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Major 2020 energy events are dominated by energy transition theme

The global transition to lower emissions and increased sustainability is the predominant theme among numerous energy events scheduled for 2020.

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Here is a short list of some events in North America:

January 1: Wind developers enter 2020 without production tax credits

Wind is on track to become the fastest growing source of generation in the US, with a slew of projects driven by the rush to commence construction by the end of 2019 to qualify for the expiring federal production tax credit. Supportive state renewable energy targets, a burgeoning offshore wind sector and price competitiveness with fossil and nuclear generation are expected to offer a cushion, along with alternative financing options being explored by the industry.

January: Freeport, Cameron support surge in 2020 US LNG exports

In 2020, US producers will bring another 2.6 Bcf/d, or 20 million mt/yr, of LNG supply to the global market. The cascade of new supply will begin in January with the anticipated startup of Freeport LNG Train 2, followed by Cameron LNG Train 2 in March. Production from both producers' Train 3 facilities is expected to begin by May and August 2020.

February 3: ISO-NE commences FCA 14 with bearish clearing price indicators

ISO New England will hold its 14th forward capacity auction with Exelon's Mystic 8 and 9 gas-fired units offered as price takers, likely dragging down clearing prices. The prior year's auction closed at $3.80/kW-month, the lowest clearing price in six years. And with a proposed downward revision in the net installed capacity requirement for the upcoming auction, prices could fall even further in FCA 14.

March 2: 3,300 MW of simple-cycle turbines in NY face potential shutdown

Peaking generation owners are required to submit compliance plans to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in March 2020. Compliance with the rule, which is designed to cut emissions of smog-forming pollutants, could result in the shutdown of 3,300 MW of simple-cycle turbines mainly in New York City and Long Island.

March 3: Moderates, climate hawks square off on Super Tuesday

The energy sector might get a read on whether the Democratic party's climate hawks are leading on March 3, when a large number of states have their Democratic primaries in the US. This will be a chance to check on whether the more left-leaning candidates with more aggressive climate goals and an anti-fossil-fuel approach are winning out over the moderates. Early indications may start to become apparent after the Iowa caucus on February 3 and after the New Hampshire primary, February 11.

April 30: Indian Point nuclear power plant set for 2020 retirement

As part of a deal with New York State, Entergy has agreed to shut the Indian Point nuclear plant, which supplies about 25% of New York City and Westchester County's power. The 1,028-MW Unit 2 will shut down by April 30, 2020. The 1,041-MW Unit 3 will shut down by April 30, 2021. Indian Point is just the latest nuclear casualty in the long struggle of the nuclear industry to maintain competitiveness in the face of extremely weak US power prices.

May: PJM market participants clamor for new capacity market rules

Another year could pass in 2020 without PJM Interconnection holding an annual capacity auction, again leaving market participants without a three-year forward price signal to support market entry and exit decisions. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2018 found the grid operator's capacity market rules to be unjust and unreasonable, but has since stalled in acting on PJM's market redesign plans to combat the potential price-suppressing effects of existing and proposed state subsidy programs. Inaction pushed PJM to indefinitely postpone the 2019 and 2020 auctions for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 delivery years, respectively, until it receives an order from FERC.

June 30: Bankruptcy court faces state pressure to conclude PG&E case

June 30, 2020 has been set by the California state legislature as the date by which the federal judge in the PG&E bankruptcy case must confirm the existence of PG&E's reorganization plan. The deadline was set in order to speed up the case which already involves two rival exit plans and tens of thousands of wildfire damage claims. The state wants those behind the winning plan to participate financially in a new state wildfire fund after the deadline. Also at issue are $34.5 billion worth of PG&E's renewable-energy contracts for power deliveries between now and 2043.

July 13-16: Fossil fuels could be out of favor at Democratic convention

The July 13-16 Democratic Party convention will not only seal the nomination for the Democratic presidential candidate but also set the party's platform, with the potential to favor ambitious goals for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and limitations on fracking. Some open questions are whether the party will take a stance on future LNG and crude oil exports or pump the brakes on natural gas infrastructure approvals by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

September: Renewables expected to replace retiring Duane Arnold nuclear plant

NextEra Energy is expected to close its Duane Arnold nuclear plant in Iowa potentially by September 2020, and Alliant Energy, which buys power from the plant, is expecting to replace the lost generation with renewable power. Duane Arnold is the only nuclear plant in Iowa, but is among more than a dozen other nuclear facilities across the US that are facing premature closure because of extremely low power prices and stiff competition from gas generation and renewables.

September 18: 2-year anniversary of China putting US LNG in tariffs crosshairs

Once unthinkable for American liquefaction developers, Beijing changed the global trade flow dynamics when it first imposed a 10% tariff on imports of US LNG, later hiking the duty to 25% in retaliation for Washington's tariffs on imports of Chinese goods. Two years later, the tit-for-tat tariffs may be gone, status quo or escalated. As 2019 is wrapping up, there appears to be progress on talks to roll back some tariffs. Regardless, the damage for some US projects that were forced to delay final investment decisions may be irreparable.

November 3: High stakes for climate and energy in November election

The November 3 US presidential election has the potential to have profound impacts on US energy policy. Not only is the contest likely to pit vastly different visions of fossil fuel use against one another, but statewide elections will determine whether a march toward clean energy targets accelerated at the state level in the 2018, continues to grow or instead retreats.

November 4: Paris climate pullout becomes official

The US pullout of the Paris climate accord could become official November 4, the day after the election. This could be a chance to look at the impacts on US and international generation development. Will the EU set carbon prices that force the US hand? Will some emerging economies favor coal over LNG-fired generation? The US presidential election, a day earlier, however, has the potential to shake up whatever direction has been set out.

November 9-19: UK to host global talks on tackling climate change

The UN climate change conference set to take place in Glasgow is being touted as the most important global event on climate change since the Paris agreement was passed in 2015. The meeting will include a review of countries' pledges made under the Paris agreement that were not sufficient to keep pace with the stated goal of keeping global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The expectation is that countries will ratchet up their commitments at the meeting.

December: Permian supply to feed export markets, keep US prices low

In late 2020, the startup of commissioning on Kinder Morgan's 2 Bcf/d Permian Highway Pipeline - the midstream developer's second Permian supply project - will begin moving additional gas from West Texas to the US Gulf Coast, supplying export pipes to Mexico and US LNG producers.

-- Staff, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Rocco Canonica, newsdesk@spglobal.com