Barclays Closes US Carbon Desk is Southern Company’s Mississippi Power Latest Cap-And-Trade Setback

Barclays Closes US Carbon Desk In Latest Cap-And-Trade Setback: ‘A major European bank closed its US carbon trading business this week in sign that 2012 is a “make-or-break” year for cap-and-trade’

By

A major European bank closed its US carbon trading business this week in a sign that 2012 is a “make-or-break” year for cap-and-trade programs designed to fight climate change.

London-based Barclays determined the US carbon market, currently comprised of a handful of states, is too small to justify the expense of a dedicated trading desk in New York, according to sources familiar with the decision. Barclays was a major player in US greenhouse-gas trading programs on the East and West coasts and remains active in Europe’s carbon market, the largest in the world. Seth Martin, a Barclays spokesman, declined to comment.

Barclays Global Investors headquarters on Howa...

Image via Wikipedia

“That is not good news for carbon-dioxide trading, especially not in the US,” says Gary Hart, a market analyst for ICAP Energy and a veteran pollution-rights trader. “There’s such uncertainty around the use of carbon cap-and-trade programs.”

The carbon cap-and-trade concept, which regulates the greenhouse gases linked to climate change by letting companies buy and sell pollution allowances, has suffered a major reversal of fortune since President Barack Obama’s election in 2008. Obama pushed Congress to create a national carbon market, by some estimates worth roughly $100 billion a year. The proposed market, similar to the European Union Emissions Trading System, caught the attention of major financial institutions, such as Barclays and JP Morgan, which saw U.S.-issued carbon allowances as a potentially lucrative new commodity.

“2012 could possibly be the make-or-break year” – Hart

But Obama later backed away from cap-and-trade when it floundered in the US Senate. That left a state-run carbon market in the US Northeast, where prices have crashed by more than 40 percent since 2008 and one of its members, New Jersey, quit the program entirely. Another state-level carbon market, estimated to be worth about $9 billion a year, was scheduled to start in California this year. But it was delayed until 2013 amid a legal challenge from environmental-justice activists who oppose carbon trading.

Even Europe’s carbon cap-and-trade program, in place since 2005, has been rocked by tax-fraud and computer-hacking scandals. Since Obama’s election, carbon prices there have plummeted about 60%, according to Paris-based environmental-trading exchange BlueNext, amid weak economic growth.

After a troubled few years on both sides of the Atlantic, carbon cap-and-trade advocates need to start turning things around this year, Hart says. “2012 could possibly be the make-or-break year,” he says.

Cap-and-trade supporters can already look forward to some wins in 2012. Australia plans to start a carbon tax in July, which will transition to a carbon market over three years, and Europe’s cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases is expanding to include emissions from aircraft. In the US Northeast, the states of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative are conducting a comprehensive review of their cap-and-trade market this year, and may recommend changes that lead to higher carbon prices.

But Hart says carbon-market observers will mostly be watching California this year to see if its environmental officials stick with the revised 2013 start date for the state’s cap-and-trade program. Few things could boost the carbon cap-and-trade concept more than the active involvement of California, the most populous U.S. state and ninth-largest economy in the world, Hart says. “That would keep it on life support, at least,” he says.

Here

Carbon Capture and Storage‬‏ is Very Inefficient

 

@ 3:15 he talks about how we have a process to “economically” capture co2.  This process, is very inefficient as you can see, cooling the exhaust gasses, reabsorb the co2, then reheating the ammonia solution, then re-cooling it again…

 

 

Brandon Presley: Consumers lost in Mississippi Power’s planned Kemper County plant | Better MS Report

Brandon Presley: Consumers lost in Mississippi Power’s planned Kemper County plant | Better MS Report.

From Better Mississippi Report:

JACKSON (Tuesday, July 6, 2010) – Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley says consumers lost in Mississippi Power Co.’s planned Kemper County coal plant because the utility doesn’t have to guarantee the technology behind the project will ever work.

Mississippi Power’s plant, the first of its kind in the world, will use a new technology that converts a soft coal called lignite into a gas to fuel turbines and create electricity. The concept is high risk because no one can guarantee that the technology to be used in the plant will work.

Presley said Gov. Haley Barbour and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu sent letters asking for support of the Mississippi Power plant. But Presley voted in April and May against forcing Mississippi Power ratepayers to finance the plant.

“I received letters urging me to support the project from everyone from Gov. Barbour to Steven Chu, secretary of energy in the Obama administration,” said Presley, who represents the Northern District on the three-member PSC.

“If they thought it was such a good project, why didn’t they find a way to pay for it rather than forcing Mississippi Power’s customers to be the sole investors in the plant?” Presley told the Better Mississippi Report.

The PSC voted 2-1 in April to allow Mississippi Power Co. to build the Kemper County plant at a cost of no more than $2.4 billion. Commissioners said they would decide at a later date whether to grant Mississippi Power’s request for ratepayers to finance the plant before it begins operating.

Less than a month later in May, the PSC voted 2-1 to increase the cost cap of the Mississippi Power plant to $2.88 billion and also allowed the company to charge ratepayers for financing costs before the plant is completed.

Presley cast the sole no votes at the April and May meetings.

Presley, 32, a lifelong resident of Nettleton, is in his first term on the PSC – winning the position in 2007 after serving as mayor of Nettleton from 2001 to 2007. He talked about the Mississippi Power plant and other issues in an interview with the Better Mississippi Report.

Better Mississippi Group: You were the only member of the Mississippi Public Service Commission to oppose the Mississippi Power Co. plan to build a coal-burning plant in Kemper County. Can you explain your concerns about this proposal and why you voted against it?
Brandon Presley:
Very simple. Mississippi Power wanted the ratepayers to pay in advance hundreds of millions of dollars in financing costs and then $2.4 billion (now up to $2.88 billion) for the plant itself, and after hours and hours of sworn testimony and days of hearings they would not, and to this day, still will not, guarantee their new technology to be used in this plant will work.
If I had voted yes for this plant, I would have been a part of forcing ratepayers in one of the poorest states in the nation to pay, in advance, for something the company can’t even guarantee will work and that was, obviously, a big concern to me. I strongly support innovative technology, and I have a deep admiration for the scientists and engineers who bring about groundbreaking ideas that could make our lives better. But I believe the companies themselves and private sector investors should be willing to take some of the risks and not force all the risk on ratepayers who don’t have a choice in their providers. Remember, customers of Mississippi Power can’t choose who provides their electricity. They must use Mississippi Power or be in the dark, literally. So they are now being forced, via their electric bill, to invest in this plant.
I received letters urging me to support the project from everyone from Gov. Barbour to Steven Chu, secretary of energy in the Obama administration. I wondered if they thought it was such a good project, why didn’t they find a way to pay for it rather than forcing Mississippi Power’s customers to be the sole investors in the plant?
Also, I felt strongly that since there are so many unknowns out there, especially about the technology itself, that nothing would have been harmed by waiting. As I have said, Henry Ford built a better car five years after he started on his first one.
In a few years, we should have a better idea about other discoveries going on now, such as the impact of shale natural gas and also about the technology in the plant. Maybe then Mississippi Power will be able to guarantee that it will work. In a few years, we should also have a better understanding of the current energy legislation and environmental regulation that is being debated in Washington.
If Mississippi Power is going to ask consumers to pay up to $2.88 billion, plus hundreds of millions in banking fees (before the plant puts out any electricity), they need to have their ducks in a row with technology that they can guarantee works and share some of the risk. They didn’t. So I voted “no” twice.

Better Mississippi: The vote was a total change from a stand the PSC took days earlier. Can you tell us what led to the about-face on the PSC?
Presley:
I’ve been consistent – I voted no both times. You would have to ask the other two commissioners that question. Even though I could not support the project after hearing and studying the facts presented to us for months, I felt the first order on April 29th was strong and at least had some good protections in it for the ratepayers. I do not know why the majority voted to ease up on that order and grant the company another $480 million in spending authority under certain circumstances.

Better Mississippi: Mississippi Power Co. won’t release the possible increase in electric rates that customers may have to pay to finance construction of the Kemper County plant. Is this something that should be released to the public? Why?
Presley:
Absolutely. They should have been disclosed before the plant was approved. It was one of the reasons I voted against the project. Two times before the final votes, I asked if the rate impacts were going to be made public before the project was approved, and both times the answer was “no.”
The customers of Mississippi Power have a right to know how this plant is going to impact their bills. They shouldn’t have to wait until they get the bill out of their mailbox to understand how much it is going to cost them. I had proposed changing the rule that allowed Mississippi Power to deem these rate impacts “confidential” prior to the final vote on Kemper. I raised the issue of changing this rule in May but was out-voted. The issue was taken up in our June meeting, at which time it passed unanimously.

Better Mississippi: With the Sierra Club taking the Mississippi Power Co. Kemper County issue to court, how do you see things working now? Will this be a long, protracted case?
Presley:
All I know is that I will keep fighting for taxpayers and ratepayers no matter what happens.

Better Mississippi: You are one of three commissioners on the PSC. Can you tell us about your relationship with the other commissioners? Do you all tend to get along? How do you handle disagreements on major issues, such as the one with Mississippi Power Co.?
Presley:
I like my fellow commissioners and think they’re good men. As with any three-member commission, we are going to disagree from time to time.
With that said, I tend to be very passionate about the job the people elected me to do. I’m passionate about what I believe a regulator is supposed to do. I won’t back down when I believe consumers are getting a raw deal or when I see something unfair about the process. I think that’s what the ratepayers expect and it’s certainly how an elected official who is protecting the public’s interest should act, in my opinion.
When you have the courage of your convictions, you don’t mind going against the grain or standing alone. I recently heard a pretty good saying that fits this situation, “Even a dead fish can go with the flow.” I don’t plan to be a “go with the flow” commissioner.

Better Mississippi: What do you see as the biggest challenge of the PSC these days?
Presley:
The single biggest challenge is making sure that consumers aren’t left out of the picture at the PSC. It seems that almost every rate plan, service plan, rule and regulation was written for and by the utilities for their benefit. Too many times the people who actually have to pay the utility bills have just been left out of the process and forgotten. The simple fact is that if the PSC doesn’t stand up for the consumer, nobody else is going to.
We desperately need balance at the PSC. And by that, I mean that we need to remember that there are real people, families, small businesses and industries that have to pay for these rate hikes and proposals. The utilities have a vast reservoir of attorneys, lobbyists, experts and cheerleaders. All the general public has is the PSC.

Better Mississippi: What do you see as the most important regulatory issues facing the PSC and consumers in the state?
Presley:
So many Mississippians are facing very tough economic situations in their homes and at their businesses. My mission is to do everything possible to keep money in the pockets of taxpayers and ratepayers and not help the big utilities make undeserved profits. That is our single biggest challenge. I believe we can craft policies that are pro-consumer and pro-business. Letting utilities increase rates whenever they want hurts so many small businesses that are the backbone of our state’s economy. I am proud to say that I have voted against more spending and rate increases than any other commissioner in the history of the PSC.

Better Mississippi: How do you see your role on the PSC?
Presley:
I see my role as a watchdog for the public interest – period.
A commissioner I’ve gotten to know from another state says it best. One time, when the hearing room was full of attorneys and high-paid lobbyists for the utility companies, he called the meeting to order by asking everyone who was there on behalf of the utilities to please stand up. Almost the whole room, of course, stood to their feet. Then he told them to sit down. He then asked, “Who is here on behalf of the ratepayers?” Nobody responded and he stood up and said “You see, folks? That’s why I’m here. That’s my job.” I couldn’t agree more.

Better Mississippi: Statewide and district elections will take place in 2011. Do you plan to run for re-election? Why or why not?
Presley:
I honestly haven’t given it much thought. I’m consumed daily with issues at the PSC and getting my job done. I will make a decision about the election in the coming months.

 

AEP Drops Carbon Storage Project On Lack Of Federal Carbon Limits – WSJ.com

AEP Drops Carbon Storage Project On Lack Of Federal Carbon Limits – WSJ.com.

   By Cassandra Sweet
   Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

American Electric Power Co. (AEP) will stop work on a low-carbon coal-fired power plant as political support shrinks in the U.S. for regulating heat-trapping emissions linked to climate change.

The facility, which had been touted as a leading project to make the complex technology commercially viable, is the latest sign that the U.S. power industry is moving away from carbon dioxide emission-reduction technology. A lack of consensus in Washington over regulating carbon dioxide emissions, coupled with sluggish demand for power, has pressured AEP and other utilities to cut investment in so-called clean coal technology.

AEP Chairman and Chief Executive Michael G. Morris said the project to capture and store carbon emissions from an existing coal-fired plant in West Virginia doesn’t make economic sense while U.S. climate policy remains uncertain and the economy is weak.

West Virginia regulators had prohibited the company from passing on the project’s costs to utility customers until federal greenhouse-gas reduction rules are in place, further weakening the project, Morris said.

AEP designed the system to capture at least 90% of the carbon dioxide from a 235-megawatt piece of the company’s 1,300-MW Mountaineer coal plant in New Haven, W.Va.

The second part of the system would treat and compress about 1.5 million metric tons of CO2 from the plant per year, then inject the gas into rock formations about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) below the surface, where it would be permanently stored.

The company said it would terminate an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy, which had offered AEP $334 million to cover part of the costs of the carbon storage project. The project was to be completed in four phases and begin commercial operation in 2015.

A similar plant using different technology, proposed for Taylorville, Ill., by privately held power generator Tenaska, was scuttled in January after Illinois lawmakers defeated legislation that would have allowed the company to pass through the $3.5 billion cost of the project to utility customers. The Energy Department had offered the company up to $2.6 billion in loan guarantees and a $417 million tax credit to support construction of the plant.

Other low-carbon coal projects are moving ahead.

Southern Co.’s (SO) Mississippi Power utility is building a $2.4 billion, 580-megawatt low-emission coal-fired power plant in Kemper County, Miss. The plant, which was approved by state regulators, is designed to convert coal or lignite into a gas, which is then used to generate electricity, with lower emissions than a traditional coal plant. The company obtained a $270 million grant from the Department of Energy and $412 million in federal tax credits to support construction of the project.

Another low-carbon coal project is being developed by a coalition of utilities and coal companies called FutureGen. The $1.3 billion project would retrofit a 200-megawatt Ameren Corp. (AEE) coal plant in Meredosia, Ill., with so-called advanced oxy-combustion technology and build pipelines to ship captured CO2 to a nearby storage facility. A federal environmental review of the project, which has $1 billion in federal funding, is still pending.

AEP, one of the nation’s largest utilities and one of the largest coal-fired power generators, is still focused on cutting emissions. The company has estimated that it will likely to have to modify or shut down several of its older coal-fired power plants under pending federal limits on traditional pollution that could cost $6 billion to $8 billion over the next nine years.

Shares of AEP closed Thursday about 1% lower at $37.55.

-By Cassandra Sweet, Dow Jones Newswires; 415=269-4446; cassandra.sweet@dowjones.com

%d bloggers like this: