UK, “people want to know,” as Simon Hobday puts it, “whether at any particular time electricity production meets demand – and then there’s the wider fuel source issue, including the technical and financial implications. The two are related but they're separate.”
Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom says it is still on course to build a third Train to its Sakhalin Island LNG plant as it continues to implement large-scale projects in eastern Russia. Enhanced upstream activities are meant to underpin gas supplies to China, as construction of the ‘Power of Siberia’ gas trunkline is said to be ‘on track.’
Surging gas production in Iran has freed up more supply for domestic power plants. However, over 3,000 MW of Iran’s installed fossil power generation capacity is deficient due to old age and would need to be retired and replaced in due course. A Turkish developer is keen to step in and build seven much-needed new gas power projects.
Inadequacy of electricity grids in island nations such as Indonesia and the Philippines spur demand for distributed power generation (DPG) in Southeast Asia. Decentralised plants also help nations like Myanmar to quickly improve its electrification rates - from currently just 26% - and avoid power losses through transmission. Worldwide, the DPG market is estimated to top 34.7 GW by 2020.
Though Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) just launched a tender for two small solar IPPs, the kingdom’s overall solar target has been cut fivefold as fuel costs for gas power plant are expected to stay low. “Our energy mix has shifted more toward gas”, energy minister Khalid Al Falih said, suggesting “the need for high targets from renewable sources isn’t there anymore.”
Output from Nigeria’s installed capacity has plunged to zero six times in May, leading to a complete collapse of the grid for a short period, industry data shows. The latest complete grid collapse was recorded on June 1 when eleven power plants were offline due to a lack of fuel supply and load rejections by power distribution companies due to ageing infrastructure.
Natural gas, particularly when used in combination with solar energy, generates far fewer emissions than coal or oil. Though Sabal Trail project partners are prepared to splash out over $3.5 billion to build two gas transit pipelines that will alleviate current supply bottlenecks – land right issues pushed back construction start to early 2017.
As Germany seemingly turns into an incubator for renewables and energy storage, the countries traditional utilities E.ON and RWE have woken up to a different reality which forces them to dramatically change their business models. A regretful Johannes Teyssen, E.ON chief executive talks about “phantom pains” after the Uniper spin-off.