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  • France’s Top Bank Exits New Oil Fields // Barasso’s Grid Reliability Bill // NRC Approves Holtec’s Spent Fuel Facility

France’s Top Bank Exits New Oil Fields // Barasso’s Grid Reliability Bill // NRC Approves Holtec’s Spent Fuel Facility

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Welcome to Grid Brief! Here’s what we’re looking at today: France’s top bank turns away from fossil fuels, Republican Sen. John Barrasso’s grid reliability bill, the NRC approves Holtec’s New Mexico spent nuclear fuel facility, and more.

France’s Top Bank Exits New Oil Fields

BNP Paribas, France's largest bank, will no longer finance the development of new oil and gas fields.

BNP Paribas also aims to reduce its financing of oil exploration and production by 80% by 2030. The bank also plans to slash financing for natural gas exploration and production by over 30% by 2030 compared to a baseline from September 2022.

The bank is trying to align with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) trends and address shareholder concerns regarding fossil fuel financing.

BNP Paribas is not alone in its trajectory.

ING, a bank in the Netherlands, is restricting financing for oil and gas. ING is cutting the amount of traded oil and gas it finances and will no longer finance midstream infrastructure for new gas fields, according to reporting from Oilprice.com. In 2022, ING announced its ambition to pump up its renewable energy financing 50% by the end of 2026.

British bank Barclays has also ceased financing oil sands companies and projects while making its rules for financing thermal coal projects more stringent.

“In the U.S., Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo are also under pressure from activist shareholders and environmental groups to wind down or phase out financing for fossil fuels,” reports Oilprice.com.

Barrasso’s Grid Reliability Bill

Senate Republicans’ new energy package doesn’t just take on permitting reform—it attempts to tackle the reliability problems plaguing America’s electricity system.

“The SPUR Act from [Energy and Natural Resources] Ranking Member John Barrasso, who represents the nation’s overwhelming leader in coal production in Wyoming, would amend the Federal Power Act to allow states, [the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission], and heads of executive agencies to request that [the North American Electric Reliability Corp.] look into the effects of an ‘identified agency proposal’ that would be ‘likely to have a significant negative impact’ on grid reliability,” reports the Washington Examiner.

In other words, states and other agencies could ask NERC to join the rule making process for decisions—e.g., the Environmental Protection Agency’s new rules on emissions from power plants—to evaluate what impact said rules would have on the American electrical system.

“EPA projected that its ozone transport rule, as proposed in March 2022, would result in 18 gigawatts of coal and 4 gigawatts of oil/gas retirements by 2030,” reports the Examiner. “Its final rule was projected to result in an additional 14 GW of coal retirements nationwide, a reduction of 13% of national coal capacity.”

After NERC’s reliability evaluation, Barrasso’s bill would require FERC to submit comments to whichever agency’s rule is being subjected to review. The agency would then have to explain its response to FERC’s comments before it could finalize its new rule. Barrasso’s bill is an attempt to put reliability concerns on the level with environmental concerns.

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NRC Approves Holtec’s Spent Fuel Facility

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has granted Holtec International approval to construct a nuclear waste storage facility in Lea County, New Mexico.

The facility would have the capacity to store 500 canisters, holding approximately 8,680 tons of high-level nuclear waste. The NRC’s decision comes after previous attempts by other licensees to establish similar storage facilities faced steep challenges and opposition.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and various environmental groups oppose the project. They have expressed dismay at the NRC’s approval, siting concerns that the waste will somehow escape and poison the nearby area. This is physically impossible.

“The waste is solid,” said Holtec spokesperson Patrick O’Brien. “It’s not going to seep into the soil.”

“New Mexico is home to the DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Project, a geological repository for nuclear waste from the nation’s nuclear weapon’s program, and has not experienced any problems,” reports Utility Dive.

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Conversation Starters

  • Dow is going nuclear. “Dow, the world’s leading materials science company, and X-Energy Reactor Company, a leading developer of advanced nuclear reactors and fuel technology for clean energy generation, announced today that Dow has selected its UCC Seadrift Operations manufacturing site in Texas for its proposed advanced small modular reactor nuclear project,” reads a press release from Dow. “The project is focused on providing the Seadrift site with safe, reliable, zero carbon emissions power and steam as existing energy and steam assets near their end-of-life.”

  • Dealmaking continues in the UK electricity sector. “Ovo Energy Ltd. and Octopus Energy Ltd. are bidding for Shell Plc’s UK retail energy supply business as they seek to gain market share,” reports Bloomberg. “Both companies are in the second round of bidding, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the sale is private. Shell put the UK unit, along with similar supply businesses in the Netherlands and Germany, under review in January. Bloomberg reported in February the company was working with US investment bank Lazard Ltd. on a possible sale.”

  • The White House has Manchin’s back. “Congress should pass bipartisan permitting reform legislation introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to accelerate deployment of critical electric transmission and speed the interconnection of clean energy resources, a Biden administration official said Wednesday,” reports Utility Dive. “‘The president doesn’t love everything in the bill, but we support it,’ White House senior clean energy advisor John Podesta said in remarks to the Bipartisan Policy Center. The Building American Energy Security Act of 2023 is similar to a measure Manchin introduced last year but failed to advance.”

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