India, France form United Front on Climate Change
By the Associated Press
French President Emmanuel Macron and the prime minister of India put forth a common front on the need to fight climate change, with the French leader saying he would travel to India before year’s end for a summit on promoting solar energy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi closed a European tour meeting with Macron in Paris as world governments began adjusting to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the landmark climate accord reached in and named for the French capital.
Modi delivered on France’s hope that India would confirm its commitment to the Paris Agreement, saying that fighting on behalf of “Mother Planet” is a gift for future generations. India, the world’s fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is a critical player in the climate pact.
“We are in favor of this Paris Agreement and we will continue to work in that direction, even beyond the Paris Agreement, even if this agreement did not exist,” Modi said at the close of the two leaders’ talks.
France and India have launched the Global Solar Alliance aimed at developing solar energy and making it accessible to all. Macron described it as a “concrete instrument” in the fight against climate warming, and said other countries would be brought in at the India summit.
“We are both convinced our countries have much to do for ecological and environmental transition and for the fight against climate warming,” he said.
The newly elected Macron further bolstered his diplomatic credentials in meeting with Modi.
Decarbonization Poses Risks to Europe’s Grid Operators says Moody’s
By Kelvin Ross, Editor, Power Engineering International
Europe’s drive to decarbonize its energy “poses long-term risks to the region’s regulated electricity and gas network operators,” according to a new report from credit and risk company Moody’s Investors Service.
The study states that Europe’s continued transition to renewables, particularly wind and solar, is prompting new business models, developing technology and evolving regulation that could all “potentially undermine the credit quality over time” of those network operators.
“The shift to renewables in Europe has thrown up different challenges for the region’s energy network operators, with the huge uptick in renewables-related investment into electricity networks posing execution risks, while the move to decarbonization casts doubt over the long-term use of natural gas and the networks that distribute it,” said Stefanie Voelz, vice-president Senior Credit Officer at Moody’s.
Moody’s report also states that large-scale energy network operators “may also be slow to adapt to the changing generation and consumption landscape, with electricity users becoming partially independent from the grid as they increasingly operate their own renewable generation and/or storage units. Furthermore, the growing electrification of transport or heating could significantly change network requirements.”
The report warns that these ongoing developments could lead to sector fragmentation, potentially threatening existing network operators. However, it adds that their role as system operators-whereby they coordinate the efficient use of power generated by widely-distributed, independent sources and ensure supply security on a wider level-may become more important.
Voelz said that the regulatory response to the renewables shift “will be key to the future evolution of the energy network sector, as the change in scope of activities in an environment of significant technological shift, may necessitate changes in the way European networks are remunerated and customers’ tariffs are set, if credit quality is to be maintained.”
Moody’s says that affordability will remain a key focus for network operators, as cost pressures increase on consumers. It also finds that with investment requirements remaining high, leading to growth in companies’ asset base beyond 2020, pressure on customer bills will rise.
“As renewable subsidies continue to weigh on bills, affordability concerns could lead to deferral of cost and investment recovery for networks, a credit negative,” said Voelz.
NERC’s 2017 Summer Reliability Assessment Shows Reserve Margins Varying in U.S.
The North American Electric Reliability Corp.’s (NERC) recent report finds that there are enough resources to meet this summer’s projected peak electricity demand in all areas of the country. Anticipated reserve margins, the amount of expected unused electric generating capacity at the time of peak load, range from slightly less than 15 percent in New England to almost 29 percent in New York.
Some findings in the report include:
“- Most assessment areas demonstrate resource adequacy by maintaining sufficient “anticipated resources” to meet their planning “reference margin levels” for this summer. The anticipated reserve margin for Northeast Power Coordinating Council (NPCC)-New England falls to 14.88 percent, which is below their reference margin level of 15.10 percent for this summer.
“- Relatively large differences between actual and predicted variable energy resource outputs can present operational challenges if sufficient flexible resources (dispatchable) are not available to make up or absorb these differences in outputs. This is especially challenging for systems that have a significant level of capacity with operational constraints that limit their ability to quickly change their output up or down.
“- For the upcoming 2017 summer season, Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) does not anticipate any new reliability issues associated with the Aliso Canyon outage in Southern California; however, natural gas withdrawal capability is still limited in the area as a result of this outage. The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) continues to coordinate plans with the impacted gas company to minimize risk to the bulk power system, as well as leverage an abundance of must-run hydro resources this summer to alleviate natural gas constraints in Southern California.
“- The 2017 Summer Reliability Assessment presents no anticipated impacts to reliability on the bulk power system due to the 2017 solar eclipse.
“- The first known major loss of utility-scale solar resources occurred in California on August 16, 2016, as the result of a transmission system disturbance initiated by a fire induced fault. The solar invertor technology did not operate as expected and failed to provide frequency ride-through capability. This event highlights on-going challenges with the interconnection of invertor-based technologies to operate reliably, and additional steps will be taken to inform industry, manufacturers, and planners to ensure they are aware of this risk to the bulk power system.
NERC is a not-for-profit international regulatory authority whose mission is to assure the reliability of the bulk power system in North America. NERC develops and enforces reliability standards; annually assesses seasonal and long”term reliability; monitors the BPS through system awareness; and educates, trains, and certifies industry personnel. NERC’s area of responsibility spans the continental United States, Canada, and the northern portion of Baja California in Mexico. NERC’s jurisdiction includes users, owners, and operators of the BPS, which serve more than 334 million people.
NY Housing Complex Improves Energy Efficiency in Wake of Sandy
Crews have broken ground on a $9.89 million affordable housing complex in New York City that will use energy technologies adapted in response to Hurricane Sandy’s devastation five years ago.
The Haven Plaza on Manhattan’s East Side is a joint effort by CTA Architects, managing agent The Wavecrest Management Team and Haven Plaza Square, an affiliate of the Association of New York Catholic Homes and the New York Institute for Human Development. The building is slated for completion in late 2018.
This new two-story structure plus basement and the upgrades throughout the complex are in direct response to 2012’s Hurricane Sandy. A storm surge that forced the nearby East River over its banks devastated the Con Edison East River Generation Station adjacent to Haven Plaza. The housing complex lost all electricity and steam for heat. Residents – many elderly – were trapped without elevator service, electricity, heat, or water. National Guard units provided food and water.
The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) awarded nearly $10 million to Haven Plaza Square LLC for the project through the New York City Build It Back program.
“We look forward to the completion of the new infrastructure building. It will provide our residents with security and comfort in case of a disaster. It will also lower our heating costs, while tremendously improving the architecture of the entire property,” said Monsignor Kevin J. Nelan, president of Haven Plaza Square and pastor at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Manhattan’s East Village.
The new 2,080-square foot building will house three boilers for heating steam on the second level, with gas as the primary fuel; electrical meters, domestic hot water pumps, and hot water heaters on the first level; and oil backup storage in the protected sub-grade space.
“The new facility addresses Haven Plaza’s need to be self-sufficient during both regular operations and in case of a natural disaster, instead of relying on a costly ConEd steam supply,” said CTA Architects principal Daniel J. Allen. “We also wanted the new structure to be architecturally attractive due to its visibility on a high-trafficked location within Manhattan’s popular East Village neighborhood. The front faÃ§ade will be glazed to allow the passers-by to view the inner works of the building and equipment within.”
Haven Plaza Square commissioned CTA to perform a resiliency study shortly after Hurricane Sandy. CTA organized an experienced architectural and engineering team that recommended the building of a new, dedicated heating plant for the complex, to eliminate the need to rely on ConEd.
Texas Regulators say no a Second Time to NextEra-Oncor Merger
The Public Utility Commission of Texas once again rejected Florida-based NextEra Energy’s proposed $18 billion deal to purchase Oncor Electric Delivery, an electricity delivery business and the Lone Star State’s biggest power transmission company.
In mid-April, regulators voted the takeover down for the first time, saying the merger was not in the best interest of ratepayers. The board of three regulators also took issue with handing over the Texas-based company, which is a unit of Energy Futures Holdings (EFH), to an independent board based in Florida.
NextEra made its move for Oncor, which is part of the massive EFH bankruptcy, in July 2016. NextEra announced the Oncor bid shortly after its long-delayed combination with Hawaiian Electric Co. was terminated due to lack of support from regulators in that state.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the NextEra takeover in January 2017.
In 2015, Hunt Consolidated and partners offered to buy Oncor as part of EFH’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding in an estimated $20 billion deal. However, Hunt later informed the Texas Public Utility Commission that it was backing out of the plan.
The Hunt plan had approval from a Delaware bankruptcy judge. One alleged reason it fell through, say some news accounts, is that Texas regulators may have required the buyer to share tax savings with customers.
Hunt said that and other regulatory caveats might scare off investors. Hunt later indicated renewed interest in an Oncor deal but NextEra stepped in with its 11-digit financial offer.
NextEra also had a deal to buy Hawaiian Electric Industries that was announced in 2014, but that deal fell apart in 2016 when Hawaiian regulators voted not to approve the merger.
Oncor is privately held by a limited number of investors including EFH.
Oncor serves about 10 million customers in northern Texas, including Dallas, Fort Worth, Odessa and Waco.
Virginia Regulators Approve 500-kV Dominion Line Over James River
By Corina Rivera-Linares, Chief Analyst, TransmissionHub
The Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) authorized Dominion Energy Virginia to build and operate electric transmission facilities in Charles City and Prince George counties in Virginia.
As noted in the SCC’s June final order, the company proposes to rebuild, within the existing right of way, a nearly 0.99-mile portion of its existing 500-kV Chickahominy-Surry Line No. 567, where the transmission line crosses the James River between Charles City County and Prince George County.
The portion of Line No. 567 that the company proposes to rebuild includes a nearly 0.79-mile river crossing, with the remaining 0.2 mile of the rebuild project on the riverbanks, the SCC said.
The state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in February filed a report with the SCC that contained recommendations including, the company should coordinate with the National Marine Fisheries Service regarding potential project impacts to the Atlantic sturgeon, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the Bald Eagle Concentration Zone, and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries regarding its general recommendations to protect wildlife resources.
The SCC further noted that on March 14 its staff filed testimony, concluding that the company had reasonably demonstrated the need for the proposed project and that the proposed routing in existing right of ways reasonably minimizes impact to environmental, historic and scenic resources. Staff also indicated that if the SCC determines that the company should mitigate the visual impact of the galvanized steel replacement structures for the rebuild project, chemical dulling of the structures may be a reasonable and cost-effective method for doing so.
The company on March 30 filed rebuttal testimony, stating that it generally agrees with staff’s overall conclusions; explaining why its estimated cost of the project increased from about $10.9 million to $36.7 million; requesting that the SCC not require the use of chemically dulled structures for the project; addressing the company’s prior and future outreach activities to the landowners in the project’s vicinity; and addressing the recommendations contained in the DEQ report.
The SCC also noted that a hearing examiner’s report, which was entered on May 22, found, for instance, that the proposed project is needed and reasonably minimizes impact on the environment, scenic assets and historic resources.
The company and staff on May 26 filed comments on that report, the SCC said.
American Transmission touts new Foundation Installation Method
American Transmission Co. has released details touting its patent-pending method for installing foundations using a vibratory hammer.
The utility industry has typically used one of two methods for installing transmission structures when a concrete base is not needed: Those are direct bury and traditional vibratory installation.
Pewaukee, Wisconsin-based ATC’s Solo-Driver method employs a single excavator equipped with a vibratory hammer for foundation installation. For this method, caisson foundations have been modified to include side tabs that the vibratory hammer grasps. Using the tabs, the hammer lifts the foundation from where it is pre-positioned horizontally on the ground, rotates it vertically into position, and vibrates it into the ground to the required depth.
|Solo-Driver Project in action. Courtesy of ATC video|
“This new method is a game changer in transmission line construction,” ATC Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Davis said in the company’s release. “Solo-Driver is just one part of ATC’s commitment to excellence in transmission planning, construction and innovation, and we are excited to announce this new technology and share it with our transmission partners.”
The new method could provide savings on cost and project time, according to ATC’s release. Direct bury and traditional vibratory have average installation times of 150 and 75 minutes, respectively using a crew of five, the company estimated. The Solo-Driver can complete a foundation in 30 minutes using a crew of 2-3, according to the release.
Traditional vibratory and direct bury installation methods require crews to manually position the foundation using one or more cranes and guiding cables. With Solo-Driver, the excavator and vibratory hammer maneuver the caisson, and safety interlock jaws on the hammer prevent it from dropping the caisson during installation, even if power is temporarily lost.
American Transmission Co. owns and operates the electric transmission system in portions of the Upper Midwest. Formed in 2001 as the nation’s first multi-state transmission-only utility, ATC now has $4.4 billion in assets, including more than 9,540 miles of transmission lines and 548 substations. The company is a member of the MISO regional transmission organization.