Natural gas pipeline expansion in Northeast
Multiple pipeline expansion projects are expected to begin service this winter to increase natural gas takeaway capacity from the Appalachian Basin's Marcellus Shale play, where production has increased significantly over the past two years. These new projects are largely focused on transporting gas to the New York/New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic regions and would have limited benefit for consumers in New England, where price spikes during periods of peak winter demand appear likely to persist.
Expansion projects with expected in-service dates between 2013 and 2015 would add at least 3.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of additional capacity to New York/New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic markets. More than 2.0 Bcf/d of expansions are expected for this winter alone. The largest of these is the 0.78 Bcf/d New York-New Jersey Expansion project on a portion of Spectra Energy's Texas Eastern Transmission Company (TETCO) pipeline from Linden, N.J., to Manhattan, N.Y. On Oct. 17, the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency (FERC) authorized the start of initial service on these expansions.
New England consumers, however, would not significantly benefit from currently planned pipeline expansions until 2016. The Algonquin Gas Transmission (AGT) pipeline, which takes gas from Marcellus and other sources to consumers in New England, has traditionally operated at near-full capacity during periods of peak winter demand. The next planned expansion on AGT is the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) project, which would enable the pipeline to flow north an additional 0.42 Bcf/d of gas received at its interconnect with Millennium Pipeline in Ramapo, N.Y. The target in-service date for the AIM Project is Nov. 1, 2016.
The difference in construction activity for New York and New England markets is reflected in market prices for natural gas. Monthly forward prices for gas purchased at AGT continue to spike in winter months compared to the nationwide benchmark price for gas purchased at Henry Hub in Erath, La. By contrast, the forward price at the Transco Zone 6-New York (TZ6-NY) trading hub is similar to the Henry Hub forward price.
In addition to TETCO's New York-New Jersey Expansion project, a number of projects are expected to increase the takeaway capacity of Marcellus gas this winter to consumers in the New York/New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic regions, or were planned for this winter but have experienced delays.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April
Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.
The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.
Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.
In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue.
Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”
There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:
- Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps.
- Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold.
- Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice.
Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.
"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.
"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."
United Utilities picks up pipeline award
A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.
The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.
“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.
Camus Energy secures $16m funding
Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent Ventures, Wave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.
As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.