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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Infrastructure in Europe, 02,2009

Today:
  1. Poland chooses nuclear to ease coal dependence
  2. Germany-Russia nuclear pact ruffles French feathers
  3. Bulgaria blasts Commission's energy projects
  4. Commission to probe electricity retail market
  5. Czechs push for greater EU focus on electricity

Poland chooses nuclear to ease coal dependence

6 February 2009

Poland has begun a fundamental shift in its energy policy, confirming that it aims to complete two nuclear power stations by 2025 as part of an energy security action plan that seeks to reduce the country's dependence on coal. EurActiv spoke to Maciej Wozniak, chief energy advisor to Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

"The plan is to have at least two of them – the first one by 2020 and the next one three or four years later," Wozniak told on a conference organised by the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI).

The policy shift represented the first visible sign that tougher EU rules on carbon dioxide emissions, adopted in December, are forcing the country to reconsider its energy mix in favour of less polluting sources.

Poland came under the spotlight last year for resisting EU plans to cut the bloc's carbon dioxide emissions by a quarter by 2020, with the country depending on coal for 95% of its electricity.

The government outlined an energy security action plan for Poland in January, of which the move to nuclear forms an essential part. Other key elements include the construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in the Baltic Sea port of Swinoujscie and an increase in gas storage capacity and interconnections, which will be part-funded by the EU.

Wozniak, however, refused to comment as to what technologies would be selected for the nuclear reactors. "It is not decided yet. We have a very wide spectrum of possibilities and we are assessing them." source

My comment: Notice how the first question is whether the technology has been chosen. They are so pathetic. Notice also that is a French conference. I sincerely doubt that Poland would choose Russian technology, even if it was the best candidate. I think that it would rather go for something US-based. As we know, Poland loooves USA. Let's hope they will choose something safe, in the least.

Germany-Russia nuclear pact ruffles French feathers

6 February 2009

France regrets a recent decision by Germany's Siemens to start a "strategic partnership" with Russia in the nuclear energy field, a leading French expert close to the Paris government told EurActiv.

On 3 February, Siemens CEO Peter Löscher was received by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, with the latter announcing that Siemens and Russia's Rosatom are launching a "large-scale partnership, ready to work in Russia in Germany as well as in third countries".

Löscher proposed the establishment of a joint working group in view of "reaching concrete decisions by end-April," according to a transcriptexternal of the meeting, available on the Russian government website.

Claude Mandil, a former executive director of the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) who drafted a reportPdf on the EU's energy security for the French government, said he regretted the move by Siemens.

"As a Frenchman and a European-minded citizen, I regret that this is not a European partnership any more," Mandil told EurActiv.

According to the former IEA chief, it is bad news that such a strategic partnership in the nuclear field is no longer an EU affair. But the French expert also saw positives in the fact that Germany is showing resolve in refusing to back down from nuclear energy.

French daily Le Monde wrote that the looming nuclear agreement between Moscow and Germany favours Putin's political project of dividing the Europeans, while at the same time increasing his country's energy-export capacities. source

My comment: Oh, boy. The last paragraph, even if true, is very funny. Because Putin cannot divide Europe on his will or wit. It's Europe that does that to itself. And that's the tragedy. The latest crisis showed precisely how much Western Europe cares about the problems of Eastern Europe. And that was very sad, because we do care about the problems of all the member states, not just about our neighbours. I hope that the bigger members will come to realise that this is a dead end. This is not what the EU was supposed to be and this is not the EU I'm spending so many hours to write about. We're all humans and all Europeans and if ony of us has a problem, we all have. We have to understand that. Europe means solidarity, that was its idea, that was its goal. Everything else is a unworthy lie. Mr. Putin is not the enemy-he is the challenge that will either unites us and thus makes us stronger. If we're wise enough to understand that this is for our best.

Bulgaria blasts Commission's energy projects

4 February 2009

Bulgarian officials lashed out at the EU executive yesterday (3 February) over the modest funding the country will receive from a proposed five billion euro EU stimulus package, describing their country's treatment as "abnormal" in view of the recent gas crisis.

"It is abnormal that the countries worst hit by the gas crisis will receive the smallest share of the European funds for economic recovery," MEP Iliana Iotova (PES, Bulgaria) said during a plenary debate on energy security in the European Parliament.

"There is no coherence, there is no balance, there is no policy [in the Commission proposal]," a Bulgarian official told EurActiv.

The official added that Sofia is unhappy with the Commission proposal and will work hard "at all levels" to change it.

As EurActiv recently reported, Bulgaria and Slovakia, the countries worst hit by the crisis, were allocated only modest sums under a Commission proposal to reallocate five billion euro of unspent EU money (EurActiv 29/01/09). Under the proposal, Bulgaria was allocated €20m for the Haskovo-Commotini gas interconnection with Greece, and Slovakia €25m for the Velky Krtis-Ballasaqyarmat interconnector with Hungary.

"Bulgaria will receive only part of the 20 million euro allocated, despite the fact that a total of €3.5 billion are earmarked for energy projects," Iotova pointed out. She said Bulgaria's economy is experiencing a "risk situation as a result of the gas crisis". The government is seeking the permission of the EU institutions to reopen units at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant, which the country had been forced to close as part of its EU accession treaty (EurActiv 07/01/09).

A source in the EU Council of Ministers, which gathers representatives of the 27 member states, confirmed that debate surrounding the Commission's proposal is expected to be heated. Economic and finance ministers will discuss the matter on 10 February, followed by energy ministers on 19 February, he said. The 19-20 March EU summit will eventually make the final decision, the source added. source

My comment: Eh, we're again fucked. That's not a bit surprising however, it's quite upsetting. I love the EU, but when I see such unfairness, I can't but be very disappointed. We really were hit the worst by the crisis, even if we wasn't desperate. There were cold days, no heating, companies couldn't produce. We deserve a compensation. True, the EU isn't guilty for our weird contracts with Gazprom and Russia, but it could offer us a helping hand in that hard moment. It should do it. But again, no surprise here. And that's the worst!

Commission to probe electricity retail market

3 February 2009

The European Commission said it will launch an investigation into the "malfunctioning" EU electricity market this year, following the publication of a survey yesterday (2 February) revealing that the energy, banking and transport sectors are "underperforming" for consumers.

"Because of its importance in the basic household budget, I have decided to make the electricity retail market the target sector for investigation in 2009," said EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, reflecting on the results of the EU executive's 'Consumer Market ScoreboardPdf ' for 2009.

The probe will focus on "unfair" conditions for electricity consumers regarding billing, comparability of offers and unreasonable commercial practices, after the Commission’s report found that "less than two thirds of consumers are satisfied with their energy supplier".

Europeans spend an average of 5.7% of their household budgets on energy, according to Commission figures, with electricity accounting for the largest part of this expenditure. Customers are particularly annoyed about recent price hikes for gas and electricity, with 60% reporting increases compared with 3-4% who reported decreases.

Moreover, the reportPdf reveals that consumers are extremely unlikely to switch gas or electricity supplier, with just seven and eight percent respectively indicating their willingness to do so.

"Switching rates are particularly important, [because] in markets with higher switching rates, consumers are less likely to report price increases," found the report.

EU consumers' organisation BEUC saidPdf external the results prove that consumers must be guaranteed access to their energy consumption data and provided with clear bills "to facilitate switching to the best providers in terms of price and service".

Examples of other such sectors where consumers are reluctant to switch include the car insurance, Internet and mobile phone markets. BEUC said the findings "demonstrate beyond any doubt the necessity to regulate fixed and mobile termination rates to get the prices down".

Less than half of Europeans are satisfied with urban transport systems like buses, trains and trams, with similar levels of dissatisfaction for fixed telephony and postal services as well as the energy sector (below 60%).

The Commission report found that bank fees and interest rates are "highly differentiated" among EU countries in ways that are "not easily explained", citing interest rates for consumer credit as an example. source

My comment: I can't but support that investigation. Electricity providers, especially in Bulgaria are like the biggest thieves. And I mean it. The price is way too big, the service sucks, there is no investment in the infrastructure, there is not good support and the worst is that we have absolutely no choice of provider. There are 2 providers in Bulgaria and the one has east Bulgaria, the other-the west. And that's it. If you don't like your provider, please, relocate yourself. That's not the idea of competition!

Czechs push for greater EU focus on electricity

3 February 2009

The EU should focus its attention on building new power production and transmission capacity, because energy security is not only about diversifying supplies away from oil and gas, said speakers at a conference organised by the Czech EU Presidency.

Speakers at the conference underlined the importance of investing in new transmission capacity - both at national level and across borders - to ensure a better functioning of the internal electricity market and meet the EU’s 2020 renewable energy goals.

Mirek Topolánek, Czech prime minister and host of the conference, said transmission networks needed upgrading as they had previously been designed mainly for the needs of individual member states, and not for cross-border trading within the EU's internal market.

But the conference's main conclusion was the need to build new transmission capacities. Coordination among member states is necessary in this respect, according to the conference conclusions. Moreover, the need to simplify and harmonise authorisation procedures for construction of new high voltage power lines was highlighted.

Participants welcomed the recent granting of 3.5 billion euros for the development of the energy sector, mostly for transmission (EurActiv 29/01/09).

The Czech Presidency came up with a proposal for a so-called 'single tariff' for international energy transmission.

Under current rules, cross-border transmission of electricity among EU member states is not compensated by the buyer of the energy. Instead, transmission fees are paid for by the consumers of the country where the transmission is carried out.

The proceeds from these fees could then be used for investment in strengthening grids, it was suggested. source

My comment: I can't agree more to that. I'd love to see a common European grid. If you think about it, what a better way to unite Europe but to hava a common grid and common infrastructure.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Future of the EU , 02, 2009

Today:
  1. Obama's missile stance blocks Czech Lisbon ratification
  2. Support in Ireland growing for Lisbon Treaty
  3. EU to play Iceland card to prop up Lisbon Treaty
  4. Czechs delay Lisbon vote again, despite popular support

Obama's missile stance blocks Czech Lisbon ratification

30 January 2009

US President Barack Obama's decision to step back from the previous administration's plan to develop an anti-ballistic missile system in Eastern Europe is blocking ratification of the Lisbon Treaty by the Czech parliament, Czech analysts told EurActiv.

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said yesterday (29 January) that he expected the United States to consider delaying the Central European missile shield project, a day after Russia had reacted positively to a perceived shift in US policy (EurActiv 29/01/09).

"There appears to have been a deal between the main [ruling] coalition party and the main opposition party that if the missile agreement is approved, the Lisbon Treaty will be as well. Since the Lisbon Treaty is on ice and the missile shield is too, everything is blocked," he explained.

The ruling party ODS is itself divided, he further elaborated. "The government and the ministers would rather go for the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, but [ODS] members of parliament, especially in the Senate, are reluctant to vote on it. It is not certain that the Lisbon Treaty will go through the Senate. That's why there has not yet been a real trial. As the government doesn't want a failure, they would rather postpone it," Pachta added. source

My comment: Can you believe it! I mean seriously! They are stalling the Lisbon Treaty, because of Obama's decision. Is it just me or they are absolutely crazy?! How could they connect the two thing, when they have nothing to do one with another. They surely cannot expect to black mail the US president that they won't sign the European Treaty. Like he cares! Or like he must care! That's absurd.

Support in Ireland growing for Lisbon Treaty

2 February 2009

Most Irish people expect that any second referendum on the European Union's reform treaty would be passed, a national poll on 30 January showed.

Nearly 60 percent of respondents in the Lansdowne poll said Ireland would pass a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty later this year, and 61 percent said they were concerned about the country losing its status in Europe.

Around 56 percent said they expected the government, whose term runs out in 2012, would be forced into a general election this year. source

My comment: Of course they will want to stay in the EU. The EU provides stability, something that noone can deny, even when there's clear lack of solidarity. And after all they have benefited so much from their membership. I'm sure they started to realise they were manipulated, Irish people are not that stupid. Funnily enough, the Czech president said that we shouldn't force them to sign the Treaty. I wonder, isn't he forcing them not to sign it? Because obviously they want it now.

EU to play Iceland card to prop up Lisbon Treaty

30 January 2009

As Croatia's EU accession bid continues to stall, Brussels has indicated that Iceland is welcome to apply for membership, providing a piggy-back for amendments to the Lisbon Treaty promised to Ireland in the hope of obtaining a positive result in the second referendum, planned for October.

Iceland will be fast-tracked into the European Union if its government applies to join this year, an unnamed senior Brussels official was quoted by three major British newspapers as saying today (30 January).

The European Commission is preparing itself for a membership bid by Reykjavik, but a potential application depends on the outcome of a snap general election expected this spring, the reports say.

The conservative government in Reykjavik collapsed this week, after unprecedented riots in the capital forced the government to resign, thus becoming the first executive to fall as a result of the financial crisis. A caretaker centre-left government was put in place until new elections, which will probably be held in May.

Recently, Rehn said that should Iceland file an application for EU membership, all he would have to do is ask his fellow commissioner Siim Kallas, responsible for administrative affairs, to add "a couple of experts on fishing" to the negotiating team.

Despite Iceland's hard-hit economy, the EU does not consider the Arctic country to be "impoverished", Rehn recently told EurActiv in an exclusive interview.

The commissioner did not rule out Iceland joining even before Croatia does, and hinted that he would like to see a competition develop between the two countries to become the 28th EU member.

Croatia's bid was unexpectedly boosted by EU leaders at the December summit in Brussels. The decision to accommodate the Irish government requires that the Lisbon Treaty be amended to help convince Irish people to say 'yes' in a new referendum. A new round of ratifications would be required, unless the changes are incorporated as an annex to a future accession treaty instead. As French President Sarkozy said at the time, these could be introduced with Croatia's EU accession treaty "in 2010 or 2011".

But Croatia's accession negotiations are blocked at present over a territorial conflict with EU member Slovenia. In this context, "a bid by Iceland could play the role of a spare wheel" to help push through the battered Lisbon Treaty, a source from DG Enlargement told EurActiv. source

My comment: Bottom line, the EC never ceases to amaze me. But then, Iceland should be a part of the EU, so I can only be happy about his surprise. And the bigger the EU, the merrier. Maybe that will finally make the old members to realise that the old kingdom is over, and the new one is here.

Czechs delay Lisbon vote again, despite popular support

29 January 2009

The Czech parliament's vote on the Lisbon Treaty has once again been deferred to allow a parliamentary committee to examine the text further. Meanwhile, almost two thirds of Czech citizens are in favour of ratifying the treaty, a poll has found.

Parliamentary scrutiny of the treaty has already been deferred once, in December 2008 (EurActiv 10/12/08), with a view to holding a parliamentary debate and possibly a vote on 3 February 2009.

The Czech parliament's speaker announced that the vote will now take place on February 15, buying more time for the foreign affairs committee to scrutinise certain aspects of the document. However, the speaker, Miloslav Vlcek, appeared to draw a line in the sand by stressing that parliament could not keep postponing the vote indefinitely.

In a poll published this week by the Czech agency STEM, 64% of Czechs said they were in favour of the treaty's ratification, despite 70% of the respondents' acknowledgement that they do not fully understand the changes that the treaty entails.

STEM analysts argued that the contradiction occurred because a majority of those polled believe the Czech EU Presidency to be raising the country's profile in Europe, fearing that failure to ratify the treaty could damage this new-found prestige.

Meanwhile, Germany's constitutional court this week received a second complaint concerning the treaty's constitutionality, which has the potential to delay German ratification of the treaty by several months. source

My comment: No comment, really. To stall something that even your own citizens support is simply nonsense. I hope they realise it at some point. The treaty might not be a crucial nessecity, but it's the only compromise all the members achieved and as such, it's the best thing we have.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Climate news in Europe, 02, 2009

Sorry for the delay, I had a tough week. I had to work. I guess I have to get used to the feeling of being busy :) Anyway, here's the today piece of European history.
Today:
  1. EU nations urged to speed up energy-saving measures
  2. EU pressures developing nations to cut emissions
  3. Airlines prepare for EU carbon trading scheme
  4. Call for 'carbon reserve' as CO2 prices hit record low
  5. World heading for 'water bankruptcy'
  6. Norway voices bold ambitions for offshore wind

EU nations urged to speed up energy-saving measures

27 January 2009

EU countries could make the most of their energy-saving potential by implementing best practices in fields like financial incentives and improving public awareness of energy efficiency, according to the results of a parliamentary project published on 26 January.

The National Energy Efficiency Action Plans (NEEAP), submitted by member states in 2007 in response to an EU directive on energy efficiency, initiated a mutual learning process.

The body, set up by MEPs to promote concrete measures for energy efficiency, identified lack of knowledge as a major obstacle to tapping into energy-saving potential. The full potential of efficiency (saving half of current consumption) can only be realised if member states provide their households, companies and authorities with specific information.

Furthermore, energy audits providing the data necessary to prompt investors to make energy-saving investments are considered crucial, particularly combined with financial incentives.

The public sector should step up as a role model, as it has done in the UK and the Netherlands, for example, where the central governments are aiming to use zero-carbon buildings by 2012, it continues.

Energy Efficiency Watch calls for a more prominent role for measures in sectors such as transport and construction. source

My comment: It's amazing to listen and listen the same song on and on again and not to see any effect from it. Energy efficiency can be so EASY if implemented on the most basic level-from households. I'm not saying that big projects and regulations shouldn't be created. But they are majorly underestimating the power of inertia. Inertia can be a good thing, if used the right way. Once you get into people's heads that energy efficiency means less bills for them, they will do it and they will require from producers to provide according goods. It's so easy. You just have to want to do it. But then, who will win from the ever-decreasing electricity bills. Not electricity companies for sure!

EU pressures developing nations to cut emissions

29 January 2009

The European Commission yesterday (28 January) presented proposals for a global agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, urging rapidly developing countries such as China and India to take on their fair share of responsibility in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Presenting the proposalPdf external in Brussels, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas made clear that the bulk of funding for developing countries will need to come from the private sector and the carbon market.

According to the EU executive, action by the developed economies of the OECD will not suffice on its own, because emissions in the developing world are growing rapidly and threaten to outweigh their efforts.

The EU is therefore proposing that developing countries - including China and India but with the exception of Africa's least-developed countries - should slow their emission growth by 15-30% below business-as-usual levels by 2020.

Dimas is proposing that developing countries adopt far-reaching low carbon strategies, using domestic resources and regulation, which can mobilise and shift private sector investment towards cleaner technologies. Public funding will be provided by the international community to cover investments that cannot be financed with domestic resources, explains the Commission. source

My comment: Oh yeah. I'm only worried that if they exclude Africa from the equation, everyone will rush to Africa to pollute. And while that might provide money for the poor population, I'm not sure that's a cost they should pay. In any such draft, it must be made crystal clear that companies should pay for their emissions, probably both where they produce and where they sell.

Airlines prepare for EU carbon trading scheme

2 February 2009

A directive incorporating aviation into the EU emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) entered into force today (2 February), obliging member states to put in place appropriate legislation within a year.

All flights landing or taking off from EU airports will have to buy CO2 allowances under the bloc's cap-and-trade system under the new directive. Trading officially begins in 2012, while member states have a year to transpose the directive into national law.

Furthermore, each carrier operating flights to or from the EU will now have to submit a plan describing how it intends to monitor and report on emissions. source

My comment: I don't entirely get it what exactly entered in force, if the airlines will have to purchase their allowances from 2012, but I guess the idea is that from now on, member states should work on the national legislations. Of course, I support the inclusion of airlines in the scheme.

Call for 'carbon reserve' as CO2 prices hit record low

9 February 2009

The economic slump is threatening to derail the EU's nascent carbon market, with declining industrial demand reducing the price of CO2 emission allowances to record lows last week.

Mark Lewis, director of global carbon research at Deutsche Bank, proposed on Friday (6 February) to establish a reserve price for EU emissions allowances (EUAs) to avoid a price collapse in the third phase of the bloc's trading scheme, which starts in 2013.

Speaking in Brussels, Lewis argued that because allowances are bankable from one phase to another, such a reserve price for the next stage of the emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) would increase the value of allowances today, as buyers know that they will be worth more in the future.

EUA prices slumped to €9.99 per unit on 4 February, the lowest daily value so far for the current second phase.

Industrial emitters were selling their surplus allowances heavily at the beginning of the year to raise capital, believe Point Carbon.

As a result, the market has shrunk by a third since last November, according to Point Carbon's data. It estimated that the value of EUAs traded had fallen by 38%, from some €322 million a day in November to roughly €208 million in January.

By contrast, Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs did not consider low carbon prices to be a cause for concern.

However, according to Lewis, free allocation of allowances is a fundamental problem, ingrained in the third phase too, which is set to begin in 2013. This means the market price for carbon does not reflect supply and demand, he said.

According to Lewis, the EU ETS should have included better institutional arrangements in the first place, claiming that establishing a Carbon Central Bank would have increased confidence in the market. source

My comment: A Carbon Central Bank sounds cool. Or troubling. Or both. I think he has a point. At the moment, carbon offsets are too free to be valuable. And that wasn't the idea-what kind of incentive is something you receive for free. But then, if you can bank your allowances for later, and you obtain them freely anyway, then this could lead to a real disaster. Or a wonder for the people who would sell them later. But again, that wasn't the idea!

World heading for 'water bankruptcy'

6 February 2009

Sustained economic growth, human security and political stability over the next two decades depend on how water is managed, warns the World Economic Forum in a report urging governments and businesses to address consistent under-charging, waste and overuse of water.

Discussed last week at the forum's annual meeting in Davos, the report on managing future water needs argues that "we are now on the verge of water bankruptcy in many places, with no way of paying the debt back".

Many of the "regional water bubbles" are already bursting in parts of China, the Middle East, the southwestern US and India, and "more will follow", with serious consequences for regional economic and political stability, the report continues.

Climate change further adds to the urgent need to manage water efficiently, the report notes. In many parts of the world, glaciers act as "water banks". For example, melting glaciers in the Himalayas and Tibet alone will cause serious water supply problems for more than two billion people, it predicts.

Referring to a UN-sponsored 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment , the report underlines that 70 of the world's major rivers are "near [their] maximum extraction levels to supply water for irrigation systems and for reservoirs".

Meanwhile, growing global demand for food is set to place more pressure on water resources for agriculture.

Discussing the findings, Davos participants noted that while economic stimulus plans include huge investments in improving agriculture, infrastructure, clean energy and trade, politicians "unfortunately rarely invest in improving the resource on which those outcomes depend: water".

Most governments, they argue, fail to realise how "intimately" other policies are linked to water policy, or simply refuse to introduce water pricing policies by fear of losing elections. source

My comment: It really is hard to convince people that water can be a scarcity, especially on places where water was always abundant. But that will change, one way or another. But the term "water bankruptcy" is little too much for me.

Norway voices bold ambitions for offshore wind

3 February 2009

As the EU embarks on ambitious plans to boost its use of renewable energies, the oil-rich Nordic country is seeking to diversify its offering and swamp EU consumers with green electricity produced by large-scale offshore wind farms.

Speaking in January during a Brussels round table on renewable energy, Elisabeth Walaas, Norway's deputy foreign minister, said offshore wind had "huge potential for Norway".

According to wind mapping studies, the Nordic state ranks second only to Portugal in terms of offshore wind potential. The country already covers 60% of its overall needs with renewable energy, "which is three times as much as the EU's 2020 target". For renewable electricity, the share soars to 99%, thanks to the country's long-standing reliance on hydro power.

And with the EU’s 20% renewable objectives having to be met by 2020, Walaas believes Norway has "the potential to contribute" by exporting more of its green power to Europe.

Stubholt believes offshore wind will not only help meet European demand, but will also "decarbonise" the production of oil and gas, Norway's main export to the EU.

However, Deputy Foreign Minister Walaas said "technological challenges" specific to offshore wind remained, as the most promising areas are situated in deep waters and in areas where seas are particularly rough.

According to Sjur Bratland, an advisor at StatoilHydro, the Norwegian state-owned energy firm, the way forward is to develop floating windmills, a technology he says "can bring wind power into a new era".

Demonstration models have already been developed and the next stage will be to fit the technology onto medium and then large-scale wind farms that can operate in harsh natural environments. But bringing this kind of development could take up to ten years to achieve, Bratland explained.

Another challenge, Walaas pointed out, is that the current electricity grid infrastructure is "insufficient". There is an undersea cable linking Norway to the Netherlands , and more interconnections are being discussed with Denmark and the UK. But a fully-fledged offshore grid is not expected before 2020 at the earliest.

A 'supergrid' linking countries around the North Sea has been under discussion for some time. It is one of the priority projects highlighted by the European Commission in its recent proposal for an economic recovery plan (EurActiv 29/01/09). source

My comment: Hats down for Norway! I'm so happy to hear that at least someone is taking environmental problems seriously. And notice, they will only profit from their decisions to go for renewables. Wonderful. At least one good news!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Upgrades in European administration

Today:
  1. Global renewables agency launched as support falters
  2. SMEs laud Commission's e-invoicing initiative
  3. New EU battle over copyright rules in sight
  4. EU to use unspent cash for clean energy, broadband
  5. MEPs' attendance records set for publication
Check out the last article. Pretty cool, right?

Global renewables agency launched as support falters

28 January 2009

A new international agency to promote renewable energies across the world was launched in Bonn on Monday (26 January) with fewer signatories than had been hoped for, after the US and UK dropped out of the list.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) was established to counterbalance for the International Energy Agency, which has been criticised for favouring fossil fuels over green energies. IRENA is expected to offer advice to both industrialised and developing countries on reaching higher energy shares from renewable sources and promoting better financing mechanisms and technology transfers to developing nations (EurActiv 03/11/08).

The initiative has been strongly driven by Germany, which invited all United Nations countres to attend the founding conference. The founding treaty was signed by 75 countries.

The US and the UK, however, decided not to commit to the new body for now. The US is expected to join at a later stage, as President Obama's new administration has set out more ambitious goals for the share of renewables in electricity production.

The UK, on the other hand, appears more reluctant to sign up to an initiative that in its eyes undermines the power of the UN-backed International Energy Agency. However, London did not rule out the possibility of joining later if other major polluting countries such as China, the US and Japan were to commit to the agency's goals.

Even France reportedly hesitated to join until the last minute after Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo had expressed reservations about the idea, notably regarding the decision to choose English as the agency's only working language.

EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs urged all EU member states to participate in the agency, adding that he is working on achieving a mandate for the Commission to join in. He said the body's global reach and $25-million budget could make a real difference, helping EU countries to meet individual targets under their common obligation to increase the share of renewables in the bloc's energy mix by 20% by 2020. source

My comment: Another agency, nice! I don't see much the point, probably it should have been a part of IEA, but after all, the latter really is annoyingly biased toward fossil fuels. Actually, IRENA might even be a good idea- if there is enough funding and commitment, it really can make a difference.

SMEs laud Commission's e-invoicing initiative

2 February 2009

Small businesses welcomed a European Commission proposal to allow tax to be invoiced electronically, which the EU executive said could save companies €18 billion every year.

The new legislation, which still needs the approval of EU finance ministers, aims to eliminate current barriers to 'e-invoicing' but also addresses businesses concerns over the storing of invoices and discrepancies in the content of invoices.

Up to €18 billion annually could be saved in the medium-term if EU companies switched to 100% e-invoicing, according to official estimates. But even if take-up were lower, the savings could still be "very significant", the Commission said.

SMEs described the new initiative as a "huge step forward", Gerhard Huemer from UEAPME, which represents more than 12 million small businesses across Europe, told EurActiv. But he said he was sceptical as to whether the proposal will find the approval of the bloc's finance ministers, given reservations from the Spanish and German governments.

The proposed revision of invoicing rules also aims to fight VAT fraud, which is estimated to cost the EU tens of billions of euro every year.

Officials claim that the new legislation will close a loophole in the current legislation, which has allowed businesses operating across EU borders to invoice deliveries in later than the month in which they actually supplied the good or service.

Under the new law, companies will have to report their transactions in the month that they supply the goods. source

My comment: I must say I have my worries on the entirely electronic invoicing system. Because as we know, electronic signatures work only on Windows. And I don't want to use Windows for example. Of course, this is just for SMEs and they can afford a single computer with M$, but still, it's not very fair. But again, I like the idea and I can't wait for the promised harmonising of the systems.

New EU battle over copyright rules in sight

30 January 2009
The European Commission will reopen the 'Pandora's box' of online copyright protection with a new legislative initiative on e-commerce, after attempts to filter Web traffic failed during negotiations over the telecoms package.

The Commission will launch a new consultation on 26 February to identify shortfalls in existing rules governing e-commerce, including a possible monitoring role to be assumed by Internet service providers (ISPs), such as BT or Belgacom.

The current directiveexternal does not foresee obligations for network managers to control Web traffic. But national authorities can oblige them to release stored information "in order to detect and prevent certain types of illegal activity".

The vagueness of present rules provoked a wave of different interpretations by national courts.

"We want to clarify the directive to avoid different interpretations of the liability regime," a Commission official close to the dossier told EurActiv. He gave assurances that the EU executive will adopt a "balanced approach," presenting "neutral" questions to relevant stakeholders.

A "new balance" in the management of online copyright protection is also sought in the current negotiations for the so-called Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA ) which involve the EU, Japan, the US, Switzerland and many other countries. According to a leaked draft text , the deal might involve "procedures enabling right holders who have given effective notifications of claimed infringements to expeditiously obtain information identifying the alleged infringer".

Some analysts in Brussels do not rule out the possibility that ongoing negotiations on the telecoms package could end up in a new attempt to introduce obligations for ISPs, which were left out of the current temporary agreement.

All these efforts aim to protect the content industry, which has been obliged to go through a significant restructuring process after the take-up of the Internet. Many think this could be beneficial in the long term, but the current players have been very reluctant to change traditional business models.

On the other hand, ISPs, which are often big telecoms companies, reject suggestions that they are controlling online traffid. Unusually, the ISPs have the backing of consumer organisations, which support free downloading and file-sharing. source

My comment: All I can say is that I hope this new innitiative fail as happily as the last one. Or that it stops protecting the music industry and decide to protect conummers for a change. I mean, I'm sick of hearing how much the industry loses from illegal file-sharing. When this is totally incorrect, they are not losing, they are actually winning. I mean the fact that someone downloaded the latest Holliwood garbage doesn't mean that s/he would actually go to a cinema to watch it if s/he didn't have internet. It only means that people found another cheap way to waste time. If they didn't have that option available, they'd watch TV (zapping trough programs and definitely not watching ads) or just watch videos in youtube. They WOULDN'T go to a cinema! Why the companies are winning? Because they gain viewers to their lower quality movies. The actors also win. Well, the only thing that is required is for the companies to think up a way to monetize those money. And that's not so hard. They can sell those movies online and earn trough the ads on the site (and people will pay heavily for very visited and famous sites) or even put ads in the beginning of the movies (like cineplex home do). And everything is fine again! But no! They really have to fight piracy. Start living in 21st century people! If I can't download the Babylon 5 from the net, I simply wouldn't watch it. Because I don't have the money to buy the dvds or the nerves to wait for them to be delivered home. Learn how to earn in another way!

EU to use unspent cash for clean energy, broadband

29 January 2009

The European Commission yesterday (28 January) proposed to reallocate five billion euro of unspent EU money, mostly to support clean coal projects, offshore wind farms and the deployment of broadband Internet connections in rural areas.

Presenting the plans on Wednesday (28 January), European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said the projects would represent a "smart investment" for the EU as it battles a deepening economic downturn.

Under the plans, a total of €3.5 billion will be devoted to clean energy projects, while €1 billion will support broadband Internet. A further €500 million is earmarked for tackling new agricultural challenges such as climate change, renewable energy, water management and restructuring the dairy sector.

"Energy and broadband networks are both crucial to the future of the EU economy," the Commission explained in a statement.

The proposal will now be submitted to EU member states for approval, with the Czech Presidency planning to discuss it at the General Affairs Council, the Commission indicated. The next such meeting is scheduled for 23-24 February in Brussels.

Carbon storage and offshore wind

Projects to store carbon dioxide emissions from power plants deep underground (carbon capture and storage, or CCS; ) receive the lion's share of the funding under the EU executive's proposal, with a €1.25bn financial envelope.

Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain (with Portugal) and the UK will each receive €250m to apply the nascent technology to heavy-polluting coal-fired power plants.

Offshore wind will also receive backing, with €150m going to projects in three groups of countries: Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Poland – the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland and Denmark – and Germany and Poland.

Bringing broadband to rural areas

€1bn is earmarked for projects to bring broadband to rural areas. In total, 30% of the EU rural population has no access to the Internet, but the situation differs from one country to another, the Commission said. A chart, published with the communication, shows that rural coverage in Bulgaria and Romania is equal to zero.

EU member countries will have the responsibility of applying for the money, and amounts will be allocated on the basis of the current distribution key for the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. Poorer regions will benefit from higher financing.

Disappointment for Nabucco and gas 'interconnectors'

In spite of the recent gas crisis, sums for "gas interconnectors" designed to improve the EU's resilience in a crisis situation appear relatively modest, totalling just over €1 billion.

Bulgaria and Slovakia, the countries worst hit by the crisis, receive only modest sums: Bulgaria is allocated €20m for the Haskovo-Commotini interconnection with Greece, and Slovakia €25m for the Velky Krtis-Ballasaqyarmat interconnector with Hungary.

€250m has been earmarked for the EU's flagship Nabucco gas pipeline project. However, this amount in fact represents a risk-sharing facility, intended to help secure loans from banks at better conditions than those offered on the market, Commission spokesperson Johannes Laitenberger told EurActiv.

Member states 'puzzled'

But it remains unclear whether member states will approve the reallocation of funds.

source

My comment: I'm quite unhappy by the way the funding was divided. I mean, why they should give all those money for CCS when it's not even working! It looks like another way to steal European money to me. And that weird funding for Nabucco?! Oh, well, my guess is that member states won't approve it...

MEPs' attendance records set for publication

23 January 2009

Details of MEPs' attendance in parliamentary meetings will be published on the European Parliament's website, it emerged yesterday (22 January), marking the first major development since the adoption of new guidelines on access to documents last week.

Accepting a request from Italian MEP Marco Cappato (ALDE), the Parliament's Bureau has agreed to put online "all data" regarding attendance of MEPs in plenary and committee meetings.

The Bureau's decision represents the first stage of the Parliament's response to last week's adoption of a reportexternal calling on the EU assembly to make details of MEPs' activities at work available on its website (EurActiv 15/01/09).

Towards a 'new era of openness'?

Hailing the development, Cappato recalled that previous attempts to publish such records had been refused, and expressed hope that yesterday's move was an "indication of a new era of openness that will also be extended to cover information related to use of public funds such as expenses and financial interests".

The Bureau's decision should allow the Parliament to "implement the plenary decision to make available through search criteria on [its] website more and easily accessible information on MEPs' activities and attendance in absolute as well as relative terms," the ALDE member said.

The extra data should be online in time for this summer's elections to the EU assembly in June.

source

My comment: More info here. Wonderful news! I hope the implement it quickly. I think that all the statements that a MEP does should be available online. I mean, it's not very secret if 200 other people heard it. So better at least make it publicly available.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Europe and the space - more intimate than ever

Time for little pro-European propaganda. I won't comment it, but I think that these are important corner stones for European science. It was time to have something important enough to brag about. Enjoy!
  1. ESA’s next long-term ISS mission has a name: OasISS
  2. Looking Back 13.8 Billion Years: The countdown for Planck satellite has started
  3. Europe's Sexy New Gravity Satellie

ESA’s next long-term ISS mission has a name: OasISS

February 5th, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- In May 2009, Frank De Winne, of Belgian nationality and a member of the European Astronaut Corps, will fly to the International Space Station at the start of his six-month mission. This mission sees him become the first European commander of the Station by October 2009. ESA has now given his mission the name OasISS.

During his stay on the International Space Station (ISS), De Winne will conduct scientific experiments developed by scientists from different European countries and others worldwide. In addition he will perform technology demonstrations and an education programme. De Winne will also be instrumental in operating the Station's robotic arm and that of the Kibo module, to help install the external payloads for the Japanese laboratory.

OasISS, the second European long-term mission to the ISS, will enlarge the crew of the ISS to six astronauts for the first time and thereby increase the time available for scientific experiments. It is a visible sign of the important role Europe plays through ESA in human spaceflight and in human exploration.

The name was chosen by ESA from 520 suggestions received in response to a competition launched by ESA’s Directorate of Human Spaceflight last September.

The winning name refers to many aspects of the International Space Station as well as to human exploration.

OasISS also ties in with De Winne's role as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF Belgium. In support of the UNICEF 2009 WASH campaign dedicated to water, sanitation and hygiene, several events will be implemented during his flight to draw public attention to the availability and cleanliness of water which is critically important for human life. source

Looking Back 13.8 Billion Years: The countdown for Planck satellite has started

February 5th, 2009

The Planck satellite is set to eavesdrop with hitherto unsurpassed precision on the echo of the Big Bang, thereby providing a sharp image of the infancy of the Universe. The satellite is due to be launched on board an Ariane 5 rocket on April 16th. The aim of this international mission, managed by the European Space Agency (ESA), is to map the cosmic microwave background. The Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching is the German partner in this project. Researchers have spent a decade developing important software components that have now been delivered to the collaboration.

380,000 years after the Big Bang, all the structures we see in the universe today - stars, galaxies and galaxy clusters - were present in embryonic form as minute fluctuations in the density of matter. At that time, the Universe became transparent. The light freed then is still travelling through the cosmos today, and is measurable as the cosmic microwave radiation. This radiation provides an accurate image of the appearance of the Universe 13.8 billion years ago - precisely at the epoch when it became transparent.

The Planck space telescope will measure the microwave background for between 18 and 30 months from a location close to the so-called second Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system. The satellite has one high-frequency and one low-frequency instrument and a total of nine different frequency bands. Temperature maps will not just provide an image of the early phase of our Universe. They will also allow scientists to answer important cosmological questions: What exactly happened during the Big Bang? What is today's Universe made of? How old is it? How did its structures form?

These measurements could also help verify the theory of inflation. Space is supposed to have undergone a phase of explosive expansion, when the universe was all of 10 to the power of -35 seconds old. Minute quantum fluctuations of the hypothetical energy field which drove this spatial explosion are believed to have produced the density fluctuations visible in the microwave background from which today's galaxies emerged.

It may never be possible to measure this epoch and so prove the theory of inflation directly. However, the temperature fluctuations in the microwave background conceal messages from this time that can be decoded through statistical analysis of the measurements of Planck.

The Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics represents Germany in the Planck Consortium and carried out part of the software development for the project. It has developed a mission simulation software package over the past decade for the data processing centers in Paris and Trieste. Such simulations generate synthetic datastreams that resemble the real one expected from the satellite. However, in the case of the synthetic data streams, the exact properties of the virtual Universe that produced them are known. This enables the testing and optimization of the data processing procedures, critical elements of this complex mission.

The German Planck team also developed a database-supported graphic workflow engine, the Planck Process Coordinator (known as the ProC). This important component of the project software infrastructure permits the construction, implementation, and monitoring of complex data processing pipelines.

With the simulation package and the Process Coordinator, the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics has contributed key components to the Planck mission. This project presents enormous challenges both to astrophysicists and to computer scientists. As the leading German partner, the Institute will be intensively involved in the scientific evaluation of the data. In addition to the cosmological questions at the heart of the project, research will also focus on more traditional astrophysical objects, such as galaxy clusters or active galactic nuclei.source

Europe's Sexy New Gravity Satellite

By Clara MoskowitzJanuary 23, 2009 | 4:39:50 PM

A sleek new European Space Agency satellite set to launch this year, perhaps as early as February, aims to map out the planet's gravitational field in unprecedented detail. The Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer, or GOCE, will gather data useful for research in oceanography, solid Earth physics and climate change.

GOCE will use ultrasensitive instruments called accelerometers to measure tiny variations in Earth's gravitational tug due to the planet's rotation, the positions of mountains and ocean trenches, and variations in the density of Earth's interior.

Orbiting low at just 155 miles above the surface of the planet, GOCE will compile its precise 3-D map of Earth's gravitational field over a period of about 20 months.

The information it gathers will also help scientists finally gauge accurate heights for major Earth features such as Mount Everest, for which today's best estimates vary by more than 16 feet.

"GOCE will result in an improved accuracy of the geoid and will facilitate the establishment of a unified global height system so that heights of the highest mountains in the world can be directly compared," she said. "Another benefit will be an improvement in our capabilities to predict the behavior of the Earth, and hence provide information needed to help mitigate disasters and economically damaging events." source

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The gas crisis aftermath, 2009

Today:
  1. Russia 'threatening Nabucco', says EU president
  2. EU rules out funding Nabucco gas pipeline
  3. EU tells Ukraine not to challenge gas deal
  4. Gazprom refuses to pay compensation for gas crisis
My favourite subject-Nabucco and the gas crisis. Enjoy!

Russia 'threatening Nabucco', says EU president

27 January 2009

For the first time, Czech Prime Minister and current EU president Mirek Topolánek has deviated from the official Brussels stance of minimising the relevance of Russia's 'South Stream' gas pipeline by describing it as a "direct threat" to the EU's preferred Nabucco project.

Addressing a two-day summit dedicated to the Nabucco project in Budapest, Topolánek today (27 January) said that Russia's plans to build its North Stream and South Stream pipelines are aimed at keeping Europe dependent on Russian gas and threaten the Nabucco pipeline project, Reuters reported.

"These routes bypass Ukraine as well as Central Europe, while maintaining the EU's high dependency on Russia. This is a direct threat to the Nabucco project," stated Topolánek.

Up to know, Commission representatives at all levels have always played down the rival nature of the South Stream and Nabucco projects (EurActiv 04/07/08). A high-level representative of the EU executive recently said South Stream was not an alternative to supplies from Russia, but a necessary additional channel of supply.

In response, a top Russian representative expressed doubts as to the feasibility of the EU-favoured pipeline. "Nabucco could be a monument to great ambitions and actions not thought through properly," Viktor Zubkov, Russia's first deputy prime minister, said in Budapest. Zubkov is also chairman of Gazprom's board of directors. source

My comment: Guess why the Czechs are against South Stream. Because it bypasses Central Europe and most importantly them. I completely support the statement of the Zubkov. The only way to fill that pipe is trough Iran, and Iran's situation is so complicated...Oh,well.

EU rules out funding Nabucco gas pipeline

28 January 2009

EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said there will be no European funding for the Union's flagship pipeline project, turning down appeals from Hungary at a two-day 'Nabucco summit' in Budapest organised in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine gas crisis. EurActiv Hungary contributed to this article.

Speaking at the summit, Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány described Nabucco as an issue of national security and suggested that the EU should finance the strategic project.

The summit's Hungarian host also called for an 'International Nabucco Board' to be established, and suggested that Budapest had the resources to host such an institution. He also stressed that the EU must make further commitments towards Nabucco's resource and transit countries, as they do not want to be mere suppliers.

In a first set of comments, Piebalgs said "the voice of Prime Minister Gyurcsány will be heard". But later on, he made clear that the Union should not finance the pipeline.

"I believe that we can facilitate getting loans" for the project, Piebalgs said, according to Reuters. However, he said the EU would "not go beyond it, because then it doesn't make sense, it's not anymore the consortium's project but a public-private partnership".

"I'm not ready at this stage to even consider such a type of option," Piebalgs added.

The EU energy commissioner added that a number of open questions regarding Nabucco remained to be answered. If concrete answers are not given by May, the project would be in jeopardy, he warned. source

My comment: Isn't it fun how the Czechs are very anti-Europe and don't like the idea of Europe telling them what to do, but in the same time, they don't miss a single opportunity to ask for more European money and/or to offer themselves as the wonderful host of the next European institution. I despise such hypocrisy! And anyway, it looks like Nabucco starts being questioned even by higher levels in politics. That's odd. I thought they'll finish it in a final act of desperation before offering a hand to Iran. Hmmm.

EU tells Ukraine not to challenge gas deal

27 January 2009

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso will today (27 January) put pressure on Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko not to challenge the recent gas deal, which allowed supplies of Russian gas to Europe to resume after a twenty-day crisis.

Securing the Russian-Ukraine gas deal is the main reason behind Yushchenko's visit to Brussels, according to Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Hrihoriy Nemyria, speaking in Brussels on Monday (26 January) after being questioned by EurActiv as to the political background of his visit.

Fears that the ruling Ukrainian coalition might unravel the agreement rose after reports suggested that Yushchenko had announced his intention to re-write the deal, signed on 17 January between Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko and her Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. The information had been leaked by Oleksander Shlapak, an economic aide to Yushchenko.

Robert Fico, prime minister of Slovakia, one of the countries worst hit by the crisis, reportedly described the attempts by Yushchenko as "completely crazy".

The deputy prime minister hinted that new problems might arise. Belarus has not yet signed a new gas agreement with Russia, which Nemyria described as "not normal".

From Brussels, Yushchenko will fly to the Polish city of Wroclaw, where he will meet Polish President Lech Kaczynski and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency. The 76% drop in gas supplies to Poland, after reductions in imports via Ukraine and Belarus, appears to be a major issue on the agenda.

In his policy paper, Pierre Noel, a research associate at the Electricity Policy Research Group of the University of Cambridge, made recommendations for what the EU should do to decrease the ability of Russia to conduct "divide-and rule" policies vis-à-vis the Union.

"The proposed powers of the new Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) should be increased," Noel writes, adding: "Without the creation of effective pan-European regulatory oversight, it is unlikely that the third gas directive will succeed where the second failed. What is needed is a powerful regulatory coordinator with a clear political mandate to deliver market integration. […] A true, powerful and independent European energy regulator should be the long-term goal. Furthermore, the new Strategic Energy Review should be the occasion to launch a political debate on pan-European regulatory oversight of energy markets." source

My comment: What I believe is valuable here is that the EU finally grasps the need of a pan-European gas network-something to prevent Russia from using one countries against another ones. Let's see how much time it will take them to figure out that the only solution to our problems is strong nuclear energy support and total exploration of the renewables.

Gazprom refuses to pay compensation for gas crisis

26 January 2009

Gazprom will pay no compensation for recent gas supply disruptions to Bulgaria and Slovakia, the countries worst affected by the gas crisis, which affected Russian gas supplies to 18 European countries this winter, writes Dnevnik, EurActiv's partner in Bulgaria.

Sofia had officially requested Gazprom to pay compensation to Bulgarian consumers. Bulgaria also asked the Russian energy giant to agree to receive lower prices for its gas to compensate for the delivery failures. Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev said last week that his country had failed to receive 123 million cubic metres of gas during the two-week crisis. Press reports estimated the compensation request to be worth some 100 million euro.

Gazprom Deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev visited Sofia on Friday to reject the compensation demands, invoking 'force majeure' and blaming Ukraine for the disruptions. Gazprom estimates that its own losses from the supply stops will top USD 2 billion.

Gazprom's Medvedev also rejected a Bulgarian proposal to establish direct contact between the Russian gas giant and the Bulgarian government. Gazprom said it intends to pursue dialogue via Overgas, the main intermediary for Russian gas imports to Bulgaria and a company of which Gazprom owns a majority stake.

After visiting Bulgaria, Medvedev flew to Slovakia, where he met the country's Prime Minister Robert Fico. Slovakia is also insisting that it must receive compensation for the losses it has suffered. But Fico wants the EU to reach a common position on any potential compensation for the gas crisis, according to press reports.

Western European nations have so far remained quiet over the compensation issue. Many suffered far less during the crisis than the EU's newer members did, the Wall Street Journal writes. The daily further recalls that Italy and Germany enjoy friendly relations with Russia and "may not want to rock the boat too much". source

My comment: Unfortunated but not unexpected. At least, yesterday, we managed to obtain a direct contact with Gazprom (it was a meeting between Medvedev and Parvanov). Cool, right? Or at least not so bad. Though I wonder whether they'll manage to get some money out of the whole situation.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Energy in Europe, 01.2009-the aftermath of a crisis

Today:
  1. France, Belgium push for 'Europe of electricity'
  2. Gas crisis casts fresh doubt on EU’s Nabucco pipeline
  3. Turkey plays energy card in stalled EU accession talks
  4. Russia, Ukraine sign gas transit deal
Yes, the crisis is over, but we're still repairing the damage. Enjoy the result:

France, Belgium push for 'Europe of electricity'

21 January 2009

The French power transmission operator RTE and its Belgian counterpart Elia will inaugurate on 18 February a coordination centre in Brussels, in a bid to strengthen the security of electricity flows in Western Europe, EurActiv France reports.

The centre is meant to reinforce technical coordination of electricity networks for the whole Central and Western Europe region.

The aims of the centre will be to enable the electricity companies to share their tools, software and data.

The chairman also believes that similar centres should be opened up in other parts of Europe. "There is a common will of all the electricity providers to move in this direction," he claimed.

Maillard called for a "higher level of security" of European electricity networks and a "strengthening of the exchange of data" between national electricity providers.

The attainment of this goal will, however, depend on the will of the operators in Germany, as the country has four electricity companies. Indeed, the "question of reunification rests on the German operators," Maillard said.

In fact, Vattenfall Europe Transmission, an electricity company that uses high tension networks and installations in Berlin, Hamburg and the eastern regions of Germany, has expressed an interest in the Franco-Belgian initiative. This is equally the case for the British company National Grid, according to RTE. source

My comment: Well, this one, I support. I like European networks from any kind. And in view of recent events, I think everyone will agree with me- Europe can no longer think locally. Every disaster - natural or artificial- hits us all. Companies use and abuse European market as well as they can. And if Bulgaria or Romania are without electricity, gas or oil, then not only local companies will be hit. And Europe is for everyone, right?

Gas crisis casts fresh doubt on EU’s Nabucco pipeline

20 January 2009

Leading energy experts yesterday (19 January) asked difficult questions in the European Parliament about the future of the EU's flagship Nabucco gas pipeline project, which is seen by many as a panacea for decreasing the Union's dependence on Russian imports.

The gas crisis between Russia and Ukraine, which cut or disrupted gas supplies to 18 EU countries, did not appear to be a sufficient argument in favour of Nabucco among experts addressing the Parliament's foreign affairs committee yesterday.

At political level, at first it had appeared that Nabucco would gain credibility in light of the crisis (EurActiv 09/01/09). But MEPs were presented yesterday with a rather pessimistic draft report on EU energy security, in which Nabucco featured prominently.

The summit had raised hopes that the project could be re-launched. Indeed, the Czech Republic, which currently holds the six-month rotating EU presidency, has indicated it will push for Nabucco as one of its top priorities (EurActiv 16/12/08).

Professor Alan Riley of the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) said the main question regarding Nabucco was "where the gas [was] going to come from". Lack of investment makes imports from Iran problematic as that country is still a net importer of gas, despite holding the world's third-largest reserves, he said. Besides, sanctions currently in place against Iran make the whole project appear more likely to be realised in the distant future.

As for Turkmenistan, Riley said there is reluctance on the part of that country's government to deliver gas to Europe, as it prefers to sell to Russia and also has China as an alternative client.

Regarding the issue of transit, Prof. Riley warned that Turkey, a key transit country, has huge domestic demand for gas itself, while legal disputes on the delimitation of the Caspian Sea could be used by Russia to block the project. He also said that financing Nabucco remained a challenge. source

My comment: Please, read this article. It will make the Nabucco story much clearer to you if you still have any doubts. Gazprom may be insolent partner, but Turkey will be much worst if you ask me. Because unlike Russia, they have the full support of USA. And not only because of that- the EU wants to rely on a non-EU country, one that has sever internal problems. It's just too much of a risk to accept to play with it. For me, Nabucco is a good idea, if Iran becomes a partner of the EU (and if Iran becomes at least one idea less crazy) . But we shouldn't bet all our cards on it. In any case, how hard is it to understand-we need renewables! Only renewables and nuclear energy may and will secure our energy need. Nothing more and nothing less!

Turkey plays energy card in stalled EU accession talks

20 January 2009

Turkey might be forced to rethink its support for the strategic Nabucco gas pipeline if the EU refuses to unfreeze accession talks on important negotiating chapters such as energy, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a visit to Brussels yesterday (19 January).

The EU considers Nabucco as a top priority. The pipeline would transport gas from the Caspian Sea across Turkey to Central Europe. The project has gained even more importance in the light of the latest gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine, which left several Eastern European countries in the cold for days.

The remark made huge waves in Brussels. But Prime Minister Erdogan, after meeting European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, later underlined that Turkey did not want to use energy as a weapon.

"Turkey can play an important role in resolving the EU's energy problem," Erdogan told reporters after the meeting. Barroso replied that an issue as important as energy security should not be linked to Turkey's accession talks, but nontheless pledged that the Commission will "make all efforts" to unfreeze chapters. "Good cooperation on energy matters," Barroso stated.

The initial remarks by Erdogan, who was paying his first visit to Brussels for four years, were illustrative of growing Turkish frustration over stalled talks on the country's EU entry.

The prime minister called on EU member states and citizens to rethink their opposition towards Turkish membership, as negative opinion in Europe also has a negative effect on how Turkey views the Union.

Addressing those who said they considered Turkey not to be part of Europe, he said: "I consider this as an insult and can only invite those to have a look at the map." He added that Union membership is not based on geography, because otherwise North Cyprus would not have joined. source

My comment: Well, I, of course, oppose the idea of Turkey as it is now, to be a member of the EU. It's not about any vendetta, it's a very practical opinion. Turkey has two faces and Europe must be aware of that. From the one side, it's the pro-western Turkey that is secular and no less than any other country in the EU. From the other side, however, are the religious hard-liners and fanatics that has no place in Europe. And guess what- there is no way to get only one of those- you'll let in Europe both. I don't mind any religion, I mind when religion interferes with people's life and with the government. As long as Islam in Turkey isn't under control (I know it sounds bad, but hey, I know Turkish people- I don't have a problem that they won't drink alcohol-but hell I'll mind if they won't look at me because I'm female that like to wear tops and skirts!).

Russia, Ukraine sign gas transit deal

20 January 2009

The European Commission has reacted cautiously to an announcement that Russia and Ukraine have resolved their standoff and will resume gas deliveries to Europe after signing a ten-year gas transit agreement.

Vladimir Putin, Russia's prime minister, and Yulia Tymoshenko, his Ukrainian counterpart, signed the agreement at Putin's government headquarters in Moscow on Monday (19 January).

"As a result of intensive and lengthy talks, we have reached agreement on all issues concerning natural gas supply to Ukraine and its transit to Europe," Putin said, according to the Associated Press.

The deal, which was first announced over the weekend (EurActiv 19/01/09), will see Kiev pay 20% less for Russian gas than the European market price, or around $450 per 1,000 cubic metres, according to Ria Novosty, the official Russian news agency. Meanwhile, Russia said it will continue to pay $1.7 per 1,000 cubic metres for each 100 kilometres of gas transited via the Ukrainian pipeline system.

The EU receives about a quarter of its gas from Russia, 80% of which travels through Ukrainian pipelines. source

My comment: Imagine what "intensive and lengthy talks" Putin and Tymoshenko had, when many analysers claimed the whole thing is a stunt to secure the lady a better position in Ukraina. Oh, well, the theater is useful and sometimes even fun. I'm too pissed on the conclusion of the Czech presidency that the Europe successfully handled the situation. Because we didn't. Bulgaria was gas-less for weeks. And nobody helped. NO ONE!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Environment and energy, 01.2009

Today:
  1. EU to table options for global climate deal
  2. MEPs back limits on industrial pollution
  3. EU urged to reconsider strategic energy goals

EU to table options for global climate deal

26 January 2009

The EU will present proposals on Wednesday (28 January) for an international agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. The bloc is calling for a increase in global investment to 175 billion euro per year by 2020, more than half of which must be spent in developing countries.

In a communication to be published next Wednesday (28 January), the European Commission will outline the bloc's position on a post-Kyoto global climate deal ahead of UN climate talks to take place in Copenhagen in December.

The draft document, obtained by EurActiv, urges rich nations to step up public funding to help developing countries cut their greenhouse gases and prepare for the negative impact of climate change.

Sources close to the file, however, cautioned that the paper is likely to be heavily revised before final approval on Wednesday.

The draft proposes two options to increase public funding, based on the 'polluter pays' principle. The first would require developed nations to pay a set price for every tonne of carbon dioxide emitted – starting with €1 per tonne and rising later to €3 – to reach a total of €28 billion in 2020. The other option, less predictable because it is linked to market fluctuations, would set aside a percentage of emissions traded for the fund.

The EU executive will also urge developed countries to increase emission reduction commitments, opting for a binding agreement which would include all OECD member countries and all present and future EU member states.

According to the Commission, all developing countries except for the poorest ones should commit to adopting low-carbon development strategies by the end of 2011. These should cover all key emitting industries, especially the power and transport sectors. Such "robust low carbon strategies should be a pre-requisite for access to international support on mitigation actions," reads the draft.

Aware of possible abuses of the system, the EU executive is proposing to create an independent body to ensure that the plan's ambitions are sufficient for achieving developing countries' overall emission reduction objectives.

Along the same lines, the EU executive is also backing a proposal from South Korea and South Africa to establish an international registry to record the mitigation actions of developing countries.

As an increasing number of nations set up carbon trading schemes across the world, the Copenhagen agreement should also step up efforts to link these schemes together and create a global carbon market, reads the draft. An OECD-wide carbon market linking comparable cap-and-trade systems could be set up as a first step, it says.

Key to the success of such an initiative is a potential US cap-and-trade system, which is expected to be launched by the end of 2009, according to Barbara Boxer, chair of the US Senate's environment committee.

To facilitate the implementation of a strong system, the Commission draft proposes to put in place an EU-US working group. The EU executive is also proposing to reform the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which allows rich countries to finance projects in developing countries and claim credits under the EU emissions trading scheme. source

My comment: Ok, I obviously didn't read the draft, especially since I'm absolutely sure that it will be published in a very different way, much softened and effectively teethless. In any case, the idea of international emissions market isn't bad, but I'd like to see how they will make it happen and to be impartial. Anyway, let's see what they will publish on 28th.

MEPs back limits on industrial pollution

23 January 2009

The European Parliament's environment committee yesterday (22 January) approved the introduction of EU-wide emission limits to a Commission proposal to revise an EU directive regulating industrial pollution.

Lawmakers in the committee adopted a report on the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive, requiring some 52,000 industrial operators to obtain permits from national authorities to release pollutants into the air, soil or water.

The revised text will be submitted to the EU assembly for final approval in March, but Parliament sources close to the file said it was unlikely that agreement would be reached with the Council before that date, meaning the directive may well require a second-reading vote in the next Parliament.

MEPs called for a more flexible approach to setting limits for pollutants such as SO2, NOx, dust and CO, to which certain types of combustion plant would have to adhere. They said minimum emission limit values, which must not be exceeded, are needed to avoid having to resort to large-scale exemptions.

Such limits would be based on the best techniques available for specific sectors, and should be set by the Commission within a year of the adoption of reference documents describing the best techniques used in the bloc, emission levels and monitoring of soil and groundwater, MEPs said.

The committee also stressed that the best available techniques should be adaptable to local circumstances.

German MEP Holger Krahmer, ALDE rapporteur on the dossier, said the new directive will guarantee that member states can no longer gain competitive advantages at the expense of the environment.

The Parliament also reached agreement with the Commission to bring medium-sized combustion plants within the scope of the rules, but wanted to exclude small installations below 50 MW. source
My comment: Hm... It's funny how good it sounds without actual numbers. And if you forget about the local flexibility that the industry so craved for. Well, nothing new. Until it gets out of the EC-EP cycle, it would probably serve for nothing. Yeah, today I'm little pessimistic, but is this such a surprise? "MEPs called for a more flexible approach to setting limits for pollutants"!!!Seriously, how much more flexible the approach can get? Is this a law or a fairytale. How are we supposed to encourage people to think clean if they can obtain any kind of exemption or flexible decision by our dear law-makers. This is ridiculous!

EU urged to reconsider strategic energy goals

22 January 2009

Lawmakers in the European Parliament have urged the EU to adopt more ambitious long-term energy and climate goals for 2050, citing supply worries in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute and calling for more investment in nuclear power.

The EU's goal of improving energy efficiency by 20% by 2020 should be made legally binding while setting clear objectives for 2050 to secure European energy supply, the Parliament's industry committee stated yesterday (21 January).

EU lawmakers called on member states to agree to cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80%, improve energy efficiency by 35% and bring the share of renewable energies to 60% of the EU's total energy consumption by 2050.

The committee also emphasised the importance of further developing nuclear power, which it said must be used "at the highest technologically possible level of safety". It called on the Commission to draw up a "specific road map for nuclear investments".

Lawmakers urged the Commission to submit a proposal for revising the 2004 Security of Gas Supply Directive by the end of the year, including "mandatory and effective national and EU emergency action plans". They also stressed the need for a pan-European gas grid.

MEPs identified the Baltic Sea Region as a specific area in need of better integration, and called for the development of "gas and electricity interconnections through Central and South Eastern Europe along a north-south axis". They also mentioned the Caspian region, and particularly Uzbekistan and Iran, as a significant supply source for the EU "when political conditions permit".

Developing the Nabucco pipeline was supported by MEPs. source

My comment: Lol! They intend to develop the Baltic Sea region?! I'm sorry who missed the part that Balkan countries and especially Bulgaria was hit the hardest by the crisis! Yeah, I can't stop my bad mood from getting worst. Good example of European solidarity. Isn't it sad that someone who loves the EU as much as I do, have to say this?! It's simply not fair. And also, notice that now they are speaking of a Nuclear road map. Until few years ago, they were considering nuclear reactors to be evil devices. Well, at least, this is a change. From that point of view, I think the gas crisis will have a good outcome. Maybe even for Iran :)
 

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