POWER Digest [February 2022]

Once a Coal Generating Behemoth, TransAlta Achieves Full Phaseout of Coal Power in Canada. Canadian generator TransAlta, a company that derived 30% of its cash flow from coal generation just five years ago, on Dec. 29 announced it had completed the last of three planned coal-to-gas conversions at power plants in Alberta. The milestone marks a “full phase-out” of coal in Canada, it said. The company in December completed the conversion to gas of the 463-MW Keephills 3 unit. The 395-MW Keephills 1 was converted in July 2021. Over 2021, TransAlta also converted the 401-MW Sundance 6 and the 200-MW Sheerness 1. The company said the 406-MW Sundance 4 will be fueled only with natural gas through March 2022, before the unit retires in April 2022. In aggregate, TransAlta has retired 3,794 MW of coal-fired generation capacity since 2018 while converting 1,659 MW to cleaner burning natural gas, it noted. “This achievement, coupled with TransAlta’s growing and diversified generating portfolio, including hydro, wind, solar, and battery assets, helps position TransAlta to be a highly competitive provider of reliable, low and zero-emitting electricity for customers in Canada, the United States, and Australia,” the company said.

Financial Close Reached for Major Mozambique Gas-Fired Project. Globeleq, a major African independent power producer, and its partners, Electricidade de Moçambique (EDM), and Sasol, on Dec. 8 reached financial close of the 450-MW gas-fired Central Termica de Temane power project (CTT). The $652.3 million project will be sited at Temane in Mozambique’s Inhambane Province to supply power to EDM under a 25-year tolling agreement starting in 2024. CTT is expected to contribute about 14% of the electricity supply capacity available to meet demand in Mozambique. Mozambique, which has a net-zero goal, needs the flexible power, Globeleq said. “In addition, the Siemens SGT-800 turbines chosen for the plant can be upgraded to handle high hydrogen content, further reducing the plant’s carbon impact,” it said. The project will be built by the Spanish contractor TSK, a company that has experience in building similarly sized combined cycle plants within the tight 34-month construction period envisioned for CTT. In addition, EDM is building a new 563-kilometer high-voltage transmission line, the Temane Transmission Project (TTP). The utility has so far secured the first phase, which will interconnect the southern grid to the central and northern grids of Mozambique. “This will establish a corridor of electrification, and ensure a more stable and secure grid, and enable the connection of future renewable generation projects,” the utility said.

Australia Moves to Bolster Reliability with Gas Power Award. The state government of Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) government on Dec. 20 approved the construction of a 660-MW gas-fired power station in the state’s Hunter Valley region. Approval of Snowy Hydro Ltd.’s proposed open-cycle gas turbine plant in Kurri Kurri follows the government’s September 2020 initiative to boost reliability and tamp down power prices following the closure of AGL Macquarie’s coal-fired 1.7-GW Liddell power station in 2023. The federal government’s 2021–2022 budget earmarked up to AU$600 million for the Kurri Kurri gas plant. Another project it backed to support regional reliability, EnergyAustralia’s 316-MW Tallawarra B open-cycle gas plant, received a state funding commitment of AU$78 million. The Morrison government, however, will also support that project’s efforts to be hydrogen-ready with a AU$5 million commitment as part of a larger AU$24.9 million package in the 2021–2022 budget to support the decarbonization of the country’s new gas generators. The federal government also dedicated AU$30 million to support early works on Australian Industrial Power’s (AIP’s) Port Kembla power station—a project that would use imported gas—as it progresses to a final investment decision.

Australian Energy Market Operator Details Generation, Storage Needs for Net-Zero Scenario. Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) in December released its draft 2022 Integrated System Plan, a document that essentially describes the country’s 30-year “optimal development” scenario toward its net-zero ambitions. AEMO’s preferred scenario, dubbed “Step Change,” reflects technology advancements, state government ambitions, and consumer preferences, it said. The scenario anticipates a rapid transformation of the National Electricity Market, forecasting a near-doubling of electricity consumed from the grid to 330 TWh (from 180 TWh today), as transportation, heating, cooking, and industrial processes are electrified. Meeting that demand will require a nine-fold expansion of renewable power, from 15 GW today to 140 GW in 2050. The Step Change scenario, however, also anticipates the accelerated retirement of 14 GW of the nation’s 23 GW of coal-fired capacity by 2030—though only 5 GW is currently slated to retire. Accelerated coal plant retirements will ramp up flexibility needs, and AEMO suggests 45 GW/620 GWh of new battery and hydro storage must be enabled to respond to dispatch signals to help firm renewable generation. Modeling also forecasts that by 2050, virtual power plants, vehicle-to-grid services, and other emerging technologies may provide about 30 GW of dispatchable storage capacity, while utility-scale battery and pumped hydro storage will provide 15 GW. A total of 9 GW of gas-fired generation will also be needed for peak loads and firming, “particularly during long ‘dark and still’ weather periods, with the need to offset emissions,” AEMO said.

ArcLight Acquires 4.8 GW of NRG Energy’s Assets. ArcLight Energy Partners Fund VII, a North American energy infrastructure firm, on Dec. 1 announced its subsidiary Generation Bridge closed an acquisition of a 4.9 GW power generating portfolio from NRG Energy for $760 million. The assets acquired include the 866-MW natural gas–fired Arthur Kill plant and the Oswego 1.6-GW oil-fired plant in New York; four oil-fired plants in New England (Montville, Middletown, Devon, CT Jets); and two California gas plants, the 586-MW Sunrise and the 252-MW Long Beach plants. Generation Bridge also shelved development of a new 375-MW natural gas unit at Middletown. ArcLight, a company that thrives on its “asset-based approach to investing in the energy sector,” is notably also in the process of acquiring Public Service Enterprise Group’s 6.75-GW fossil power generating portfolio for $1.92 billion.

Sonal Patel is a POWER senior associate editor (@sonalcpatel@POWERmagazine).

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