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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Energy time, 11,2008

In today's edition:
  1. Pressure grows on EU to provide Ignalina alternative
  2. Energy ministers clinch deal on liberalisation
  3. EU ‘wrong’ to prioritise energy diversification
  4. Revised EU energy strategy to focus on supply security
  5. EU consumers lament blocked energy markets
  6. Waste-to-energy plans get EU's nod of approval
Eyes to article number 2,3 and 5. They concern the loved energy liberalisation or whatever's left of it. I think we all knew it's not going to happen the way we wanted it, but who knows why we hoped. Well, now you can appreciate the strength and the magnitude of the energy giants. Or since they are mostly state-owned, you can appreciate the commitement of Germany and France to the Union. Nothing new here.
An interesting side story is article #3, which is well a story of the eternal love between Russia and European Unions. It's really heart-breakening. It's sooooo nice. Almost like in a soap-opera-without the sex and the breast implants.

P.S. The title is a reference to a bulgarian movie-the kid says "daddy, promised me to buy my a bycicle-but next time".

Pressure grows on EU to provide Ignalina alternative

13 October 2008

A referendum to extend the use of the Ignalina nuclear power plant to 2012 took place in Lithuania yesterday (12 October) alongside legislative elections which are propelling populist politicians into office who are opposed to closing the Chernobyl-type plant in December 2009.

In a non-binding referendum, the Lithuanians voted to extend the use of the plant, which provides 60% of the country's electricity. Ignalina's supporters say they hope to postpone its closure to 2012, when new capacities will be built, avoiding the reliance of energy imports from Russia.

Low turnout will probably invalidate the referendum. But observers predict a return to power of politicians, favouring a hardline stance towards Brussels on Ignalina and ignoring pre-accession commitments to close it. Although no party won a majority in the 141-member parliament, a coalition of conservative parties is expected to oust the Social Democrats, who have been ruling in different coalitions since 2001.

Ex-president Roland Paksas, a supporter of Ignalina and a hardliner with respect to the EU, is expected to make a comeback in the executive. His Order and Justice party won 14% according to exit polls, second only to the conservative Homeland Union of Andrius Kubilius, with 18%.

Paksas, a former stunt pilot, was elected president in 2003. But he was removed from office by impeachment a year later, accused of ties with the Russian mafia.

Another political figure to make a comeback is Russian-born Victor Uspaskich, also a supporter of Ignalina, who was faced accusations in another graft scandal and had to flee to Russia in 2006. Uspaskich's Labour party is fifth with 10%, exit polls revealed.

Last week, Lithuanian Economy Minister Vytas Navickas said that his country may be forced to extend the use of the nuclear plant. Lithuania is expecting the EU to come up with an action plan by December 2008.

Lithunia has been pushing for a EU-sponsored $3-4 billion joint project with Poland, Estonia and Latvia for providing energy to the country and decreasing its dependence on Russian gas. But the advance has been slow and the country has also been increasingly reluctant to make commitments to reduce CO2 emissions in an ever-more difficult energy situation. source

My comment: It seems like there is a relevant response on closing a nuclear plant after all. I'm not sure I'm sympathising with them, since Bulgaria HAD to close most of our reactors (and will eventually close them down), so if those reactors are dangerous, they should be down and that's it. But see the trend here-just like home, the weirdos get out on the open-like the rightist in Bulgaria and the fans of Russia in Lithuania. I don't think the EU has interest in this process. The EU is supposed to be Union-and that union should be based on common trust and fair trades. Which will mean when you require something from a member-state-you should give back. Hopefully, the EU will see that rather sooner than later.

Energy ministers clinch deal on liberalisation

13 October 2008

European energy ministers managed to overcome a month-long deadlock over the opening of EU gas and electricity markets on Friday (10 October).

While ministers had agreed on the broad outlineword of a deal at the last Energy Council in June, many issues remained unresolved, including disagreements over how to prevent a small number of energy giants from dominating the EU market.

The Commission's original plans had sought to ease the stranglehold of national energy majors by forcing large integrated firms to sell off their transmission assets so as to keep these activities fully separate from energy production (so-called 'ownership unbundling'). But France and Germany successfully led a coalition of countries against the plans, finally obtaining the right for former state monopolies - such as EDF and GDF in France and E.ON and RWE in Germany - to retain ownership of their gas and electricity grids, provided that they are subjected to outside supervision.

But following pressure from countries like the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Portugal and Poland, the deal will forbid energy producers from buying up the transmission businesses of energy companies in European countries where full unbundling has been introduced. This effectively means, for example, that EDF would not be allowed to buy up high-tension electricity lines in the Netherlands.

Ministers also approved the so-called 'Gazprom clause', aimed at limiting the ability of energy companies from outside the bloc - including Russia's state-owned Gazprom - from buying up distribution networks.

But the Baltic States and Poland were disappointed that the clause had been weakened compared to initial plans for a 'reciprocity clause' that prevented companies in third countries like Russia from acquiring European transmission assets unless they grant EU firms the same legal certainty and market-access rights as those enjoyed by foreign firms operating on EU soil. However, Germany, where roughly 40% of gas imports come from Russia's Gazprom, succeeded in pushing through a weaker clause under which only a bilateral political agreement will be required, in a bid not to upset its main provider. In effect, this means member states will be able to negotiate bilateral investment clauses individually.

Final technical arrangements were also cleared up, including the voting system for the new EU Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER), which is to oversee the functioning of energy markets. Germany had originally pushed for bigger countries, with larger energy networks, to have a greater say over the agency's decisions. But under the final deal, all countries will have the same voting weight.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso welcomed the compromise as "good news for consumers and businesses in Europe" and "a crucial step towards the completion of the single market".

The compromise now has to be approved by Parliament, which could prove tricky. In the initial vote on the issue, the House had insisted that ownership unbundling should be the only option for liberalising the EU's electricity sector (EurActiv 19/06/08). source

My comment: Hehe, nice. I most like the Gazprom clause. And how Germany pushed it trough. Since I talk often about energy liberalisation, I only want to say that it's great that after all, energy producers won't be able to buy transmissions in countries with full unbundling (wherever that is), providing a break for the mob, excuse me, energy giants. So let's focus on the good things instead of on the bad. And it really isn't that bad, energy unbundling wasn't meant to be anyway. I wonder how they even came up with it on the first place. True, it would be nice to have it, because it will effectively lead to European Energy Union but if that mean EON and EDF ruling the continent-thanks, but not. We have EON here, it sucks!

EU ‘wrong’ to prioritise energy diversification

15 October 2008

High-level European and Russian officials locked horns over how the EU should deal with the looming global energy crunch at a debate in Brussels yesterday (14 October), with Russian Deputy Head of Mission to the EU Alexander Krestyanov spurning allegations that his country used energy as a political weapon.

Insisting that Moscow was Europe's ally in its search for energy security, Krestyanov said the EU was "wrong" to "reduce the issue of energy security to just the issue of energy supply". Much will also depend on the exploration of new territories for oil and gas and the development of new technologies, which "can only be done through joint efforts," he stressed.

But European Commission Director General for External Relations Eneko Landaburu said the question of energy security had "become crucial following the difficulties encountered nearly two winters ago with energy deliveries from Russia" and following the recent tensions with Georgia.

"There is a realisation by public opinion that we are fragile," he said, adding: "We have a responsibility to try to give some answers to our citizens."

Landaburu continued: "Europe's will is to depend less on Russia for our oil and gas consumption and we therefore have a diversification strategy. This is not a strategy against Russia but a strategy that seeks to not put all our eggs in one basket […] It's not against you," he insisted.

But while Krestyanov said he "understood" the EU's diversification policy, he said Europe would also have to understand Russia's reaction to it. "If the EU is diversifying, Russia also needs to think about diversifying its exports to other regions of the world," he said, explaining that the construction of pipelines was "not cheap" and that the Russia needed to secure its sources of tax revenue.

Nabucco going nowhere?

In particular, the EU should not count too much on its flagship Nabucco pipeline to free itself from Russia's grip, said de Margerie, commenting: "Nabucco is a nice pipe with no gas." The intention was for the gas to come from Iran, "but with an embargo on Iran, there is no gas," he said, adding: "In our industry, you start with the gas and then you build the pipe. I've been saying this now for more than three years but it didn't work. So now I say it a little louder: There is no Nabucco." source

My comment: Lol!!! I mean it. Especially on the last sentence. There is no Nabucco. I wish I had the time to write a serious post on Nabucco because I so love bashing at it. It's fun because Europe should choose between Iran and Russia and it's simply cannot do it! It's amazing how stupid thing politics is. Or ok, how complex. There are more or less synonims in the case. Well, for me, those conversations are more or less useless. It's much better to deal with fact. And the facts are that there is no other source of oil and gas for EU except for Russia and that won't change in the near 5 years like it or not. Maybe after 10, we could have a nice pipe from Iran or from the South pole, but as for now, we don't have it. So, considering this, we can do only two things. Play it smart with Russia (which doesn't mean be nice bitches to Russia, though I first wanted to write that-it means simply know where we stand and what we can offer to Russia so that we can get a fair trade). And two-INVEST IN NEW TECHNOLOGIES LIKE CRAZY! Yep.

Revised EU energy strategy to focus on supply security

20 October 2008

Even if the EU is successful in building a low-carbon economy with a strong portfolio of renewables, dependence on energy imports will remain high and requires "management", according to a draft of the European Commission's second strategic energy review seen by EurActiv.

Greater energy efficiency is given top priority in the review as the "prime means of improving energy security, climate protection and competitiveness all at once".

The Commission has heard a growing chorus of voices call for more rational use of energy, from MEPs (EurActiv 10/10/08) and industry groups alike (EurActiv 24/09/08). France has also made energy efficiency one of the many priorities of its busy EU presidency (EurActiv 09/10/08).

The second chapter of the draft review suggests an increase in the range of energy supply options, whereby "a diversity of energy supplies should enter the market".

60% of electricity generation should be 'low carbon' by 2020, according to the review, which envisages nuclear and renewables taking on an equal share and sees the contribution of natural gas and coal decline.

Oil is still expected to dominate the transport market in 2020, with electric cars making "some headway". But the review refrains from making any more concrete predictions due to a variety of factors impacting on the sector. It also expresses some concern about the lack of the human capital and infrastructure investments required to realise low carbon economy transitions in the transport sector and in power generation and cross-border distribution in particular.

The Commission emphasises that a diversification of energy supply sources should not impact negatively on relations with energy-supplying countries and third-country investors, and that care needs to be taken to address price volatility in global energy markets.

But EU efforts to diversify its energy supply are ruffling feathers in Russia, one of the EU's main suppliers of oil and gas. "Russia also needs to think about diversifying its exports to other regions of the world," Russian Deputy Head of Mission to the EU Alexander Krestyanov said in Brussels on 14 October (EurActiv 15/10/08).

Investment in clean energy technologies has declined in the EU in recent decades compared with the US and rapidly developing states like China. The Commission is aware of the problem, and has made greater investment in technology the third priority of the review.

Structural barriers to innovation are numerous and include commodity pricing of energy, the scale and scope of necessary innovation and existing "suboptimal" infrastructures, says the text.

Brussels is expected to deal with the issue in greater length in an upcoming communication on financing low carbon technologies, expected in November.

In a repeat of recommendations made as part of the chapter on energy supply diversity, the Commission considers a "well-interconnected, well-functioning internal energy market" as the "prime strength which Europe has to reduce its vulnerability to supply shocks".

Meanhwile, trans-European energy infrastructures, such as a troubled interconnector across the Pyrenees, are also facing "major implementation difficulties, mainly because their European interest is not clear at local or implementation level," the text says.

Along with the review, the Commission says it will publish a Green Paper to launch a public debate on how the "limited resources" of the Trans-European Networks for Energy (TEN-E), the main pool of EU funds available for energy infrastructure upgrades, should be spent in the coming years. source

My comment:Ok, this article isn't very thrilling but it fitted good the theme. It just wants to say that your Commission knows where the problems are and this is the first step toward solving then. Eventually.

EU consumers lament blocked energy markets

24 October 2008

A new survey has found that energy consumers are "still in the dark and cold" despite the European Commission's energy market liberalisation agenda, which was supposed to drive down costs and provide more choice for citizens.

"Unfortunately, there is more bad news than good" with respect to the level of choice in the EU's energy markets, according to a new survey of EU consumer organisations conducted by European consumers' organisation BEUC.

Limited options and difficulties in changing suppliers are listed as the main 'bad news' of the survey, presented in Brussels on 23 October. Household consumers also experience complications related to payments and untransparent energy bills, and difficulties arise when billing disputes need to be resolved.

Consumers in Greece and Poland expressed particular dissatisfaction with their energy markets, while feedback from Scandinavian countries was more positive, the survey found.

Some 'mixed' and 'good' news was also revealed, particularly with respect to supply security. "There is a very high degree of security and quality of supply, both for electricity and gas, which means that the vast majority of EU consumers have access to energy and there are only very limited non-notified interruptions of supply," reads the survey's summary.

The Commission has used the concerns of consumers to legitimise a controversial energy liberalisation agenda, with a third 'package' of measures put forward in September 2007 (EurActiv 20/09/07).

EU energy ministers recently gave their first official position on the plans on 10 October, essentially approving the continued co-existence of liberalised and non-liberalised national energy markets (EurActiv 13/10/08). The European Parliament, meanwhile, wants to stick to the Commission's original plans to 'unbundle', or break up, large vertically integrated energy firms that own both the means to generate electricity and the transmission infrastructure necessary to provide power to consumers (EurActiv 19/06/08).

Council and Parliament are expected to lock horns on the issue before any deal can be reached, and it remains unclear whether the package will be adopted before the end of the current Parliament's legislature in March 2009. source

My comment: Yeah, right. We're so very happy, especially with the price of the electricity and the heathing, we're just bouncing up and down from joy. Hey, wait, it's not joy, it's cold, because that's what we do-stay on cold! Idiots.

Waste-to-energy plans get EU's nod of approval

21 October 2008

Environment ministers from the 27 EU countries yesterday (20 October) approved a new framework waste directive that includes provisions to burn waste for energy use as part of a five-step hierarchy prioritising prevention.

"By promoting the use of waste as a secondary resource, the new directive is intended to reduce the landfill of waste as well as potent greenhouse gases arising from such landfill sites," the ministers said in a statementPdf external following the Environment Council on 20 October.

Central to the revised EU approach is the introduction of a strict waste management hierarchy that governments and local authorities must apply when developing waste policy. The agreed five-step hierarchy includes:

  1. Waste prevention (preferred option);
  2. re-use;
  3. recycling;
  4. recovery (including energy recovery), and;
  5. safe disposal (as a last resort).

Specifically, the new directivePdf external now considers "energy-efficient waste incineration" to be a recovery operation; a provision which EU ministers said will reduce consumption of fossil fuels and other natural resources.

BusinessEurope, the European employers' organisation, welcomed the increased clarity over the legal definition of waste but regretted that the EU had shied away from creating a true EU-wide waste market.

But health groups expressed concern about the wider environmental impact of incinerators and said burning more waste would release toxic pollutants in ecosystems and fine particles into the air.

The directive's approval came after several years of tough negotiations between ministers and the European Parliament over a proposal to overhaul the EU's waste policy, originally tabled in 2005.

To reach a compromise, the Parliament had to drop any reference to binding waste prevention targets to be applied at national level (EurActiv 18/06/08). Instead, EU countries will have to adopt waste prevention programmes five years after the directive comes into force, with the Commission subsequently releasing regular reports on progress made.

For the first time, the directive also introduces EU-wide recycling targets. By 2020, all EU countries must recycle 50% of their household waste and 70% of construction and demolition waste.

While they welcomed the targets, environmental groups have criticised them for being too low to make significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from landfills. They also regretted that the targets left aside other categories of waste. source

My comment: Yeah, I don't know about that. I like using all energy sources to the max, but I have doubts on the use of incineration. It requires too high temperature and too good installation to be profitable and if it's not profitable, companies are just going to ignore the safety standards and thus, we're all gonna breath even nicer air.

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