Florida-based NextEra Energy’s proposed purchase of Texas transmission company Oncor Electric Delivery hit a snag Thursday as Texas regulators called the $18.7 billion deal not in the public interest.
According to the Dallas Morning News, all three regulators on the Texas Public Utility Commission board said they had concerns about the sale — in particular an independent board not controlled by NextEra.
FERC approved the NextEra takeover in January 2017.
In 2015, Hunt Consolidated and partners offered to buy Oncor as part of EFH’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding in an estimated $20 billion deal. However, in May Hunt informed the Texas Public Utility Commission that it was backing out of the plan.
The Hunt plan had approval from a Delaware bankruptcy judge. One alleged reason it fell through, according to some news accounts, is that Texas regulators may have required the buyer to share tax savings with customers.
Hunt said that and other regulatory caveats might scare off investors. Hunt later indicated renewed interest in an Oncor deal but NextEra has stepped in with its eleven-digit financial offer.
NextEra also had a deal to buy Hawaiian Electric Industries that was announced in 2014, but fell apart in 2016 when Hawaiian regulators voted not to approve the merger.
Oncor is privately held by a limited number of investors including Energy Future Holdings Corp.
Oncor is directly owned by: Oncor Electric Delivery Holdings Co. with an 80 percent ownership interest; Texas Transmission Investment with a 19.75 percent ownership interest; and Oncor Management Investment with a 0.22 percent ownership interest.
Oncor serves about 10 million customers in northern Texas, including Dallas, Fort Worth, Odessa and Waco.
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Mark Schmitz, Itron‘s executive vice president and chief financial officer since September 2014, will be stepping down from the position, effective immediately.
The company has engaged a firm to conduct an external search for qualified candidates to fill the position. During the transition, Robert Farrow, Itron’s current vice president, strategic planning and treasury, will serve as interim CFO of the company until the search for a permanent replacement is complete. Schmitz will remain available for one month to ensure a smooth transition during the first quarter accounting close.
“During Mark’s tenure as CFO, he was instrumental in helping Itron begin its business transformation to a more predictable, profitable and growing company,” said Philip Mezey, Itron’s president and CEO. “The board and I would like to thank Mark for his many contributions, and we wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
“As Itron continues its business transformation, we are seeking an executive finance leader who builds upon Itron’s strong financial foundation as we develop a nimble finance organization focused on enabling our corporate strategy and achieving our next phase of growth,” continued Mezey.
Robert Farrow will serve as interim CFO. Farrow, age 59, joined Itron in October 2015 with 35 years of finance and treasury experience. Before joining the company, he served as vice president, financial services and treasury and as corporate treasurer for Alghanim Industries, which he joined in June 2009. From 1994 to 2009, Farrow held positions of increasing responsibility in finance and treasury at General Electric, including CFO of GE Hydro.
“We are fortunate to have Rob, a highly qualified finance professional, on staff to serve as our interim CFO while we recruit Mark’s replacement,” said Mezey. “Rob will lead the internal efforts currently underway to ensure that we are improving predictability, profitability and growth.”
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National Grid is proposing to develop a new transmission project that would bring up to 1,200 MW of clean energy from Canada to the New England power grid.
To drive down costs, increase efficiency and minimize environmental impacts, the proposed Granite State Power Link will be constructed almost entirely along existing transmission corridors and will maximize use of existing infrastructure.
As proposed, the GSPL comprises two segments: the first is a new high-voltage, direct current (HVDC) overhead line located in Vermont alongside an existing HVDC line in an expanded right-of-way corridor from the international border at Norton, Vermont, to a proposed converter station on National Grid-owned property in Monroe, New Hampshire.
The Manchester, New Hampshire Union Leader reported the project carries a price tag of about $1 billion.
This is one of several transmission projects in some form of development that aim to bring low-cost hydropower and other forms of renewable energy south to the energy-hungry cities of the U.S. Northeast.
The second segment is an upgrade of an existing National Grid overhead line in New Hampshire to accommodate the additional power flow from the new HVDC line. That line runs from Monroe to southern New Hampshire, where a proposed switching station would be built.
“We believe this proposed project reflects the priorities we’ve heard from state and local communities on their need for lower cost, energy efficient and environmentally sound solutions,” said John Flynn, National Grid senior vice president of Business Development. “The GSPL meets these tests; our stakeholder engagement and outreach is underway and we look forward to continuing our work with communities of all types to earn their support. Community dialogue and engagement will be a hallmark of GSPL.”
GSPL is a commercial project; its development will be funded by National Grid and its investors, not customers of its regulated companies.
An investor in the project is a non-profit energy company that works with utilities and developers across the country to develop clean transmission projects and uses revenues from these ventures to finance new charitable programs to help low-income working families with their energy needs. Continuing this commitment, Massachusetts-based Citizens Energy has pledged to use 50 percent of its own profits from the project to fund energy assistance programs for local families living in New Hampshire and Vermont.
GSPL will provide economic benefits in New Hampshire and Vermont. More than an estimated 2,000 jobs will be created during construction and the project host communities and key state programs will receive significant new tax revenues and direct benefits. National Grid will be meeting with host communities and state officials in the coming months to discuss these and other benefits.
The project is also expected to lower energy costs across New England by $1.1 billion over its first 10 years of operation.
“We designed this project to be a win-win-win for New England’s energy consumers, the project host states and communities, and the environment,” Flynn said. “When you combine the project’s potential to lower regional electricity rates, economic development investment, environmental benefits, its cost-effectiveness, and the minimal visual and environmental impacts to the host communities, it’s clear that GSPL is uniquely positioned to bring clean energy to life in the region.”
“NVDA is pleased to support and welcome the development of the Granite State Power Link in the Northeast Kingdom,” said Dave Snedeker, executive director of the Northeastern Vermont Development Association. “The project, developed next to an existing transmission corridor, will have a limited environmental and visual impact, and will deliver significant economic benefits to an area of Vermont that desperately needs an economic boost. We look forward to working with National Grid to further define what the specific economic benefits will be.”
National Grid is a world leader in developing large, complex transmission projects, including major HVDC interconnectors. National Grid built, co-owns and operates the nation’s first HVDC system, which interconnects New England and Canada and has delivered up to 2,000 megawatts of clean energy for more than 25 years. In the UK, National Grid co-developed and co-owns interconnectors to France and the Netherlands, and is developing others that will connect the UK to Norway and Belgium. A second link to France is under consideration, along with interconnectors to Denmark and Iceland.
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DCO Energy and Montclair State University are pleased to announce that they are expanding their existing partnership to create and develop a microgrid on the institution’s campus.
Upon completion of this new project, Montclair State University will be one of only a few educational institutions in NJ to have a fully integrated microgrid, a localized energy grid with independent control capabilities, including automatic disconnect from the traditional grid if an outage occurs and the ability for the system to operate autonomously.
This project follows the success of the combined heating, cooling and power (CHCP) project that DCO staff developed and has been operating on the Montclair State University campus since 2012.
Results of the CHCP project include lower energy costs related to electric, heating and cooling, improved efficiency and a reduction of the university’s overall carbon footprint. The capability for expansion was built into the original system, and has facilitated other new capital projects which have further benefitted the university.
Expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2017, the microgrid is a fully integrated, all-inclusive form of power that will create numerous benefits for Montclair State University. Perhaps most noteworthy among them is the fact that, upon completion of the project, the university will be able to operate completely independent of local utilities when required, enabling the institution to control its own power usage and costs while benefitting from more reliable power delivery.
“The creation of the microgrid leverages the university’s CHCP facility with additional generation and smart grid technology to provide a robust and reliable utility infrastructure that will serve the more than 25,000 students, faculty and staff of the University,” stated Montclair State University Vice President of University Facilities Shawn Connolly. “We are excited to expand our already successful relationship with DCO Energy, and we look forward to utilizing this latest advancement in building Montclair State’s infrastructure.”
“We are so proud of our partnership with Montclair State University,” said Frank DiCola, Chairman and CEO of DCO Energy. “microgrids are a tremendous benefit for educational facilities, and the university should be commended for being an early adopter of this powerful technology.”
“Much like the CHCP project, the university will not need to contribute any construction funding for the new microgrid facility,” said Michael Jingoli, CFO of DCO Energy.
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The board of directors of Emera said Chris Huskilson has provided notice of his intention to retire as CEO in 2018.
Concurrently, the board also announced it will appoint Scott Balfour, current COO and former CFO, as CEO upon Huskilson’s retirement.
“I am delighted to announce that Scott will be our next CEO,” says Jackie Sheppard, chair of Emera. “Chris has been an outstanding CEO for more than 12 years and we understand and respect his desire to step down in 2018. Over the past several years, the board and Chris have worked closely to develop a strong and experienced leadership team. The fact that we were able to select a successor internally is a testament to the depth of the leadership team and the succession work that has been done.”
Balfour joined Emera as executive vice president and CFO in 2012, was appointed COO Northeast & Caribbean in March 2016 and chief operating officer for Emera in November 2016. Balfour has also assumed responsibility for leading corporate strategy and is the chair of the board for most of Emera’s affiliates.
“Since joining Emera, Scott has taken on increasing levels of responsibility and has played a key role in the growth of the company,” says Sheppard. “Scott’s strong leadership, financial acumen and experience at Emera as CFO and COO combined with the deep experience of the leadership team make this a natural next step for Emera.”
As previously disclosed, Huskilson agreed to provide at least 12 months’ advance notice of his desire to retire, allowing for a seamless leadership transition.
“With TECO integrated and adding to our existing growth platforms, Emera is ready for this leadership change,” says Chris Huskilson, president and CEO of Emera. “The work the board has done on succession planning, Scott’s leadership experience and the strength of our organization gives me confidence in both the timing of this transition and the future of Emera.”
The successful execution of its strategy has transformed Emera into one of the 20 largest North American publicly traded utilities, serving more than 2.4 million customers and becoming a member of the S&P TSX60.
Balfour has worked closely with Huskilson and the entire leadership team over the past five years to deliver consistent shareholder and customer value and to create significant progress on the strategy, including the TECO acquisition and large scale projects such as the Maritime Link.
“It will be an honour to serve as CEO of Emera,” says Scott Balfour, COO of Emera. “Emera is a great company, with a great team and an exciting future. I look forward to continuing our work together to capitalize on the growth opportunities ahead of us.”
Chris Huskilson – president and chief executive officer, Emera Inc.
Chris began his career with Nova Scotia Power in 1980. He was made chief operating officer of Emera and Nova Scotia Power in July 2003 and president and CEO of Emera in 2004. Chris is a member of the Association of Professional Engineers of Nova Scotia. He serves on many for-profit and not-for-profit boards of directors. He is past chair of the Greater Halifax Partnership, the Energy Council of Canada, and the Canadian Electricity Association.
Scott Balfour – chief operating officer, Emera Inc.
Scott Balfour was appointed chief operating officer for Emera Inc. in November 2016. Scott joined Emera in April of 2012 as executive vice president and chief financial officer, before becoming COO Northeast & Caribbean in March 2016. Since joining Emera, Scott has played a key role in strategy development, driving growth and large projects, including the TECO acquisition and the Maritime Link. Following six years in commercial and corporate banking with TD Bank and the Royal Bank of Canada, Scott played a leading role in growing Aecon Group into Canada’s largest publicly traded construction firm. Scott joined Aecon as CFO in 1994 and became President in 2005. During that time, Aecon grew from a $60 million regionally based road building company into a $2.8 billion global multi-disciplined contractor and infrastructure developer. Scott is the past chair of the Ontario Energy Association board of directors. He also sits on the board of Martinrea International Inc.
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The system is the PUD’s largest containerized vanadium flow battery system by capacity. The batteries and control systems are housed in 20 shipping containers, each 20 feet in length, packed with tanks of a liquid electrolyte solution.
The PUD’s battery storage systems aim to transform the marketplace and how utilities manage grid operations. They also are designed to improve reliability and the integration of renewable energy resources, which are rapidly growing in the Pacific Northwest.
The PUD was joined at the dedication by Washington Governor Jay Inlsee and representatives from partnering organizations, including UniEnergy Technologies, which manufactured the battery, Doosan GridTech and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The energy storage system was made possible in part with a $7.3 million investment from the Washington State Clean Energy Fund.
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The 106-acre solar photovoltaic project is owned and operated by Tampa Electric and is the largest single source of solar power in the Tampa area with capacity to serve 3,300 homes. Situated near the Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach, it was the first utility-scale solar project undertaken by Tampa Electric.
Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Solar installation is the largest in west-central Florida.
The plant feeds 23 MW of AC capacity into the Tampa area power grid. It features over 202,000 thin-film PV panels installed in 1,772 rows supported by 14,000 direct-driven steel piles. The panels are outfitted with sensors and drive motors that enable them to track the movement of the sun, resulting in a more than 20 percent energy gain over fixed solar installations.
The Big Bend Solar Plant features inverters provided by SMA for conversion from DC to AC power and modules incorporating First Solar advanced thin film PV technology.
“The Big Bend Solar Plant is significant in proving utility-scale PV is cost competitive with traditional generation for regulated utilities,” says Matt Brinkman, Burns & McDonnell Principal and national director of solar projects for the firm. “Solar costs have decreased dramatically.”
Tampa Electric, one of Florida’s largest investor-owned electric utilities, serves more than 730,000 customers in West Central Florida. Tampa Electric is a subsidiary of Emera Inc., a geographically diverse energy and services company headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
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U.S. electricity power producers have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 24 percent since 2005, according to a new report from Carnegie Mellon University’s Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.
The new index estimated that emissions from the American power generation sector totaled about 1,001 pounds of CO2 per MWh in 2016’s fourth quarter. Short-term, it was surprisingly a 1 percent increase over the same period of the previous year—possibly due to a slight coal comeback—but nearly a quarter lower than in 2005, when emissions averaged 1,324 pounds of CO2 per MWh.
“The Carnegie Mellon Power Sector Carbon Index highlights what is taking place in the industry as older, inefficient coal-fired power plants have been replaced with renewables and highly efficient natural gas power plants,” said Paul Browning, CEO of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Americas, which sponsors the index. “Power generators are making significant strides in reducing carbon dioxide and other emissions, while at the same time meeting growing demands for affordable and reliable electricity.
The Carnegie Mellon Power Sector Carbon Index will measure the environmental impact of the U.S. power grid by evaluating both on an annualized basis and dating back to 1990, according to the release.
“The pace of change in the index is varying, because the speed at which we are adding new, lower carbon capacity increased —that’s a great thing for de-carbonization, but we are still a long way from the large levels of de-carbonization that are needed,” said InÃªz Azevedo, associate professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, in the release. “We look forward to the day where we can report that we are 50 percent below the levels of 2005.”
The report found that more than half of the reduction in Co2 emissions since 2005 occurred because of the industry shift from coal to natural gas-fired generation. Natural gas emits only about half of the carbon that coal does, and the emissions intensity of the gas fleet itself has fallen by 17 percent since 2001 thanks to greater turbine efficiency and operating schedules.
Coal, however, mounted a bit of a rally in 2016, according to the results of the report. Coal generation was up by 12 percent in the fourth quarter, or 305 million MWh, compared to 2015’s final quarter total of 273 million MWh. But the carbon intensity was down 2 percent over the same period, the same reduction that the U.S. gas-fired fleet achieved, the index reported.
Renewable electricity generation rose 7 percent in 2016’s fourth quarter to 154 million MWh and represented 16 percent of the national generation mix in that stretch. Nuclear electricity generation also was 4 percent higher than in 2015’s last three months.
Natural gas generation, credited as the reason behind carbon reductions, was down 9 percent in 2016 to 294 million MWh, compared to 322 million MWh in the fourth quarter of the previous year.
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