Gas, New Projects, New Projects, POWERGEN, Renewables

Entergy, NRG operations chiefs highlight utility aims at POWERGEN

NEW ORLEANS-The utility perspective was front and center in Wednesday’s keynote at POWERGEN International.

Paul Hinnenkamp, chief operating officer of Entergy Corp., and NRG Energy’s Chris Moser, who is operations chief, offered insights into how their very different companies operate in the power generation mix.

Peabody Energy also named its Clean Coal Awards winners during the Wednesday POWEERGEN kickoff in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Winners include Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the Electric Power Research Institute, the Carbon Utilization Research Council and Richard Axelbaum, professor at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.

Entergy is host utility for POWERGEN and even allowed some attendees to take a tour of its gas-fired and solar facilities this week. Hinnenkamp’s speech underlined the utility’s plan to focus on increasing those resources in its generation mix.

Entergy plans to complete two other gas-fired plants identical to the 980-MW St. Charles Power Station over the next two years. The company also has about 1.5 MW of utility-scale solar either in service or under development.

Solar projects include installation of rooftop panels in New Orleans and an 81-MW site in Arkansas.

Click here to see video of POWERGEN backstage followup with Paul Hinnenkamp.

Hinnenkamp noted that utilities need to think more like Uber and Amazon do in transportation and retail sales, proactively partnering with customers on their energy needs while helping them to use less of it.

“Too often we’ve looked at the grid as (only) up to the meter,” he said. “We need to be on that (customer’s) side of the meter in a way we’ve not been before.”

Moser, who is executive vice president of operations for NRG Energy, gave an overview of his company’s role as a generator working in competitive markets outside of the usual utility, base-rate model. NRG, which has headquarters in both Houston and New Jersey, works both in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas system and in the eastern U.S.

Chris Moser (photo courtesy Adam Mason)

In the former, he counted how a historically hot stretch of Texas weather in August drove pricing from around $42 per MWh to more than $1,500. ERCOT is an energy only market, which doesn’t pay generators simply to have capacity on-hand, but only if they can meet the competitive pricing aims of the system and truly obey the laws of supply and demand.

“ERCOT worked like it was supposed to work,” he said.

Click here to see a video of POWERGEN backstage followup with Chris Moser.

Moser took some time to call out certain states in the eastern U.S. which are subsidizing nuclear power plants simply to exist. Nuclear is a carbon-free generation resource, but he contended that markets should be agnostic about the resource while making their focus clear.

“The way I see it they are subsidizing the last century’s technologies,” he said. “If the goal is carbon reduction, then create a clean energy market. Make it source agnostic, whether it’s wind, solar or nuclear.”

POWERGEN International continues through Thursday.