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Monthly Archives: July 2017

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NYU security researchers reveal strategies to protect grid from low-budget attacks

Category : Uncategorized

Cyberattacks against power grids and other critical infrastructure systems have long been considered a threat limited to nation-states due to the sophistication and resources necessary to mount them. A team of New York University researchers challenged that notion at the Black Hat USA 2017 conference in Las Vegas. They disclosed vulnerabilities in a component that combined with publicly available information provide sufficient information to model an advanced, persistent threat to the electrical grid.

Michail Maniatakos, a research professor at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering and an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NYU Abu Dhabi, detailed the discovery of a security flaw in the authentication mechanism of a legacy protective relay—a component that responds to changes in flow across the grid to isolate electrical faults. The vulnerability allows an attacker with local or remote access to extract and reverse-engineer the weakly encrypted and easily accessed passwords used to reprogram the relay’s protective setpoints.

Maniatakos and his collaborators also demonstrated how information about network topology and grid components may allow adversaries to create a model of the power system—information that can be used to pinpoint the most critical nodes of the system. Examples:
Equipment suppliers market the sale of their critical equipment online, alerting potential adversaries to where their equipment is used.

The researchers were able to use Google Earth to track power lines.

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Georgia Power, Westinghouse finalize service agreement for Vogtle expansion

Category : Uncategorized

Georgia Power has finalized a new service agreement with Westinghouse for the Vogtle nuclear expansion—the first new nuclear units to be built in the United States in more than 30 years. Previously, Westinghouse, the developer of the AP1000 nuclear technology being used by the new units, served as the primary contractor with oversight and responsibility for all construction activities. Under the new service agreement, approved by the U.S. Department of Energy on July 27, Southern Nuclear (the Southern Company subsidiary which operates the existing units at Plant Vogtle) will oversee construction activities at the site.

“We are already in the midst of a seamless transition for the thousands of workers across the site, allowing us to sustain the progress we are making every day on both units,” said Mark Rauckhorst, executive vice president for the Vogtle 3 and 4 project. “We remain focused on safety and quality as we complete this transition.”

The scope of the service agreement includes engineering, procurement and licensing support from Westinghouse, as well as access to Westinghouse intellectual property needed for the project. Under the new structure, hundreds of Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear employees, many who are already aligned with the project, will assume clearly defined project management roles.
Georgia Power also continues work with the project’s co-owners (Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities) to complete a full-scale schedule and cost-to-complete analysis of the project. Once complete, Georgia Power will work with the Georgia Public Service Commission to determine the best path forward for customers.

Following the Westinghouse bankruptcy filing on March 29, construction momentum has continued uninterrupted. Over the last 30 days alone, progress includes new concrete placement within the Unit 3 shield building and nuclear island, placement of structural steel for the Unit 4 annex building and the first of four 85,000-pound accumulator tanks for the new units within the Unit 3 containment vessel.

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TransAlta Renewables South Hedland Power Station begins commercial operations and company increased dividend 7 percent

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TransAlta Renewables Inc. (TSX: RNW) today announced that the South Hedland power station, located in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia, has begun commercial operation. The 150 MW combined-cycle natural gas power station is one of the most efficient power plants in Western Australia, providing low cost electricity and generating low greenhouse gas emissions.

“The commissioning of South Hedland expands our strategy of investing in long-term contracted assets and providing our customers with competitively priced, clean electricity,” said Brett Gellner, TransAlta Renewables president.

The South Hedland power station is expected to contribute approximately $80 million of EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) on an annualized basis from 25-year power purchase agreements with Horizon Power, the state-owned utility, and Fortescue Metals Group. The South Hedland power station is a key component of the electricity infrastructure in the region and will support economic development in the region. The station will supply Horizon Power’s customers in the Pilbara region as well as Fortescue Metals Group’s port operations.

As a result of commissioning the facility, the Board of Directors of TransAlta Renewables has approved an increase in the dividend of $0.06 per year or approximately 7 percent.

TransAlta Renewables is among the largest of any publicly traded renewable independent power producers in Canada. Its asset platform and economic interests are diversified in terms of geography, generation and counterparties and consist of interests in 18 wind facilities, 13 hydroelectric facilities, eight natural gas generation facilities (including South Hedland) and one natural gas pipeline, representing an ownership interest of 2,441 MW of net generating capacity, located in the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Québec, New Brunswick, the State of Wyoming and the State of Western Australia.

MD&A for the year ended December 31, 2016 and 2017 Annual Information Form. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which reflect the Company’s expectations only as of the date of this news release. The purpose of the financial outlooks contained herein is to give the reader information about management’s current expectations and plans and readers are cautioned that such information may not be appropriate for other purposes. The Company disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise these forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law.

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Emera Maine Chooses DVI for Voltage Optimization Project

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– Project in Hampden Maine will leverage the utility’s existing AMI infrastructure

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Wind industry development up 40 percent in second quarter

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More than 40 percent more wind power projects are under construction or advanced development in America than at this time last year, according to second-quarter results released by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

Across the country, 29 wind projects, representing a combined 3,841 MW, announced that they either began construction or entered advanced development in April through June 2017, for a total of 25,819 MW of wind projects currently underway.

That is up more than 7,500 MW from the 18,279 MW underway as of one year ago, an impressive feat because nearly 10,000 MW of additional wind projects came online over that time period and therefore were subtracted from the under-construction total.

Findings in the new U.S. Wind Industry Second Quarter 2017 Market Report show nearly 80 percent of current wind turbine construction and advanced development activity is found in the Midwest, Texas and the Mountain West, as America’s rich wind resources draw even more business to heartland states. Other highlights in the second quarter include six major commercial and industrial customers buying U.S. wind power for the first time, including Apple and General Mills, and two offshore wind projects that were awarded Maryland offshore renewable energy credits, a key step in their development.

“The path to unlocking America’s full energy potential is clear with another strong jump in the number of wind projects moving forward,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “Wind energy makes our power system more reliable and resilient and protects consumers by diversifying our energy mix. The wind industry is propelling American energy production, manufacturing, and job creation into the 21st Century.”

Strong wind power development continued in rural America this quarter, where wind has become a major source of new investment and jobs in many communities.

Kansas just became the fifth state to surpass 5,000 MW of installed wind power capacity, as the largest U.S. wind project installed this quarter added 178 MW in the state. Kansas now has enough wind power capacity to supply 1.5 million average homes, supporting nearly 6,000 jobs in the state, and making lease payments of up to $15 million a year to its farmers and ranchers.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback declared, “In my first State of the State speech in January of 2011, I said that Kansas was already known as the Wheat State and the Sunflower State, but that I wanted Kansas to also be known as the Renewables State. Fast forward six years, and Kansas has made major strides to achieving that lofty goal. Today, Kansas can officially say it has joined the “5,000 Megawatt Club” a distinction only four other states have achieved. But, we don’t intend to stop. A year ago, I announced another goal for Kansas – to be powered 50 percent by renewable energy by January 2019 – one of the most aggressive renewable energy policies in the country. Here’s to the next 5,000 MW of wind energy capacity in Kansas and the jobs, businesses and private capital it brings to all parts of our great State.”

Momentum behind offshore wind continued this quarter following last year’s completion of the first American offshore wind project off Rhode Island. During the second quarter, the Maryland Public Service Commission awarded offshore renewable energy credits (ORECs) to two planned offshore wind energy projects that will total 368 MW.

Also in the second quarter, Massachusetts, in partnership with local electric distribution companies, issued a request for proposals for between 400 MW and 800 MW of offshore wind power.

Wind energy expanded to an entirely new industry this quarter when General Mills, the first grocery staples producer to purchase wind energy, signed a 15-year contract for 100 MW of Texas wind power capacity. Other big-name corporate brands purchasing U.S. wind energy for the first time through long-term contracts called power purchase agreements (PPA) included Apple, T-Mobile, Goldman Sachs, Akamai Technologies, and Partners Healthcare.

These companies join recent purchasers General Motors, Proctor & Gamble, and many others who are buying wind because it’s good for their bottom line, locking in clean energy at a stable price for many years into the future.

In the second quarter, construction started on 2,495 MW of projects, while 1,346 MW entered advanced development. There are now 14,004 MW of wind projects under construction and 11,815 MW in advanced development. New wind power capacity added to the grid totaled 237 MW, similar to the second quarter last year.

Nationally, the U.S. now has 84,405 MW of installed wind power capacity, with more than 52,000 commercial wind turbines currently operating in 41 states plus Guam and Puerto Rico.

AWEA will celebrate the rapid growth of the industry and its benefits to rural America with its first-ever “American Wind Week,” Aug. 6-12, featuring tours of wind farms and factories and other opportunities to learn more about wind power. The week’s festivities will be capped with a community fair at noon on Saturday, Aug. 12 in the town square in Fowler, Indiana, population 2,300, whose economy has been transformed by the business from several nearby wind farms.

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Shell CEO says world must plan for electric vehicles aggressively

Category : Uncategorized

LONDON (AP) — Royal Dutch Shell is planning for the day when demand for oil starts fading as major economies move away from oil and increasingly turn to electric vehicles, Chief Executive Ben van Beurden said Thursday.

Van Beurden welcomed recent proposals to phase out passenger vehicles powered by fossil fuels in Britain and France, saying they are needed to combat climate change. Shell is looking at “very aggressive scenarios” as it makes plans to remain competitive in a world that gets more of its energy from renewable sources and less from crude oil, or “liquids,” he said.

“The most aggressive scenario – much more aggressive than what we are seeing at the moment, by the way – with maximum policy effect, with maximum innovation effect, can see us peaking in liquids consumption somewhere in the early thirties,” he said as Shell reported second-quarter earnings. “If there are a lot of biofuels in the mix, that may mean that oil will peak in the late twenties, but then everything has to work up.”

Van Beurden’s comments come amid increased focus on the future of the industry after the Paris climate agreement saw governments commit to tougher action on emissions and shareholders push for more long-term plans.

Britain this week pledged to ban the sale of new cars and vans using diesel and gasoline starting in 2040 as part of a sweeping plan to tackle air pollution. France announced a similar initiative earlier this month.

Car makers are also moving in this direction. Volvo says that by 2019 all of its cars will be powered by electricity or hybrid engines.

“It’s not a surprise that the international super-majors are starting to accept a future with the question of just how much oil and gas is needed,” said David Elmes, an energy industry expert at Warwick Business School. “They realize that is now in their planning horizons and therefore needs to be discussed with shareholders because it is influencing the decisions today, and one might argue that has been prompted by shareholder activism.”

Shell has already begun to respond to changing energy demand by increasing its focus on natural gas, van Beurden said. But the company also needs to get involved in electricity and renewable energy and expand its petrochemicals business, he said.

Van Beurden also stressed that while developed nations are moving away from gasoline- and diesel-powered passenger vehicles, the world will continue to depend on these fuels for many years.

Developing nations don’t yet have the money or electricity networks needed to shift away from fossil fuels, and aviation, shipping and trucking can’t easily shift to non-hydrocarbon energy sources, he said.

“As far as oil and gas are concerned, and certainly as far as oil is concerned, you have to bear in mind that if we have a peak and then go into decline, this doesn’t mean that it is game over straight away,” van Beurden said.

Shell’s discussion of the future came as it said second-quarter earnings more than tripled due to cost cuts and recovering oil prices.

The Anglo-Dutch energy giant said profit adjusted for changes in the value of inventories and excluding one-time items rose to $3.60 billion from $1.05 billion in the same period last year. Net income rose 31 percent to $1.55 billion.

The earnings reflect efforts to restructure the business to cope with lower oil prices and the purchase of natural gas producer BG Group. Shell’s oil price averaged $45.62 a barrel for the quarter, up 16 percent from a year earlier. Prices were above $100 a barrel as recently as 2014.

“The external price environment and energy sector developments mean we will remain very disciplined, with an absolute focus on the four levers within our control, namely capital efficiency, costs, new project delivery, and divestments,” van Beurden said.

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Central Maine Power proposes renewable energy conduit

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PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Central Maine Power company is providing an entry in the contest for the largest renewable energy contract in New England history — a proposal to bring enough green energy from Canada to power upward of a million homes in Massachusetts.

The Maine utility wants to bring either hydropower, wind power or a combination across existing CMP corridors and newly purchased land in western Maine.

CMP, part the U.S. subsidiary of Spanish utility giant Iberdrola, is partnering with two different suppliers on the plan, Hydro Quebec and NextEra Energy Resources.

The electricity would travel along more than 90 miles of existing CMP corridors and 51 miles of newly purchased rights of way in western Maine, making for smooth sailing if a CMP partnership is chosen by Massachusetts, CMP President Sara Burns said.

The CMP proposals were secret until Thursday, the deadline for utilities to submit proposals.

“We think these are the two best ideas,” said Burns.

There is plenty of competition. The Northern Pass across the woods of New Hampshire and TDI New England’s proposed cable under Vermont’s Lake Champlain are among other established projects also vying for the long-term contract.

The proposals aim to bring more renewable power into the energy mix in New England, which is heavily reliant on natural gas.

A Massachusetts law signed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker last year requires the state to solicit contracts for 1,200 MW of renewable energy, including hydropower, onshore wind and solar power, along with at least 1,600 MW of offshore wind energy.

Many of the proposals filed Thursday sought to tap Canadian hydropower from Hydro Quebec and the Muskrat Falls project in Labrador.

The CMP proposals range from up to 1,090 MW of hydropower — more than the output of Maine Yankee nuclear power plant when it was in operation — to 460 MW of wind power, to combinations of wind and hydropower, Burns said. One of the proposals with NextEra calls for bringing in solar power and battery storage in the mix, she said.

All of the CMP proposals would deliver power via either 320-volt direct current power lines or traditional high-voltage lines. Some of the lines would be built along land CMP has been quietly buying in recent years between the Forks and Beattie Township on the Canadian border, while others would be built along existing CMP corridors, Burns said. The final stretch from Lewiston to the New Hampshire border would be routed on the existing grid.

CMP’s Hydro Quebec project is dubbed the New England Clean Energy Connect, while its NextEra partnership is called the Maine Clean Power Connection.

Both CMP partnerships will have an advantage on cost, ownership of rights of way and permitting and construction experience, Burns said. The latter is based on the $1.4 billion on upgrades to the CMP power grid that were completed in 2015, she said.

While the energy would go to Massachusetts, Mainers would benefit from lower energy prices as well as additional tax revenue for some towns and the potential economic impact of 10,000 jobs supported during construction, Burns said.

Massachusetts will select the winning projects in January and conduct further negotiations afterward.

Burns said she hopes the process is more open than the last clean energy solicitation by Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

“If this is the way we’re going to procure future resources in New England then you’ve got to be transparent,” she said.

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Accenture opens Innovation Hub in Bengaluru, India

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Accenture launched its first Innovation Hub in Bengaluru, India, a facility that combines Accenture’s technology capabilities in a collaborative environment to help clients transform their businesses for the digital world.

The Innovation Hub in Bengaluru (also called Bangalore) offers clients access to Accenture’s industry knowledge, applied in a live technology delivery environment, which includes customized visits, design-thinking workshops, co-innovation workshops and cross-industry innovation.

This location gives clients hands on access to all six elements of the Accenture Innovation Architecture – Accenture Research, Accenture Ventures, Accenture Labs, Accenture Studios, Accenture Innovation Centers and Accenture Delivery Centers.

The Innovation Hub in Bengaluru enables clients to identify and develop emerging trends and technologies and then quickly prototype, scale and implement innovative solutions.

More than 4,000 people will work at the Innovation Hub, combining research and development capabilities, industry insights, creativity and technology skills. This location will create and deliver solutions based on “New IT” – which includes digital, cloud and security-related technologies – and designed to help clients reinvent their business processes, accelerate the development of new products and services, and create more-personalized customer experiences.

Comprising 440,000 square feet of space throughout 10 floors, the Innovation Hub features capabilities from across Accenture, including:

·      Accenture Lab, which incubates new concepts through applied R&D;

·      Accenture Liquid Studio, offering rapid development and prototyping of applications and the design and creation of digital services;

·      Accenture Innovation Center, which builds and scales solutions across technologies and industries; and

·      Avanade, which provides innovative digital and cloud services, business solutions and design-led experiences through the Microsoft ecosystem and is majority-owned by Accenture.

The Innovation Hub includes dedicated Accenture Delivery Center floors for each of Accenture’s five operating groups – Communications, Media & Technology, Financial Services, Health & Public Service, Products and Resources – to focus on delivering industry-specific solutions and services for clients. There are also dedicated floors for digital technologies and for emerging technologies and platforms.

The Innovation Hub features Accenture’s capabilities in artificial intelligence, intelligent automation, quantum computing, machine learning, robotics, Internet of Things, data and analytics, intelligent applications, intelligent platforms, liquid applications management, and experience-led transformation, among others. It will also leverage Accenture’s innovation capabilities and broader ecosystem around the world — including Accenture Labs, Liquid Studios, Digital Studios, Interactive Studios, Innovation Centers and Cyber Fusion Centers.

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Judge tosses lawsuit to stop Gov. Cuomo's subsidies for nuclear plants

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Manhattan District Court Judge Valarie Caproni threw out a lawsuit by trade groups and energy companies to halt New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s plan to subsidize ailing nuclear power plants with billions of dollars, according to reports.

Caproni said New York’s zero emissions credits program was related to making clean energy and cutting emissions, and therefore constitutional.

Plaintiffs, which included NRG Energy, Dynegy and the Coalition for Competitive Electricity, argued that federal law preempted the state’s public service commission from offering credits to promote cleaner energy.

The seven total plaintiffs argued those credits would raise electric bills in New York’s near monopoly-run electricity market by more than $7.5 billion over 12 years, thus violating the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

Another plaintiff, New Yorkers for Fair Energy, said the group will appeal the judge’s decision.

Nationwide, the owner/operators of many U.S. nuclear power plants are facing financial pressure due to cheaper energy and aging equipment.

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