UTILITY NEWS ROUND-UP

San Antonio Express News: What happened in oil and gas?

May 29 — Business and politics move fast, but during this COVID-19 pandemic it feels like everything happens even faster. Like, the oil and gas industry just experienced 25 years’ worth of news in the last two months.

— San Antonio Express-News

 

Environment Texas: Austin Energy first in nation for solar energy

May 27 — The report found that solar capacity increased 22% last year to 61.8 megawatts (MW) within Austin city limits. That total led Austin to rank just 14th in the nation, but when all solar owned or contracted by Austin Energy, including solar farms in west Texas, is added, total capacity rises to almost 750 MW.

— Environment Texas

 

Port Arthur News: Entergy connecting residential customers, small businesses with help

May 28 — Entergy Texas launched a hub for residential customers across Southeast Texas. The online portal provides information with helpful resources from federal, state and nonprofit organizations.

— Port Arthur News

 

Houston Chronicle: NRG adds accounts from competitor

May 29 — The company, whose brand names include Reliant Energy, Green Mountain Energy and Discount Power, has acquired an undisclosed number of customers from Windrose Energy, a retail electric provider based in The Woodlands. NRG is based in Houston and Princeton, N.J.

— Houston Chronicle

 

CBS DFW: Read Fine Print Before Enrolling In Payment Assistance Programs

May 28 — While the company could not impose a late fee due to a statewide moratorium that lasted until mid-May, TXU did assess a $9 “disconnect fee,” even though Amassyali said his service was never disconnected.

— CBS DFW

 

Utility Dive: Solar ‘growing rapidly’ in US cities: report

May 28 — Ben Sonnega, an associate at Environment America’s Go Solar campaign, said the combination of public policy to streamline permitting approvals and lower costs, as well as incentive programs and zero emissions goals help focus cities’ minds. As the move away from fossil fuel dependence continues, Sonnega said cities have a “golden opportunity to be leaders in the transition to renewable energy.”

— Utility Dive

 

Utility Dive: AEP CEO expects Texas, Louisiana decisions soon on 1.5 GW North Central wind project

May 29 — In Texas, hearings concluded in February and AEP expects “a proposal for commission decision from the Texas [administrative law judges] in late May,” Akin added.

— Utility Dive

 

Greenville Herald News: Atmos offering gas bill relief to those in need

May 27 — People in need of assistance with their gas and/or electric bills may also reach out to the federal low-Income Energy Assistance Program.

— Greenville Herald News

 

Austin American-Statesman (Opinion): Clearer skies show why Texas should invest in electric vehicles

May 27 — This is why Congress and the Texas Legislature should begin to develop stimulus bills that invest in tomorrow’s technologies such as electric vehicles, chargers and new batteries to create new jobs.

— Austin American-Statesman

 

Platts: ‘Unprecedented’ pandemic conditions see ERCOT mulling bylaw changes

May 27 — As the social distancing restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic are expected to last several months, Electric Reliability Council of Texas staff and stakeholders have begun a process to ensure rule changes that are needed quickly can be voted upon electronically and without legal challenge.

— Platts

 

San Antonio Express-News: CPS Energy says big losses still a possibility

May 27 — CPS Energy officials expect to lose less money this fiscal year than previously thought. But the city-owned utility still could be looking at a deficit this year of $54.4 million — or more — because of COVID-19-related drops in electricity demand.

— San Antonio Express-News

 

Houston Chronicle: Shell evacuates workers after coronavirus outbreak on Gulf rig

May 27 — Shell Oil, the U.S. subsidiary of energy giant Royal Dutch Shell, has evacuated nine workers from a company platform in the Gulf of Mexico for testing and treatment of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

— Houston Chronicle

 

Woodlands Online: Entergy Texas Creates Resource Hubs for Residential and Small Business Customers

May 27 — In more than 100 years of serving customers, Entergy has faced many challenges together with all our stakeholders. And the company has never wavered in its commitment to do everything they can to support their customers and communities. To support customers through these challenging times, Entergy Texas launched two virtual hubs with information, tools and resources to help customers and small businesses navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

— Woodlands Online

 

KXAN: Texas Railroad Commission investigating Kinder Morgan for ‘multiple’ erosion complaints

May 27 — The railroad commission said the complaints are regarding erosion control, and spokesperson R.J. DeSilva says “our investigation of the complaints is to ensure Kinder Morgan is in compliance with those commission rules.”

— KXAN

 

Bloomberg: Borealis Wins Reversal in Suit Over Buyout of Hunt’s Oncor Stake

May 26 — Borealis Power Holdings Inc., not Sempra Energy, has the right to buy Hunt Consolidated Inc.’s tie-breaking state in a partial parent of Texas’s largest utility, Delaware’s top court ruled, reversing a Chancery Court judge.

— Bloomberg Law

 

Utility Dive: Landfills emerge as promising battery storage sites to back up renewable energy

May 26 — Solar panel installations have been one of the fastest-growing types of energy infrastructure in recent years and landfills have become fitting sites due to the sheer amount of land required. Now, for many of the same reasons, energy project developers are looking to landfills for a technology growing even faster than solar: battery storage.

— Utility Dive

 

Utility Dive: Green Mountain Power expands BYOD and Tesla battery programs as it targets fossil peakers

May 26 — Program installers are undergoing training to safely conduct work in residential homes under COVID-19 self-isolation guidelines, according to Josh Castonguay, chief officer of innovation at GMP. Vermont officials are “slowly turning the spigot” to allow economic activity for certain industries, including home construction, to return under specific safety guidelines, he said.

— Utility Dive

 

Houston Chronicle: 5 oil companies that stopped filing for drilling permits in Texas

May 25 — Crude oil prices continue to inch up but were still under $35 a barrel last week and continue to take a toll on drilling activity in Texas. Some 24 companies filed for 54 drilling permits with the Texas Railroad Commission from May 13 to 19, marking the the lowest number of filings in a single week this year.

— Houston Chronicle

 

Laredo Morning Times: Xcel Energy bills lower now than in 2017

May 25 — Electricity bills in Texas are lower now than they were in 2017, according to Xcel Energy.

— Laredo Morning Times

 

San Antonio Business Journal: Chesapeake sued over fatal well blast in South Texas

May 22 — Three lawsuits filed in Dallas County District Court this month accuse Chesapeake and a handful of contractors of acting negligently at the site of a blowout and fire that broke out at a drilling site in Burleson County.

— San Antonio Business Journal

 

Utility Dive: As utilities tackle immediate COVID-19 impacts, analysts stress need to focus beyond the pandemic

May 20 — Power systems across the country need new approaches for today’s shifting loads, but focusing on recovery and tomorrow’s resources can be even better, analysts say.

— Utility Dive

 

Forbes: No, China Is Not Buying The Permian Basin

May 21 — A lingering myth has been created by a story which began circulating around social media a couple of weeks ago. The myth holds that China is rapidly scooping up major positions in the Permian Basin in the midst of the current oilfield bust. I must have received private messages on social media and emails from two dozen people related to this rumor in recent weeks.

— Forbes

 

Utility Dive: As utilities tackle immediate COVID-19 impacts, analysts stress need to focus beyond the pandemic

May 20 — Power systems across the country need new approaches for today’s shifting loads, but focusing on recovery and tomorrow’s resources can be even better, analysts say.

— Utility Dive

 

CNET: Tesla cars could give back to the grid with bidirectional charging feature

May 20 — The car’s battery could send excess energy to the owner’s home, or even provide energy to the electrical grid at large.

— CNET

 

Texas Standard: During Pandemic, A Transatlantic Divide Emerges On Energy Policy

May 21 — European oil companies are investing more in renewables while U.S. producers double down on fossil fuels.

— Texas Standard

 

Baytown Sun (Commentary): 20 years since free market power

May 21 — Power customers in Harris and Dallas counties have a wide variety of choices, but they actually pay more for electricity than residents of Austin or San Antonio. The two latter cities stuck with the old public utility model, and consumers have benefited. This may seem counter-intuitive, but public utilities have the advantage of predictability. They can plan years in advance and purchase power cheaply on long term contracts with electricity generators.

— Baytown Sun

 

Texas Observer: With Storage Space Evaporating, the Oil and Gas Industry Will Get to Put Its Products Back Underground

May 20 — The Railroad Commission has rolled back rules that once prohibited producers from storing liquid hydrocarbons in geological formations across the state, despite risks to aquifers.

— Texas Observer

 

T&D World: Public Utility Commission of Texas Posts Line Inspection and Safety Reports

May 14 — The Public Utility Commission of Texas announced the online availability of reports required by House Bill 4150, passed in the 86th Texas Legislature. Effective September 1, 2019, the bill added a new section to the Public Utility Regulatory Act (PURA) that details reporting requirements for power line inspection and safety, with a focus on power line clearance, for all utilities owning or operating transmission or distribution assets in Texas, including electric co-operatives and municipally-owned utilities.

— T&D World

 

KVIA: Despite paying back rent thanks to El Paso’s generosity, woman still doesn’t have electricity yet

May 20 — El Pasoans came through for a northeast El Paso woman whose electricity was cut off because she was delinquent on her rent. Rosa Hernandez is one of the countless small business owners whose income was cut short during the pandemic.

— KVIA

 

Houston Chronicle: Renewable power heads for its first decline in two decades

May 20 — The world is set to add 167 gigawatts of renewable power capacity this year, 13% less than in 2019. It’s a reality check for a sector that’s seen only growth for years and has emerged relatively unscathed from the plunge in energy demand that’s hit the oil and gas business.

— Houston Chronicle

 

Houston Chronicle: Renewable power heads for its first decline in two decades

May 20 — The world is set to add 167 gigawatts of renewable power capacity this year, 13% less than in 2019. It’s a reality check for a sector that’s seen only growth for years and has emerged relatively unscathed from the plunge in energy demand that’s hit the oil and gas business.

— Houston Chronicle

 

Houston Public Media: Texas’ Air Quality Improved During The Stay-At-Home Order. Here’s Why It Probably Won’t Last

May 20 — Austin saw the largest decrease in ozone pollution during its stay-at-home order, while Houston was average and El Paso had the smallest reduction.

— Houston Public Media

 

PV Magazine: Analysis of energy use during Austin’s stay-at-home order hints at a Texas summer load issue

May 19 — Significant spikes in air conditioner usage during the first hot days of Austin Texas’ stay-at-home orders have signaled that this upcoming summer may be one where electric demand meets record, worrisome, levels.

— PV Magazine

 

Bloomberg: Renewable Power Heads for Its First Decline in Two Decades

May 19 — The world is set to add 167 gigawatts of renewable power capacity this year, 13% less than in 2019. It’s a reality check for a sector that’s seen only growth for years and has emerged relatively unscathed from the plunge in energy demand that’s hit the oil and gas business.

— Bloomberg

 

News West 9: Atmos Energy suspends natural gas disconnections, offers financial assistance and payment plans

May 19 — With the COVID-19 crisis and social distancing over the past few months, many people have increased energy usage due to being home more often than usual.

— News West 9

 

Houston Chronicle: Tesla request reveals deep divide among agencies over battery power

May 18 — The electric carmaker’s request before a committee of Electric Reliability Council of Texas, wouldn’t normally attract much attention. But Texas regulators and ERCOT have been struggling for more than two years over how to accommodate developing battery storage technology that experts predict could accelerate demand for renewable energy sources and ultimately reduce electricity prices.

— Houston Chronicle

 

El Paso Times: El Paso Electric sees record low solar prices as it secures New Mexico project approvals

May 18 — The projects were proposed to serve southern New Mexico and west Texas customers, and start service in the summer of 2022. One project will add 100 MW of solar for $0.015 per kWh while the second will add 100 MW of solar and 50 MW of storage for $0.021 per kWh, record-low prices for solar and storage in New Mexico.

— El Paso Times

 

Reuters: Tesla’s secret batteries aim to rework the math for electric cars and the grid

May 14 — Electric car maker Tesla Inc plans to introduce a new low-cost, long-life battery in its Model 3 sedan in China later this year or early next that it expects will bring the cost of electric vehicles in line with gasoline models, and allow EV batteries to have second and third lives in the electric power grid.

— Reuters

 

Reuters: Trump admin slaps solar, wind operators with retroactive rent bills

May 18 — The Trump administration has ended a two-year rent holiday for solar and wind projects operating on federal lands, handing them whopping retroactive bills at a time the industry is struggling with the fallout of the coronavirus outbreak, according to company officials.

— Reuters

 

Victoria Advocate: Oil, gas experts worry about downturn’s strain on independent producers, service companies

May 17 — Spencer Klotzman, a Victoria attorney who specializes in oil, gas and mineral law, said such companies are particularly susceptible to the downturn not just because of their size compared to giants such as Exxon and ConocoPhillips, but because of their reliance on private equity firms rather than banks.

— Victoria Advocate

 

KPRC: Help available for those having trouble paying the bills

May 16 — Trevor Haughton and his wife, Rita Moses, are drowning in debt after recently losing their service industry jobs due to COVID-19. They owe nearly $3,000 in overdue rent and utility bills. They were hoping to qualify for Houston’s rental assistance program, but it ran out of money in less than an hour.

— KPRC

 

Midland Reporter-Telegram: RRC: Permits drop nearly 30 percent from March to April

Midland Reporter-Telegram: The decline continued the downward trend as permits to drill new oil/gas holes in the region fell from 520 in January to 375 in March and to 263 in April. Across the state, the number of permits has fallen from 1,041 in January to 416 in April. No other district had more than 40, according to the RRC.

— Midland Reporter-Telegram

 

Utility Dive: Texas regulators tamp down authority of proposed cybersecurity monitor as PUC nears vote

May 13 — The Public Utilities Commission of Texas will vote May 14 to establish new cybersecurity coordination and monitoring programs authorized by lawmakers last year. Experts say other states are watching the proceeding and may follow with development of their own monitoring programs, if Texas is successful.

— Utility Dive

 

Austin Monitor: Austin Energy expects only small revenue reduction from Covid-19 bill relief

May 14 — Although Austin Energy expects to provide both residential and commercial customers with $35 million in bill relief between now and Sept. 30, the utility does not expect the rate reduction to greatly affect its balance sheet.
Austin Energy’s Chief Financial Officer Mark Dombroski told the Electric Utility Commission at its May 11 meeting that lowering electric rates for customers using more than 1,000 kilowatt hours per month will result in $4 million of “foregone revenue.”

— Austin Monitor

 

New York Times: In a First, Renewable Energy Is Poised to Eclipse Coal in U.S.

May 13 — The coronavirus has pushed the coal industry to once-unthinkable lows, and the consequences for climate change are big.

— New York Times

 

Gilmer Mirror: Coalition of Texas Groups Present an Online Texas Railroad Commission Candidates Forum

May 14 — A coalition of organizations and residents from across the state are concerned that the Railroad Commission is not fulfilling its responsibility to protect the people and natural resources of Texas from pollution and waste in the oil and gas industry, among other industries. The public is invited to join the conversation on making this agency more accountable to the people of Texas – not just special interests.

— Gilmer Mirror

 

Utility Dive: Texas coal generator may restart to meet projected record summer demand

May 15 — The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) on Wednesday released its final Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy (SARA) for the upcoming summer season, predicting peak load of 75,200 MW. The new forecast is 1,496 MW lower than the previous, pre-coronavirus estimate, but will still top the all-time peak demand record of 74,820 MW set last summer.

— Utility Dive

 

Environmental Defense Fund: How Texas Can Unleash the Next Wave of Electricity Market Competition

May 12 — A report released today by Environmental Defense Fund and grid reliability expert Alison Silverstein concludes that Texas’ competitive electricity market can meet future demand growth, increase grid resilience and keep energy costs down by leveraging demand-side solutions like energy efficiency, demand response and energy storage.

— Environmental Defense Fund

KXAN: Texas Railroad Commission budget hit by oil and gas downturn

May 12 — The Texas oil and gas industry has been slammed by global business forces and a lack of demand due to the coronavirus pandemic. The financial slump’s effects are rippling across the state government and the halls of the industry’s own regulator, the Texas Railroad Commission.

— KXAN

 

Houston Chronicle: Railroad Commission launches drone fleet for inspections

May 12 — As part of the new effort, 19 agency inspectors have received remote pilot certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. The drones are equipped with thermal cameras, and one was used to detect a leak at an oil well in the Permian Basin’s Reeves County.

— Houston Chronicle

 

PV Magazine: Distributed storage could save Texas $344 million per year by deferring transmission and distribution costs

May 11 — Adding enough distributed storage to reduce peak demand by 20% could defer up to one-fifth of the transmission and distribution expenditures in Texas for about 10 years, a study found. Other states may find the study’s analytical insights to be useful.

— PV Magazine

 

Utility Dive: Replace NYC peakers with renewables+storage? Plant owners say they’re working on it

May 12 — New York City ratepayers shelled out $4.5 billion in capacity payments in the last decade to keep 16 fossil fuel-based peaking plants available, according to analysis by environmental justice group PEAK Coalition.

— Utility Dive

 

Utility Dive: Organic proton batteries show disposal, solar pairing advantages in advance to market

May 11 — A Sweden-based research team’s new battery can withstand low temperatures and more efficiently store renewable energy.

— Utility Dive

 

Reuters: Elliott, Fidelity pump $1.4 billion into utility CenterPoint Energy

May 7 —  CenterPoint Energy on Thursday secured $1.4 billion of new backing from investors including hedge fund Elliott Management and mutual fund Fidelity Management, putting the embattled energy delivery company on a path to cutting its debt and considering a possible sale.

— Reuters

 

El Paso Times: El Paso Electric: 1Q Earnings Snapshot

May 8 — El Paso Electric Co. (EE) on Friday reported a first-quarter loss of $35.2 million, after reporting a profit in the same period a year earlier.

— El Paso Times

 

Midland Reporter-Telegram: Oil recovery task force crafts recommendations to help energy firms

May 9 — In just a few short weeks, the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Oil Economic Recovery provided the Railroad Commission with several dozen recommendations to help the industry through the current economic downturn.

— Midland Reporter Telegram

 

Longview News Journal: Oil well discovery changed East Texas forever

May 10 — The date was Jan. 26, 1931, when his father, Fort Worth oilman William Alvin “Monty” Moncrief, and two partners completed what became known as the Lathrop No. 1 well in the Greggton area near Longview. Anticipation of its success had drawn a crowd to the site, all hoping to witness a gusher like those they’d heard of recently 15 and 25 miles to the south.

— Longview News Journal

 

RTO Insider: NRG’s Q1 Retail Earnings Stave off COVID Declines

May 8 — In an earnings call with analysts, NRG CEO Mauricio Gutierrez touted the company’s strong position despite the social disruptions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

— RTO Insider