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Europäisches Kartell

Posted by on 24/07/14

“Die EU-Kommission setzt auf Energieverschwendung” – das vernichtende Urteil der DENEF(Deutsche Unternehmensinitiative Energie-Effizienz) ist berechtigt… Statt um 40% will die Kommission den Energieverbrauch bis 2030 lediglich um 30% senken, und das nicht einmal für alle Mitgliedsstaaten verbindlich… Dass die EU-Kommission in derselben Sitzung die Reform des deutschen EEG durchwinkt, ist mehr als nur ein Zufall. Denn beide Entscheidungen hängen eng miteinander zusammen und sind getragen von demselben rückwärtsgewandten Geist.

Im Interesse des alten nuklear-fossilen Energiekartells und der eng mit ihm verbunden energie-intensiven Industrie werden die für die gesamte Gesellschaft so wichtigen und übergeordneten Ziele einer vernünftigen Energiepolitik über Bord geworfen, vom Klimaschutz über die Verringerung der Abhängigkeit von Energie-Importen bis hin zur Senkung der stetig wachsenden Kosten für die EU-Energie-Importe…

Dabei war Deutschland auf einem guten Weg: Mit der Energiewende wurde vorgemacht, wie Effizienz, Ausbau der Erneuerbaren und Reduzierung des CO2-Ausstoßes wirtschaftlich zu schaffen sind. Doch Gabriel und Oettinger praktizieren offenbar auch auf EU-Ebene und in Sachen Energie die Große Koalition: Der deutsche Energieminister hebelt das EEG aus und sorgt für weiterhin großzügige Strompreisrabatte, ausgerechnet für die größten Stromfresser, und Oettinger sorgt dafür, dass der Druck zur Energie-Effizienz aus Brüssel nicht zu groß wird.

Das Ergebnis: Mit den niedrigsten Industriestrompreisen seit 2005 sinkt die Bereitschaft der Unternehmen für Investitionen in Energie-Effizienzmaßnahmen nahezu auf Null – und nebenbei freuen sich RWE., E.ON & Co., weil gerade diese Stromfresser zu ihren wichtigsten Kunden zählen.

So schließt sich der Kreis: Energiepolitik hat eben leider auch im Jahr 2014, auch in Zeiten von Klimawandel, Energiewende, Ukraine-Krise und schwindenden Ölreserven nur begrenzt etwas mit Vernunft, dafür aber umso mehr mit Interessen, Macht und Geld zu tun.

27% ≠ 27% ≠ a good idea

Posted by on 17/07/14

By Adam White, Research Coordinator at WWF European Policy Office’s Climate and Energy Unit

The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.

- Aristotle

When it comes to European targets for greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy, and energy efficiency, every percentage point is closely modelled and examined.  The esoteric target of 27% renewable energy is the product of European Commission analysis on contributions to reach the (inadequate) 40% emissions cut by 2030.

A separate review of Energy Efficiency, still in draft form, looked at energy savings of up to 40%, as called for by Parliament and NGOs, and while it did examine 28%, 30 and 35%, found greater benefits to the higher end.

Unfortunately, such dedicated number gazing sometimes clashes with politics, or circumstance, or – as in the case of the 2030 energy efficiency target – both.

The higher energy efficiency numbers are intimidating to a Commission that’s afraid of doing battle with difficult Member States, and contradict its earlier 2030 framework review (the one done prior to the recognition by all concerned that efficiency is crucial to energy security).

Never fear, because some Commissioners have cooked up a solution: simply ‘match’ the efficiency target to the renewables target – 27%/27%. Neat and parallel (and more than an echo of Commissioner Oettinger’s earlier 30/30/30 rhetoric).  Sadly, it is just not as simple as that.  However similar the numbers seem on paper – in reality they mean very different things.

The renewables target applies to the share of final energy use – the proportion of renewable energy we get when we switch on lights.  On the other hand, the efficiency target applies to cuts in primary energy use below a baseline projection – so it reflects the reduction in the amount of fuel used in the EU compared to expectations absent the applicable policy.

These are completely different notions. 27% in no way equals 27%.

The renewable energy target and the efficiency target interact in complex ways.  You can reduce the EU’s consumption of fuel, and therefore help to meet the efficiency target, by increasing renewable energy.  This is because renewable energy technologies convert their energy inputs (sun, wind) more efficiently than traditional power plants convert coal and gas into electricity.  The converse is also true, you can help meet the renewables target by boosting efficiency, since the less total energy you use, the easier it is for a higher proportion of that total to be met by renewables.

These are all considerations that the number crunchers pay close attention to, but which their bosses seem willing to overlook in the interests of symmetry and expediency.  And like a heart bypass candidate who can’t resist another double cheese hamburger, the Commission has decided to ignore the consequences of their bad decision: a 27% energy efficiency target actually represents a slowdown of current efforts, and would put in jeopardy the improved health and billions of euros saved every year that efficiency delivers.

Interesting how a Commission which is almost 70% male, and 100% white is apparently only interested in equality when it comes to plucking numbers out of the air.

 

A plea for a pragmatic approach to global climate policy

Posted by on 14/07/14

During the last 50 years global energy demand has risen at an unprecedented pace and is expected to continue rising further in the wake of growing world population and prosperity.

These trends are not sustainable. The energy resources (coal, oil, gas, uranium) are finite and burning them is bound to accelerate climate change to a point of no return destroying the basis of human livelihood.

Climate scientists and almost all governments on earth share this basic assessment. But while scientists urge for action to be taken politicians are wavering in the face of powerful fossil energy lobbies and industry pressing for low energy prices.

Fortunately, tenuous signs for a change are appearing in the two most polluting countries, China and USA, on which the success of any international action hinges.

China has placed the fight against energy waste, air pollution and climate change among the top priorities of its Five Year Plan 2011-15. It is determined to increase its overall energy efficiency; and it envisages stepping up research and pilot projects for carbon capture and storage which is vital for continuing to burn coal with which it is amply endowed. But though the government is to be congratulated for finally acknowledging the seriousness of climate change its actions continue to fall far short of what is needed. Chinese green house gas emissions will therefore keep rising for at least 20 more years.

USA, the second biggest emitter of GHG has made great strides under the Obama Administration, thanks to circumventing a hostile Congress by executive action in the form of technical standards. CO2 emissions have begun to fall from exorbitant levels of 17 tons/per capita, due to increasing switch from coal to gas as the major fuel in power generation and stringent fuel consumption standards for passenger cars.

Driven by concerns about their security of supply, both countries will press for higher energy efficiency, in particular in buildings, and more power generation through renewables – wind, sun, hydro and biomass. But neither is ambitious enough and postulate largely C02 free energy by the middle of the century.

Only the EU, the third biggest energy consumer and CO2 emitter, can so far boast of an established record against climate change. Until 2020 its CO2 emissions will be down by 20 per cent over 1990; and it is set to reduce them by 80-95 per cent until the middle of the century. No other country has so far announced similar ambitions. But with a share of only some 12 per cent of global emissions it does not carry enough weight for preserving the climate.

Both USA and EU owe their relative success to the setting of medium and long-term targets and taking concrete measures. That distinguishes their approach from the UN-directed efforts which continue to lack precision of the targets and fail to prescribe concrete measures. Moreover, there is no political drive without which policies cannot be conceived and implemented. This is normal for assemblies grouping some 200 states with totally different levels of energy consumption and representing fundamentally different views on the future.

In order to achieve a positive outcome from the decisive Paris Climate Conference in November 2015 participant countries need to change the modus operandi of their future negotiations. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon might have made a beginning by calling a restricted high-level meeting of heads of government from the main polluter countries at the margin of the September 2014 General Assembly.

To ensure a successful result in Paris the leaders of the countries responsible for 80 per cent of global emissions must agree on a cooperative strategy to keep global temperatures within a two degree Celsius rise over pre-industrial levels.

A group of climate and energy research institutes from 15 major emitter countries has translated the “two centigrade target” into the necessary reductions of green house gas emissions. The result will come as a shock for policy makers: average per capita green house gas emissions must not exceed 1.6 ton by the middle of the century. Only the poor, mostly African, countries can still indulge in rising emissions. Most other countries including EU, Japan, China and Russia will need to reduce them by around three quarters and some 20 countries like United Arab Emirates Canada, Australia, USA with very high per capita emissions by even 90 per cent until 2050.

This will be a huge challenge for every country and Humanity. It is therefore crucial to provide for an equitable burden sharing among Humanity, which per capita green house emissions, reflect better than any other yardstick.

At the Paris conference, the parties should focus on two conclusions:

  • All countries will reduce their green house gas emissions by 2050 to 1.6 tons per capita by 2050.
  • Countries emitting already more than seven tons per capita will present their strategy for implementation to the UN Secretary General for approval before 2020. Countries with per capita emissions of less than one ton can wait with presenting their climate strategy until 2030 or until exceeding a level of emissions of more than one ton.

The UN Secretary General will appoint a special representative for the preparations.

This procedure will replace the annual climate conferences, from which the necessary policy changes cannot emerge, due to increasing level of bureaucratisation, too many participants and lack of political commitment.

Future climate policy will be more differentiated by countries, and the UN should be empowered to fix policy guidelines and monitor implementation.

The following guidelines might inspire national and global policy makers:

  • All countries subsidising fossil fuels must phase these out by 2020. That process has started under the pressure from IEA and others.
  • All countries will have to invest heavily in much higher energy efficiency:
    • Thanks to perfect thermal insulation buildings must become autonomous from fossil energy.
    • The internal combustion engine must be replaced by battery-propelled electric engines, fed from renewable sources.
  • All countries must step up their recycling efforts, following the lead the by European Union
  • To slow down population growth and global energy demand developing countries must take appropriate measures and thereby contribute to the fight against climate change.
  • Countries with large forest areas must preserve these, which is vital for stabilising global environment and climate.
  • Countries in the solar belt must fully exploit their solar potential for electricity generation.
  • Countries like China, Russia, Australia and Canada that want to continue exploiting their huge coal or gas reserves must invest in carbon capture and storage.
  • Countries situated along the Seas must exploit their wind power potential and develop technologies for “harvesting” wave energies.

The World Bank, in conjunction with regional Development Banks must become the global financing and technical assistance agent for implementing the challenging structural changes towards a non-fossil society. To that end it should be in charge of managing the $ 100 billion annual International Climate Fund that the developed countries have pledged to establish by 2020.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 12/7/2014

EU energy policy: It must be done right

Posted by on 14/07/14
Guest blogpost by Hans Martens Energy policy will be in the EU focus for the next five years – at least. However energy policy can take many shapes – from very green to very brown depending on the political choices. EU-leaders, it is now time to make the right choices and get on with the job.

Serbian government props up almighty coal

Posted by on 02/07/14

A new report by the Belgrade-based NGO CRTA shows that the Serbian government is supporting the Kostolac coal power plant and mines with loan guarantees and potentially VAT exemptions. Propping up the already dominant coal sector, however, will likely further increase Serbia’s vulnerability to extreme weather events. Increasing Serbia’s energy efficiency and renewables generation would be the wiser choice.

by Pippa Gallop, cross-posted from the Bankwatch blog

Since 2006 when the Energy Community was founded and its member countries committed to adhere to EU legislation on state aid, the Serbian government has provided several forms of support for the Kostolac lignite power plant and mines company, part of state company Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS), and is now planning to provide further support by approving loan guarantees in the National Assembly for the construction of the 350 MW Kostolac unit B3.

  • A project that is currently being undertaken by China’s CMEC is the reconstruction of existing blocks B1 and B2 at the Kostolac power plant. It was the Serbian government, not EPS, who signed a contract for a USD 293 million loan (85 percent of the project value) from the China ExIm Bank.
  • Since part of the project consists of transportation infrastructure – a landing dock on the Danube and railway infrastructure – it is also possible that a clause from an annex (pdf) to the 2009 Serbia-China agreement will be applied, exempting the import and supply of goods and services for the project from VAT and customs duties.
  • What is still coming up is the construction of a new 350 MW unit at Kostolac B and expand the Drmno lignite mine, for which the Serbian government in November 2013 signed a contract with CMEC. The project depends on financing from the China ExIm Bank and unnamed commercial banks, and on a state guarantee from the Serbian government for these loans. The 2014 Serbian state budget allocates two guarantees for the project – USD 107 million for un-named commercial banks and USD 608 million for the China Exim Bank.

The state support for Kostolac outlined in the new report (pdf) is just one example of how Serbian state authorities are systematically propping up an already almighty coal industry. If plans for a new energy strategy for Serbia are anything to go by (discussions are ongoing about the blueprint for the energy sector for the period 2015-2025), Serbian authorities also plan to continue with this kind of support for the dirtiest of fossil fuels into the next decade.

On a path prone to disaster

Serbia, as a member of the Energy Community, has committed to abide by the EU’s complex rules on subsidies and it is not yet clear whether the support outlined above is in line with these. But in any case, as a candidate country for EU accession and a member of the Energy Community, Serbia needs to increase its energy efficiency and reach a renewable energy target of 27 percent by 2020. This implies a decrease in the percentage of coal in the energy mix.

But these are not the only reasons to pursue such a path. Serbia, like all of south east Europe, is vulnerable to natural disasters, including those exacerbated by climate change such as floods, heat waves, cold waves, droughts and forest fires. This May’s tragic floods – which claimed at least 51 lives and led to the evacuation of nearly 30,000 people from flooded towns and villages in Serbia alone – propelled the issue into the global headlines, but extreme weather events have been increasing in frequency for years already.

Among others, between 2000 and 2010 eight serious flood events affected 51 290 people and killed four (pdf), while a 2012 drought led to the loss of 45 percent of Serbia’s maize crop (pdf).

With each disaster costing huge amounts of money to clear up, Serbia, like other countries in the region, needs to be quicker in recognising its self-interest in slowing climate change and making its infrastructure more resilient to extreme weather events.

In this respect, lignite power stations are problematic in both cause and effect. On one hand, coal is the biggest contributor to climate change (IEA, pdf). At the same time, coal power plants are vulnerable to extreme weather, as the recent Serbian floods showed, in which two pits of the Kolubara open cast lignite mines were completely flooded – with estimated costs of EUR 100 million – and electricity generation was cut by 40 percent at the height of the floods. While a mammoth effort to stop the Kostolac B plant from being flooded was ultimately successful, here too it was a close shave and could easily have resulted in generation capacity being shut down.

At the other end of the scale, coal power generation is also extremely water-intensive and – like hydropower and nuclear – vulnerable to drought. Some countries have started to recognise this problem (pdf) however in south east Europe the discussion so far on drought has centred almost exclusively on hydropower.

The positive flip-side is that non-hydropower renewable energy is both a climate change mitigation tool and an adaptation one, since it is decentralised and with the exception of biomass has no CO2 emissions during operation, and energy efficiency measures are better still. Yet Serbia, along with its neighbours, consistently treats these as a side salad rather than the main dish.

After the recent floods it is high time for Serbia to think again about its energy strategy – a new one of which is currently in its draft stages – and avoid tragedies recurring again in the future. But as money often ends up being the defining factor in what goes ahead and what doesn’t, CRTA’s new report (pdf) gives every reason to re-think state support for the coal sector whether or not Serbia opens up its draft energy strategy for discussion again.

France is getting serious modernising its Energy Sector

Posted by on 23/06/14

With the presentation on June 18th of a comprehensive energy transition programme the French energy minister has started to fulfil promises made during the 2012 Presidential election campaign.

The programme is a valuable contribution to the ongoing discussion on European energy and climate policy beyond 2020 and the preparation for the decisive international climate conference in Paris in the fall of 2015.

France wants to create a new “energy model” for the post-fossil era that should make it less dependent on fossil energy imports, create jobs and help develop new energy technologies. Energy efficiency and renewable energies enter the forefront, nuclear power loses its predominance.

Its overriding objective is to reduce energy consumption by half until 2050, an ambitious objective.

To that end, it defines energy targets and some 50 specific actions addressing energy efficiency, transport, renewable energies and administrative procedures.

Nuclear power will continue to remain the main pillar of French electricity supply, though its share in power generation is set to fall from 75% presently to 50% by 2025.

France is thus proceeding differently from Germany which – somewhat too hastily – envisages to shut down its last reactor by 2022. An adequate French nuclear capacity might supply Germany with electricity in periods without sunshine or wind and avoid it from having to install extra gas fired power plants for this eventuality. One more reason for the rapid completion of the single power and gas market!

In order to halve its energy consumption France intends to launch a campaign for more energy efficiency, especially in buildings, which account for 44% of C02 emissions (123 million tons). Many French citizens face high heating costs due to insufficient thermal insulation: while average households have to shoulder an annual bill of € 900, those with good insulation pay only € 250 and badly insulated houses as much as € 2500. The government therefore wants to renovate 0.5 million apartments annually in order to reduce the energy consumption of housing by half until 2050.

It will offer significant fiscal incentives and loan facilities to facilitate the necessary investments. It will also step up training for some 25.000 energy specialists annually, set up demonstration buildings that achieve a positive energy balance through the combination of perfect insulation and solar energy installations. Municipalities will provide one-stop desks to advise citizens about fiscal advantages and credit facilities.

Transport accounting for 27% of CO2 emissions and most of the oil consumption is the s second major axis of the programme.

Here France is much more ambitious than Germany, which has focused on “green electricity”. By 2030 the transport sector should obtain 15% (7% in 2012) of its fuel from renewable sources, above all biofuels and green electricity. The government will grant premiums for the purchase of e-vehicles indefinitely .

In addition, it will continue encouraging the use of bicycles as an alternative to cars, most of which are used for trips of less than two km.

Recycling will be the most innovate chapter of the new energy model. The more material, from metals to paper, is being recycled the less energy will be necessary. France already recycles some 50% of all materials. But it wants to do even better and progress toward the “circular economy” which will become the paradigm of the future.

To implement this ambitious programme the French bureaucracy will have to simplify and accelerate its procedures. This is the last and not least important aspect of the programme.

But first of all a legislative proposal needs to be presented to stake holders, civil society and, of course, parliament, for an intensive nation-wide debate, which should last until October/November. Implementation, which is crucial, will not start before the beginning of 2015.

If everything proceeds according to schedule, France can proudly present its comprehensive approach toward energy and climate to its EU partners and the international climate conference in Paris in November 2015 for inspiration.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 22/6/2014

Big plans for a small country: Montenegro’s draft energy strategy

Posted by on 16/06/14

Montenegro’s new draft energy strategy needs cutting down to size if environmental and economic damage is to be avoided.

by Pippa Gallop, cross-posted from the Bankwatch blog

Looking at the Montenegro government’s draft White Paper on the country’s Energy Development Strategy until 2030, due to be approved on June 19, you would never think that this is a country of around 650 000 people that plans to join the EU within six years.

Why? One reason is that the amount of planned electricity generation infrastructure is reminiscent of a bigger country. Three new major projects are planned to be carried out simultaneously during the next few years – the Pljevlja II coal power plant (220-250 MW) and Moraca (238 MW) and Komarnica (168 MW) hydropower plants – which seems ambitious to say the least, especially considering that the last tender for Moraca hydropower cascade failed in 2011 when not a single investor applied.

Why does Montenegro need so much electricity? The short answer is that it doesn’t. For decades Montenegro’s electricity demand has been largely dictated by the Podgorica Aluminium Factory – KAP – which has at times used around 40 percent of the country’s electricity. But the company has been in long-term decline and has been bankrupt since last year. Undeterred, the government’s draft White Paper sees the factory working at half capacity during the coming years.

Another driver for the ambitious plans is economic growth – notoriously hard to predict – which the White Paper puts at 3.7 percent from 2010 until 2015. But so far Montenegro’s annual GDP growth hasn’t hit that figure even once since 2010, let alone averaged it, and according to the EBRD’s (pdf) and the World Bank’s current forecasts it doesn’t look like it will do so by 2015 either.

Even that electricity that Montenegro does use could be reduced significantly if more attention was paid to residential energy efficiency and stopping wasteful practices such as using electricity for heating, yet the government is not pursuing this potential with anything like the zeal it reserves for new large infrastructure.

In addition to overestimating domestic demand, the Montenegro government is set on positioning the country as an ‘energy hub’ with spare electricity to export to its Balkan neighbours and Italy. This might be fine if it had a vast supply of clean energy sources to export environmentally benign electricity from, but this is not the case. The Moraca and Komarnica dams are both highly controversial due to their impacts on protected natural areas, and one of the planned sources of electricity for export is none other than the Pljevlja II lignite power plant. The town of Pljevlja is already choking from years of lignite pollution and its inhabitants can hardly be expected to be thrilled at the prospect of a new lignite plant that will export the electricity and leave the pollution behind.

The existing power plant in Pljevlia.

Much of the draft strategy also overlooks EU rules and obligations, even though decisions taken now will only just be being implemented when Montenegro joins the EU, assuming it manages to enter by 2020 as planned. Montenegro has adopted a renewable energy target of 33 percent by 2020 as part of its Energy Community obligations, but it names Moraca and Komarnica as important for achieving it, even though the same document says they will be ready in 2021 and 2022 respectively. The strategy foresees an increase in greenhouse gas emissions until 2030, in a period when the EU as a whole plans to decrease its emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990 levels. And the Industrial Emissions Directive, which should play a decisive role in decisions about the planned and existing Pljevlja power plant units, is treated as something hardly worth mentioning.

In short, the draft strategy is outdated before it has even been approved. Rather than rushing ahead with it, the Government should scale down its ambitions to something more achievable and befitting of an ecological state.

Find out more: New website for coal campaigners

Because of some investors’ undiminished appetite for financing coal power, Bankwatch created an interactive toolkit that explains how to contact the investors behind a project, which policies guide their decisions and how best to influence them.

KINGSOFCOAL.ORG

EU must be able to do without Russian gas

Posted by on 16/06/14
By Eberhard Rhein Rising fears in Europe about a potential embargo of Russian oil and gas embargo seem exaggerated. Yes: alternatives will come at a cost for the European gas consumer, who will have little choice but to pay an extra price for ensuring a reliable energy supply. But whether it is in the short, medium or long term, there is little reason for the EU to be afraid of a Russian gas embargo.

USA is joining the climate change fighting vanguard

Posted by on 10/06/14

After one year of intensive consultations with stakeholders the US Environmental Protection Agency has presented a 645 page (!) proposal containing the rules for C02 emissions that existing power plants will have to respect in the future. When adopted they will lead to a 30% fall of emissions from electricity generation until 2030, compared to 2005.

This proposal will be another US government executive ruling since the Administration had to abandon its hopes for passing climate legislation in the Congress in 2008.

Since 2009, US strategy focuses on the two main sources of C02 emissions, power generation and transport and is operating largely through tough efficiency standards carefully prepared with the stakeholders in view of facilitating their implementation.

For the power sector, which accounts for 38% of US C02 emissions, the rules for both existing and new power plants define the amount of C02 emissions allowed for generating one megawatt hour electricity.

The new ruling is likely to accelerate the on going trend toward gas-fired power plants. Coal power plants will only be able to survive through major efficiency improvements, which might not pay considering the average age of 40 years of some 800 existing coal power plants.

Resistance against the new proposal will therefore come primarily from the coal industry and the states depending on coal-powered electricity generation, though the industry had been warned by the 2013 rules for new power plants which are now being applied to existing ones.

To alleviate the resistance against its new rules the EPA invites each state to prepare, until June 2016, a plan for implementing the new rules that should take into account the energy mix and the efficiency of power industry. States will be free to choose the most suitable instruments for reaching the new standards: enhancing energy efficiency of the power plants, encouraging utilities to help customers reduce their electricity consumption, invest in solar, wind or nuclear power, establish carbon cap and trade systems or join existing ones.

The new proposals are not very ambitious, compared to EU emission targets and US annual per capita emissions of 14 tons. By 2030, total US C02 output will be only 6% lower than in 2005 as a result of the electricity package. That should be easy to achieve in view of the ongoing fall of emissions, due to the recession and rising energy efficiency.

But considering other measures under way, in particular in the automotive sector, total US emissions should be down by more than quarter until 2030 compared to 2005, considering the US objective of reducing them by 17% until 2020. That is a respectable score considering where the USA comes from!

The new rules will change expectations. When they enter into force in 2016 US industry and citizens should finally wake up to the reality that the government are serious with tackling the worst long-term challenge. This in turn should boost investments in alternative power generation and energy efficiency. The US public will finally start learning to do with less electricity as they have already with less fuel consumption of cars.

The risk of a backlash remains. Companies and states most affected might contest the legality of the new rulings, and Republicans might even question the legality of the Environmental Protection Agency. But mainstream thinking seems to be switching toward more climate protection and energy independence after realising the full impact of increasingly damaging climate catastrophes.

Unfortunately, the new proposals are unlikely to give a powerful boost to the 2015 negotiations for an effective international climate pact with binding obligations for all countries. Major Western countries like Japan, Canada or Australia may come under some pressure; but China, Russia, India, Indonesia or Brazil – the really big emitter countries – will hardly feel impressed as long as US citizens continue to emit 2-3 times more C02 per citizen.

China will only wake up to the realities of climate change when its damage for health and the economy will really hurt and when the masses will take to the streets and protest against intolerable environmental conditions. This moment will come. The government has recognised the need to act, however slowly.

Committed political leadership that sees the dangers ahead and has the guts to act on its own without waiting for 200 countries to join is more desperately needed than ever.

That is what Obama has shown and why Humanity should be grateful to him.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 10/6/2014

Does it really mean EU Energy security?

Posted by on 26/05/14
Lately European Union pays more and more attention to the energy security and as the European authorities say they do their best to diversify the energy sources. All of this is done to get rid of the influence of Russia which is always trying to lay down conditions and to blackmail the European countries. Both small and big.
Understanding the situation it is obvious that Europe . In fact nothing was done in order to talk with Russia as an equal.
The European Commissioner Oettinger has already said a lot about consumptions cuts of Russian gas. But finally Gazprom finished its North stream project and there is no doubt it will construct the South stream. European Nabukko lost its attractiveness since the prospects of Azeri-Turkish TANAP became more real, but nobody can answer the question: What’s next? In fact the Azerbaijanian are not so great, Turkmenian can not be transported to Europe without Transcaspian pipeline. That’s why Russia builds expensive South stream, so the EU becomes dependent on Russian gas surrounded by Russian pipelines in North and South. The European Southern Corridor project failed.
But even without Southern corridor Europe has great potential to diversify energy supplies. There are more than 20 LNG terminals on the territory of the EU which can process gas volumes, comparable with the Russian import. The US support in this situation is , in fact some of the US companies have already got a license to export LNG non free-trade agreement countries. It is worthy to mention that Canada is seeking for of its own LNG. There are also Qatar, Australia and other exporters of LNG. In case the EU sets the proposed by Donald Tusk Energy Community aimed to reduce the energy dependency on Russia, its primary task must be the replacement of Russian gas by imported LNG.
Another aspect worthy of note is Russian desire to increase its gas storage capabilities on the EU territory. For the last ten years Gazprom tries to purchase a stake in all European underground gas storages. And it really succeeds in its plans. The company independently will implement its ambitious plans in Western Europe. Austrian underground gas storage Haidaсh (2.8 bcm capacity), German Katharina (0.7 bcm capacity), Serbian Banatskiy Dvor (0.8 bcm capacity), Dutch Bergermeer (4.7 bcm capacity) are working for the Russian gas giant. But Gazprom also has long-term contracts on access to underground gas storages of other European states. Gazprom is carrying out the feasibility studies of underground gas storage projects in Great Britain, Romania, Turkey, Slovakia, France. The Russian authorities set the clear tasks to Gazprom – increase the gas storage capabilities up to 5 bcm in 2015 and up to 5% of annual export in 2030. According to the official statement priority is given to its own capabilities, not rented.
Today Russia is blackmailing the EU using the Ukrainian gas crisis as a tool to get as many advantages as possible:

Consent of the EU to introduce the new scheme of underground gas storage utilization;
Permission of the EC to increase gas supplies via North Stream;
Control over the OPAL gas pipeline, which will free Russia’s hands at the European gas market;

Change of the EC position on South Stream project, that will result in energy dependency of Southern and Eastern European countries.
The European countries must be united in struggle against Russian energy expansion and not to give reasons for blackmailing. The imposing has led to Russia’s understanding of its vulnerability. It made an effort to compensate possible losses in the energy sphere and signed the big gas contract with China. The US State Secretary John Kerry said that this contract was not connected with events in Ukraine, but the European experts say the opposite. The energy sales make 60% of Russia’s budget income and lion’s share of this income – from the EU.
To resist Russia in the energy sphere – this is the real chance to make it more compliant. Main tasks of the newly-elected EP are:
reject expensive Russian gas pipeline projects that make gas more expensive;
utilize regulation of the 3rd energy package for all parties with no exceptions;
make real steps to diversify the energy supplies.

Legitimizing EU Democracy and Advocating for a Federal Europe

Posted by on 21/05/14

— This is the first of two parts of my exclusive interview with Greens/EFA Vice President and MEP Ulrike Lunacek. —

This year’s European parliamentary election will commence in less than 24 hours with the Netherlands and the United Kingdom among the first nations out of 28 to vote first. Most of the member states will be voting at the weekend. This election is the 8th parliamentary election since the first polls in 1979 and the first election after the Lisbon Treaty entered into force.

Below is a lengthy exclusive interview with MEP Ulrike Lunacek, the Spitzenkandidatin for the Austrian Greens and the Vice President of the Greens/EFA group.

The whole interview goes in-depth into one of the Greens’ advocacies for Europe, such as on legitimizing EU democracy, further continental integration resulting to a federal EU, reforming Europe’s institutional structure, combating climate change and saving the planet, surviving economic crises and debunking Eurosceptics.

 

It’s a fact that the EU is suffering from a democratic deficit; the lack of transparency, the massive bureaucracy and corruption within the institutions undermine the EU’s credibility as a true leader of the world.

So what measures would the party undertake in legitimizing democracy within the EU?

Would it be abolishing some of the institutions or establishing a European constitution or something else?

“The “massive bureaucracy” is not a fact but a common stereotype. The EU, a Union of more than 500 million people, has around 45.000 officials working in the different institutions. In comparison the Austrian federal state employs 133.000 people.

Notwithstanding the above, you are right stating that the EU is suffering from a democratic deficit: The EP does not have full legislative rights and the Council is still executive at national level and legislative at EU level. I support a federal Europe – the United States of Europe, which have to have a different, more democratic structure but also different policies, aiming at social justice and ecological sustainability, among other things. Therefore a major revision of the EU treaties can no longer be avoided. As Greens/EFA group we demand that the Parliament starts (this is foreseen and possible under the Lisbon Treaty) the process for a new Convention, with broad involvement of parliamentarians and civil society.

As far as the institutions are concerned, the establishment of a bi-cameral system at European level is needed, under which the federal, regional principle co-exists with that of the nation states, and within which the Council is re-modelled into a form of second chamber of representatives of national governments and which, together with the European Parliament, comprises the legislature.”

Conservatives often argue that having a strict control on immigration is what’s needed right now. They argue that having liberal immigration and asylum policies and keeping the door open have been proven to be an irresponsible approach and that it is contrary to the citizens’ interests. What’s your response to this?

Why is further EU expansion vital and what’s the true vision of the Greens regarding a genuinely integrated Europe?

“The asylum policy of the European Union as a whole is in need of reform. First and foremost the Dublin-II-Regulation has to be repealed and asylum seekers must be fairly distributed among all EU Member States. Furthermore a Europe-wide regulation should give asylum seekers the opportunity for self-preservation with legal work. The result would be a win-win-situation: potentials and capabilities would be used and asylum seekers would be self-sufficient.

Apart from the question of asylum I am strongly in favor of further EU expansion. In late 2013 the Commission featured EU enlargement reports, which show that despite the rampant enlargement fatigue we constantly achieve concrete progress especially as far as the countries of the Western Balkans are concerned. For me, the EU enlargement is not a one-way street, but stability in the Western Balkans is in the mutual interest of the European Union and the candidate countries. Without the involvement of the entire Western Balkans, the European peace project is not completed. At the same time, EU governments are in need of strong arguments towards their citizens regarding further enlargement. Any progress in the accession process depends on the fulfillment of the criteria by the candidate countries. In this context the decisive factors are of course the implementation of the rule of law, judicial reform and the fight against corruption.”

As a staunch advocate of further European integration, your party’s vision of a “United States of Europe” is admirable, but the question remains: how achievable is a federal Europe in 10-15 years and how can the EU make it doable?

And what would a federal EU look like and what would it accomplish compared to the EU we have now?

“The United States of Europe might be a remote vision, but you have to have a concrete goal to take the first step. It is not that important whether we achieve this goal within the next 10 or 15 years, but it is important that we go in this direction. The principles that underpin my vision of Europe are to oppose the current tendency of increasingly resorting to intergovernmentalism in European decision making which amounts to nothing more than bargaining between narrowly defined national interests. I strongly believe that the only real way forward is by making decisions based on the common interests of the European Union and its citizens. The steps that have to be taken in order to make this vision come true, are:

  • Establishment of a bi-cameral system at European level under which the federal, regional principle co-exists with that of the nation states, and within which the Council is re-modelled into a form of second chamber of representatives of national governments and which, together with the European Parliament, comprises the legislature.
  • Introduction of the full right of initiative for the European Parliament to enable it to propose legislation.
  • Introduction of European electoral lists for elections to a proportion of the seats in the European Parliament, with the leading candidates on the list running concurrently for election to the top positions within in the European Commission, thus campaigning for European voters’ support.
  • Election to the Commission through the European Parliament: The Commission should be elected directly by the European Parliament. The practice of governments nominating national politicians or granting them politically-motivated ‘promotions’ to the Commission must cease.
  • Shoring up of direct democracy through accessible European Citizens’ Initiatives, and introduction of Europe-wide referenda on European issues. European citizens should be able to determine their future in a united Europe themselves. However, this should not be achieved via national referenda where domestic party-politics and power games reign, but rather through Europe-wide ones: far-reaching steps towards integration should be determined via a double-majority mechanism, with proposals requiring a majority of both EU citizens and EU Member States to be in favour.
  • A Green New Deal and social rights that really deserve that name. I am convinced that the European Union must take a decisive step towards a federal structure, starting with a community method in social justice and in economic governance, with common fiscal policies and a larger budget that makes the desperately needed investment in education, in an ecological paradigm change towards an ecologically sustainable economy with renewables and energy efficiency possible.

Therefore a major revision of the EU treaties can no longer be avoided. As Greens/EFA group we demand that the Parliament starts (this is foreseen and possible under the Lisbon Treaty) the process for a new Convention, with broad involvement of parliamentarians and civil society.”

#ReclaimEurope and #VoteGreen this #EP2014! ;-)

 

Where’s the enemy?

Posted by on 20/05/14

From cold war to hot war we are getting a new dimension by cyber war and it’s still ongoing. US blames China for massive spying and attacking US-structures but can be assumed acting similarly. And as the old game of good guy and bad guy does not fit anymore, it also isn’t able to set borders or differentiate between domestic and abroad. Major crackdown of malicious software „Blackshades“ by FBI last week has shown the dimension. And there does not even fit the old rule of big or small business. The malware, used to hijack computers and webcams remotely has been available for $40. Everyone is spying out everyone. Consequently it is not only China and USA or criminals acting in this sector. Did you know that German companies are among the market leaders in the global market for surveillance technology? German Minister of Economy, Sigmar Gabriel, has now started action in order to prevent the export of those technologies at least in authoritarian states and regimes, suppressing their own people. Until now there has been no regulation.

Is nuclear fusion an alternative to renewable energy?

Posted by on 20/05/14

At the risk of destroying the basis of human civilisation Humanity must find ways and means for phasing out the use of fossil fuels before the end of the century. The EU aims at reaching that objective already for 2050.

Renewable energies – wind, sun, waves and tides – can do the job provided Humanity imposes substantial cuts on its energy consumption, which should be possible through a substantial increase of energy efficiency.

Renewable energies have benefited from rapid technological progress lowering production costs and making them almost competitive with fossil energies. But they continue to suffer from their inherent handicap of intermittence which can only be neutralised by big investments in energy storage.

The focus on energy efficiency and renewable energies has overshadowed the parallel effort to develop thermonuclear fusion for the generation of electricity which has been going on for more than 70 years

Copying the sun has made it possible to produce the hydrogen bomb. Why should it not alsobe possible to tame thermonuclear energy for the generation of electricity!

What appears simple in scientific terms poses huge engineering challenges. How to imitate the sun that contains the plasma by temperatures of 15 million degrees and very powerful gravitational pressures?

The basic answer lies in compressing deuterium and tritium hydrogen isotopes into helium through electromagnetism and much higher temperatures than in the sun,

For decades scientists have attempted to generate electricity this way.

In 1997 physicists at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy have succeeded to generate 16 MW, but with an a input of 24 MW.

It is only in February 2014 that US scientists have, for the first time, been able to obtain a slightly positive yield.

The most ambitious international scientific programme for peaceful nuclear fusion ever launched, the “International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor” (ITER) grouping USA, EU, Japan, Korea, India, China and Russia aims at generating fusion energy by 2028. It is extremely complex, due to diverging interests among the participants. In the fall of 2013 it was on the verge of breaking up when the US Senate refused to attribute additional financing after delays and cost- overruns, though the costs of €15 billion are only 10 times the cost of building one 500 MW off-shore wind park kin the North Sea.

Nobody is certain that by 2028 the gigantic machine will effectively generate more electricity than it consumes. But physicists will, in any case, be able to draw fertile lessons from their 15-year long cooperation.

And one day before the end of the century, they will most probably succeed.

When they do thermonuclear energy might become a crucial component of the future energy mix and contribute to the fight against climate change. The ultimate test will, however, not be the technical feasibility of a fusion reactor but the cost of generating thermonuclear electricity compared to much simpler and safer technologies.

Whatever the outcome of that research, thermonuclear fusion is unlikely to ever replace cost-effective technologies like wind, sun and waves.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 16/5/2014

Time to end free pollution permits to counter CO2 leakage

Posted by on 12/05/14

By Sam van den Plas, WWF Europe

This article was first published in PointCarbon’s Carbon Market Europe

On 5th May, the European Commission proposed an update of the EU ETS carbon leakage list for 2015-2019. The new list would offer free pollution permits to a staggering 175 of 245 sectors, and thereby cover over 95 percent of industrial emissions in the ETS. The extreme generosity on display is President Barroso’s payback for the support he was given by fellow EU Commissioners reluctant to accept the 2030 climate and energy framework proposed in January.

This Commission largess also shows the extent to which influential big polluters have convinced EU officials that without substantial carbon price exemptions their competitiveness will be hit. Despite the ease with which their attractively simple message on carbon leakage can be contradicted by economic theory and ex-post assessments (including by the Commission’s own consultants), all of those on the old list make it to the new one.

This has real consequences. The free pollution permits for those on the list represent a transfer of wealth from public budgets to private industry. In 2013, this handout amounted to about 840m allowances, worth nearly €4bn. Both the value involved and the list’s impact on emissions cuts mean the criteria for inclusion must be carefully drawn. They are not.

The parameters for assessing carbon leakage overestimate the risk of relocation abroad – resulting in unjustified free pollution permits. Firstly, the assessment’s calculations use an assumed price of 30€/ton CO2 – between 3 and 6 times above the Commission’s own reference price up to 2020.Secondly, the new carbon leakage list continues to cover sectors trading with any non-EU country, regardless of whether those countries have comparable carbon pricing policies. This means the carbon leakage list ‘protects’ EU players who are actually competing with some rivals who are on a level playing field. In the context of the UNFCCC negotiations, where the EU is expecting other countries to show more climate ambition before 2020, such generosity could backfire. Moreover, the deplorable wasting of public goods on this scale threatens the credibility of the ETS as an adequate policy instrument delivering broad societal benefits.

This is particularly worrying given the evidence of the current policy’s unintended consequences, which have lead to windfall profits, subsidised exports of energy-intensive products, and state-aid overcompensation. Free allocations and state-aid for industry also mean that EU taxpayers are paying relatively more for CO2 emission allowances. This adds up to the prospect that the EU ETS will remain in oversupply with an ineffective carbon price signal for at least another decade.

EU Member States and the European Parliament have adequate justification to refuse this new carbon leakage list. Indeed, how can a proper political judgment be made of this list without quantification of the forgone auctioning revenues at country level? The Commission must come up with an alternative to handing out blank checks to industry, and restore the‘polluter pays’ principle with an EU ETS that works for the climate.

Energy-intensive industries are an important part of our economies, and they are facing economically unfavourable conditions. They suffer from weak demand due to the poor economy, aggravated in the longer term by structural overcapacity, changing comparative advantages and competition from emerging markets. Even if all EU climate and energy policy was written exactly to industrial players’ liking, they would still face difficult decisions about asset rationalisation and industrial structure and practices. Their strategy to working to delay the impact of climate policy decisions is therefore a potentially self-defeating distraction.

The false idol of industrial competitiveness has not only troubled reform of the European carbon market; it also overshadows a broader policy debate over post-2020 climate and energy policies. As with all false idols, it is time this one is exposed. European society cannot afford distraction from efforts to maintain and grow a sustainable industrial base in Europe by focusing on the region’s comparative advantage. A long-term industrial policy targeted at the development of energy saving and renewable products and technologies should form the basis of a major industrial policy initiative. The EU ETS, through smart use of auctioning revenues, offers an excellent opportunity to mainstream climate policy into industrial policy to build a cleaner, more innovative and competitive future.

Das Fracking in Deutschland. Vorbild für Europa?

Posted by on 12/05/14

Fracking – nein, danke! Öffentlichkeitswirksam haben sich die Umweltminister der Länder heute gegen die umstrittene Methode zur Gasförderung ausgesprochen. Allerdings zu sagen haben die Minister bei dem Thema wenig. Denn Fracking fällt unter das Bergrecht und damit in die Zuständigkeit der Wirtschaftsminister. Und derzeit bereiten die Wirtschaftsminister einiger Länder – allen voran Niedersachsen und Mecklenburg-Vorpommern – durch die Hintertür einen Einstieg in das Fracking in Deutschland vor.

Hintergrund sind ganz handfeste wirtschaftliche Gründe. Ganze 600 Millionen Euro bekommt zum Beispiel Niedersachsen Jahr für Jahr von der Erdgas-Industrie für den geförderten Rohstoff. Zum Vergleich: Das ist dreimal so viel wie der Anteil des Landes an VW wert ist. Pech ist nur, dass die Erdgasförderung in Deutschland seit Jahren sinkt und damit Industriestätten gefährdet sind. Das Fracking soll es jetzt herausreißen.

Dabei unterscheidet die Branche aber zwischen “gutem” und “schlechtem” Fracking. Das “gute” Fracking ist schon seit 1961 mehrfach in Niedersachsen durchgeführt worden und soll jetzt nach jahrelangem Moratorium in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern zum Einsatz kommen. Dabei geht es darum, dass Gas aus tiefen Sandsteinschichten herauszuspülen. Dieses Verfahren ist nicht so umweltschädlich wie das sogenannte “schlechte” Fracking in tiefem Schiefergestein, weil nicht so viele umweltschädliche Stoffe eingesetzt werden. Deshalb erwarten Niedersachsen und auch Mecklenburg-Vorpommern bei ihrem Vorstoß auch längst nicht den Gegenwind wie beim Schiefer-Fracking, gegen das sich die Umweltminister heute ausgesprochen haben.

Die Erdgas Lobbyisten bedienen sich auch der Ukraine-Krise, um ihre Anträge auf Fracking durchzusetzen. Doch das ist ein Argument, das nicht zieht. Die in Norddeutschland zu fördernden Gasmengen sind so gering, dass sie ganz sicher keine Alternative zum Import russischen Gases darstellen. In Deutschland wird Fracking deshalb immer eine Randerscheinung bleiben. In den USA und Kanada hingegen hat es in den vergangenen fünf Jahren einen solchen Boom gegeben, dass das prognostizierte weltweite Aus für Öl und Gas noch 20 bis 30 Jahre nach hinten verlagert wurde.

Trotzdem ist das Manöver durchsichtig: Industrie und Politik wollen den Fuß in der Tür behalten, um die Erdgasförderung in Deutschland zu legitimieren. Und die Umweltminister haben heute zwar Reformen beschlossen; jetzt muss sich allerdings zeigen, ob die Umweltinteressen die Wirtschaftsinteressen schlagen können. Für die sehr umtriebigen Bürgerinitiativen in Norddeutschland bedeutet das: Die Fracking-Gefahr ist noch längst nicht gebannt, auch wenn es völlig unrealistisch ist, dass in den kommenden Jahren in Norddeutschland mit dem Schiefer-Fracking begonnen wird. “Fracking – nein, danke” – das heutige Motto der Umweltminister wird Norddeutschland auch noch die kommenden Jahre bewegen.

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