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PG and E ex-CEO gets $2.5 million severance amid wildfire woes

PG&E ex-CEO gets $2.5 million severance amid wildfire woes

Former PG&E CEO Geisha Williams lands $2.5 million in cash for severance pay despite being in charge during lethal wildfires of 2017 and 2018

PG&E’s former chief executive officer was given a $2.5 million cash severance on the way out the door even though she was at the helm of the embattled utility during the disastrous and deadly infernos that roared through Northern California in 2017 and 2018. ……

January 15, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

PG and E to file for bankruptcy due to wildfire lawsuits; shares tank

PG&E to file for bankruptcy due to wildfire lawsuits; shares tank

Utility cites ‘challenges’ from California wildfires, East Bay Times,   By LEVI SUMAGAYSAY | and GEORGE AVALOS | | Bay Area News Group January 14, 2019  Citing “extraordinary challenges” from the devastating 2017 and 2018 California wildfires, PG&E said Monday that it will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the utility that serves 16 million Californians gave the 15-day notice required by law for filing for bankruptcy, one day after it announced the departure of Chief Executive Geisha Williams. The company’s stock dropped by more than half Monday in response to the early-morning announcement……..

One estimate, from Moody’s Investor Services, puts PG&E’s wildfire liabilities at $15 billion but PG&E said it may face liabilities of $30 billion or more. In its filing Monday, PG&E said it is aware of about 50 complaints from at least 2,000 plaintiffs related to November’s Camp Fire and said it expects more. It also said it knows of about 700 complaints on behalf of at least 3,600 plaintiffs from the 2017 California wildfires. PG&E further stated that if it is found liable for the 2017 and 2018 fires, “punitive damages, fines and penalties could be significant.” ………

San Francisco-based PG&E’s shares plunged 52.4 percent to close at $8.38 on Monday. Since October 2017, when it first became clear that PG&E might be liable for some wildfires, PG&E’s shares have nose-dived by 88 percent………

January 15, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

UK to use Regulatory Asset Base (RAB) funding for Wylfa nuclear plant, exposing consumers to financial risk?

Times 13th Jan 2019 Ministers will be forced to pioneer a new way of financing nuclear power after Hitachi walked away from a £16bn plant in north Wales. The suspension of the Japanese giant’s Horizon project on Anglesey, expected to be confirmed at a board meeting tomorrow, will force the government to lure investors with a financing method that would pile costs on to consumers, even before a plant has been built.
Ministers are expected to accelerate plans to introduce regulated asset base (RAB) financing, which is popular in the water and infrastructure sectors, for nuclear plants including the Horizon site. Hitachi’s mothballing of its scheme, which could cost about 400 jobs, will be a damaging blow to Britain’s energy policy.
In November, its Japanese counterpart Toshiba scrapped plans to build a nuclear plant at Moorside in Cumbria. Japan’s withdrawal from the UK market will kill the country’s ambitions to sell reactors around the globe.
It leaves Britain dependent on France’s EDF and the Chinese company CGN. Together they are
building the £20bn Hinkley Point power station in Somerset, and CGN has ambitions to build its own reactors on the Essex coast at Bradwell-on-Sea. Industry insiders said state-controlled CGN could swoop on Anglesey if Hitachi puts the project up for sale. Kepco of South Korea would also be interested.
The project’s collapse follows years of negotiations between Tokyo and London. Last summer Britain agreed to split the equity equally with the Japanese government and Hitachi. Ministers were keen to avoid a repeat of the deal struck with EDF, which guarantees at least £92.50 per
megawatt hour for Hinkley Point’s electricity for 35 years. The Horizon deal would have guaranteed about £75 per megawatt hour, falling to the £50s for future reactors on the site.
However, the Japanese government balked at the risk, and tried to pass the equity on to Japanese utility companies. That triggered nervousness at Hitachi, a conglomerate with interests from train manufacturing to power grids. Nuclear power makes up just 4% of its business.
Shares in Hitachi surged almost 9% on Friday amid speculation about Horizon being halted, despite the company having spent more than £2bn on the plans.
EDF is keen to use RAB financing for Sizewell C in Suffolk, its next UK plant. The funding method, which allows investors to earn a set return, has been used for a huge new sewer beneath London and Terminal 5 at Heathrow. However, the pre-funding formula passes some of the risk of cost overruns on to consumers, and their bills rise even before a project has been completed.

January 14, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, politics, UK | Leave a comment

South Carolina Senators unlikely to approve sale of Santee Cooper

January 14, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

UK’s nuclear energy renaissance derailed, as Japanese companies step back from nuclear investment?

Japan’s nuclear rethink could derail UK energy plans,, Doug Parr, 11 Jan 19,   Reports in the Japanese press claim Hitachi is set to suspend all work on Wylfa, its nuclear power project in Wales.

Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe is in London this week, and it seems likely in his meeting with Theresa May that the Japanese-backed nuclear power plant in Wales will come up.

The Wylfa project, to be built by Hitachi and its subsidiary Horizon, is one of a clutch of planned nuclear power stations which the UK government has heavily prioritised for security of power supply, and meeting the country’s climate obligations.

Late last year another of the 6 major projects, the proposed Moorside plant in Cumbria, was effectively abandoned after Toshiba pulled out. And another has come under fire as questions are raised about security issues flowing from the Chinese builders.

These developments effectively illustrate that UK nuclear power policy is heavily dependent on overseas developers. What is less understood is that there are significant shifts underway in Japan which strongly suggest Hitachi’s projects may too be at risk.

‘Nuclear export superpower’   The most advanced of Horizon’s nuclear plans is a large power station to be built at Wylfa on Anglesey, North Wales.

In fact, with the collapse of Moorside, the Wylfa plant is the only nuclear project that could realistically be built before 2030, in addition to the plant already under construction at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

Japan, however, is reconsidering its nuclear export strategy. Because it keeps going wrong.

Until recently it had 3 companies interested in building nuclear power stations abroad: Toshiba, Mitsubishi and Hitachi.

These companies have experience building nuclear stations at home but since the Fukushima disaster in 2011, they have had to look elsewhere. Seeking to help these giants of Japanese industry to maintain their businesses, Prime Minister Abe reportedly wanted to turn Japan into a “nuclear export superpower”.

Misfires   Toshiba pulled out of Moorside last year because it had run up huge losses in building 2 nuclear plants in USA. One, the Summer project in South Carolina, was abandoned altogether despite it being nearly half-built. Toshiba has pulled out not just of Moorside, but of building new nuclear power stations altogether.

Meanwhile, another of Japan’s nuclear groups, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), has also been struggling to get its international project off-the-ground. It had one nuclear power station in the offing, at Sinop in Turkey, following an agreement years ago between the two countries’ prime ministers. However it seems clear that MHI is preparing to leave the project amid its “ballooning costs”. This is the only nuclear power station project MHI had an interest in.

The last of the companies involved in Japan’s nuclear export push is Hitachi. It has one active overseas nuclear project in UK at Wylfa, North Wales, and one more speculatively planned at Oldbury in Gloucestershire.

Hitachi, however, are reportedly be thinking of scrapping the project as its costs and risks become unmanageable. Hitachi could be looking at Toshiba’s near-bankruptcy and thinking ‘let’s not go there’.  According to their chairman the project was in “an extremely severe situation” as it struggled to attract investors, even though UK government may have promised as much as two thirds of the build cost.

Despite this already generous largesse (on behalf of UK taxpayers, not offered to any other energy projects) Hitachi are intending to come back to UK government and ask for more. It looks like no assessment of the risks by a private funder come back looking good, and the only way nuclear plants can be built is with government stepping into very risky projects that require taxpayers to shoulder the risk.

The aversion from private investors may not only be because of the rising costs, but also that the operating performance of the proposed reactor is pretty poor (albeit partly due to earthquakes). Notably Hitachi continues to be happy to spend many billions of pounds on power grid investments, but not its own nuclear reactor, which it wants UK taxpayers to fund.

Second thoughts  Unsurprisingly this tale is making many in Japan have second thoughts.

Major Japanese newspapers have opposed their own taxpayers lending supportto the Wylfa project, even though a home-grown company would be getting the benefits. And during the Xmas break, Japan’s third largest newspaper called for the nuclear export strategy to be abandoned. Another paper attacks the ‘bottomless swamp’ of nuclear funding in UK and remarks upon how few countries seem to be following the UK-style nuclear-focused policy.

Reportedly Japanese government has asked its development banks to fund the ‘nuclear export strategy’, and Wylfa in particular, but they don’t want to. It is quite difficult to see how Hitachi can manage the risks of this project without some home support, and support in Japan is ebbing away.

Few other countries will be stepping into the UK’s nuclear hole. The South Korean company KEPCO – that once might have taken over the Moorside project – is also finding exporting nuclear power tough to export, as ‘shoddy’ construction in a nuclear plant in United Arab Emirates, with attendant delays and extra costs, is showing.

For the UK, which has made a heavy bet on new nuclear to cover for retiring plants and make up a significant share of its decarbonisation targets, news from the other side of the world makes that bet look a dodgy one.


January 12, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, Japan, politics, UK | Leave a comment

Hitachi to post $2 billion special loss, will suspend UK nuclear power operations

Hitachi to suspend UK nuclear power ops, post $2 billion special loss

Hitachi is set to vote on the planned suspension at its board meeting next week, the Nikkei said without citing sources REUTERS  |  January 11, 2019, TOKYOHitachi has decided to suspend its 3 trillion yen ($28 billion) nuclear project in Britain and to post a special loss of about $2 billion for the year ending March, the Nikkei business daily reported on Friday.

Hitachi is set to vote on the planned suspension at its board meetingnext week, the Nikkei said without citing sources.

The loss is expected to be 200 billion to 300 billion yen ($1.9 billion to 2.8 billion), it said.

Hitachi representatives could not be immediately reached for comment

January 12, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, UK | Leave a comment

Hitachi looks certain to cancel its plans for a £16bn nuclear power station in Wales

Hitachi set to cancel plans for £16bn nuclear power station in Wales Guardian, Adam Vaughan @adamvaughan_uk-12 Jan 2019

Move by Japanese firm would be blow to UK plans to replace coal plants and ageing reactors  The Japanese conglomerate Hitachi looks certain to cancel its plans for a £16bn nuclear power station in Wales, leaving Britain’s ambitions for a nuclear renaissance in tatters.

An impasse in months-long talks between the company, London and Toyko on financing is expected to result in the flagship project being axed at a Hitachi board meeting next week, according to the Nikkei newspaper.

The company has spent nearly £2bn on the planned Wylfa power station on Anglesey, which would have powered around 5m homes.

Another Japanese giant, Toshiba, scrapped a nuclear plant in Cumbria just two months ago after failing to find a buyer for the ailing project.

Withdrawal by Hitachi would be a major blow to the UK’s plans to replace dirty coal and ageing reactors with new nuclear power plants, and heap pressure on ministers to consider other large-scale alternatives such as offshore windfarms.

It would also mark an end to Japan’s hopes of exporting its nuclear technology around the world.

Hitachi and the UK and Japanese governments have been negotiating over a guaranteed price of power from Wylfa and a potentially £5bn-plus UK public stake in the scheme.

Talks have proved “tricky to find a solution that works for all parties”, industry sources said.

Unions said the prospect of Wylfa being cancelled was extremely worrying and losing two projects in such a short period “should set alarm bells ringing” about the government’s commitment to nuclear………

an insider said: “There has been a serious rift in Hitachi, and the group that said this is too large and risky an investment of Japanese capital have won out. They pointed to the uncertainty created by Brexit to say this was another reason to pull the plug.” ……….

Nuclear critics said a collapse of the scheme was not a disaster but an opportunity for a policy shift. Doug Parr, the chief scientist of Greenpeace UK, said: “We could have locked ourselves into reliance on an obsolete, unaffordable technology, but we’ve been given the chance to think again and make a better decision.”

Sara Medi Jones, the acting secretary general of CND, said: “With offshore wind now cheaper than nuclear it’s clear there is a clean and workable alternative. We just need the political will to make it happen.”

Just one new nuclear power station, EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point C in Somerset, has been given the green light and begun construction. The French company and Chinese firm CGN both want to build more.

January 12, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, politics, UK | Leave a comment

Iowa Utilities Board OK’s Alliant ending nuclear power purchase: Duane Arnold nuclear plant to shut down

State board OK’s Alliant ending nuclear power purchase, The Gazette, 11 Jan 19Alliant Energy’s request for a settlement that will allow the utility to end its purchase of energy from Duane Arnold Energy Center has been approved.

The Iowa Utilities Board’s approval of Alliant’s request to recover a one-time $110 million payment allows the utility to end its purchase of power from the state’s sole nuclear power plant. The plant, based in Palo, is slated to shut down in late 2020 — five years sooner than the current power purchase agreement between NextEra Energy Resources and Alliant Energy.

The Iowa Utilities Board announced the settlement agreement in a Thursday news release.

Duane Arnold, which first began producing power in 1975, is about 9 miles northwest of Cedar Rapids and is one of the larger employers in Linn County. The power plant, at 3277 Daec Road, is owned by Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources……..


January 12, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

Funding deadlock looks set to sink Japan’s last overseas nuclear project.

Nikkei Asian Review 11th Jan 2019 , Hitachi to suspend all work on UK nuclear plant. Funding deadlock looks set to sink Japan’s last overseas nuclear project. Hitachi plans to put a U.K.
nuclear power project on hold as negotiations with the British government over funding hit an impasse, all but closing the book on Tokyo’s vision for nuclear infrastructure exports.
The Japanese industrial conglomerate’s
board is expected to officially decide next week to suspend all work on the
plant, including design and preparations for construction. Hitachi will
freeze the roughly 300 billion yen ($2.77 billion) in assets held by its
British nuclear business and write down their value, likely booking a loss
of 200 billion yen to 300 billion yen for the fiscal year ending in March.
The move would bring to a halt Japan’s last active overseas nuclear project
after the news last month that a Japanese-led consortium including
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was scrapping a project in Turkey. With the
aversion to nuclear power that took hold after the March 2011 Fukushima
Daiichi disaster showing little sign of abating, prospects look grim for a
sector that the Japanese government had positioned as a pillar of its
infrastructure export drive. Hitachi had taken on the planned construction
of two reactors on the Welsh island of Anglesey after acquiring U.K.-based
Horizon Nuclear Power in 2012. The company is leaving the door open to a
return. The project is “not being abandoned,” a source close to Hitachi
told Nikkei, suggesting the company would keep an eye on the situation and
resume the project if possible.
While negotiations with London are
apparently set to continue, reworking the project to the extent Hitachi
requires will be no easy task. As things stand now, it appears likely that
the company will ultimately be forced to bow out.

January 12, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, Japan, UK | Leave a comment

Japan, the U.S. and France failing in their efforts to sell nuclear reactors overseas, (or at home)

Japan’s Nuclear Export Struggles Narrow the Field of Suppliers, Only a handful of nations now seem capable of building new reactors, with the ability of the U.S. also in doubt. Greentech Media, Japan is struggling to find viable foreign buyers for its reactor technology in an expensive and competitive global nuclear market.

Only half a dozen nations currently have credible nuclear export capabilities. And besides Japan, the true export potential of at least two — the U.S. and France — is in doubt.

A recent report in the Japanese daily Mainichi Shimbun said a government strategy to export nuclear power technology had “run aground amid rising safety costs and deteriorating prospects for project profitability.” Proposed projects in Turkey and the United Kingdom had both hit roadblocks, the Mainichi Shimbun noted……..

Also, and perhaps more importantly, Japanese nuclear vendors are not state-owned like developers from China, Russia and South Korea. That puts Japanese firms at a disadvantage in terms of accessing finance and accepting risk.

These problems are not restricted to Japanese firms, though. They also apply to U.S. vendors.

Struggles in the U.S. nuke sector

While Japanese nuclear is at least enjoying something of a gradual recovery at home, with nine reactors back online after Fukushima and a further 17 looking to restart, in the U.S. the domestic sector is a mess.

This month saw Dominion Energy absorbing Scana Corporation after the latter failed to keep construction of two reactors at the Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station afloat.

A little over 100 miles away, Georgia state lawmakers have expressed concerns that a couple of new reactors at the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant, which are already half a decade behind schedule, could see further delays.

Six reactors out of a total of 104 have shut down across the U.S. since 2012, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, and a further 13 are due to close before 2025.

Meanwhile, a 2017 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found two-thirds of U.S. nuclear power capacity could become unprofitable over the next few years.

When publicly owned U.S. nuclear developers do not even have a viable domestic market to play in, it is hard to see how they might compete overseas. There are efforts underway to revive the U.S. nuclear industry, but industry advocates say much more support is needed.

U.S. nuclear export prospects are thus beginning to look a lot like those in Japan — and also those in France, which has been struggling to launch its Evolutionary Power Reactor technology. Like the U.S. and Japan, France seemingly has little appetite to attach state guarantees to nuclear projects abroad……

January 12, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs | Leave a comment

Nuclear Power Is Economically Obsolete, By Grant Smith, 9 Jan 19,

Last year the Trump administration’s Energy Department announced the launch of a media campaign to counter what an official called “misinformation” about nuclear power. We haven’t noticed an upsurge in pro-nuclear news—because there is none to report.

On the first day of 2019, the energy industry trade journal Power asked whether new technology can save nuclear power by making new reactors economically feasible—not only to replace coal and natural gas but also to compete with the rapidly dropping cost of renewable energy. The verdict from Peter Bradford, a former member of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission:

. . . [N]ew nuclear is so far outside the competitive range. . . . Not only can nuclear power not stop global warming, it is probably not even an essential part of the solution to global warming.

His bleak outlook is shared by the authors of a recent article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors—an engineer, an economist and a national security analyst—reviewed the prospects for so-called advanced designs for large nuclear reactors, and for much smaller modular reactors that could avoid the billions in construction costs and overruns that have plagued the nuclear energy industry since the beginning.

They concluded that no new designs can possibly reach the market before the middle of the century. They cite the breeder reactor that, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, received $100 billion in public development funds worldwide over six decades and still did not get off the ground.

The authors say there may be an opening for small modular reactors but that it will be very difficult to find a market for these reactors without—as is always the case with nuclear power—a massive infusion of taxpayer dollars. “For that to happen,” they argue, “several hundred billion dollars of direct and indirect subsidies would be needed to support their development and deployment over the next several decades, since present competitive energy markets will not induce their development and adoption.”

Despite the past failure and poor future outlook, support for more nuclear funding persists. In a recent study, the Energy Department pointed to the $50 billion in federal incentives provided to renewables like solar and wind power between 2005 and 2015, implying that such policies can have a similar impact on modular nuclear reactors. But unlike nuclear power, the costs of wind and solar have dropped dramatically, to the point where the cost of new, unsubsidized utility-scale wind and solar power investment can now competewith that of existing coal and nuclear power plants.

The bigger question is whether nuclear power is needed at all.

Nuclear advocates’ claims that nuclear power is required to fight climate change falls short. California met its climate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 four years early by turning off its nuclear plants and setting policies that prioritize renewables, energy efficiency and energy storage investments over natural gas plant additions.

An argument advanced in the Energy Department report is that, to ensure that power can be delivered 24/7, large coal and nuclear power plants designed to run day and night—also known as baseload plants—need to be replaced by small nuclear units that run day and night. However, mounting, real-world evidence refutes this assertion.

Recent studies from New York and California show that it is cheaper to invest in renewables, energy efficiency and energy storage in order to replace aging nuclear plants than it is to keep the existing plants running. Savings range from hundreds of millions to billions of dollars—achieved without any impact on electric system reliability.

Nuclear power belongs in a museum. We shouldn’t continue to squander public dollars on a technology that will never make economic sense. We should divert resources into improving and deploying wind, solar, energy efficiency and energy storage technology that we know will keep the lights on, effectively reduce carbon emissions and cost what we can afford to pay.  Grant Smith is senior energy policy advisor at Environmental Working Group.

January 10, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

Major financial group in Japan bans lending to those developing, making or possessing nuclear weapons 

Resona bans lending to those developing, making or possessing nuclear weapons, January 7, 2019 (Mainichi Japan) TOKYO — Resona Holdings Inc., a major financial group in Japan, has announced a policy of not extending loans to borrowers that are involved in the development, production or possession of nuclear weapons.

January 8, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, Japan | Leave a comment

Japan losing hope for having a nuclear export industry

January 5, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, Japan | Leave a comment

Uncertain future for nuclear engineers

High-Paying Jobs in Nuclear Power Aren’t Looking So Safe Anymore

A wave of plant closings has workers—even highly trained engineers—on edge, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, Erin Ailworth, Dec. 28, 2018  “………As large employers, these plants are often economic anchors for the smaller, sometimes rural communities in which they were built. When they disappear, so too can a significant portion of the tax base—a big blow for many. Each plant shuttered equals hundreds of jobs lost; combined, the nine slated to retire employ more than 7,000.

After a plant closes, those employees are left playing musical chairs, hoping to land a spot at another nuclear plant even as that job pool shrinks. Federal labor data for nuclear and other electric power generation shows the number of workers has dropped to about 63,000 in October from roughly 158,000 in 1990. At least 3,000 of those jobs vanished since the start of 2013………

Federal forecasts show that employment among nuclear power reactor operators, who tend to have a high school or equivalent education, is expected to fall by just over 10% from 2016 to 2026. Meanwhile, the Nuclear Energy Institute, a trade association, estimates that of 100,000 nuclear workers—including those with jobs outside power plants—it expects about 23,000 people to retire from or quit the industry over the next five years.

……. The latest nuclear job losses occurred at Oyster Creek, a 49-year-old plant owned by Exelon Corp. in New Jersey, that went offline in September. Next to go will be Entergy Corp.’s Pilgrim nuclear plant in Massachusetts, which is scheduled to shut down in May. Three Mile Island’s shuttering is slated for September 2019.

Christopher Crane, chief executive of Exelon, said his company is doing what it can to absorb workers displaced by Oyster Creek’s retirement, even as it works to avoid further closures by lobbying for policies that recognize nuclear power as a carbon-free resource akin to solar and wind farms.

…….. The last nuclear plant built in the U.S. came into full service in 2016. More recent nuclear projects have had huge cost overruns and delays.

The Trump administration, meanwhile, repeatedly has promised to help the struggling nuclear industry, but so far its efforts haven’t panned out.

Employees at the James A. FitzPatrick nuclear plant in central New York state worry about their future.

January 5, 2019 Posted by | employment, USA | Leave a comment

Japan abandoning ambition to sell nuclear power reactors to Turkey

January 5, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, Japan | Leave a comment