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.