Southern Company Carbon Capture Demo Receives Industry Honor
The Southeastern Electric Exchange’s (SEE) 2014 Industry Excellence Chairman's Award has been given to Southern Company for its 25 MW carbon-capture demonstration project. The groundbreaking project holds the distinction of being the largest demonstration of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) on a pulverized-coal power plant.
Alabama Power—a subsidiary of Southern Company—is housing the project at their Plant Barry power station near Mobile, Alabama. Annually, the project captures approximately 150,000 tons of carbon dioxide, which is supplied to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Southeast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership. It is then transported through a 12-mile pipeline to the Citronelle oil field, where it is injected and permanently stored 9,500 feet underground in a geologic formation. The project began in 2011 and was projected to cost roughly $111 million. A start-to-finish carbon-capture demonstration of this magnitude is an important step towards establishing the sustainability and economic feasibility of the technology.
Upon accepting the award at SEE’s annual meeting, Southern Company’s chief environmental officer, Dr. Larry S. Monroe, commented on the project by saying, “The carbon-capture demonstration at Plant Barry represents an investment in our energy future through the development of technologies that will help provide clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy to customers using America's energy resources. Southern Company recognizes the importance of energy innovation and leads the United States utility industry in robust, proprietary research and development.”
Southern Company was founded in 1945 and is currently the fourth largest utility company in the United States. It boasts more than 500,000 shareholders and has been traded since 1949. The company owns four retail electric companies: Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power and Mississippi Power, which, combined, serve over 120,000 square miles in four states.
The utility received an Industry Excellence award in the field of production for the development of PowerGraphiX, a human/technology interface that improves plant operators’ situational awareness. The system replaces multiple monitors displaying digital data with a tiered system of monitors that displays groupings of related information in analog format, enabling plant operators to better anticipate problems, make correct diagnoses and respond accordingly.
In addition, Southern Company subsidiary Mississippi Power received two SEE awards this year for the top performance in the categories of total company safety and transmission and distribution safety.
This marks the second year in a row that Mississippi Power ranked first for their safety performance. The award is given to the company with the best, or lowest, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordable incident rate in reporting categories. Mississippi Power has received the top safety award for seven of the past nine years.
Founded in 1933, the Southeastern Electric Exchange is a non-profit, non-political trade association of investor-owned electric utility companies. The association holds over 25 working group meetings annually as well as special workshops and conducts over 175 benchmarking surveys per year. The SEE Industry Excellence Awards Program judges projects in twelve categories on their achievements, innovation, improvements, requirements met and technical capacity.
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.