Wednesday 16 April 2014

Currently browsing 'Energy'



TAP, Energy security and human rights

Posted by on 16/12/13
Guest Blog post by Emma Hughes and Elena Gerebizza When it comes to securing energy supply, human rights principles are easily set aside it seems as EU leaders will be attending the signing ceremony of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) in Azerbaijan tomorrow. Citizens of Azerbaijan [...]

Sounding out the EBRD’s energy strategy: little ambition besides scrapping coal

Posted by on 13/12/13

Complimented for its restrictions of coal lending, a closer look at the EBRD’s new energy strategy reveals a shocking lack of operational knowledge to implement the ambitions outlined in its executive summary.

by Ionut Apostol, cross-posted from the Bankwatch blog

On Tuesday this week, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) approved a new energy strategy (pdf) that will guide its energy sector investments for the next five years. The biggest news – and a big achievement for civil society – was the bank’s decision to turn away from coal.

I’ve taken the time to analyse the strategy in more detail. While the restrictions placed on coal lending are doubtlessly a great and appreciated step forward for the bank, the rest is a rather disappointing document. I’ll explain why below after offering a short review of what the “no coal” provisions exactly entail.

Less coal

The most important change that the EBRD’s new energy strategy brings is its shift away from coal. As the strategy document says, the bank will not finance any new (greenfield) coal-fired power plants “except in rare circumstances, where there are no economically feasible alternative energy sources.”

What a turnaround from the bank whose energy director said that opposition to coal was ‘ideological’ a few months ago.

This is a welcome improvement compared to the draft strategy, in which “[t]he Bank anticipate[d] that it will provide its financial support for greenfield coal power generation only on limited occasions.” The final wording is stricter. It also doesn’t ‘anticipate’, but simply says ‘no’.

Compared with the European Investment Bank’s (EIB) emissions performance standard for its energy investments of 550 g of CO2/ kWh, basically ruling out investments in any coal power plant, the EBRD’s coal policy is less ambitious. Instead, the EBRD uses three criteria to decide whether to support a coal project. (Positively, these criteria apply to investments at both new and existing coal power plants.)

  • it has to be the least carbon-intensive of realistically available options
  • it has to use best available techniques
  • it has to comply with EU requirements in relation to carbon capture and storage readiness

The most important criterion is obviously the first one, and the bank will look into energy efficiency, energy imports, renewable energy and other fossil fuel options as alternatives to the coal project proposed. In addition, the project’s host country will need to have in place a policy framework aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The efficacy of this criterion remains to be tested. Given the reservations towards renewable energy in the EBRD’s countries of operation I wouldn’t be surprised if the analysis of realistically available options reaches the conclusion that the policy and investment environment makes it unlikely to have investors in new power capacity other than lignite- or gas-based.

In addition, the bank will use a shadow price for carbon and other emissions to assess whether investments are economically viable. The level of the shadow price remains to be set in 2014, but it is unlikely to be on a level below that used by the EIB. Hopefully, the inclusion of ‘other emissions’ means that the health impact of particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury emissions etc. will also be taken into account.

Despite its limitations, the new strategy means no more cases like the Sostanj lignite power plant in Slovenia and it should mean no investment in the Kosova e Re lignite power plant. What a turnaround from the bank whose energy director said that opposition to coal was ‘ideological’ a few months ago.

The devil in the detail

The executive summary of the EBRD’s new energy strategy very much focuses on energy efficiency and evokes a vision centered around secure, affordable and sustainable energy along well-intentioned pillars. Yet, looking into the details in the “operational approach” (what the bank sets out to do) these pillars turn out to be mostly focusing on fossil fuels:

  • ‘Energy efficiency and demand side measures’
    ‘Energy efficiency’ includes hydrocarbons extraction, processing, transportation, distribution and supply.
  • ‘Building deep and liquid energy markets’
    The details on this pillar read mainly as investments in the oil and gas sector. If you bear with me, the following (long) quote illustrates this vividly:
  • “Recognising the key role of the energy sector in producer countries the Bank will work to strengthen the whole hydrocarbon value chain and maximise the role of energy projects in building more robust economies. The Bank’s involvement can be an important opportunity to promote backward and forward linkages, for example through support for service providers to an oil and gas project, construction of refining or petrochemical plants, downstream processing and marketing activities or economic use of by-products of hydrocarbon activities such as coal waste. In particular support to oil and gas service companies can be a catalyst to introduce international standards in the sector. Although oil and gas upstream and downstream sectors are often considered as a well-funded business dominated by large international companies, transition is, however, contingent on whether natural resources and the associated revenues are developed and managed responsibly over time. The Bank will also support the introduction of transparent, fair and stable legislative and regulatory frameworks for the award and monitoring of subsoil licenses.”

  • ‘Rethinking energy systems’
    One might think this pillar refers to investments that help transforming the energy sector towards easier integration of renewables, for instance by reshaping electricity grids to adjust to the variability of renewables and making sure that interconnections are used for peak power rather than gas-fired units. Instead, the operational approach includes enhanced oil recovery (pumping water or CO2 into wells to get more oil out of them) and other ‘best practices in the hydrocarbon sector’.
  • ‘Cleaner energy production and supply’
    With ‘gas flaring reduction, clean and efficient oil refineries, cleaner transport fuels, gas power plants’ lined up next to ‘resource efficiency’, a more accurate title for this pillar would have been ‘less dirty energy production and supply’.
  • ‘Setting standards and best practice’
    In the more general outline, this pillar is centred around energy efficiency and transition to low carbon economies. In the operational details, however, the ‘responsible exploration’ and production of oil and gas takes centre stage.
  • (Apart from these five pillars, the strategy includes also ‘low-carbon transition’ and ‘the wider role of the energy sector in building stronger economies’.)

What a contrast to the executive summary. And surely nothing that I would expect as actions to bring about sustainable production and consumption of energy and a low carbon transition.

Potential new risks with unconventional oil and gas

The good news on coal is further offset, by the fact that the bank opens up to unconventional oil and gas. This is a bad policy signal to a few countries in Europe (Poland, Ukraine, Romania) that seem to be hypnotised by shale gas promises. Portraying these very controversial energy sources as a viable option for EBRD funding (read: subsidies) will likely reduce investment incentives in energy efficiency and renewables.

Still, the bank indicates that the technical and regulatory conditions in Europe determine very limited engagement in this sector in the new energy strategy’s period (2014-2018).


Overall, the new EBRD energy strategy is a comprehensive document, but it is as if someone sprinkled oil and gas everywhere. It requires a clean-up. It is not enough to acknowledge that there is a climate-change problem (as the EBRD’s energy director Riccardo Puliti did in an interview with Bloomberg). Ending subsidies for the fossil fuels industry is among the most crucial “actions to be undertaken in order to solve it” (Puliti).

Gazprom Pushing for Peace With EU

Posted by on 08/12/13
By Meredith Smith While Ukraine’s European fate may be dominating the headlines as tens of thousands of pro-European demonstrators flood Kiev’s public spaces, a deeper source of tension looms beneath the surface, largely outside the eye of the non-financial media: the accusations by the EU’s competition authorities that Gazprom has abused its market position.

Réduction de la consommation énergétique : se donner les moyens de ses ambitions

Posted by on 05/12/13

L’Europe l’oublie trop souvent, mais elle se doit d’être en première ligne dans les domaines qui feront notre futur. Que ce soit sur le plan social, économique ou environnemental, l’Union européenne doit montrer l’exemple et faire en sorte que la vie de ses citoyens soit rendue meilleure en mettant en place des bonnes pratiques. Les « objectifs 20-20-20 » sont plus que louables, mais encore faut-il se donner les moyens de les atteindre. Pour réduire la consommation énergétique, les smart grids – réseaux intelligents en français – sont la solution. Dommage que les instances européennes ne soient pas pleinement mobilisées sur ce sujet.

Si l’Union européenne fait figure de moteur dans les conférences et sommets internationaux sur le climat, on peut quand même s’étonner de voir que les projets mis en œuvre ne sont pas toujours à la hauteur des discours et objectifs fixés. Réduire de 20 % « la consommation d’énergie primaire par rapport aux niveaux prévus au moyen d’une efficacité énergétique » ne peut pas se faire d’un coup de baguette magique. L’investissement en recherche, temps et argent doit être conséquent. Ce n’est pourtant pas toujours le cas…

La Commissaire européenne à l’Action pour le Climat, Connie Hedegaard, a le mérité d’être très explicite : « Il faut des objectifs ambitieux pour encourager l’innovation, inciter les entreprises à investir dans des technologies transitoires, et faire en sorte que les gouvernements ne laissent pas retomber leur attention, même dans des périodes difficiles ». Malheureusement, nous ne sommes pas sur la voie royale pour atteindre l’objectif, ou si nous y sommes, nous l’empruntons à un pas de sénateur. La Commissaire l’affirme : « il est peu probable que nous atteignions l’objectif non contraignant, qui concerne l’efficacité énergétique ».

Varsovie patine et les smart grids prennent un coup

Malgré les quelques commentaires des politiques au pouvoir, le Sommet de Varsovie qui s’est achevé le 22 novembre dernier fait presque figure de coup pour rien tant ce qui a été arraché est insignifiant au regard des enjeux. Si le ministre polonais de l’Environnement et président de la Conférence s’est déclaré « heureux d’avoir obtenu de si bons résultats (et d’avoir) posé les bases pour un accord clé dans le future », on est en droit de tempérer l’enthousiasme de Marcin Korolec. Le simple fait que les ONG aient quitté la table des négociations avant la fin de la Conférence montre la vacuité du compromis finalement trouvé.

Quel dommage d’en arriver là, alors que les Européens n’ont jamais été aussi sensibilisés aux questions environnementales et que les solutions technologiques existent, mais sont encore trop peu utilisées. Si l’on veut réduire notre impact sur l’environnement, il faudrait commencer par baisser notre consommation d’énergie et utiliser les ressources dont nous disposons de manière bien plus raisonnable. Pourquoi fabriquer de l’énergie si c’est pour en gaspiller une grande partie quand celle-ci ne se perd pas dans les méandres des réseaux électriques.

Les projets de réseaux intelligents se multiplient, mais leur mise en place est longue et les pouvoirs publics doivent inciter les entreprises à se montrer toujours plus innovantes dans le domaine. Lyon, Paris, Nantes et bien d’autres villes font de réels efforts et c’est à l’échelle locale que doivent être puisées les solutions des grands sommets  internationaux. A force de manquer d’ambition (et pourtant l’Europe en a eu avant Varsovie), l’Union européenne pourrait finir par manquer la marche de la transition énergétique.


Passenger cars on their way to become a minor climate polluter

Posted by on 01/12/13

After six months of tough negotiations, the EU has reached a compromise for the Co2 emission ceilings applicable to passenger cars over the next decade. The new regulation will be applicable as of 2021, one year late than initially foreseen. It will fix the average ceiling of Co2 emissions at 95 g/km – compared to 130 g applicable in 2015. An average of four litres of gasoline per 100 km represents an achievement to be proud of.

That said, EU passenger car emissions account for no more than 12% of total Co2 emissions – almost peanuts compared to those from heating buildings, industry and even agriculture that are responsible for the bulk of EU emissions.

This trend is most likely to continue. Cars have ceased to be a major status symbol for the young generation. In cities they are becoming more of a nuisance than a help because of increasing traffic jams and scarce parking space, inducing people to switch to public transport.

Fuel consumption and Co2 emissions are expected to fall dramatically with the large-scale arrival of cars propelled by electric and fuel-cell engines within the next 20 years.

In the USA we observe a similar development with much tougher fuel consumption standards in the next few years.

The major challenge for the international community is to generalise the EU/US fuel consumption standards and reduce fuel consumption to three litre/100 km. This should not be difficult: the passenger car industry is globally integrated; and the technology for low-consumption hybrid, electric, fuel-cell engines is generally available.

It should therefore be possible for global Co2 emissions from passenger cars to fall by at least 40 per cent until 2050, despite a further increase of motorisation in emerging countries. That might be a positive aspect for the 2015 Climate Conference in Paris.

Humanity should therefore focus its attention on reducing emissions heating and cooling buildings. That is where the big sinners are located.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 30/11/2013


Time for EBRD to retire old king coal definitely

Posted by on 28/11/13

On 10th December, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development‘s board of directors will decide on a new energy policy. Samantha Smith of WWF’s Global Climate & Energy Initiative examines why the Bank should stop funding coal power plants, and prevent locking countries into a 50 year dependence on a fuel that is fatal for people and the climate.

In the last few months institutions that specialise in development finance like the World Bank, the European Investment Bank, the French Development Bank as well as the Export – Import bank of the United States have been lining up to announce an end to investments in coal.

The penny has finally dropped.  Nearly all of the largest public financial institutions now realise coal is a poor long-term investment for countries that are trying to follow a path to sustainable development. Sustainable in this context means that socially just solutions are found that are economically stable and within the limits of our planet. We know that coal has a high impact on the environment and on public health. Instead of locking nations into dirty energies for the next 50 years (the usual lifespan of a coal fired plant) – that is more suited to the 19th century and is directly related to many health problems – they have decided to look at a just transition to green energy technologies.

And yet one institution, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), is so far absent from this list of converts. A quick look at its “Energy Investment Portfolio”, shows that nearly half of its finance between 2006 -2011 has been directed towards fossil fuels and only a paltry 11% of energy investments have gone to supporting sustainable renewables.

In the 34 countries where it operates – from Eastern countries of the European Union to Central Asia, including former Yugoslavia and transition economies of the former Soviet Union – the EBRD has established a legacy that flies in the face of the international consensus of fighting climate change and supporting an energy transition that will bring jobs, better health and long-term wellbeing. In the Balkans, where the EBRD has been traditionally supportive of fossil fuel plants, it seems interested in a significant investment in a coal fired future in Kosovo. If approved, the 600 MW lignite plant will still be there in 2050; this means that Kosovo will therefore have huge trouble attaining any international obligations to keep average temperatures below an increase in 2 degrees.

Money would be better spent in helping the Kosovar authorities reduce the 67% loss of its energy through theft, technical loss, and energy inefficiency. Addressing this loss must be a first priority.  We must also look at renewable solutions that will build capacity and environmental resilience for the long-term.  The EBRD made this decision in Serbia where it recently refused to invest in in a 750 MW coal fired plant. Why won’t it do the same everywhere?

Times are changing and international and national financial institutions are quickly moving away from coal. Banks with a higher capitalisation and with more experience than the EBRD are closing their doors to the worst climate killers. It is high time that the EBRD did so too. The next step will be to phase out support for all fossil fuels and support a fossil-fuel free future.

The bank cannot ignore the fact that emissions from coal burning plants in Croatia, Serbia, and Turkey have been responsible for the premature death of 5,042 people and have cost these governments up to €12 billion a year in health-related illnesses such as respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.  Has this been factored into the EBRD’s risk analysis?

On 10th December the Bank’s directors will meet in London and decide if they are going to primarily support energy savings and renewable energy investments. They have a public duty to ensure that none of the projects they fund goes against our wellbeing either on a globally or a regionally level. The time for coal has passed and a public bank like the EBRD that plans for the future needs to fully accept this.

WWF infographics: Why the EBRD must quit coal NOW


Why Russia Needs Ukraine

Posted by on 28/11/13

President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and prime-minister of Ukraine Mykola Azarov have initiated the creation of the tripartite EU-Russian Federation-Ukraine commission to study how to overcome the consequences for the economy of Ukraine from the signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union.

Vladimir Putin welcomes this initiative in every possible way. Possibly, seeing it, as a step towards Moscow. But here is the question: whether Putin can make a symmetric step towards Ukraine? And whether this step won’t be too overdue?

The answer to the first question is both simple and difficult at a time. Putin is incapable of making such a step because he didn’t perceive and doesn’t perceive Ukraine, as an independent political player.

In one of my previous columns I wrote that the program on work with Ukraine has been entrusted to the Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation Vladislav Surkov. This, as it seemed, gives certain hope of forming of the real relations between two subjects independent of each other.

But it was my mistake. Friends close to the Russian ruling upper circles have explained a plain nuance: if Surkov was a minister or the president’s deputy chief of staff, then his program on Ukraine would have a certain sense. “He is simply an adviser, he has no weight in our strict bureaucratic model. Well, he’ll write it, well, it will be read – and everything will stay the way it was”, – my companion from Moscow shared this with me in a fit of temper.

That is, Surkov develops a probabilistic model of the relations, but in no way the project of the future influence of the Russian Federation upon Ukraine or the program of dialog. And, most likely, all sober ideas which Surkov and his team are capable of will simply go to the fire chamber. And everything will be the way it was earlier.

Well-known Russian journalist Sergey Dorenko confirmed this sad thought, having rolled out another address, where he called Ukrainians exclusively the suppliers of prostitutes to Europe. What dialog can we talk about, when one of the parties allows itself such statements, and – with a chronometer regularity?

Then – slightly more difficult. When a stronger state straightforwardly doesn’t notice its neighbor, but continues to have designs on it, it is necessary to ask oneself a question: and what is its interest, actually? The answer is – receiving material assets.

Kremlin is still interested in Ukrainian black soil, the Azov shelf, transport and transit opportunities of our country, and also certain industrial assets (mechanical engineering and nuclear power). Therefore, the only strategy which Putin and his environment can adhere is to take away these assets by right or wrong.

And Ukraine? Well, who cares about it? Let it goes on and dangles somewhere in the southeast from the border of the Russian Federation. This is approximately how the Moscow bonzes think.

Moreover, when Evromaydans have shown that Russia isn’t perceived as our Siamese twin any more. Painful pathology is destroyed, and nobody in Ukraine will restore it of his/her own will.

Do the ruling circles of the Russian Federation understand this? Certainly, they cannot but understand. Therefore, the emphasis of their attention will get displaced further and further into the area of specifically monetary, anti-humanitarian interests.



Humanity is set to fail with an effective Climate Treaty

Posted by on 26/11/13

The 19th climate conference in Warsaw will be remembered for not having brought Humanity any closer to a successful climate accord. Posterity will recall it more for discord than agreement: discord with Australia, Japan and Poland for backtracking on their climate targets and walk-out of the environment associations for lack of progress towards the signature of an effective global climate deal in Paris in November 2015.

Humanity has only 700 days to negotiate and sign the most difficult international treaty ever that will be decisive for the survival of Humanity on our tiny and fragile planet.

After Warsaw it can no longer afford to waste a single day.

UN climate officials need to prepare a draft. In conformity with the invitation the UN Secretary General has addressed to the heads of government for the New York meeting it must be bold.

The treaty should be concise and focused on reducing green house gas emissions.

All countries must sign and ratify it. Humanity cannot afford another failure like the Kyoto Protocol.

Humanity must commit to emit no more green house gases than the planet can absorb without raising the average temperature by more than two centigrade compared to 1990. This has been agreed by the international community, but now it must be translated in effective actions.

The cumulative volume of greenhouse gases that the earth is able to absorb without a climate catastrophe must be specified in the Treaty. There is so little scope left for additional emission that the IPCC as a neutral body will have to attribute “residual emission quotas”to all countries on the basis of their 2015 per capita GDP and their cumulative C02 emissions since 1850.

On their own governments will not come forward with the necessary volumes of reduction necessary for keeping the earth cool enough to preserve Humanity from the worst damages.

But as the Warsaw Conference has invited all countries to announce their “contributions” during the first quarter of 2015, let them do their homework and then compare the outcome with the results calculated in parallel by the IPCC.

The EU should set an example of punctuality and substance,repeating its 2050 target of reducing its C02 emissions by 80 per cent over 1990. In order to underline its seriousness it should also enumerate the actions it commits to take to that end. This will be anything but simple!

In 2014 and 2015 we shall witness endless showdowns between “poor” and “rich”, fossil-rich and fossil-poor countries. Many will try to gain time, though time will work against all. The “poor” countries will remain more interested in maximising the contents of climate funds,while “rich” countries, including the EU, will ask for restraint.

The EU will be rather lonely if it keeps pushing for effective action.

It is in a comfortable situation, as it will be less hurt by climate change than most other parts of earth. Moreover, it is better prepared for putting in place alternative energy systems. Its high standard of living and stable population also enables it to do with present and even lower levels of income, energy consumption and emissions.

This being said, the top priority for the outgoing Commission should be to clarify the options for the EU and the international community in view of being fully prepared for the 2014 Climate Summit, the Lima COP 20 and the decisive Paris COP 20. These issues should override all other short and medium-term questions that the EU will also be confronted with.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 14/11/2013

Higher energy prices might be a blessing for Europe

Posted by on 25/11/13

European industry is afraid of losing its international competitiveness because of a rising gap between European and American gas and power prices. EU prices for gas, it is claimed, amount to just one third of US shale gas prices. This enormous price differential is bound to undermine the competitiveness of European energy-intensive industries. They will either have to switch to US production sites or close their production.

Such an impact should be rather welcome. Energy-intensive production has never been Europe’s strength, and it will be even less so in the future.

There is no point for Europe producing basic chemicals, steel, copper or aluminium, glass, pulp and paper or, if so, from recycled material that will substantially reduce the energy input. Even cement production will not be a major industry in the future considering the little new construction that will take place in a continent with stagnating population.

Higher energy prices in Europe should therefore offer an incentive for Europe to review its long-term economic future. Where should it create new jobs?

The answer should be non-ambiguous: In services and high-tech, low energy-intensive sectors. Switzerland and Germany should be exemplary. Innovative products and services must be the competitive response to energy-and labour-intensive products from USA or China.

Europe must continue to push for renewable energy and energy efficiency. These should be the Europe’s answers, not shale gas or carbon capture and storage, for which Europe is not well fitted because of its high population density.

Instead of complaining of excessive energy costs about which it cannot do anything Europe should use them as an opportunity for further increasing its energy efficiency and defining an industrial strategy focusing on innovation in high-tech sectors like nano-materials, aviation, electrical vehicles, trains, subways, 3D products, pharmaceuticals, carbon material etc.

Anyhow, the EU industrial sector currently accounts to no more than 16 per cent, which the European Commission aims at raising to 20 per cent until 2020 as part of its re-industrialisation strategy. The share of energy-intensive products is thus next to negligible and definitely no risk for the employment situation.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 20/11/2013


United Kingdom’s retreat from coal increases pressure on EBRD

Posted by on 22/11/13

With the United Kingdom, another major shareholder of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is divesting from coal overseas. What does this mean for the upcoming decision on the EBRD’s energy strategy?

by Fidanka Bacheva-McGrath, cross-posted from the Bankwatch blog

The UK government yesterday announced that it would “end support for public financing of new coal-fired power plants overseas” at a press conference on the sidelines of the UN climate change conference in Warsaw.

UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey said in a statement:

“It is completely illogical for countries like the UK and the US to be decarbonising our own energy sectors while paying for coal-fired power plants to be built in other countries.”

This adds yet more pressure on the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development whose new energy lending strategy will be agreed in December and which has been criticised (pdf) for not including strict limits on coal lending in its draft strategy document (pdf) published in July.

The UK joins the United States and five Nordic countries in ending supporting for overseas coal plants, potentially swaying the political balance of board discussions on the strategy as the two are among the bank’s largest shareholders.

Also growing number of financial institutions have announced a divestment from coal and environmental organisations and climate campaigners have urged the EBRD to follow other public lenders, in particular the European Investment Bank in scaling up its restrictions on the dirtiest of fossil fuels.

Either the EBRD could follow the UK approach and halt all investments in coal fired power plants outright or introduce a strict Emission Performance Standard at a level of 350 gCO2/kWh that would all but eliminate support for coal projects. This is a necessary step to help leave sources of CO2 in the ground, a need that was reiterated this week by a group of scientists (pdf) who said that nearly three-quarters of fossil fuel reserves – especially coal – must remain unused to avoid a global temperature rise above 2 degrees Celsius.

The case to quit coal at the EBRD is even stronger when considering how little finance for combatting the effects of climate change actually goes to its countries of operation. A recent interactive publication from the Climate Policy Initiative shows that central and eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Southern Mediterranean receive the smallest share of global climate finance at only about 5 percent in total.

Source: Climate Policy Initiative

Without decisive action to divest from coal, the EBRD is in danger of being left behind by other public and private lenders. Its new energy strategy must be a genuine commitment to the environmental and climate imperatives, rather than only the financial bottom line.

To avoid a climate disaster, most coal must stay in the ground

Posted by on 20/11/13

The top UN climate official, Ms. Christiana Figueres, has been of an unprecedented “bluntness” when telling coal industry officials that “coal must change rapidly and dramatically”.

Her declaration was echoed by a statement distributed by 27 leading scientists from across the world urging that most fossil energy energy reserves have to stay in the ground to avoid a climate catastrophe. Coal must be foremost because of its exceptionally high carbon content, twice as high as that of gas and 10 times higher than wind or solar.

This took place November 18th 2013 at the “World Coal Summit” organised by the World Coal Association nearby the on going 19th International climate meeting in Warsaw.

What had been envisaged by the Polish government as an opportunity to explore the chances of energy efficient coal technology turned into a PR disaster for the Polish government and the coal industry.

After the two parallel mega-meetings in Warsaw on climate and coal it has become evident to everyone involved in energy policy or business that it will be impossible burn all the huge coal reserves in countries like China, USA, Russia, India, Poland and South Africa without warming the earth beyond the two centigrade target fixed by the international community at the 2010 Cancun Climate Conference.

No UN official has ever dared to be so outspoken as to tell the coal industry that they are putting their shareholders and the global climate at risk if they failed to search for alternative methods of producing energy.

The new message for the coal industry is: go for wind and sun energy or carbon capture and storage (CCS) if you want to survive! German utility companies are already experiencing the costly transition to low-carbon energies sources that the government has imposed on them by its decision to abandon nuclear power.

The response from the industry that coal is necessary to supply more than 1.3 billion human beings without access to electricity is specious: electricity can be generated by gas, wind and sun with much lower C02 emission and no higher costs.

The Warsaw “confrontations” have ushered in the real issue of future climate policy: How to organise the transition from fossil to renewable energy, starting with coal, the most polluting fossil source,.

That battle can only be won if the governments of the key coal producing countries align with the UN on the need to keep most of the resources in the ground. As a first step, all international finance institutions World Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Development, African Development, European Investment Bank) must stop financing coal projects and coal power plants as of 2015.

In the USA the transition has started thanks to two parallel drivers: the discovery of large volumes of cheap shale gas and the imposition of strict power generation efficiency standards: no more than 0.5 kg C02 emissions per generated kWh.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 19/11/2013.


Leadership for energy efficiency

Posted by on 20/11/13

In conversation with BUILD UP, Rod Janssen, long-term consultant to the European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (eceee) talks about the Recast EPBD, low energy buildings and the need for strong leadership on energy efficiency.


What was eceee’s involvement in the EPBD and the Recast EPBD?

Firstly, eceee closely followed the approval process of the EPBD through the European Parliament and Council and its subsequent implementation. It was heavily involved in the Recast EPBD—providing briefings and updates on technical issues to members and the wider energy efficiency community via the eceee website. This increased involvement in the Recast saw eceee helping out in the negotiation and approval process. For example, no formal definition of deep renovation existed so, the eceee commissioned ECOFYS to define deep retrofit. And at the eceee summer study peer-reviewed papers on energy efficiency are presented and discussed in panel sessions. At the 2009 summer study the issue of cost optimality was clarified—one participant commented ‘now I understand, clearly how to apply the principle of cost optimality’.

Within the Recast EPBD there are no binding targets, how does this affect EU Member States?

On DG Energy’s website, energy efficiency targets for 2020 are listed for each member state. If a member state estimates that it will meet this target then there is no pressure on local governments to be more ambitious than building codes or the targets set out by central government.eceee was particularly concerned that no specific targets were set for existing buildings, which represent the bulk of the building stock and the potential energy savings for this sector. However, the Recast EPBD was implemented when Europe was in the middle of an economic crisis. Put simply there were no resources in member states. Deep retrofit—factor 4 or 5—can be complex and very costly. Even if it is cost effective over live cycle analysis, upfront capital is still required to fund the works. Financing retrofit works and nearly zero energy design is major challenge.

Under the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), a public buildings renovation target of 15 % (3 % per annum) was outlined. The directive further states that member states should start with least energy efficient buildings. However, most member states do not have an inventory of public building stockso how can they target the worst performing stock?

How can the low energy building market be stimulated?

There is little new construction in Europe as member states are still going through economic upheaval, so it is difficult to say how we can stimulate the market, let alone encourage low energy design. The building inventory in Europe is increasing by approximately 1 % per annum; in London this is approximately 0.5 % per annum.

The introduction of cost optimality and nearly zero energy buildings in the Recast EPBD forms the building blocks for future low energy design. Local governments and actors need to take a more holistic view because boosting the low energy building market will create thousands of jobs—money saved on fuel bills can be spent elsewhere in the economy, creating a resilient local economy. Energy efficient buildings are key to solving the economic crisis.

What is needed at a European level to ensure an increase in the low energy building market?

Transparency and strong leadership from the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council is needed. But, things are set to change because a new Commissioner for Energy will come into office in 2014. The energy efficiency community are following the implementation of the Recast EPBD and the EED. It is fundamental that these directives be implemented with commitment and effectiveness. In years gone by this it was left to concerted action—which is a necessary and invaluable resource—but it is not enough. There is too much vested interest—an independent voice is needed. The Coalition for Energy Savings, for example, are a body of industry associations and NGOs who put pressure on the Commission and raise awareness about implementation of directives.

At a local level in domestic and non-domestic retrofit, there is scope for an expert energy advisor—who is knowledgeable on European and national legislation, and energy efficiency—to de-mystify retrofit and ensure that upon refurbishing we do not lock in problems for the future. Retrofit is a big investment for an individual or commercial entity. However, the technical solutions offered are often complex. A building owner needs to know how long a project will take, what disruptions will occur, if it can be done step-by-step and what alternatives are available. Trade organisations and NGOs advocate a one-time deep retrofit but the reality is that building owners often cannot afford this upfront investment.

How can we ensure a more coordinated approach?

National energy agencies have an important role to play—for example, SEAI (Ireland) and ADEME (France)—to raise awareness about retrofit. These agencies have the expertise to ensure collaborative work with the financial community and the building professional community, especially on innovative financial mechanisms. The future is uncertain, we do not know if a nearly zero energy hospital will be more expensive to build than an ordinary hospital in 2019?

At a local level, local government, local authorities and energy agencies need to learn how to bundle money. For example, using resources from energy efficiency obligations together with government funding, loans from financial institutes and private savings.


Citizens are getting furious at C0P 19 in Warsaw

Posted by on 20/11/13
By Eberhard Rhein Delegates take to hunger strikes; demonstrators become more vociferous - Warsaw has shown the beginning of an awakening! However positive this awakening, human beings keep suffering from schizophrenia: with the left half of our brains we continue rejoicing at rising sales of aircrafts or cars, both of which are responsible for polluting mega-cities and the atmosphere, and with the right half of the brain we regret this pollution is happening.

COP19: Is the stadium half empty or half full?

Posted by on 19/11/13
By Jason Anderson of WWF EPO / Say what you like about the government of Poland’s problematic approach to climate policy, but they sure can build a great national stadium. But you could also say that the event takes place almost literally in its own bubble, in the enclosed stadium, isolated from the outside world.

“Coughing for Coal” outside the coal industry summit at UN Climate Talks

Posted by on 19/11/13

Monday morning in Warsaw, climate activists staged a public action in front of the Polish Ministry of Economy – the venue for the greenwashing Coal and Climate Summit – to voice their outrage and reiterate a simple reality: there is no such thing as clean coal. Organizations involved in the action included Polish Youth Climate Network, CEE Bank Watch, Corporate Europe Observatory, Klima Allianz,, Tools For Action, and the #Cough4Coal Initiative.

by Hoda Baraka, cross-posted from the blog

The Polish government, a long-standing opponent of renewable energy and action on climate change, has teamed-up with the World Coal Association (WCA), representing the most polluting corporations in the world, to host the International Coal and Climate Summit taking place on the sidelines of the UN climate talks currently underway in Warsaw.

The conference is a desparate attempt by the coal industry to greenwash their industry–but thanks to the teamwork of activists from across Eastern Europe and around the world, coal is still a dirty word. Our movement’s demand is clear: an immediate phase out of all coal technologies and a shift of investments towards energy technologies that respect peoples’ health, the climate and environment. Dirty fuel sources like coal have no place in a 21st century clean energy economy; this reality can no longer be ignored.

The government and the WCA described the event in vague terms as giving the coal industry “a rare chance” to “be a key part of the climate debate”, a supposed contribution” to the UN climate talks. But the actual agenda of the coal conference is far less deceiving: promoting public subsidies to the dirty coal industry – and thus augment the $544 billion spent on subsidies to the fossil fuel industry in 2012 alone. This summit makes a mockery of the UN climate treaty and of everyone working to combat climate change.

But the summit also highlights how out of touch with reality the Polish government is as a growing anti-coal movement is quickly gaining momentum globally.

Just this year, for example:

Here in Poland, 89% of citizens are in favor of increasing renewable energy production in Poland, according to a recent Greenpeace poll. As many as 73% want the Polish government to be active in preventing dangerous climate change while coal and lignite based energy received minimal support. You can see the full results of the poll here.

Greenpeace put their research into action this morning, dropping a banner off the venue for the coal summit:

All around the world, the climate justice movement is standing up to King Coal. From the fossil fuel divestment campaign to widespread coal protests in places like India and the Philippines, we’re succeeding in beating back the coal industry. The industry is starting to falter in the face of this pressure–and the stark reality that coal has no place in a carbon constrained world.

Today, we’re “Coughing for Coal,” but we’re also cheering for a clean energy future.

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