TC Energy and Alberta face long odds if they sue U.S. government over cancelled Keystone XL


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Coleman said both cases would require some updating given the new circumstances and could have their merits, but the odds are against both TC Energy and the Alberta government because the U.S. has never lost a Chapter 11 case and paid damages.

“Even if it’s stronger than the average argument, no argument has ever been successful in winning compensation from the U.S. under NAFTA,” he said.

The language contained in the presidential permit issued by Trump, as well as the weakened provisions for seeking damages in the new USMCA trade agreement, will make it very challenging for Keystone XL proponents to challenge Biden’s decision, said Stephen Vaughn, a partner in the international trade team at King & Spalding LLP in Washington D.C., and previously general counsel for the U.S. Trade Representative.

The amended presidential permit Trump signed on July 29, 2020, specifically states Keystone’s “permit may be terminated, revoked, or amended at any time at the sole discretion of the President, with or without advice provided by any executive department or agency.”

Vaughn said it’s highly unlikely that either legal arguments or diplomatic overtures will change Biden’s position on Keystone XL.

“I think the view down here is that anything the president announces on day one, the president is pretty dug in on that,” Vaughn said. “I’m not aware of any presidents that did something on day one and then 90 days later think, ‘That was a mistake and I shouldn’t have done that.’”

• Email: gmorgan@nationalpost.com | Twitter: geoffreymorgan

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Thanks, but no thanks – Energy companies give the Arctic the cold shoulder | Business


To Donald Trump, Alaska is a promising source of oil wealth and energy security. To energy companies, it is a risk not worth taking

BusinessJan 9th 2021 edition

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Australia needs to phase closure of its coal-fired power stations


The end of coal-fired generation in Australia is inevitable.

Zero marginal cost, zero-emissions energy is now a reality. Wind and solar are cheaper sources of new electricity than coal in most cases, putting significant pressure on the profitability of the inflexible, aging coal generators.

The only questions are when coal-fired power stations will close and how well Australia will manage that phasedown.

That’s why we need to talk about the role governments can play to ensure the transition is orderly, maintains energy security, avoids price spikes that have followed past closures, looks after affected workers and communities, and ensures Australia meets its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to 26-28% below 2005 levels.

At least halving emissions from coal-fired power stations (which account for about 90% of electricity sector emissions) by 2030 is an obvious route to achieve Australia’s international commitments.

Given most state governments are already committed to forcing renewables into the grid at a record pace, that could happen even without federal action.

But continuing down the current path will be unnecessarily costly, and pose significant risks to supply and prices as coal-fired generators exit on sporadic timelines based on their viability. These risks are part of the reason why Australia’s Energy Security Board is considering mechanisms that facilitate an orderly transition from coal-fired generation to renewables as one of four priority reform areas.

Read more: ‘Unjustifiable’: new report shows how the nation’s gas expansion puts Australians in harm’s way

National leadership and careful policy design are needed to enable coal plant operators to bow out of the market gracefully, and in a manner that secures certainty for investors, consumers, workers and communities.

Learning from past closures

Past closures of South Australia’s Northern and Playford B power stations in Port Augusta (in 2016) and Victoria’s Hazelwood power station in the Latrobe Valley (in 2017) illustrate this point.

Price spikes followed the closure of these plants. In the case of Hazelwood, majority owner Engie gave barely five months’ notice of its closure in March 2017. With Hazelwood, a brown-coal-fired generator accounting for 20% of Victoria’s electricity supply and 5% of national output, the supply ramifications were significant. Victoria’s average electricity prices increased from A$60 to A$100 per megawatt-hour (MWh).

These offer a stark warning to policymakers. The market requires adequate notice of coal-fired generator exits. Greater certainty provides investors with the assurance they need to build enough capacity to replace retiring coal plants, and the infrastructure to connect them to the grid. A haphazard transformation is in no one’s interests.

A new Coal-Generation Phasedown Mechanism

We outline a market-based mechanism to achieve just that in a report published by the Blueprint Institute, an Australian think tank established last year to promote rational, pragmatic policy proposals.

The Coalition has generally claimed to oppose market-based mechanisms – such as emissions trading schemes or carbon taxes – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But the Abbott government in 2014 introduced an emissions trading scheme alongside its A$2.5 billion Emissions Reduction Fund, a mechanism the Morrison government rebadged in 2019 as the Climate Solutions Fund. A “Safeguard Mechanism” sets emissions caps for the country’s highest-emitting businesses, with emissions permits tradeable on the open market.

Read more: Australia’s new cap on emissions is a trading scheme in all but name

To facilitate the orderly phasedown of coal-fired electricity generation, we propose a “Coal-Generation Phasedown Mechanism” (CPM), leveraging the Safeguard Mechanism to establish sector emissions targets – for 2026, 2028 and beyond 2030.

A key component of the CPM is the use of auctions to achieve withdrawals of coal generation from the electricity market. Auctions are commonplace in commercial and government contexts. The federal government has long used auctions to allocate telecommunications spectrum, for example, and the Emissions Reduction Fund uses reverse auctions to buy the most cost-effective emissions abatement.

The CPM would set emissions targets to phase down coal-fired generation to halve current emissions by 2030. Under a well-designed auction system, the least profitable coal generators would withdraw from the market first, ensuring emissions reductions occur at minimum cost.

One possible scenario is shown in the graph below. Example generators have been chosen based on their operating costs and approximate remaining life. Those with higher costs and a shorter remaining life have greater incentives to bid for earlier exits.

The CPM should also be designed to ensure financial support for affected workers. This could be in the form of redeployment, retraining opportunities or generous remuneration in the case of retrenchment.

Who should pay?

A phasedown of coal-fired generation will come at a cost to someone – either taxpayers or investors in coal-fired generation. This cost can be made larger or smaller. It can be hidden from view. But it cannot be avoided. The proper role for government is to minimise and fairly distribute those costs.

We can’t predict exactly how much the phasedown will cost, because that depends on information known only to the generators. But a market-based mechanism is sure to minimise those costs.

The CPM can be designed to ensure the least viable plants close first. How much money generators receive to close or pay to stay open is an entirely separate question. The CPM can be designed to accommodate any financial commitment by taxpayers.

At one extreme, the federal government could pay generators to close by fully compensating auction participants for the loss of future profits, as has been adopted in Germany. But this would likely require a federal funding commitment significantly larger than under the existing Emissions Reduction Fund, which might make it politically unpalatable.

At the other extreme, the government could charge operators for the right to stay open. One significant advantage of this option is it would raise revenue that could then be used to support directly affected communities. This could be modelled on Western Australia’s “Royalties for Regions” program, which allocates a quarter of the state’s mining and petroleum royalties to programs benefiting regional and rural areas.

A funding allocation between these two extremes is also possible, decided through government negotiation with the industry.

Ultimately, the question of who pays is a political decision. But political difficulties shouldn’t be used as an excuse for delay. The economic rationale for the CPM stacks up either way.

We must avoid another Hazelwood or Port Augusta, and coordinate an orderly grid transformation that provides certainty to communities, workers, investors, and consumers alike.

Authors: Daniel D’Hotman – DPhil Candidate, University of Oxford | Steven Hamilton – Visiting Fellow, Tax and Transfer Policy Institute, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

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ASX sags as banks, CSL weigh; Energy firms soar on Saudi oil cut



The ASX 200 dropped as much as 0.6% at the open as US voters head to the polls for the Georgia Senate run-off. The energy firms were higher but the banks and CSL fell. 

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Energy industry warns disjointed climate and energy policies risk network failure


Mr Richards said the imposition of different standards and requirements across jurisdictions created unnecessary complexity for power generators and retailers, which would “lead to higher costs” for electricity customers.

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“It’s been quite disappointing that Victoria and NSW have been fully aware of and endorsed the ESB’s work program, but they’ve gone their own way anyway,” Mr Richards said.

“You could argue they’ve turned their back on the national reform that they have endorsed by implementing their own state-based plans.”

However, Mr Richards said a national target for emissions reduction would help co-ordinate state policies and create consistency across jurisdictions.

“While the federal government doesn’t have control of state energy policy, what is missing is a national response to climate change to help manage low-emissions investments.”

Ms Schott said on Tuesday the rapid rise in renewables meant “coal plants will retire faster than anybody thinks” and called for a range of technical reforms to balance the grid such as energy storage, frequency control and reliability standards.

“It’s now time for tough, united decisions. If we keep kicking this further down the road, it’s going to cost us all more for electricity in the future,” she said.

Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood welcomed the ESB call for unity, which he said was needed to deliver low-emissions and reliable energy at the lowest prices.

“We need clear, national policy that sets the levels of emissions and reliability we need in the market,” Mr Wood said. “Uncoordinated state policies and government interventions will definitely mean higher electricity prices.

“Governments tend to overbuild and gold plate the network. That’s because they’re focused more on keeping the lights on than efficiency,” Mr Wood said. “The best way to balance price and reliability is for government to set the parameters and let the market deliver.”

Australian Energy Council chief executive Sarah McNamara.Credit:Christopher Pearce

Australian Energy Council chief executive Sarah McNamara, representing the nation’s largest energy companies, welcomed the ESB’s market design report and urged the states to work together to implement it.

“A national and coordinated approach to energy policy is the framework most likely to deliver the best results for customers – namely reliable, affordable and sustainable electricity supply,” Ms McNamara said.

Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor has said it was “critical” for governments to work together to implement the ESB reforms.

He said on Tuesday that energy sector emissions were falling rapidly and the federal government was on track to meet its international climate commitments, including the 26 to 28 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030, required by the Paris Agreement.

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“The Morrison government has a very clear and successful emissions reduction policy that has allowed us to meet and beat our 2020 target and will ensure we meet and beat our 2030 target,” Mr Taylor said.

Labor energy and climate change spokesman Mark Butler said “state governments have stepped into the vacuum of national energy policy [under the Coalition]”.

“The national government needs to put in place a national energy policy that will pull through the investment we need to see not just in renewable energy generation but in firming technology like batteries, pumped hydro, peaking gas generation and the like,” Mr Butler said.

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Warnings of increasing energy prices, unreliability as renewables flood market


Warnings of increasing energy prices, unreliability as renewables flood market

Australia’s Energy Security Board has warned energy prices may begin to rise and supply grow increasingly unreliable unless the nation’s grid undergoes urgent reform.

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India Lays The Foundations For Green Energy Megapark



AsianScientist (Dec. 28, 2020) – India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for what will soon be the world’s largest renewable energy park on December 15, 2020. Built in the Kutch region of Western Gujarat, the project will cover 180,000 acres—an area just over the size of Singapore.

Since the Industrial Revolution, fossil fuels like coal and oil have powered everything from trains to factories and household lights. Our centuries-long habit of burning fossil fuels, however, comes at a cost: global warming. Greenhouse gases released by these fuels trap heat in the atmosphere, with 2020 likely to end up as one of the hottest years on record.

To avert consequences of global warming like extreme weather events and rising sea levels, countries like India are increasingly turning to renewable energy. Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy sources like solar and wind power can be replenished and do not release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

According to Modi, the vast plot of solar panels, solar energy storage units and windmills will generate 30 gigawatts of power—a substantial increase from the 2.245 gigawatt capacity of India’s Bhadla solar park, currently the largest of its kind in the world.

The sprawling energy park will hold a dedicated hybrid zone for wind and solar energy generation and storage as well as an exclusive wind park zone. Once completed, the new ‘megapark’ is expected to help India reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by up to 50 million tons per year.

This development is a part of India’s march towards a target of 175 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2022, with 100 gigawatts generated from solar, 60 gigawatts from wind, ten gigawatts from bioenergy and five gigawatts from small-scale hydropower dams.

The green energy megapark is a huge step towards this goal, accomplishing almost 20 percent of the targeted 175 gigawatts. Moving forward, India aims to accomplish an even more ambitious goal of 450 gigawatts by 2030.

Despite the seemingly apparent environmental benefits of such a project, grassroots organizations have raised concerns over the megapark’s long-term effects on the region’s biodiversity. Though described as a wasteland, the vast expanse allocated for the megapark’s construction is actually a unique desert ecosystem home to hundreds of birds that might not survive the new power lines and structures.

Part of a bigger movement of several development projects in the Kutch district, the megapark will be built next to a desalination plant that can process 100 million tons of water a day for the 800,000 people living within the region.

“Energy and water security are vital in the 21st century,” said Modi to Agence France-Presse. “The two major projects of the renewable energy park and the desalination plant inaugurated today in Kutch are steps towards achieving the two.”

———

Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: Pexels.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.


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Green energy funds top league table in banner year for ESG


The two US equity funds with the strongest returns in 2020 both focus on clean energy, in a vindication for investors who have sought out holdings with strong environmental, social and governance credentials.

The two funds — both run by the asset manager Invesco — have more than tripled in value thanks to a surge in the value of solar energy stocks, which themselves have enjoyed tailwinds from the heavy inflows into ESG investment strategies.

The Invesco Solar exchange traded fund, which has $3.7bn in assets, had risen 238 per cent since the start of the year as of Christmas Eve, topping a league table of US ETFs and mutual funds that invest in equities, as compiled by Morningstar.

Among the ETF’s top holdings are two providers of residential solar power, Enphase Energy, which has risen almost 600 per cent in value, and Sunrun, which is up 400 per cent.

The second-best performing fund was the Invesco WilderHill Clean Energy ETF, which has returned 220 per cent. One of its largest holdings is FuelCell Energy, which designs and makes power plants, whose shares have gained almost 400 per cent this year.

“A Joe Biden win combined with the rapid decline in renewable energy costs has contributed to further appreciation for solar and clean energy funds,” said Rene Reyna, head of thematic and specialty product strategy at Invesco.

In the wake of this year’s strong performance, “pullbacks should be expected”, Mr Reyna said, but he added: “The underlying fundamentals within the renewable energy sector support our view that we are in the early stages of a longer-term secular growth trend.”

Global funds that hold ESG assets have surged more than 50 per cent, beyond $1.3tn, since the end 2019, according to the Institute of International Finance, which said the trend had accelerated in recent weeks as investors anticipated active support from the incoming Biden administration.

Illustrating the strategy’s banner year, an ESG fund places number five on the league table of inflows, by dollar amount, out of all the equity funds in the US.

BlackRock’s iShares ESG Aware MSCI USA ETF had attracted a net inflow of $9.3bn in the year to November 30, taking its total net assets to $12.7bn, according to Morningstar.

The fund is designed to broadly track the S&P 500, the benchmark US stock index, even as it eliminates shares from industries such as tobacco and companies with low ESG scores. BlackRock has pitched it to financial advisers and investors as an easy entry point to ESG investing, and has been among those arguing that accelerating inflows into such funds are creating momentum that will drive up popular ESG stocks.

“Companies with the highest ESG ratings collectively outperformed” during the pandemic market crash in March and beyond, said Romain Boscher, global chief investment officer for equities at Fidelity International. “We believe ESG adoption will only accelerate in 2021, especially as climate change moves up the agenda in the US.”

A clean energy index fund run by First Trust, which has assets of $2bn, is also in the top five best-performing US equity funds of the year, along with two from Ark Investment Management that focus on trends in technology, particularly innovations in healthcare and cloud computing.

“These are niche areas that are focused on innovation and that seems to have resonated for investors given the year we have seen,” said Tony Thomas, associate director of equity strategies at Morningstar. Meanwhile, he said, “ESG funds are picking up flows and I don’t see any reason for that to abate.”



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India to study Cairn Energy arbitration award, to consider all options


India will consider all options including legal recourse after studying the award passed by tribunal in the arbitration case by Cairn Energy Plc, the finance ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

The government will be studying the award and all its aspects carefully in consultation with its counsels, it said.

“After such consultations, the government will consider all options and take a decision on further course of action, including legal remedies before appropriate fora,” the finance ministry said.

The government’s statement followed that from Cairn Energy Plc which said that it had won the arbitration against the Indian government over a tax dispute arising from demand of $1.2 billion from tax department on listing of Indian operations back in 2007.

The oil-major said that the tribunal had announced the award unanimously following which the Indian government will have to pay the UK-based company damages of $1.2 billion and interest.

“The tribunal established to rule on its claim against the Government of India has found in Cairn’s favour,” Cairn Energy Plc said in a statement in response to a query from ET.

“The tribunal ruled unanimously that India had breached its obligations to Cairn under the UK-India Bilateral Investment Treaty and has awarded to Cairn damages of US$1.2billion plus interest and costs, which now becomes payable,” the company added.

The development comes close on the heels of Vodafone Group winning a separate arbitration on retrospective amendment to tax laws. India is yet to challenge the arbitration award.

In the case of Cairn Energy, the government can challenged the award as well.

“It is likely that the Indian government will review the arbitral award in detail before deciding on the next steps and perhaps prefer an appeal,” said Ravi S. Raghavan, tax counsel at Majmudar & Partner law firm.

However, experts added that the award by the tribunal was not likely to bring an end to all tax litigation around the indirect share transfer issue.

Cairn’s claim was brought under the terms of the UK-India Bilateral Investment Treaty, the legal seat of the tribunal was the Netherlands and the proceedings were under the registry of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Cairn Energy had filed a dispute in 2015 against the demand raised by the tax department of Rs 10,247 crore relating to re-organisation of the group in 2006.

The income tax department had then said that Cairn UK Holdings, a fully owned subsidiary of Cairn Energy, had made capital gains of over Rs 24,000 crore before the public listing of Cairn India. They said that Cairn Energy effectively held 69% of Cairn India.

In 2011, Cairn India was sold to Vedanta Group, except for 9.8% stake. The residual stake sale was barred by the income tax department, and dividend payments by Cairn India to Cairn Energy were also frozen.





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Wind farm operator fined $1 million for breaching national energy rules before SA statewide blackout


A South Australian wind farm operator has been fined $1 million for contravening national electricity rules in the three years leading up to the 2016 statewide blackout.

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) launched legal action against Snowtown Wind Farm Stage 2 (SWF2) last year, after turbines shut down unexpectedly.

The company was accused of supplying electricity to the grid despite not having protection system settings approved by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

According to the judgement, SWF2 was a wholly owned subsidiary of Trustpower Limited, a publicly listed New Zealand power company, at the relevant time.

The AER also launched legal action against three other wind farms — Hornsdale, Pacific Hydro’s Clement’s Gap and AGL’s Hallett farms — but the outcomes of those cases have yet to be determined.

The blackout occurred on September 28, 2016, when extreme weather, described at the time as “twin tornadoes”, caused major damage to electricity infrastructure, knocking down huge transmission lines.

The AER said a subsequent loss of wind generation then triggered the blackout, which left 850,000 customers without power.

SWF2 accepted the $1 million penalty for failing to adequately protect its wind farm from “abnormal voltage”.

Justice Richard White said the contravention was “not deliberate” and the company “took prompt steps to rectify the situation”.

The Federal Court today ordered the company — which has 90 wind turbines in SA’s mid north — to implement a compliance program and hire an independent “compliance expert” to ensure it abides by the rules in the future.

The expert will then provide a written compliance report to the court after six months.

Justice White said the wind farm had low-voltage protection systems fitted to each of its turbines to protect “against abnormal voltage excursion of the power system” — but they were set at a lower threshold than required by the National Electricity Rules (NER).

“The ability of wind farm turbines to continue operating (‘to ride through’) periods of voltage fluctuations … is an important requirement for their connection to the power system in the NEM (National Electricity Market),” he wrote in his judgement.

A lone policeman directs traffic near Victoria Square.
A lone policeman directs traffic near Victoria Square in Adelaide’s CBD during the statewide blackout in September 2016.(ABC News: Tony Hill)

He said the NER “imposes an obligation” on generators of electricity, such as SWF2, to have protective systems in place to deal with episodes of abnormal voltage in the power system.

“The purpose of such systems is to ensure that the generating units remain in continuous operation during specified disturbances and thereby to assist AEMO in maintaining power system security,” he said.

“On 28 September 2016, six under-voltage disturbances occurred on the power system within a period of approximately 90 seconds.

“In response to the sixth under-voltage disturbance, the [low-voltage protection system] was activated on 34 of the 37 turbines then in service, with the consequence that they shut down and ceased to supply active power to the power system.

Justice White ordered SWF2 to pay the “Commonwealth of Australia a pecuniary penalty of $1 million in respect of the contravention”.

He also ordered SWF2 to pay the AER’s court costs of $100,000.



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