UTILITY NEWS ROUND-UP

Houston Chronicle: Electricity subsidy remains secret to most Texans, critics say

July 31 — The Public Utility Commission put together a Covid-19 electricity relief program in spring that provides a subsidy that would cover more than half the average residential monthly power bill for financially struggling Texans who buy power in the competitive marketplace.

— Houston Chronicle

 

Platts: Pandemic, mild weather weaken Southern Co. power demand, boost nuke costs

July 30 — The novel coronavirus pandemic and mild weather in the Southern Company footprint hurt power sales and increased the Vogtle nuclear power plant’s Units 3 and 4 construction costs, resulting in a substantial drop in second-quarter earnings, compared with Q2 2019, a company presentation released July 30 shows.

— Platts

 

Reuters: U.S. solar power plant backed by over $700 million in government loans goes bust: filing

July 30 — The owner of a big Nevada solar-thermal power plant that received $737 million in loans from the U.S. Department of Energy filed for bankruptcy on Thursday, according to a court filing, potentially leaving U.S. taxpayers with a whopping bill.

— Reuters

 

San Antonio Business Journal: CPS sets massive goal for solar growth

July 29 — The utility is looking for innovative companies to lead the way.

— San Antonio Business Journal

 

Reuters — Trump touts U.S. energy might in Texas, raises money for campaign

July 29 — U.S. President Donald Trump raised $7 million in campaign contributions on Wednesday on a visit to Texas to promote energy policies that he hopes will show a stark contrast to Democratic rival Joe Biden.

— Reuters

 

Utility Dive: A blow to small solar, a win for states and utilities? Regulators, analysts assess FERC’s PURPA rule

July 30 — “In my view, this recent FERC order is mostly in line with the changes that the electric utilities requested,” Metin Celebi, a principal at Brattle, told Utility Dive.”However, the impact on the renewable developers will really depend on how each particular state will choose among the options provided in the FERC order.”

— Utility Dive

 

San Antonio Business Journal: Houston oil and gas companies sweep into Eagle Ford Shale

July 28 — Also among this week’s permit seekers is a company backed by former Florida Gov. and former presidential candidate Jeb Bush.

— San Antonio Business Journal

 

Texas Tribune: Funding for rural broadband in Texas is in trouble. The pandemic might save it.

July 29 — Rural Texans have been clamoring for high-speed internet services for years, and the requirements of a pandemic — work, schools and medicine — have raised the stakes. But a state fund that helps provide those services is in financial trouble.

— Texas Tribune

 

Hays Free Press: Sierra Club takes on Kinder Morgan

July 29 — Another allegation against Kinder Morgan’s Permian Highway Pipeline has been raised, this time by the Sierra Club and, once again, the energy giant has refuted the claim.

— Hays Free Press

 

S&P Global: Experts differ over how solar capacity surge is affecting ERCOT prices

July 24 — With its commercial operation announced July 23, Rambler Solar is in Tom Green County about 200 miles northwest of San Antonio, and is the second such facility Duke brought online this month. The 200-MW(AC) Holstein Solar site is in Nolan County, about 200 miles west of Fort Worth. In All, Duke Energy Renewables has about 500 MW(AC) of solar in Texas.

— S&P Global

 

Houston Chronicle: Texas lake is site of latest skirmish over drilling expansion

July 26 — The lease offerings are a small piece of President Donald Trump’s efforts to expand drilling on federal lands, off the nation’s coasts and along Alaska’s Arctic coastline. The administration has called for opening 90 percent of U.S. waters for drilling, even as the world faced a glut of crude. The efforts, meanwhile, have run into opposition from lawmakers, federal judges who have canceled some leases and environmental groups trying to protect areas like Lake Somerville.

— Houston Chronicle

 

Houston Chronicle: Wildcatter billionaire prepares to drill again

July 27 — Midland exploration and production company Endeavor Energy Resources is seeking permission from the Railroad Commission of Texas to drill 11 new wells split between a pair of leases in Midland County.

— Houston Chronicle

 

KUT: One In 10 Permian Basin Flares Are Spewing Methane Into The Air, Environmental Defense Fund Says

July 27 — The amount of methane that fossil fuel companies burn off in Texas as a waste product could power every home in the state, according to some estimates. The industry practice known as “flaring” has been decried as wasteful and polluting by public health groups, environmentalists and even some in the industry.

— KUT

 

S&P Platts: NRG to buy out leases for Midwest plants, sell Calif. solar asset

July 27 — Midwest Generation LLC, a subsidiary of NRG, also filed an application that day with the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to acquire the equity in the 1,538-MW Powerton gas-fired plant in Tazewell, Ill., and Units 7 and 8 at the 1,317-MW Joliet 29 gas-fired plant in Will County, Ill.

— S&P Platts

 

S&P Platts: Utilities accelerate net-zero targets as cracks appear in gas’ role as bridge fuel

July 27 — Many utilities think that future must arrive much sooner, and they are considering how to bypass the bridge altogether, which could lead to even more near-term downward price pressure on natural gas.

— S&P Platts

 

Houston Chronicle: NRG’s $3.6B deal for Direct Energy worries consumer advocates

July 25 — “It is hard to claim that competition is vibrant if so much of the market will be controlled by just two firms,” said general counsel Geoffrey Gay.

— Houston Chronicle

 

Houston Business Journal: NRG Energy to acquire Centrica’s Houston-based Direct Energy for $3.6B

July 24 — Direct Energy has been a subsidiary of London-based Centrica PLC since 2000.

— Houston Business Journal

 

Houston Chronicle: Hot weather and high power prices boosted NRG’s profits

July 24 — The company, headquartered in Houston and Princeton, N.J., increased its profits by more than 10 times to $4.4 billion from $268 million in 2018. Revenues rose 3.6 percent to $9.8 billion in 2019.

— Houston Chronicle

 

Wall Street Journal: NRG Energy to Acquire Direct Energy for $3.6 Billion

July 25 — NRG Energy Inc. has agreed to buy rival electricity firm Direct Energy for $3.6 billion in cash, marking one of the energy sector’s largest deals so far this year.

— Wall Street Journal

 

Houston Chronicle: Calpine’s Andrew Novotny on fine-tuning to generate every extra megawatt

July 27 — Last year was a record-setting one for Calpine Corp., the nation’s largest generator of natural gas-fired electricity and Houston’s biggest private company, ranked by revenue. Power prices repeatedly topped out at $9,000 per megawatt hour, the state’s maximum, and a focus on maintenance kept the company’s generators humming.

— Houston Chronicle

 

Texas Observer: From Boom to Bloodbath

July 27 — The Permian Basin’s shale revolution is over and renewable energy is surging. What does that mean for Texas’ future?

— Texas Observer