Friday 28 November 2014

Currently browsing 'Energy'



Merging energy and climate change services under one Commissioner is an overdue change

Posted by on 10/09/14

The division of Commission services into one dealing with energy policy and another one with climate change policy has always been an artificial one: to influence climate change policy makers have to rely on energy policy.

It is therefore positive to recombine the two sides of the coin under a single command and put an end to internal disputes and overlapping created during the past 10 years.

European energy policy must serve foremost the interest of European citizens with energy security and sustainability of supply being the overwhelming targets.

But in a global and long-term perspective, European energy policy must also take climate developments into account. That is why it makes sense to aim at abolishing C02 emissions by the middle of century, which implies phasing out fossil energies, enhancing energy efficiency and switching to renewable energies and completing the network of long-distance power transmission and low-cost power storage .

A single command structure should therefore make the EU more effective. It will become operational just in time for the two main issues the EU will be confronted with very shortly: reducing the dependency on Russia as the single most important supplier of energy and contributing to a successful outcome of the climate conference in Paris in late 2015.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 10/9/2014

UK Conservatives shouldn’t abandon the green agenda

Posted by on 09/09/14

Whitehouse Consultancy Director Carl Thomson argues that the UK Conservative Party should continue to support investment in renewable energy in an article for the Huffington Post.

To read Carl’s article, please click here.

The Whitehouse Consultancy is one of Europe’s public affairs and communications agencies.

Energy security: a global perspective

Posted by on 02/09/14
By Adam Czyzewski The Ministry of Economy has put out for initial public consultation a draft of the Polish Energy Policy until 2050. As could be expected given the current tensions between the EU, US and Russia, Poland’s energy security topped the triad of sustainable growth objectives. But how to define 'energy security'?

Australia’s energy policy volte-face is inadmissible

Posted by on 02/09/14

Mr. Abbot`s new liberal-conservative government has been elected on the promise to abolish the carbon tax on mining, coal power and air transport companies introduced by his predecessor to contain excessively high Australian green house gas emissions. As of first July 2014 the carbon tax has been formally repealed.

The new government claims that electricity and gas prices have thereby been reduced by 9 and 7 per cent respectively and that the measure will boost economic growth.

The previous targets of reducing C02 emissions by 5 per cent until 2020 over 2000 and producing one fifth of its energy from renewable sources, especially wind and solar for which Australia has big potentials, by 2020 seem in shambles together with the institutional and regulatory frameworks that have been put in place over the years.

The coal mining industry and big business have been the driving forces behind this scandalous policy turnabout in one of the most affluent and green house gas emitter countries on earth! With 17 tons C02 emissions per capita emissions, more than twice the EU average, Australia ranks among the 12 most polluting countries on earth!

The dramatic policy shift happens at the very moment when major countries and civil society will meet in New York at the invitation of the UN Secretary General to discuss solutions for the International Climate Compact to be finalised in Paris in December 2015.

The time has come to seriously think about “outlawing” countries which flatly refuse to make any contributions to Humanity’s most pressing challenge: contain temperature increase to less than two centigrade. Australia should become, jointly with Russia and Qatar, one of the first countries to be put on a black list of outlawed countries.

Let us hope that under domestic and international pressure the next government will rethink its strategy, the more so as Australia will be suffer very badly from creeping climate change.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 27/8/2014

Is Merkel playing into Putin’s hands?

Posted by on 02/09/14

The crisis in Ukraine is exacerbating. With more than 5000 Russian soldiers on the Ukrainian territory, with the latest equipment, we can literary talk about an invasion.

Vladimir Putin’s main target is to rebuild of the Soviet space; this space included two NATO- member- states: Latvia and Estonia. Putin will not stop here but will go further, beyond Ukraine.

This situation resembles the one in 1939 when nobody believed in the risk of a war, but in just a couple of months Poland was split.

Targeted as the next on the list, the Baltic States, Poland and Romania, ask for a firm reaction and military aid to Ukraine. The experience of these states in the last 20 years of relations with the Russians space makes them more realistic. From Berlin, Rome or Paris things seem more distant.

The main goal of Vladimir Putin is to discreet NATO and USA as the main guarantees of the Western security.  Once done the world status-quo will tear apart and the Russian Federation will regain its role as unique power.

Analysts also take into consideration the possibility that Russia will use some narrow and precise nuclear strikes in the South-Eastern Europe. The goal is just to intimidate and force NATO to … not to react. The presumed targets could be Latvia, Estonia and even Poland. Point 5 in the NATO Treaty asks for a united military reaction, but at this moment Germany seems far from being ready for such an action. 7 out of 10 Germans believe their country should not intervene if the Russian Federation attacks Estonia, and the fault lies to the German politicians headed by Angela Merkel, who did not prepare the civil society for such a process.

As it is known that Angela Merkel was a USSR agent, a close friend to Vladimir Putin, I wonder if we do not deal with a premeditated infiltration at a high level in the most powerful NATO European state. What if in these moments the politics of Berlin is not made at Berlin but at Moscow, and Putin’s confidence starts from this point?

My accusations are sincere when I see how Merkel doesn’t make NATO politics but the one of Putin. If we speak of an already occupied German, as was the case of Ukraine through its former president Yanukovych? What does the civil society in Germany do, the opinion shapers, where is the pressure from bottom to top? Has the social responsibility disappeared, the political factors are no longer supervised? We speak of a totalitarian regime in an acceptable form.

Russia will send more troops in Ukraine and only a moral support from NATO states, if not NATO itself, can block the Russian expansion. Otherwise, as was the case of Hitler, they will go further just because nobody opposes them and because they can do it.

Vladimir Putin mentioned that the Ukrainians and the Russians are the some people, the Soviet one most probable. In this case the Dugin-Putin doctrine speaks about the right of the people over the individual right, thus about the restoration of a consecrate space. In such conditions the threat goes to the Baltic States, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, other states being already included in the Soviet space.

It is just a matter of time before Russia goes further, while NATO is dysfunctional.

P.S. I wonder now, who was behind the increase in Germany’s energy dependence on Russian gas, by reduction of nuclear energy?


L’éolien soulagé : les vents contraires épargnent le ministère de l’Écologie

Posted by on 01/09/14

Après le grand chambardement ministériel, les professionnels de l’énergie peuvent souffler. Ségolène Royal, dont l’omniprésence a été particulièrement appréciée depuis son entrée en fonction par les professionnels de l’énergie, reste ministre de l’Écologie. Mais ils ne devraient pas être les seuls à se réjouir. De celle qui porte la loi sur la transition énergétique dépend aussi l’avenir économique du pays, le secteur des énergies renouvelables étant susceptible de créer des emplois par centaine de milliers.

« Nous sommes satisfaits du projet actuel et rassurés que Ségolène Royal continue à le porter » a fait savoir, visiblement soulagé, Frédéric Lanoë, Président de France Energie Éolienne (FEE), syndicat professionnel de l’éolien. Le syndicat des énergies renouvelables (SER) n’est pas moins enthousiaste. Ainsi, « le calendrier parlementaire, notamment celui de la loi de transition énergétique, et les grandes orientations qui doivent guider l’avenir des énergies renouvelables devraient être confirmés et l’action en leur faveur poursuivie » a fait savoir le SER.

France Énergie éolienne a également rappelé « la nécessité de faire de la transition énergétique et de la croissance verte deux priorités du nouveau gouvernement », et en a profité pour renouveler sa proposition de pacte industriel pour favoriser l’emploi. L’éolien constitue en effet une voie de réindustrialisation encore sous-exploitée et toutes les parties prenantes de la dynamique énergétique, les industriels et le Gouvernement ont intérêt à orienter ensemble leurs efforts vers la recherche, l’innovation, l’investissement et l’emploi.

L’éolien et les énergies renouvelables : un vivier d’emploi

Et pour cause, le secteur énergétique est le 3e secteur industriel français en termes d’emplois directs après l’automobile et l’aéronautique. Face aux derniers chiffres du chômage tombés le 27 août, il devient urgent de passer de l’intention à l’action. Après huit mois de hausse consécutifs, les chiffres dévoilés par Pôle emploi continuent de surprendre : si la hausse était de 0,3 % en juin, elle est de 0,8 % en juillet 2014.

Rien qu’EDF emploie 100 000 salariés en France et aura in fine recruté 6000 personnes en France fin 2014. Outre la production et l’ingénierie, le recrutement concerne aussi les nouveaux métiers liés aux énergies renouvelables, sachant que l’électricien est premier Européen des ENR et que les énergies renouvelables font partie intégrante de sa stratégie de développement. À titre d’exemple, en France, les 5 unités de production hydraulique et les 2 unités d’ingénierie emploient 4700 collaboratrices et collaborateurs qui assurent la gestion de 439 centrales hydrauliques.

La transition énergétique peut compter sur EDF a fait comprendre Henri Proglio

L’entreprise a déjà fait part de son soutien à la transition énergétique par la voix de son PDG. Si Henri Proglio n’a pas explicitement commenté le remaniement ministériel, il a en revanche salué le texte au moment de sa présentation en Conseil des ministres, jugeant dans une déclaration écrite à l’AFP qu’il était « équilibré » puisqu’il « n’oppose pas les énergies, mais souligne leur complémentarité ». Il continuera de le faire s’il est réélu à la tête de l’entreprise, son mandat arrivant à son terme en novembre 2014.

Dans les faits, EDF continue de développer la filière éolienne (terrestre et en mer), en France comme à l’international. Jeudi 28 août, elle a d’ailleurs officiellement annoncé la mise en service de trois parcs éoliens d’une puissance totale de 34,7 mégawatts dans la région Languedoc Roussillon. À l’international, cette filière représente déjà 87 % de son activité.

Une mobilisation générale pour des centaines de milliers d’emplois supplémentaires

Ce n’est pas uniquement à l’échelle d’EDF que la mutation doit s’engager. La transition énergétique exige de la part des particuliers et des entreprises le changement de nos modes de consommation vers davantage de sobriété et d’efficacité. Autrement dit, cela ne va pas sans le développement des énergies décarbonées que sont les énergies renouvelables et dont la France dispose en abondance. Cela ne va pas non plus sans la rénovation des bâtiments, la production de matériaux ou encore l’intelligence des réseaux. Autant de chantiers qui nécessitent de la main-d’œuvre.

Une étude du CirED-Cnrs1 analysant le contenu du scénario NégaWatt en emplois directs et indirects a estimé précisément pour chaque secteur les créations et les suppressions d’emplois. Ses conclusions sont plus qu’encourageantes étant donné que d’ici à 2030 la transition telle qu’elle est proposée est susceptible de produire 632 000 emplois de plus que si la France persévérait dans sa politique énergétique actuelle. Les emplois créés dans la production, le transport et la distribution d’énergie seront plus nombreux que les emplois détruits.

Mieux encore, une autre étude réalisée par l’OFCE (Office Français des Conjonctures Économiques) et l’ADEME, bien que basant ses calculs sur une méthodologie différente, aboutit à une estimation confirmant la première. Elle conclut en effet à 745 000 emplois en 2050 avec le scénario négaWatt, et même à 825 000 avec le scénario « média » de l’ADEME.

Outre la baisse du chômage, cette étude anticipe une forte réduction de la dette publique et une balance commerciale sortant du rouge avant 2050. En outre, les ménages verraient considérablement réduire leur facture énergétique et pourraient profiter d’un revenu brut disponible supérieur. Tout ceci donne plutôt envie d’accélérer le mouvement, à l’échelle individuelle et collective.

Oil prices are down. What is going to happen next?

Posted by on 29/08/14

June 19th saw the price of Brent crude rise to a one-year high of USD 116 per barrel. A week later, the price began to drop, eventually reaching its lowest since April last year, at slightly below USD 102 on August 19th.And all of this in a time when armed conflicts, which are far from being resolved, ravage Ukraine, Iraq, Libya and Syria, while tensions between Russia, the European Union and the United States are second only to those at the time of the Cold War. The wars have caused oil supply from North Africa and the Middle East to shrink by more than 3 million barrels a day. Our safety cushion, Saudi Arabia’s untapped reserves, is slowly becoming dangerously slim, currently offering a daily capacity of 3.2 million barrels – 700,000 above the lower end of the market’s comfort zone. What is going to happen next?

It is much easier to explain what has already happened. Markets are driven by expectations, which are in turn formed based on past events and experiences. Underpinning the process is uncertainty, which in the case of such unique events as geopolitical conflicts is very high, although not so high as to deprive us of the expectations through which we perceive real-world developments. Let us then look at the oil market as it was seen in May, before crude prices began to rise. Late-May projections indicated that Brent prices were to decline gradually in 2014 and 2015, down to the region of one hundred dollars per barrel, and that this would happen amid considerable price volatility. The decline seemed likely considering that solid supply growth in the US and Canada, unfettered by geopolitical risks, was alone sufficient to meet the anticipated increase in global demand.

However, the balance between oil supply and demand was maintained, albeit only with a relatively thin safety cushion formed by Saudi Arabia’s crude reserves. The 700,000 barrels a day separating the market from its comfort zone could soon be in jeopardy if active conflicts were to escalate or new ones erupt. Any such event, which could occur in a multitude of possible locations, would send oil prices rocketing. Although the forecasts I saw in May predicted that the supply of crude oil from Libya and Nigeria (and to a lesser extent from Venezuela) would continue to decline, they also projected a significant surge in oil production in Iraq, Kuwait and, to a lesser degree, the United Arab Emirates. The conflict in Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on Russia were both taken into account as risk factors affecting future oil supplies. However, the projections concerning the oil balance in 2014–2015 did not factor in reduced production.

This time, the drop happened in Iraq, a key player on the global oil market. OPEC’s second largest oil producer (at some 3.3 million barrels a day), Iraq is also among the world’s top potential oil suppliers in terms of available reserves. When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) carried out its offensive in northern Iraq in June, capturing the provinces of Nineveh and Saladin and their capitals of Mosul and Tikrit, panic spread through various markets, including that of crude oil. Prices went up.

The fear premium on crude is typically at its highest at the start of a conflict. If supplies remain uninterrupted, as was the case here, the market eventually diversifies, forming different perceptions as to a conflict’s potential developments and possible hedging strategies. When on June 29th ISIS announced the formation of the ‘Islamic State’ caliphate in the area controlled by the group, concerns that the conflict would spread to southern Iraq, where current production is based, temporarily abated and the oil price began to drop.

On the top of these circumstances, a rare situation could be observed last week when all available information favoured a decline in prices. The American Energy Information Administration agency (EIA) reported that the production of oil from unconventional deposits (tight oil) in the US was higher than expected, with individual well efficiency above projected values. At the same time, the agency adjusted its demand growth forecasts for 2014 and 2015 downward, anticipating a global economic slowdown. EIA projections were consistent with Europe’s estimated GDP growth figures published at that time, which turned out lower than originally forecast. Iraq’s production prospects also improved when Nouri al-Maliki stepped down as Prime Minister, thus removing the risk of a coup from the equation.

What is going to happen next? There is no good answer to that question as it is difficult to foresee how today’s conflicts will develop. What the recent situation in Iraq has shown us is that the risk premium on Brent crude anticipated in May’s projections was too low and that we should expect higher prices in 2014 and 2015.

Although Ukraine and Syria produce little oil, the effect of armed conflicts ravaging the two countries extends far beyond their geographical borders. Sanctions imposed in connection with the Ukrainian crisis will affect future oil supplies from Russia. Hampered access to Western technologies and capital will delay production from difficult and expensive oil deposits indefinitely, which will likely result in reduced production from 2016 on. At the same time, the war in Syria has set off intense hostilities in Iraq, prompting the United States to become involved again. Libya is in a state of complete anarchy. At 1.45 million barrels in 2012, the country’s daily oil production has now halved and is likely to fall to zero. The Israeli-Palestine conflict is yet another potential source of trouble.

However, with the crude oil supply from the US increasing, there is also some good news. Rising dynamically since 2008, the country’s oil production has already more than offset the slumps in North Africa and the Middle East, ensuring relative tranquillity on the oil market. Compared to May’s forecasts, the US is now projected to produce an additional 300,000–400,000 barrels of oil a day in 2014 and 2015. In combination with global oil demand forecasts adjusted down by some 200,000 barrels a day, the new figures somewhat improve the global oil balance. In these circumstances, the price of Brent crude may stay in the region of one hundred dollars per barrel for some time or even drop below that threshold if oil prices prove especially volatile. Will this happen? Only time will tell.





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.


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.