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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.

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