A brief look back at successes and setbacks in the energy industry.
VOGTLE — Georgia Power Co. announced June 9 that it has entered into a settlement agreement with Toshiba Corp., under which Toshiba agreed to provide a $3.68 billion financial guarantee for the development of the new Alvin W. Vogtle Nuclear Plant reactors in Burke County, Ga. The agreement also allows for the transition of project management at the Vogtle expansion from bankrupt Toshiba subsidiary Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC to Southern Nuclear Operating Co. and Georgia Power. The Southern Co. subsidaries also will receive engineering, procurement and licensing support, as well as access to Westinghouse intellectual property needed for the project. The agreement, however, is not a guarantee that the reactors will be completed.
SOLAR REFORM — North Carolina lawmakers are advancing legislation that reforms the state's solar policy, while ensuring development is not impeded. House Bill 589, backed by Duke Energy Corp. and other stakeholders representing solar and business interests in North Carolina, includes provisions that require the development of more than 3,200 MW of solar within the next five years. The bill implements competitive bidding for new solar projects and reforms contract mandates between utilities and developers. H.B. 589 also opens up the state to third-party solar leasing, requires utilities to offer a community solar program and implements a solar rebate program.
ENBRIDGE — Enbridge Inc. has garnered sufficient shipper support to underpin a C$1.5 billion pair of Canadian gas expansions, President and CEO Al Monaco said June 8 at the company's investor day in Toronto. The Calgary, Alberta-based company has secured support for the C$500 million Spruce Ridge project and the C$1 billion T-South expansion on the Westcoast Energy Inc. natural gas network in British Columbia, which it acquired in its takeover of Spectra Energy Corp. "These are solid, fully backed projects which are exactly what we expected out of the Spectra deal," Monaco said.
COAL JOBS — While improved demand has the coal industry ready to ramp up metallurgical coal production, producers are reportedly having a hard time finding miners. President Donald Trump and his administration have insisted an employment boom is on the way as regulations and other obstacles against coal production are stripped away. Still, some producers are suggesting coal miners are not as easy to come by given the rapid shrinkage of the sector. "Producers and contractors alike are struggling to fill vacant positions, with employee turnover increasing," FBR & Co. analyst Lucas Pipes wrote in a June 7 research note.
NEXTERA/ONCOR — The Public Utility Commission of Texas on June 7 again rebuffed NextEra Energy Inc.'s proposed $18.7 billion purchase of Oncor Electric Delivery Co. LLC. The PUCT denied NextEra's motion to rehear its earlier rejection of the transaction, which the commission said is not in the public interest. Analysts said there are still several paths forward for the Dallas utility and its bankrupt majority owner, Energy Future Holdings Corp., including a public offering or a new deal. Despite two failed attempts at Oncor and an unsuccessful play for Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc., NextEra is not necessarily done hunting either, analysts noted.
MILLSTONE — Connecticut lawmakers failed to pass legislation designed to support Dominion Energy Inc.'s Millstone nuclear plant before the June 7 end of session, leaving Dominion to ponder the future of the plant and other investments in the state. The state House of Representatives decided not to vote on Senate Bill 778 before adjourning, less than a day after the Senate passed the bill in a 23-9 vote. The legislation sought to secure Millstone's future by allowing the 2,100-MW plant to compete against biomass and trash-to-energy generators for a power purchase agreement through 2029 for roughly half of the facility's generating capacity.
PIPELINE WOES — Gas constraints in New England are likely to continue as pipeline companies focus on other regions. Andrew Price, president and COO of Competitive Energy Services LLC, said June 7 that he does not see a convenient solution to the New England situation. "An obvious fix is not in the cards in the near future," he said, adding he sees pipelines being built out of the Marcellus Shale region to the west and south, but none to New England. Kinder Morgan Inc. dropped its Northeast Energy Direct project because it lacked commercial support, while the Access Northeast project, a joint venture of Spectra Energy Partners LP, Eversource Energy and National Grid plc subsidiary National Grid USA, stalled because courts and state agencies blocked contracts with power generation customers.