Generation Buildout | Nuke Closings | Carbon Capture Money | Yucca Money | Regulatory Manipulation


Generation Buildout Forecast by Feds

Expected additions to U.S. electric generating capacity during 2018 should be the most for any year of the past decade, numbers from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) show.

Almost 32 gigawatts of new capacity, two-thirds fueled by natural gas, are anticipated to be in service by the end of this year. The remaining one-third will be renewables, making up less than a majority of capacity additions for the first year since 2013, the EIA said.

Last year renewables made up 55 percent of new capacity, accounting for more than half the additions for a fourth consecutive year, but the total growth for 2017 added up to 21 gigawatts, just under two-thirds the amount projected for this year.

The bulk of new additions are to occur in the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland (PJM) region, where ongoing coal and nuclear retirements have been at issue in recent years.

Utility to close nukes even with subsidies

At least one supposed beneficiary may close its nuclear units ahead of schedule regardless of a Trump administration plan to keep economically challenged nuclear and coal-fired power plants operating, it was announced in June.

FirstEnergy Solutions, bankrupt generation affiliate of Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp., still plans early retirement of four Ohio and Pennsylvania nuclear units, saying it doesn’t have enough information about the administration’s plans, a Reuters report said. Earlier this year the company called for a federal bailout of its coal and nuclear plants.

A leaked Energy Department memo indicated the administration planned to invoke emergency authority under the Federal Power Act and the Defense Production Act to require regional grid operators to purchase power from threatened plants. Reuters reported “backlash from drillers, renewable energy producers and environmentalists” labeling the move an attempt to “prop up non-competitive industries and burden ratepayers with billions of dollars of additional power costs annually.”

New Federal Money for Carbon Capture

The Department of Energy (DOE) has chosen three projects for the “development and validation of technologies that enable safe, cost-effective, and permanent geologic storage of carbon dioxide” to be underwritten with a total of $30 million in taxpayer funding.

Of the three, only one project involves capture and storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions created directly in the process of electric generation.

The others, according to the DOE, will demonstrate the feasibility of stacked geological storage complexes for CO2 emissions resulting from ethanol production, and of a commercial-scale geologic storage complex for CO2 emitted in ammonia production.

The electric generation project seeks to demonstrate the feasibility of a commercial-scale geologic storage complex in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, in the immediate vicinity of Basin Electric Cooperative’s Dry Fork Power Station. The other sites are in Indiana and Kansas.

Each of the projects is slated to receive between $9.6 and $10.2 million in DOE support.

Appropriations Bill has Yucca Money

Legislation approved by the House of Representatives includes funding to revive the stalled Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada.

The bill authorizing spending for Army Corps of Engineers water development projects and Department of Energy activities for the 2019 federal fiscal year includes a $190 million appropriation for “acquisition, construction, and expansion” activities under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, which committed the government to providing a permanent storage facility for spent power plant fuel.

Among amendments rejected were proposals from Nevada representatives seeking to prevent resumption of activity at the mothballed site north of Las Vegas.

A water and energy appropriations bill passed earlier by the Senate has no provision on Yucca Mountain funding. Differences between the two proposals will need to be worked out in a conference committee of the two houses.

More Regulatory Manipulation Unraveled

Vast numbers of fraudulent public comments filed in attempts to influence federal regulatory proceedings were reported here earlier this year (“Whose Line is it, Anyway, ”Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News, Feb. 2018).

In those cases, thousands of comments were filed under the names of individuals who had no idea their identities were being used. Now, New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. has finished investigating the newest reported attempt to influence government regulatory proceedings through trickery.

The earlier false filings are a federal crime. The deceptions involving Entergy appear to be legal.

Entergy reported that a public relations firm helping it seek approval of a new gas-fired power plant subcontracted with a Los Angeles company called Crowds on Demand, which hired actors to present testimony in public hearings on the project.

When last checked, the Crowds on Demand website displayed the statement that “If you need to hire protesters, we can get a crowd on the street, sometimes withinn24 hours time.”

Entergy said subcontracting with Crowds on Demand was done by The Hawthorn Group PR firm without Entergy’s knowledge and that The Hawthorn Group admitted the action violated its Entergy contract.

Entergy said the contract called for Hawthorn to mobilize about 100 supporters at regulatory hearings, some of whom would testify, but denied any knowledge that anyone would be paid for testimony.