US Atlantic offshore wind leasing plan up for comment

Thursday, May 24, 2018

U.S. ocean energy regulators have extended a deadline for public comment on a proposed path forward for offshore renewable energy leasing on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's "Proposed Path Forward for Future Offshore Renewable Energy Leasing on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf" lists factors the agency proposes to consider in identifying areas for possible future offshore wind leasing.

BOEM is an agency of the Department of the Interior, charged with advancing the responsible development of offshore energy and marine mineral resources covering over 1.7 billion acres of the Outer Continental Shelf. As of May 2018, BOEM has held seven competitive lease sales, yielding over $68 million in high bids for almost 1.4 million acres in federal waters. BOEM now has 13 offshore wind energy leases, capable of supporting 17 gigawatts of generating capacity, covering every state from Massachusetts to North Carolina (Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras).

On April 6, 2018, BOEM published a Request for Feedback in the Federal Register, presenting the agency's "Proposed Path Forward for Future Offshore Renewable Energy Leasing on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf." In that notice, the agency said it is conducting a high-level assessment of all waters offshore the United States Atlantic Coast for potential future offshore wind lease locations, and proposes to rely on specific factors to help it assess which geographic areas along the Atlantic are the most likely to have highest potential for successful offshore wind development in the next three to five years.

BOEM said its intent in publishing the Notice was "to start a conversation surrounding its approach to future renewable energy leasing on the Atlantic OCS." Its proposed factors for identifying offshore wind forecast areas include exclusionary factors (which create "no-go" areas for offshore wind) and positive factors (increasing the likelihood that location would fall within a forecast area). Under BOEM's proposal, exclusionary factors would include areas prohibited by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act for leasing, Department of Defense conflict areas, and charted marine vessel traffic routes. Positive factors for an areas include that it has not previously been removed, is greater than 10 nautical miles from shore, is shallower than 60 meters in depth, is adjacent to states with offshore wind economic incentives or with an interest in identifying additional lease areas, or where industry has expressed interest.

Comments on BOEM's proposed path forward for offshore renewable energy leasing on the Atlantic were slated to be due on May 21, but on May 18, 2018, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced that it would accept comments through July 5, 2018.

BOEM says this "Atlantic assessment is intended to inform future area identification processes, not replace them" -- so after reviewing comments it receives, BOEM will coordinate with its intergovernmental renewable energy task forces and conduct additional stakeholder outreach.

Kilauea lava approaches geothermal power plant

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Lava erupting from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii has caused a nearby geothermal power plant to shut down.

Puna Geothermal Venture is a geothermal energy conversion plant on the island of Hawaii. It brings steam and hot liquid from underground wells to the surface, where the steam is directed to a turbine generator to produce electricity. A second turbine uses the first turbine's exhaust steam to generate additional electricity. Under a contract, up to 38 megawatts of power produced by the project is sold to Hawaii Electric Light Company and distributed to customers, reportedly representing about a quarter of the big island's electricity supply.

But as Kilauea erupts, lava flows are reportedly threatening the Puna plant. The majority upstream owner of project operator Puna Geothermal Venture GP, Ormat Technologies Inc., issued a press release on May 15 describing steps taken to secure the Puna facilities in accordance with its emergency response plan, including taking electricity generation offline, shutting down and protecting the geothermal wells, removing flammable materials, and cooperating with state emergency agencies. The Honolulu Civil Beat reported on May 21 that most of the plant's wells have been capped, and that lava flows have reached the plant property but so far have been held back by a natural berm.

According to Ormat's May 15 press release, its property and business interruption insurance policies include insurance coverage in the event of volcanic eruptions and earthquake in an amount of up to $100 million (combined). But the company noted that any significant physical damage to, or extended shut-down of, the Puna facilities could have an adverse impact on the power plant's electricity generation and availability, which in turn could have a material adverse impact on the company's business and results of operations.

NECPUC 2018 energy symposium

Monday, May 21, 2018

New England utility regulators have gathered in Maine for the 71st annual symposium of the New England Conference of Public Utilities Commissioners.

NECPUC is a non-profit corporation which provides regional regulatory assistance on matters of common concern to public utilities commissions of the six New England states. Its board of directors is composed of public utilities commissioners from the six New England states. NECPUC meets regularly throughout the year and sponsors an annual symposium on regulatory issues.

NECPUC holds its 71st annual symposium in Cape Neddick, Maine, from May 20-23, 2018. The agenda for the 2018 NECPUC event includes programs focused on topics affecting the New England utility landscape. For the energy sector, these include a plenary session on wholesale markets and how consumers are impacted by "reliability-centric market challenges," as well as a panel on advancing electric vehicle infrastructure in New England. Another set of panels focuses on how to analyze, regulate, and manage risks of high-impact, low-frequency events like cybersecurity attacks or extreme weather. Other panels cover water, telecommunications, and natural gas topics.

Speakers scheduled to appear include Maine Governor Paul LePage and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Commissioner Robert Powelson, as well as commissioners from numerous state public utilities commissions.

ISO-NE 2018 CELT projects future energy usage declines

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The operator of New England's bulk electric grid projects that both energy usage and peak demand from the utility grid will decline slightly in the region over the 10-year period between 2018 and 2027, primarily due to the deployment of energy efficiency measures and behind-the-meter solar arrays.

ISO New England Inc. is the regional transmission organization responsible for the electric grid and electricity markets across most of New England. On April 30, 2018, ISO-NE published its 2018-2027 Forecast Report of Capacity, Energy, Loads, and Transmission, or CELT Report. The grid operator prepares annual CELT reports which describe the assumptions used in ISO system planning and reliability studies. These assumptions include the total generating capability of in-region resources, as well as a long-term forecast for growth in energy consumption and peak demand.

According to ISO-NE's 2018 CELT Report, overall regional electricity use will grow 0.9% annually over the 10-year period. But when energy efficiency and behind-the-meter generation are taken into account, ISO-NE's forecasts for both regional energy usage and peak demand project slight declines over the 10-year period. The grid operator projects an annual decrease in net energy usage by -0.9% annually, with seasonal peak demands projected to decline by -0.2% to 0.7% annually. ISO cites "continuing robust installation of energy-efficiency measures and behind-the-meter solar arrays throughout the region" as the primary factors driving this decline.