On Thursday, February 15, 2018, the governing body that oversees the electric power grid in the U.S., the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), voted unanimously in favor of adopting a new rule that would remove the market barriers that now prevent energy storage from participating in the wholesale energy markets, aka, the bulk power grid.
Specifically, the rule removes barriers to the participation of electric storage resources in the capacity, energy and ancillary services markets operated by Regional Transmission Organizations and Independent System Operators. FERC said in a press release that the order will enhance competition and promote greater efficiency in the nation’s electric wholesale markets, and will help support the resilience of the bulk power system.
This is an interesting article on the state of battery storage and its growing role in the market.
The Commerce Department began closing a chapter in a protracted trade conflict with China over solar equipment Tuesday, approving a collection of steep tariffs on imports from China and Taiwan.
The decision, intended to close a loophole that had allowed Chinese manufacturers to avoid tariffs imposed in an earlier ruling by using cells — a major module component — made in Taiwan, found that the companies were selling products below the cost of manufacture and that the Chinese companies were benefiting from unfair subsidies from their government.
The department announced anti-dumping duties of 26.71 percent to 78.42 percent on imports of most solar panels made in China, and rates of 11.45 percent to 27.55 percent on imports of solar cells made in Taiwan. In addition, the department announced anti-subsidy duties of 27.64 percent to 49.79 percent for Chinese modules.
EIA’s January 2018 Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) forecasts that natural gas will remain the primary source of U.S. electricity generation for at least the next two years. The share of total electricity supplied by natural gas-fired power plants is expected to average 33% in 2018 and 34% in 2019, up from 32% in 2017. EIA expects the share of generation from coal, which had been the predominant electricity generation fuel for decades, to average 30% in 2018 and 28% in 2019, compared with 30% in 2017.
The mix of energy sources used for producing electricity generation continues to shift in response to changes in fuel costs and the development of renewable energy technologies. Since 2015, the cost of natural gas delivered to electric generators has generally averaged $3.50 per million British thermal units (Btu) or less, and it is expected to remain near this level through 2019.
For a few days earlier this winter, it looked like Los Angeles County might run out of natural gas. Even though the country is swimming in natural gas reserves, half the gas pipelines serving the county were shut down (one has since reopened). Meanwhile, the Aliso Canyon storage facility near Porter Ranch has been operating at reduced capacity ever since the massive methane leak there two years ago. The county was one cold snap away from service interruptions.
At least, that was the worst-case scenario the California Public Utilities Commission painted as it sought to impose a moratorium on new gas hookups to commercial and industrial customers until the end of March. Southern California Gas Co. officials said the moratorium would do virtually nothing to ensure there was enough gas for a cold winter, and business groups howled their objections to this unprecedented step (no one can remember a time when natural gas supplies were in such a perilous state that so drastic an action was even suggested). As many as 700 new businesses would have been forced to wait until spring to open their doors, leaving thousands of people out of work for nearly three months. It would have been an economic blow to the region for relatively little gain, local economists said.
President Trump faces a test of management prowess this month, as he decides whether to impose tariffs protecting U.S. solar panel producers from government-backed Chinese competition, or to save the thousands of U.S. jobs forecast to be lost if the tariffs are put into place.
The approaching deadline poses a dilemma for investors in solar industry stocks, just coming off a strong year thanks to a confluence of events that drove up sales in solar panels in the second half. The solar rally ended with a holiday gift when the solar industry avoided being damaged by the U.S. tax bill overhaul that was recently signed into law.
"The solar industry is entering 2018 on a high note but, at the start, everything will initially hinge on the outcome of the pending trade decision," which is where President's Trump's final determination comes into play, said Anthony Zino, senior equity analyst at CFRA.
The Trump administration’s plan to open up most U.S. offshore areas to oil and natural-gas drilling could boost investment in the sector by billions of dollars and open up access to the equivalent of billions of barrels of oil, according to Rystad Energy.
On Thursday, the U.S. government proposed a plan to open up 90% of the country’s offshore areas for oil and gas drilling as part of a five-year plan. The move would touch every coastal state, including those that have been off limits to drillers for decades.
Estimated U.S. natural gas demand on January 1, 2018 reached 150.7 billion cubic feet, surpassing the previous single-day record set in 2014, according to estimates from PointLogic. Much colder-than-normal temperatures across much of the United States have led to increased demand for heating, much of which is provided by natural gas. Although residential and commercial natural gas consumption did not appear to surpass previous records, higher consumption in the electric power and industrial sectors, greater exports of natural gas to Mexico, and more demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) feedstock gas contributed to the recent record demand level.