Energy Update: Week of July 24

Energy Update - July 24, 2017


It was an exciting close to the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in Southport England with Jordan Spieth and Matt Kutcher dueling over the final 18 holes. Trailing for the first time all weekend after a 13th-hole bogey, Spieth shot 5-under over the final five holes to pull away to win his first Claret Jug.  Not as exciting, but certainly no less impressive, Chris Froome rode into Paris and closed his 4th Tour de France victory after three grueling weeks.

A quick update on our summer concert road trip series: Adam, Hannah and I finished the effort with a weekend visit to Brooklyn to see Iron Maiden close its US Book of Souls tour.  While in NY, we hit Joe’s Shanghai in Chinatown and I made Adam order for us in Chinese (after his two years of taking Chinese at his school and living with a Chinese roommate).  And he was great, as we got all the right food and weren’t tossed out of the restaurant.  Just prior, we drove up to Camden to see Incubus, which was also a great show.

Much has been speculated and now reported on the expected nomination of Andy Wheeler (EPA #2) and Bill Wehrum (air office).  We expect to hear more about that this week, as well as CPP action at OMB and in EPA’s forthcoming review that will propose revoking it.  My colleague Jeff Holmstead is back in the saddle after shaking off an illness last week.

This week, Congress continues to roll on budget issues (with the full House taking up Energy Approps) and hopefully moving some nominations (PLEASE….) as health care issues seem temporarily to be moved to the background.  What isn’t happening this week is the mark up of Sen. Fischer’s ethanol expansion legislation S.517.  Lots of back and forth on that issue last week, including more union opposition and an interesting letter from former House Energy Chair Henry Waxman urging Senate Environment Committee Dems to oppose the legislation.  On the hearing front, House Science will take up ethanol tomorrow with Emily Skor, Heritage’s Nick Loris and folks from Energy labs.  Also tomorrow, Senate Environment look at advanced nuclear and CCS and on Wednesday, the seven major grid operator come to House Energy to testify on security. (Watch for discussions of the recently released NAS report on vulnerabilities)

Much more fun will be several energy events this week around town, including a major new study on advanced nuclear rolled out at NEI tomorrow (speaking of advanced nuclear) and the discussion of new carbon tax legislation from Sens. Whitehouse and Schatz at AEI.  Wednesday has CSIS forum on NAFTA energy issues and Thursday, the US Energy Association hosts its 10th annual Energy Supply Forum at the Press Club.

Finally, I close this week with the saddest of sad notes.  My friend and great editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal Joe Rago passed away completely unexpectedly late last week in NYC.  Joe was a great guy; and really the kind of guy you wanted to share a beer or a cab with because you would always learn something new.  To honor Joe, the WSJ board wrote a moving tribute here and also highlighted some of his best work here.  We will miss him…

Call with questions.



Frank Maisano

(202) 828-5864

(202) 997-5932



“Protectionism is never the solution for an inability to compete globally. Our country’s trade laws should never be co-opted into causing widespread pain for the broader U.S. economy.”

Bill Gaskin, former President of the Precision Metalforming Association on its participation in the new Energy Trade Action Council, a groups that will oppose the ITC solar tariff petition.


“Tariffs meant to protect one industry can, and often do, have significant damaging effects on other domestic industries. Imposing tariffs under Section 201, as Suniva and SolarWorld request, would be a step backward by adding another layer of federal subsidies which is something the Heritage Foundation opposes in all instances.”

Tori K. Whiting, Research Associate at The Heritage Foundation.


“The solar case is an example of the worst kind of trade protectionism. We’re delighted to stand for freedom and free markets.”

Eli Lehrer, president of the R Street Institute.


“The Section 201 solar industry trade case will undermine one of the fastest growing “all-of-the-above” Energy jobs sectors in states across the country, solar energy installation.  We must avoid rewarding this opportunistic use of U.S. trade laws.”

Sarah E. Hunt, Director of the Center for Innovation and Technology at ALEC.



Coalition to Fight Solar Petition Activates – The Energy Trade Action Coalition (ETAC) was launched today to fight the misuse of trade remedies with an initial focus on the Section 201 trade petition on imported solar components.  Filed by two heavily indebted solar companies, the 201 trade petition asks the Trump Administration to impose a drastic mix of tariffs and a floor price that would double the price of solar equipment and damage the U.S. solar industry.  The Section 201 Petition seeks a tariff of 40 cents per watt on all foreign-made solar cells and a floor price of 78 cents per watt on all foreign-made panels, doubling the price for the basic ingredients of the broader U.S. solar industry.  The $23 billion U.S. solar industry employs 260,000 American workers in good-paying jobs across the country.  If successful, this petition would slash demand for new projects and make solar less competitive with other sources of power. A recent study showed that an estimated 88,000 jobs, about one-third of the current American solar workforce, would be lost if trade protections proposed in the petition are granted.  ETAC will actively engage with the Trump administration, Congress, the media and public to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining access to globally priced products to support American energy industry competitiveness, sustain tens of thousands of good-paying American manufacturing jobs and preserve the principles of free trade in a global marketplace. The Coalition membership will consist of a variety of trade associations, companies and groups, covering utilities, co-ops, manufacturers, supply chain suppliers, solar companies/developers, retailers, local union workers, small businesses, venture capital groups and conservative free-trade advocates. Please see the press release online here.   For regular updates and more background, follow the Coalition on Twitter at @EnergyTradeAC

House Science Comms Head Moves to Chevron Chem – Communications director for the House Science, Space and Technology Committee Kristina Baum leaving to join Chevron Phillips Chemical, a joint venture between Chevron Corp. and Phillips 66.  Before moving to the House, Baum was the communications chief in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee under Sen. Inhofe.

Waxman Blasts S.517 in Letter to Senate EPW Dems – Former House Energy Committee Chair Henry Waxman urged his fellow Democrats on the Senate Environment Committee to oppose S.517.  Waxman says he is committed to addressing climate change and protecting the environment. Unfortunately, supporting S.517 would expand markets for corn ethanol – now known to drive major land conversion and to have little if any carbon reduction advantages – while also undermining efforts to craft broad legislative reform of the Renewable Fuel Standard.  He added the 2007 RFS that he supported but have failed to significantly materialize. Waxman encouraged committee members to oppose S. 517 and to instead back broad change on biofuel policy, change that is in line with the climate and environmental protections they have so consistently supported.  Can send letter if you want to see it.

Unions Weigh in Against Ethanol Expansion – Last week, two major international unions weighed in against the E15 expansion legislation sponsor by Sen. Deb Fischer. Last week, Mark McManus, General President of the United Association of Journeyman and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry said “rather than pushing through an increase in the ethanol concentration in gasoline, Congress should consider reforming the RFS to rectify the threats to domestic refining jobs and address the skyrocketing cost for credits needed to comply with the RFS that have put refining jobs, particularly on the East Coast, at risk. One refinery has already laid off employees and cut benefits in part due to these costs. This creates a serious concern that others could follow suit.”  Another key international union group also weighed in when the North American Building Trades Unions (NABTU) President Sean McGarvey said in a letter to Sens. Barrasso and Carper that the skyrocketing costs for credits needed to comply with RFS has already put East Coast refining jobs at risk.  “Congress should consider reforming the RFS to address the threats to domestic refining jobs in the Northeast and across the nation before rolling back Clean Air Act restrictions to allow for fuel with Greater concentrations of ethanol.”  I can forward the letters if you want to see them.

Cap Crude Look at Ethanol Issues – Speaking of ethanol and E15, on this week’s Platts Capitol Crude, RFA’s Bob Dinneen talks with Brian Schied about the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard under the Trump administration, the state of Brazilian biofuels trade and future sales of E15 gasoline.

Lawmakers Give Big Vote For Small Hydro – House lawmakers made a big move for small hydropower in approving a bill from Reps. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) that would expedite federal reviews of conduit (or energy-recovery) projects. There is enormous potential in these projects to provide clean and reliable power. The Promoting Conduit Hydropower Facilities Act (H.R. 2786), approved 420-2, aims to aid projects that are typically low impact because they are constructed as part of existing water infrastructure, such as irrigation canals and pipes that deliver water to cities and for industrial and agricultural use.  Sen. Steve Daines is expected to introduce a Senate version of a bipartisan push to expedite federal reviews for small conduit (or energy-recovery) hydropower projects later this week.

National Academies Report Finds Grid Vulnerable to Cyber, Physical Attacks – A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concludes the United States’ electric grid is vulnerable to a range of threats, including terrorism or natural disasters that could potentially cause long-term and widespread blackouts. The report, commissioned by Congress, called on DOE and Homeland Security to work with utility operators and other stakeholders to improve cyber and physical security and resilience.  Expect more on this when grid operator come to Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Senate Appropriators Stress Energy Innovation – Senate appropriators included language in their Energy Department spending plan for next year stressing that advanced nuclear technologies “hold great promise for reliable, safe, emission-free energy and should be a priority for the Department.” Specifically, the department is directed to provide Congress a strategy “that sets aggressive, but achievable goals to demonstrate a variety of private-sector advanced reactor designs and fuel types by the late 2020s.” The committee also expressed support for “grid-scale field demonstration of energy storage projects” and encouraged the department to prioritize research that resolve key cost and performance challenges.” The Senate spending bill specifies that these efforts “should also have very clear goals.” Our friends at ClearPath have been specifically pushing for federal goals of demonstrating four different private advanced nuclear reactor technologies and three advanced energy storage solutions by 2027.

NRC Approves Safety Platform for NuScale Small Modular Reactor – NRC has approved the highly integrated protection system (HIPS) platform developed for NuScale Power’s small modular reactor, saying it is acceptable for use in plant safety-related instrumentation and control systems.  The HIPS platform is a protective system architecture designed by NuScale and Rock Creek Innovations. The hybrid analog and digital logic-based system comprises the safety function, communications, and equipment interface and hardwired modules.  The platform also uses field programmable gate array technology that is not vulnerable to internet cyber-attacks.  NuScale is planning to use the HIPS platform – which does not utilize software or microprocessors for operation – for the module protection system of its SMR.



Aspen Energy Forum Kicks Off – The Aspen Institute’s Forum on Global Energy, Economy, and Security kicks off in Colorado today through Wednesday.  The event is an annual convening to discuss changes in global energy markets and the strong links between energy and national economic and security concerns. This year, the forum will focus on: international oil and natural gas markets, resource development and transportation, geopolitical issues, and many other topics. This year, the forum will be co-chaired by Mary Landrieu, Senior Policy Advisor for Van Ness Feldman and former United States Senator, and Marvin Odum, former President of Shell Oil Company.

House Grid Innovation Expo Set – The Edison Electric Institute, GridWise Alliance and National Electrical Manufacturers Association host Grid Innovation Expo in the Rayburn Foyer tomorrow starting at 9:30 a.m. in conjunction with the U.S. House Grid Innovation Caucus.  The hands-on House Grid Innovation Expo will feature the latest innovative technologies and projects that are transforming the energy grid. Exhibitors will include; ABB, American Electric Power, CenterPoint Energy, Florida Power & Light Co., G&W Electric, General Electric, Innovari, Itron, Pacific Gas & Electric Company, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, S&C Electric Company, Siemens, Southern California Edison, Tesla, Vermont Electric Power Company, Xcel Energy, and others.

Report to Highlight Advanced Nuclear Opportunities – The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) is hosting a session tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. to explore findings of the report from the Energy Innovation Reform Project (EIRP) and Energy Options Network (EON) on the potential cost of advanced nuclear technology.  Panelists, including representatives from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), will join authors from EIRP and EON.  Innovation within the nuclear industry is opening the imagination for tomorrow’s advanced technologies that promise improved performance, safety and economics. Yet questions remain about what it will take to get new technologies to commercialization, including the costs of new reactor designs. The report analyzes data received from a number of advanced reactor companies using a standardized cost model that normalizes the collected data.

House Science Panels Look at Ethanol – The House Science Committee panels on Energy and Environment will hold a join hearing tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. to explore the balance between federal biofuels research and the impact of federal intervention in energy markets   Witnesses will include Paul Gilna, director of BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory; John DeCicco of the University of Michigan Energy Institute (UMEI) Growth Energy’s Emily Skor and Heritage’s Nick Loris.

House Committee Tackle “Sue, Settle” – The House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs and Subcommittee on Interior, Energy and Environment will hold a joint hearing tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. on the so-called sue-and-settle phenomenon that Republican lawmakers have challenged during the previous administration.

Senate Enviro Panel Dives Into Nukes CCS – The Senate Environment panel on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety will examine carbon capture and advanced nuclear technologies tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. The panel will hear from representatives from national labs and state groups to “inform potential future legislative proposals and review regulatory activities.  Among those testifying is Jason Begger, executive director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority, which oversees the Wyoming Integrated Test Center. Other witnesses include WVU Energy Institute director Brian Anderson, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Global Security E-Program manager Steve Bohlen, Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Moe Khaleel and Kemal Pasamehmetoglu, associate laboratory director for the Nuclear Science and Technology Directorate at the Idaho National Laboratory.

Grid Evolution Summit Set – The Grid Evolution Summit is set for tomorrow through July 25th through Thursday at the Washington Hilton.  The event, sponsored by the Smart Electric Power Alliance, will be a conversation of industry stakeholders that will determine how the electric sector evolves, modernizes the grid and better integrates distributed energy resources.  Speakers will include Rep Paul Tonko, House Energy Committee Counsels Rick Kessler and Tom Hassenboehler, PSE&G Renewable VP Courtney McCormick, Xcel’s Doug Benvento DOE’s Eric Lightner, Maryland PSC Chair Kevin Hughes, Kit Carson Electric Co-op CEO Luis Reyes and Utility Dive Editor Gavin Bade.

Forum to Look at Clean Energy Innovation – On Wednesday at 10:00 a.m., the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) will release a new report assessing recent federal efforts to overcome Clean Energy Development challenges and consider how this record might be extended and improved upon in the future.  Transformational clean-energy innovations are required to achieve the nation’s economic, environmental, and national security goals. Smart grids that can integrate massive distributed resources, power plants that can capture and sequester carbon emissions, and other advanced technologies must be demonstrated at scale before they can be fully commercialized. Public-private partnerships are needed to cross this “valley of death” between prototype and commercialization and strengthen investor confidence in the affordability, reliability, and practicality of such innovations. Speakers will include William Bonvillian, Former Director of the MIT Washington Office; Joseph Hezir of the Energy Futures Initiative, Rice University Baker Institute’s Christopher Smith and our friend Sam Thernstrom, Founder and Executive Director of the Energy Innovation Reform Project.

Grid Operator Testify at House Energy Panel – On Wednesday at 10:00 a.m., The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy will hold a hearing featuring senior officials at the seven major grid operators as they evaluate the current state of electricity markets.  The executives, whose organizations oversee and manage the country’s electricity markets and transmission systems, will give their takes on issues including grid reliability and transmission planning.  Witnesses include Southwest Power Pool CEO Nick Brown, Cal ISO CEO Keith Casey, Midcontinent ISO CEO Richard Doying, PJM exec Craig Glazer, NY ISO CEO Brad Jones, ERCOT exec Cheryl Mele and ISO New England CEO Gordon van Welie.

CSIS to Look at NAFTA Energy Issues – On Wednesday at 10:00 a.m., CSIS will hold a forum on renegotiating NAFTA, looking at energy challenges and opportunities.  The event will feature CSIS experts Dave Pumphrey and Scott Miller.

CAP to Discuss Trump Reg Agenda – The Center for American Progress will host a discussion on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. to detail how in their mind, the Trump regulatory agenda hurts people.  Not much new there.  DC Attorney General Karl Racine and a panel of experts will discuss the implications.

Community Solar Forum Set for Denver – The Coalition for Community Solar Access will host the first annual National Community Solar Summit in Denver on Wednesday through Friday.  A few highlights for Denver include energy company CEOs including Tom Matzzie of CleanChoice Energy, Jesse Grossman of Soltage, Zaid Ashai of Nexamp, Rick Hunter of Microgrid Energy and Steph Spiers of Solstice.  Other speakers include energy company leaders Hannah Masterjohn of Clean Energy Collective, Dan Hendrick of NRG Energy, Adam Altenhofen of US Bank, Adam Capage of 3 Degrees and Lori Singleton of Salt River Project.

USEA Energy Supply Forum Set – On Thursday, USEA will hold its 10th Annual Energy Supply Forum in the Ballroom of the National Press Club in Washington, DC.  This annual gathering brings together the country’s top energy industry and policy leaders to examine the current state of energy exploration and production, electricity generation, and global and domestic fuel supply. Detailed agenda coming soon.

INGAA Chair to Address NatGas Roundtable – The Natural Gas Roundtable will host INGAA Chair Diane Leopold as the guest speaker at its next luncheon on Thursday at Noon. Leopold is an executive vice president of Richmond, Virginia-based Dominion Energy, and is the president and chief executive officer of the company’s Gas Infrastructure Group.



Texas EnviroSuperConference Set – The 29th annual edition of the always educational and entertaining Texas Environmental Superconference will be held on Thursday and Friday, August 3rd and 4th in Austin at the Four Seasons Hotel.  The Superconference will cover an engaging array of practice areas and topics including air and water quality, endangered species, and environmental aspects of infrastructure projects and legal issues associated with oil and gas activities. Timely presentations from current and former government officials will give key insights on latest developments and priorities at state and federal agencies, and compelling ethics topics will include internal investigations and climate change.

Trade petition Hearing Set – The US International Trade Commission will hold its first hearing on the injury phase of the Solar 201 trade petition filed by Suniva on August 15th beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the USITC in Washington, DC. In the event that the Commission makes an affirmative injury determination or is equally divided on the question of injury in this investigation, a second hearing on the question of remedy will be held beginning at 9:30 a.m. on October 3rd.

Platts Forum to Look at Pipeline Issues – Platts will hold its 12th annual conference in Houston at the Houstonian on September 7th and 8th looking at pipeline development and expansion.   During the conference, my colleague George Felcyn and our friend George Stark of Cabot will be featured on a panel on building pipeline support from the grassroots.   This workshop will focus on ways for pipeline companies to build public support, shape media coverage, influence regulators and successfully see their planned projects through to completion.

TX Renewable Summit Set – On September 18th – 20th, the Texas Renewable Energy Summit will be held in Austin at Omni Southpark.  The summit will offer the latest insights into the market and hear from key players about the key trends impacting renewable energy project development, finance and investment in Texas.  The falling price of solar panels is driving a surge in interest by public utilities and corporate customers in contracting for solar power, while a huge queue of wind projects is forming. As much as 16 GW of new wind and solar projects could come to fruition in Texas.  However, development and financing challenges must be surmounted to assure project success and bankability. Large quantities of solar may drive the dispatch curve and market prices in unpredictable directions.