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March 18-22: DOE backs loan for Vogtle; Williams enters into midstream venture

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March 18-22: DOE backs loan for Vogtle; Williams enters into midstream venture

A look back at successes and setbacks in the energy industry.

Highs

GRAIN BELT — The Missouri Public Service Commission on March 20 approved the high-voltage, direct-current Grain Belt Express transmission line after previously rejecting the proposal to transmit wind power from Kansas. The commission ultimately ruled that the project developed by Clean Line Energy Partners LLC has economic, environmental and other benefits for the entire state. The Grain Belt Express project will run about 780 miles from western Kansas through Missouri and Illinois, and into Indiana, delivering about 4,000 MW of wind-generated power to customers in the Midwest. In July 2018, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that state regulators were wrong to deny a construction permit for the project and remanded the matter back to the commission for further consideration.

WILLIAMS — Williams Cos. Inc. and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board on March 18 announced they struck a deal to form a $3.8 billion joint venture in the Marcellus and Utica shales. The pension board plans to invest about $1.34 billion in Williams' fully owned Ohio Valley Midstream and Utica East Ohio Midstream systems and take on a 35% ownership stake. While analysts praised the partnership's benefits for Williams' balance sheet, investors were lukewarm on the venture.

Between

VOGTLE — The U.S. Department of Energy confirmed March 22 that it will provide an additional $3.7 billion in loan guarantees to help Southern Co. and its partners finish two new reactors at the Alvin W. Vogtle Nuclear Plant in Georgia. The DOE issued loan guarantees of up to $1.67 billion to Southern subsidiary Georgia Power Co., which owns more than 45% of the Vogtle nuclear plant. The DOE also issued loan guarantees of up to $1.6 billion for Oglethorpe Power Corp., which has a 30% stake in the Vogtle project, and up to $415 million to the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, which owns 22.7% of Vogtle. "If you want reliable 24/7 energy, this is it," Energy Secretary Rick Perry said during a news conference at the Vogtle plant in Waynesboro, Ga. "If you want true security for this nation … there is no reason not to include nuclear energy to the fullest extent possible in our energy mix." The additional funding comes as Southern looks to expedite construction for Vogtle units 3 and 4.

SANTEE COOPER — Lawmakers in the South Carolina General Assembly are at odds over the sale of state-owned utility Santee Cooper. South Carolina Senate President Harvey Peeler Jr. on March 20 introduced a joint resolution to allow the governor and the state's Department of Administration to conduct a competitive bidding process for Santee Cooper. Gov. Henry McMaster would have the authority to pick the winning bidder. Meanwhile, South Carolina House Speaker Jay Lucas and other lawmakers are backing a bill that keeps the decision on the sale of the government-owned water and electric utility with the full legislature. The proposal in the House of Representatives would allow a special committee formed in July 2018 to continue its evaluation of bids for Santee Cooper.

Lows

CANADIAN SOLAR — Solar panel manufacturer and power plant developer Canadian Solar Inc. on March 21 offered a dim outlook for 2019 with promises of improvement in 2020. Canadian Solar told investors it expects first-quarter revenue in the range of $450 million to $480 million compared to $1.42 billion a year earlier. The company said the accelerated sale of certain power plants late last year would reduce project sales revenue and profit in 2019. Chairman, President and CEO Xiaohua "Shawn" Qu said the "pullback" in the company's 2019 outlook "is not a reflection of the long-term growth profitability of our core business." Qu encouraged investors to "look into 2020 rather than dwell [on] 2019." Canadian Solar's stock plummeted more than 18% on March 21.