Massachusetts Retires Last Nuclear Power Plant

Posted by Ed Burke on Jun 25, 2019 11:33:00 AM

Pilgrim Power

May 31st 2019, the Pilgrim Nuclear Power station in Plymouth, MA shut down for the last time. Now the lengthy process to fully decommission the plant and return the site to its former condition begins. 

Pilgrim has been operational for 47 years, producing approximately 15% of the State's energy needs through nuclear power generation. The loss of power generation from the Pilgrim closure should be offset by increases from new plants, as well as a continued decline in demand, particularly during peak periods. The forecast for this years usage for example, is down 600 megawatts as compared to the prior year. 

Not everyone is on board with seeing the Pilgrim closure as a positive though. Nuclear is a reliable, zero emission power source, and market conditions mean new nuclear plants are unlikely, so the shuttering of existing plants versus running repairs and safety/regulatory upgrades essentially means Massachusetts is most likely permanently out of nuclear power generation. 

I wrote an article for Oil & Energy magazine detailing some of the cited impacts the closure will have, the decommissioning timeline, regulatory concerns, and concerns about withdrawing from nuclear in general.

You can read that article here: Massachusetts' Only Nuclear Power Plant is Retired  

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Topics: Massachusetts, power plant emissions, Clean Energy

Holyoke's Mt Tom Site is a Blueprint for Success with Renewable Energy Projects

Posted by Ed Burke on Jun 6, 2019 10:43:00 AM

solar panels

Holyoke MA, the site of the last coal fired plant in MA, this year will see the smokestacks of the now closed plant taken down. The site is now home to the largest solar farm in the state, and the first large scale renewables battery storage system. By 2017, the Mount Tom site housed over 17,000 solar panels, and in 2018 Engie (formerly GDF Suez) installed 3 megawatts of battery storage on site to keep supply to the grid consistent. 

Holyoke Gas & Electric, which is the city owned utility, supplies roughly 90% of its power from carbon-free sources, including nuclear, about 2/3 of which comes from wind and solar. 

I've written a few articles for Oil & Energy magazine about the project in Holyoke, which has become essentially a template for communities moving toward more renewable power, as well as looking at workforce shifts, equitable pay outs, and job training for the changes brought by moving power sources, which Engie and Holyoke did a fantastic job with. You can read them here: Holyoke's Path Away from Coal and here Massachusetts Envisions Huge Growth in Energy Storage

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Topics: Holyoke, Solar Power, Clean Energy

IMO 2020 Raises Questions on Market, Supply Impacts

Posted by Ed Burke on May 1, 2019 10:30:43 AM

truck w cargo ship

In January 2020, the IMO (International Maritime Organization) regulation on sulfur content caps for Marine Vessels takes effect. The regulation is one of the most significant energy policy regulations in the past decade (at least). The rule caps sulfur content in all marine fuels at 0.5% (the current cap is 3.5%).

The impacts of this regulation could have an outsize impact, both because the supply versus demand shakeup at terminals and ports could affect availability, and because of the global nature of oil pricing. Marine vessels account for about 4% of global oil demand and handle around 80% of international trade volumes so impacts not only carry potential to hit other oil related industries (trucking, refining, etc) but also heavily trade dependent  industries. 

There has been concern about availability of very low sulfur fuel for vessels upon the regulations effective dates,and potentially substantial pricing impacts.  A phase-in versus a "flipping the switch" plan for IMO 2020 has been proposed but rejected thus far.

This month (May) the IMO has a meeting where a phase in is again expected to be proposed. The Trump Administration has come out on the side of pushing for a phase in, likely in an attempt to prevent rising energy prices prior to the 2020 election cycle. There is some speculation that this may give the phase in policy more weight, fear that the U.S may withdraw from the deal entirely (ie Paris accords) may cause the IMO to agree to moderate policy to keep the deal on the horizon. We will have to stay tuned to see the results of the IMO meeting. 

In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the IMO regulation and the steps being taken to comply with the rule by the Marine industry and on the refinery side, I wrote an article for Oil & Energy Magazine a few weeks ago that takes a deeper dive into the subject. You can read that here: "2020 Marine Regulations Raise Concerns" 

(As an aside, March saw a market day impacted by the subject of IMO 2020 coming up for traders as they weighed it versus actual inventory indicators - sort of a fun indicator of what we may be looking at on the markets, as well as a link to a relatively exhaustive overview of the 2020 rule - here: "EIA Levels Push Gas Lower, Distillates Hang Steady Ahead of IMO Change Questions"

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Topics: IMO 2020

NTSB Releases Most Wanted Improvements for 2019

Posted by Ed Burke on Mar 27, 2019 12:23:13 PM

safety triange

 

In February, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) outlined its "most wanted" Transportation Safety Improvements for 2019-2020. 

The list, which the NTSB has published since 1990, attempts to outline the most substantial, high priority items it feels should be addressed to limit accidents, especially fatal ones.

While the NTSB has no official regulatory authority, it has long served as an important voice in pushing for recommendations to make the roads safer. 

Here are this years major trucking related items:

  • Eliminate Distractions 
  • End Drug & Alcohol Impairment
  • Implement a Comprehensive Strategy to Reduce Speeding Related Crashes 
  • Increase Implementation of Highway Collision Avoidance 
  • Reduce Fatigue Related Accidents
  • Require Screening & Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The items above deal with everything from apps to lock down mobile devices while driving, to vehicle crash avoidance tech, to looking at revisions in alcohol & substance policy (impaired driving still causes a staggering nearly 30% of crashes)

I went through each of the bullet points above in more detail, as well as looking at some of the impacts this would have on the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) and its future policies. You can read that article in its entirety here:

"From Lessons Learned to Lives Saved" 

 

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Topics: Safety

China Leads the Charge on EV Market Growth

Posted by Ed Burke on Feb 19, 2019 11:36:00 AM

electric-china

Sales of electric vehicles (EV) in the US grew 80% over 2017 sales (2018 saw 361,000 sold), and the global sales number was over 1.7 billion, with China accounting for approximately half of that volume. 

China is seeking to lead the EV transition, with the goal of 19% of all passenger cars sold being electric by 2025. The "New Energy Vehicle" quota law adopted there is the foundation of the rapidly expanding push - this law essentially mimics the "California Zero Emission Vehicle" program. It's a credit based system on the manufacturer side, versus an incentive on the consumer side. So similarly to the California program (or not unlike RINs and other proposed carbon initiatives), manufacturers generate credits via selling EV's, or purchase credits from competitors with excess to meet their required threshold. 

I wrote an article about the current EV landscape both in the US and in China, the major players and factories involved, and what I think we can reasonably assume the near future looks like for EV growth in the passenger car sector. You can read that article here: "Dominating the Electric Vehicle Market" 

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Topics: electric vehicles, china, renewable energy

Storm Intensity enhances focus on Grid Resilience

Posted by Ed Burke on Dec 18, 2018 11:10:00 AM

utility

Grid Resilience is top of mind for utility companies, the DOE, and the general public these days, as we see increasingly destructive storms hit the United States. Over the past two years we had five major impact hurricanes (Irma, Harvey, Maria, Florence & Michael) and the consensus is that these will continue, or worsen, over the coming years due to Climate Change. 

The goal of resiliency is to have the power grid for an area diversified and upgraded such that it can handle extreme demands. The DOE outlines the major concepts that underlie resilience planning as: Robustness, Resourcefulness, Rapid Recovery & Adaptability. These separate but connected aims allow the grid to both better absorb shocks and more rapidly adjust different factors to respond to risks & outages. 

We got a decent look back on how upgrades and risk management planning played out in some of the storms in the past two years. I wrote an article for Oil & Energy magazine detailing each storms responses & issues, as well as more information on resiliency goals in general. You can read that article here: Hurricane Resilience 

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Topics: emergency response, hurricane harvey, Clean Energy

Massachusetts Pushes Clean Energy forward in 2018

Posted by Ed Burke on Oct 17, 2018 10:59:00 AM

2016-01-20_18-21-41

2018 has been a busy and effective year for Massachusetts' quest to advance Clean Energy within the State. Here are some highlights:

  • Massachusetts surpassed 2,000 megawatts of installed solar capacity throughout the state (78,646 projects), almost half of which was installed in just the past two years. 
  • Residential energy storage increases accounted for 72% of all megawatt hours in the 2nd quarter. 
  • Community Solar projects have been gaining traction - these programs let people subscribe to solar farms and receive credits based on their share of the solar energy generated. 
  • The SMART (Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target) incentive program is now active, and is expected to generate 1,600 megawatt hours of new solar.
  • The Clean Energy Bill was signed into law by Governor Baker in August. The bill is a compromise measure that raises the renewable portfolio standard, imposes a minimum percentage of clean energy required for peak demand usage, and increases energy storage goals and requirements. 
  • SJC ruled in September that the state can enforce the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions related in a 2008 law. 

I wrote an article for Oil & Energy Magazine that gets further into detail on the SJC ruling, Clean Energy Bill, the advancements in energy storage, and changes in Solar Energy regulations. If you would like to get a more thorough picture of where Massachusetts is at the end of 2018 and what the next few years are looking like, you can read that article here:

Massachusetts Accelerates Clean Energy Agenda

 

 

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Topics: Massachusetts, Clean Energy

New England Energy Grid Faces More Challenges

Posted by Ed Burke on Aug 30, 2018 1:52:00 PM

Mystic Power Plant

New England has some of the highest utility rates in the country, and a fuel-constrained infrastructure. Now the area is again looking at potentially losing two major energy sources simultaneously. 

The Mystic Generating Station in Everett announced a full shutdown as of 2022. If Mystic closes, the LNG import terminal in Everett would lose its largest customer, which would jeopardize the terminal's ability to stay operational. The result of the terminal closing in tandem with the generation station means the region would be at risk for rolling blackouts during the winter months.This is obviously a huge safety concern for residents. 

The regions energy infrastructure is complicated, and the path forward looks complicated as well. As any resident of Mass can attest, there has been a lot of back and forth regarding the shuttering of older plants, which has its pro's and cons (Brayton Point, and Pilgrim being recent examples). There has concurrently been much back and forth on the merits and drawbacks of added pipeline capacity for natural gas, looking at nuclear options, and so on. 

I wrote an article for Oil & Energy detailing some of the issues surrounding the potential Mystic & LNG terminal closures, and what its looking like the path forward may be depending on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's rulings, etc. You can read the article here:  New England Grid Needs Broader Market Changes to Address Fuel Security 

 

 

Fun fact: Photo featured is of the Mystic Generation Station taken about a mile from our old HQ in Chelsea, MA by an employee 

 

 

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Topics: Utility Rates, Energy Infrastructure

Year Round E15 & RFS Waivers on the Energy Agenda

Posted by Ed Burke on Aug 8, 2018 1:24:00 PM

shutterstock_233876863

Low commodity prices, plummeting RIN values, and talk of potential trade wars are all factors hitting the US Agricultural Sector hard this year.

Some of the avenues being discussed to provide relief are: allowing year round E15 sales, looking into the impact that RFS waivers for small refiners may have had, and making the process for submitting and granting waivers much more streamlined with the goal of stabilizing RIN prices. 

E15 sales are currently prohibited from June 1 through September 15 because of RVP regulations (much like "summer" and "winter" conventional gas changes those of us from the Northeast are familiar with in Maine). E15, unlike E10, does not have a low enough RVP rating to meet the criteria for year round sale. 

The White House had proposed changing the E15 regulation in June, but postponed. It currently looks like the change will take place sometime before next summer. 

I wrote an article for Oil & Energy Magazine that goes into some more of the details on E15, the impacts we might expect, and how viable it will be in the market. You can read that article here:  Year-Round E15 and Small Refinery Waivers

 

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Topics: Ethanol, RINs, RFS

Are Self Driving Trucks a Solution to Driver Shortages?

Posted by Ed Burke on May 25, 2018 11:46:00 AM

otto

Are self driving trucks the long term solution to the driver shortage? Or will autonomous vehicles simply change the way drivers do their work every day?

Trucking has struggled to keep pace with hiring needs over the last decade and a half. Partly due to sector growth, and partly due to replacing retired workers, the estimated shortfall on annual qualified drivers is estimated around 50K currently, and projected to creep higher annually. 

Can automated driving technology stretch driver availability by making the job easier? Or should our main focus be making it safer in terms of mitigating the human error the NTSB cites as being responsible for 94% of all fatal crashes?

I wrote an article about Self Driving Truck tech for Oil & Energy Magazine you can read here on the issue:

Self Driving Trucks & the Driver Shortage

 

What do you think the role of autonomous tech should be long term? 

 

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Topics: autonomous vehicles, driver shortage

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