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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

European projects

3 big projects that can really make a change. In all possible directions. Oh, well...
  1. EU, Africa unveil 'ambitious' energy partnership
  2. France and Belgium to strengthen electricity interconnection
  3. EU prepares Arctic action plan as ice melts

EU, Africa unveil 'ambitious' energy partnership

9 September 2008

The partnership will involve investments worth over €600 million to support electrification in Africa as well as renewable energy projects that would help diversify Europe's energy supplies. A further agreement could be reached on Wednesday on a Transaharan Gas Pipeline, nicknamed the 'African Nabucco'.

The EU currently imports almost 15% of its oil and gas from Africa and it is believed that this figure could be substantially increased by investing more in infrastructure, such as off-shore pipelines to Spain and Italy. Algeria is currently the third largest exporter of gas to the EU behind Russia and Norway.

Moreover, massive solar power installations in the Sahara desert could feed Europe's growing energy demand via a new supergrid under plans being considered by the EU. The idea received backing from France and the UK but no concrete funding commitments have yet been made (EurActiv 25/07/08).

European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel and Andris Piebalgs, his colleague in charge of energy, launched the partnership yesterday (8 September) together with African Union representatives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The partnership includes a joint statementexternal on an "Action Plan of the Africa-EU Energy Partnership," signed with Dr. Elham Mahmoud Ahmed Ibrahim, the African Union's commissioner for infrastructure and energy.

The statement stressed "the urgent need to promote Africa electrification" and "agreed to launch as soon as possible the process for the elaboration of an Electricity Masterplan for Africa". The masterplan and joint statement will be officially endorsed during an AU-EU meeting on 1 October in Brussels, the Commission said.

The initiative forms part of a wider EU-Africa energy dialogue that will involve regular meetings between the two sides, with a high-level EU-Africa energy meeting to be organised every two years at ministerial level. Meetings would also be held on a regular basis at expert level "at least once a year to coordinate the various activities foreseen in the Action Plan". A forum involving civil society, research institutes and the private sector on both continents would be organised every two years around the ministerial meeting.

Piebalgs' spokesperson Ferran Tarradellas said the partnership would involve the following sums from the EU budget:

  • €220m to 77 projects from the 9th European Development Fund (49 on renewable energy sources; one on energy efficiency; one on LPG; 11 on governance; 15 on grid extension).
  • €10m in support to the four regional African power pools.
  • €146m of the EDF and €250m from the European Investment Bank in support of the infrastructure projects. These will come in the form of interest rate subsidies, direct grants for insurance premiums, technical assistance and feasibility studies.

Furthermore, the European Commission said it is planning to make more sums available in the future. Tarradellas said these could include:

  • €88m from the 10th EDF for countries that have identified energy as one of the sectors for bilateral development aid.
  • €200m from the ACP-EC Energy facility II currently under preparation (these would cover activities on renewable energy, energy efficiency and transport as well as electricity distribution and governance).
  • Up to €300m from the Africa-EU Infrastructure Partnership and its trust fund (these would cover investments in Africa's transport energy and ICT networks).

Agreement on 'African Nabucco'?

The visit of the two commissioners will continue today in Nigeria, where they will meet on Wednesday with President Yar'Adua.

Nigeria "has large quantities of gas and oil reserves" and "could be an important partner in EU's diversification efforts," Tarradellas said. European oil companies including Shell, Total and ENI have made significant investments in Nigeria and "are likely to invest more," he added. source

My comment:I have many things to say on Africa. But first, of course, Nabucco is an opera, not a pipeline. As we very well know. So all the variation on it are kind of doomed. According to Gasprom. Now, on Africa. All those grand plans on Africa sound to me like another way to milk the black girl. And I don't understand why people so easily and readily forget the black past. Yes, Africa have resources. And yes, Europe needs them. But I'm not convinced, we're going to explore those opportunities in healthy for Africa, its people and its nature, way. I mean, look at Nigera. Who's sponsoring the bands? Those that kidnap and kill people? Who's financing all the idiotic civil wars, genocides and so on?I'm not saying it's the EU. It is not. But the people who robbed, rob and will rob Africa are always the same, they just use differenct governments as a cover. And that's what I oppose. Africa is full of possibilities, but I want to see a fair partnership in it.

France and Belgium to strengthen electricity interconnection

8 September 2008

A move by national electricity operators to set up a joint coordination centre to develop daily grid availability forecasts was applauded by the European Commission, which hopes similar collaboration will be repeated elsewhere in Europe.

The announcement was made on Friday (5 September) by RTE and Elia, the power grid operators in France and Belgium respectively.

Starting operations in February 2009, the centre "will develop grid forecasts and support real-time monitoring of electricity flows on the grids of the Central Western European region in preparation for market coupling," the two organisations said in a statement. It will be located in Brussels and will supply electricity traders in the region with crucial information.

The German transmission system operator (TSO) Vattenfall Europe Transmission has already expressed its interest in this initiative, according to RTE and Elia.

Andris Piebalgs, the EU energy commissioner, applauded the initiative. "I see this agreement as a concrete, important example of close cooperation between TSOs," Piebalgs said in a statement. "As you know, one of the key points in the third internal energy market package concerns reinforced cooperation between national TSOs. I am also convinced that today's step will contribute to more energy security in this region and in the EU as a whole. I hope this cooperation agreement will be followed by others in the rest of Europe."

The move to establish the joint centre follows the launch in June 2006 of an initiative to develop seven regional electricity markets within Europe as a first step towards creating an integrated, single EU market for electricity (EurActiv 28/02/06). One of the regions is composed of Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, with Belgium appointed as the lead regulator. A coupling of the electricity markets of France, Belgium and the Netherlands was announced about a year later (EurActiv 16/02/07).

The need for increased cooperation between national grid operators was highlighted in November 2006, when about 10 million people were left without electricity for up to two hours after a power failure in Germany led to supply disruptions across most of Western Europe. A total blackout throughout Europe was narrowly avoided, according to RTE, as the brutal imbalance was automatically compensated by a European solidarity mechanism (EurActiv 6/11/06).

According to RTE and Elia, the centre will guarantee smooth management of cross-border electricity flows, which are increasing sharply with the development of intraday markets. It should also allow better regional integration of renewable energy generation, the two organisations said.

The centre will offer grid security forecasts to national control centres every afternoon for the next day, seven days a week. In a second phase, which is scheduled to begin in July 2009, the centre will become operational around the clock, providing continuous monitoring and analysis of grid security. source

My comment: Wow, that sounds good. I have said it before, it makes sense to have a common grid. That will help the industry, probably create some competition, and ultimately, it really would lead to more security. Total European black out is kind of scary. I think countries really should be able to cover at least a minimum from their own electrical demand. There should be a fail-safe, otherwise things could get really ugly.

EU prepares Arctic action plan as ice melts

11 September 2008

EU Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Commissioner Joe Borg announced that Brussels is preparing proposals to safeguard the Arctic, a region on the front line of global warming and increasingly at the centre of sovereignty conflicts. He was speaking at a three-day Arctic conference in Ilulissat, Greenland, which ended today (11 September).

The resource-rich Arctic is becoming increasingly contentious as climate change makes the region more navigable.

The Northern Sea Route - the passage through the Arctic Ocean near the coast of the American continent – has been navigable since last year. This translates into shorter transportation routes and greater trading possibilities. What's more, the ice above Siberia is also melting. Formerly frozen territories are now accessible, triggering sovereignty disputes.

No country owns the North Pole or the region of the Arctic surrounding it. The surrounding Arctic states of the USA, Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark (Greenland) have a 200 nautical mile economic zone around their coasts.

In August 2007, a Russian icebreaker reached the North Pole and a Russian mini-submarine planted a titanium Russian flag on the seabed. The move was widely seen as a claim by Russia to the North Pole seabed and its resources.

At the time, Vladimir Putin, then president of Russia, said climate change in the Arctic was not to his displeasure.

The action plan will cover three broad fronts: measures aimed at safeguarding the Arctic and its ecosystem, promoting the sustainable use of resources and addressing "the broader question of governance," Borg said.

Speaking to EurActiv, a Commission spokesperson explained that the EU was not about to press for new international legislation for the Arctic, but rather for "enhanced cooperation between the interested parties". But he was careful not to rule out new legislation at a later stage.

"We are not convinced either that we need, or we don't need, new legislation" with respect to maritime routes, fishing and access to resources, he said. A clearer picture may emerge following an EU conference on the Arctic (scheduled to take place in Monaco on 9 November) and a Commission Communication on the Arctic Region to be published afterwards, he explained.

In fact, this is the first time that the EU has been invited to such a conference, organised by the Nordic Council of Ministers (Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland). The EU's interest in the Arctic stems from the challenges of climate change as well as from new opportunities to draw upon the wealth of untapped natural resources in the region. The Union was represented in Ilulissat by Commissioner Borg, a vice president of the European Parliament and a French ambassador representing the EU Presidency.

Russia was represented at the conference by an ambassador-at-large, but Commission representatives left Greenland before he made his contribution and did not have bilateral contact with him.

Canadian Foreign Minister David Emerson recently expressed concern about illegal overflights of Canadian airspace by Russian jets, adding that his country treats such actions in the context of recent Russian actions in Georgia.

Similar concerns were expressed yesterday by a senior US coastguard commander. Speaking to the BBC, Rear Admiral Gene Brooks, in charge of the coastguard's vast Alaska region, appealed for a diplomatic deal to be struck, warning of a risk of conflict in the Arctic unless disputes over international borders are solved. source

My comment:I don't like exactly the neutral tone of this article. True, the Arctic and Anarctic are changing and we should deal with the facts, but I can't accept it. I hoped that the EU will try to "enforce" some kind of protection on the region, but it looks like all they want to settle are mundane problems.

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