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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Energy in EU

Third-option on energy liberasation

The Commission and the Portuguese Presidency have asked EU countries opposed to proposals on 'ownership unbundling' in the electricity and gas sector to come up with detailed alternatives, as energy ministers prepare for a potentially tense meeting on 3 December.

In proposals unveiled on 19 September, the Commission left member states with two options to complete the liberalisation of the EU gas and electricity sector:

  • Forcing big energy firms to sell off their power transmission and gas storage assets in order to keep these activities fully separate from energy production ('Ownership unbundling'); or;

  • allowing firms to maintain ownership of their transmission assets but leave their management to an Independent System Operator (ISO) responsible for taking investment and commercial decisions.

The Commission has already made it clear that 'ownership unbundling' is its preferred option, saying such a drastic measure is necessary to guarantee non-discriminatory access to energy grids for smaller firms wishing to compete in markets dominated by vertically integrated energy giants, such as EDF in France and E.ON in Germany.
It conceded that the ISO option was a fallback but that it would essentially achieve similar results by imposing tougher regulation.

The Portuguese Presidency has prepared a progress report for the Energy Council next week, outlining member states' views on Commission proposals to further liberalise energy markets.
The report confirms a widespread opinion among member states whose energy sectors are not yet fully liberalised that the Commission's proposals are not satisfactory because they would interfere with the property rights of large integrated energy firms.
The group – led by France and Germany and which also includes Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Latvia, Luxembourg and Slovakia - argues that neither of the Commission's two options is attractive enough to garner their support.
"The Commission has to agree to review its position".
Economic ministers from the nine reluctant countries had already sent a joint letter to the Commission on 30 July, saying that "the idea of the complete separation of production and distribution as the only key to the development of the internal energy market for electricity and gas should be avoided."
Chief among the supporters of unbundling are the UK and the Netherlands. They are supported by Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Finland, Romania and Sweden. Still undecided are Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lituania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic and Slovenia, the upcoming holder of the EU presidency.
A third option, called "regulated unbundling", was already presented at the March European Summit in Brussels. The system would involve an independent regulator setting prices for access to energy grids and reviewing investment decisions.

My comment: Personally, I don't understand the idea of the liberasation. I mean, it's great to kill the cartels, but still, isn't it kind of weird to make a company that has excelled in one field to have to break on two, or sell part of its business? For me, it is. So I hope they'll come up with something better.

Nuclear energy forum launched in Bratislava

The European nuclear energy forum (ENEF) was launched this week, offering a platform for politicians, industry groups and citizens' organisations to debate the risks and opportunities of atomic power.

The idea of establishing ENEF was proposed jointly by Slovakia and the Czech Republic and endorsed by heads of state and governments at an EU Summit in March 2007. The forum is scheduled to meet twice a year, in Prague and Bratislava.
The European Commission has recently multiplied positive statements about nuclear, with President Barroso recently calling for a "full and frank" debate on the issue as part of EU commitments to reduce CO2 emissions (EurActiv 3/10/07).
But atomic power remains extremely controversial in countries such as Austria and Germany, where a large part of the population is fiercely opposed to the technology.

According to its initiators, the forum is aimed at fostering an open debate about nuclear power in light of current energy challenges – increasing dependency on third countries, insufficient volume of production capacities, as well as European goals for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.
Among the participants were national politicians, members of the European Parliament, electricity firms, nuclear industry groups, consumers and civil society organisations who discussed possible options for nuclear energy as well as safety issues, especially non-proliferation.
But critical voices were heard as well from environmental NGOs and politicians from the Green Party, who pointed out that nuclear power is unviable without large-scale state subsidies.

My comment: As a physicist, I still think that appart from some little miseries as mining for uranium and nuclear waste that are still not solved, nuclear energy for the moment is the most efficient, clean and cheap. Even more, I don't think it will be better for the environment if biofuels replace nuclear energy. If they replace fossils-yes, but not nuclear plants. Biofuels are just not that good on the big scale.

EU industry warns about carbon trading and renewables

The industry lobby group BusinessEurope has warned that the EU must focus more on energy efficiency, rather than renewable energies and emissions trading, if it wants to prevent energy-intensive industries such as chemicals and steel-making from taking their operations elsewhere.

Seillière expressed industry concern that a shift in the EU ETS towards full auctioning of emission permits is "so problematic" that increasing costs could force companies to move outside the EU to countries where CO2 emissions are cheaper.
Full auctioning, an idea currently being discussed within the Commission, would signal a significant modification of the current system, under which member-state authorities allocate a percentage of permits to industry free of charge. During the last trading period (2005-2007), over-allocation of permits contributed to a crash in the carbon price.
The Commission is expected to put forward its proposals on a revised EU ETS for the post-2012 trading period on 23 January, along with a package of proposals on renewable energies and a communication on carbon capture and storage (CCS).
BusinessEurope argues the EU executive should focus more on realising the full potential of energy efficiency improvements rather than tightening the bloc's carbon market or pushing for "difficult to achieve" renewable energy targets. source:EuroAktiv

My comment:It makes sense to me. We have to improve our efficiency first, if we don't, it's just nonsense to claim we're doing good for the nature, as we're just shoving the problem under the carpet.

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