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Sunday, March 15, 2009

News on energy unbundling in Europe, 02.2009

Today:
  1. Ministers give nod to EU energy security agenda
  2. EU energy market talks edge forward
  3. Electricity operators inaugurate regional cooperation centre

Ministers give nod to EU energy security agenda

20 February 2009

EU energy ministers yesterday (19 February) broadly confirmed the European Commission's draft energy security roadmap, endorsing six priority infrastructure projects, efficiency measures and "indigenous" sources of energy, such as renewables and nuclear, to secure more reliable supplies for the future. However, disagreements remained about the financing of the projects.

The Energy Council broadly endorsed the Commission's proposed Second Strategic Energy Review, reaffirming their support for six infrastructure projects to improve gas and electricity interconnections and promote large-scale offshore wind:

  • A yet-to-be-defined Southern gas corridor;
  • diversying LNG supplies;
  • electricity interconnection with the Baltic region;
  • the Mediterranean Energy Ring;
  • North-South gas and electricity interconnections within Central and South-East Europe, and;
  • the North Sea and North West Offshore Grid.

Ministers also reiterated the need to create an external energy policy, with emphasis on developing cooperation with Russia, countries along the Southern Corridor and the Mediterranean region.

Renewable energies, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and nuclear power were also highlighted as key to providing a more secure energy future.

With an eye on the ongoing credit crunch, the ministers urged the Commission to prepare a Sustainable Energy Financing Initiative in cooperation with the European Investment Bank (EIB) to "mobilise large-scale funding from capital markets for investments" in energy efficiency measures and clean energies.

Ministers held a discussion over lunch about the allocation of €3.75 billion of unspent EU money to electricity and gas interconnections, offshore wind and carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects (EurActiv 29/01/09).

The Commission modified its proposals on the eve of the ministerial meeting in response to criticism from several member states regarding the sums they were offered under the plan. The revised proposal shifs money away from coal-based energy production by downgrading the support foreseen for CCS projects from €250 to €200 million. The Nabucco pipeline project also saw its funding lowered from €250 to €200 million.

Germany, the Netherlands and the UK appeared to lose out most in the Commission's modified plan, government sources told EurActiv. France, Italy and Belgium, on the other hand, emerged as winners.

Mauri Pekkarinen, Finnish minister of economic affairs, said there was "reasonable agreement" over the projects, but many countries questioned the decision to leave out energy-efficiency funding. The absence of money for bioenergy was also noted by a minority, including France, Finland and Portugal. source

My comment: Could you guess that France and Italy would be the winners? Well, I could. It's not so bad, considering that they are giving the most money for the EU. Anyway, I'm glad to hear that CCS and Nabucco got less funding, because they are simply non-essential projects. Interesting, they don't mention the other arguable question, like the gas interconnection and so on. I think it's most important to create a pan-European electricity and gas-network. The better connected we are, the less likely that Russia or anyone else will use electricity or gas as a weapon.

EU energy market talks edge forward

19 February 2009

Deadlocked talks between the EU institutions on the third energy market liberalisation package took a step forward yesterday (18 February), as the Czech EU Presidency tabled amendments to the Council's position on ownership unbundling.

MEPs involved in the different proposals under discussion told journalists today (19 February) that the atmosphere was "constructive", in marked contrast to previous meetings.

Morgan said MEPs are worried that the amendments represent a Czech government position rather than the views of the Council as a whole. "We expect the Council to back up the efforts of the presidency," she said.

Nevertheless, Czech Presidency sources said the proposed changes are only minor as a "substantial change" would be rejected by the member states.

Separation of energy companies' generation and transmission assets ('ownership unbundling') remains the biggest stumbling block, with the Parliament insisting on full unbundling for electricity and a third option, involving a strong independent transmission operator, for gas. But the Council, under pressure from France, maintains that the third option should apply to both gas and electricity.

The Council originally suggested that directors should have a six-month break when moving from one part of a vertically-integrated company to another, and that top managers should have a break of around three years. But Morgan said the Council is now willing to be flexible.

Bulgarian Socialist MEP Atanas Paparizov, the Parliament's rapporteur on conditions for access to the natural gas transmission network, expressed optimism that the Council's position on a ten-year investment plan would change. The Parliament wants to make the plan obligatory, while the Council and the Commission are both in favour of a voluntary plan. source

My comment: Note how France presses for the third option on electricity. Why? Because France exports electricity. I think this is a good moment to see the strength of the Union. Because obviously, France is a big and powerful country willing to lead the others. However now the Union has 26 other members. And they could give a good opposition to France if they want to. Of course, they don't want to, but it's not that point. The point is that the more members there are, the better the balance would be between them. I hope the manage to get those Transmission operators for both things, with the hope that this will lead to paneuropean electricity and gas grids. We need them too badly. As for the top-managers, I hope the council stay firm on that, because in the USA, this is one of the top reasons for corruption-managers and presidents jumping back and forth. And we don't want that here!

Electricity operators inaugurate regional cooperation centre

19 February 2009

The first regional centre for technical cooperation between several electricity transmission system operators (TSOs) was inaugurated yesterday (18 February) in Brussels, after starting operations on 16 February.

French and Belgian TSOs RTE and Elia established a company, Coordination of Electricity System Operators (Coreso). to provide grid forecasts and support real-time monitoring of electricity flows on the grids of the Central Western European region. During its first phase, the centre will provide national control centres with integrated forecasts every afternoon for the next day, but from July onwards, it will operate around the clock with constant monitoring. The operators emphasised that it is the first technical centre to be operated by multiple TSOs.

The objective is to enhance the security of European grids, minimising blackouts caused by disruptions in certain sections of national grids. The founding TSOs have idenfied Coreso's regional reach as its added value, allowing information sharing and harmonisation of procedures via close cooperation.

The ultimate aim is to minimise blackouts by detecting grid hotspots, maintaining short-term equilibrium. Coreso can propose measures to optimise grid security, but national operators retain the right to make final decisions.

RTE and Elia are inviting other TSOs in the region to join, but the ultimate aim is to move into a "new phase in the integration of European markets," strengthening cooperation between different electricity regions. To this end, the National Grid, a British TSO, is expected to join Coreso in a matter of weeks, and Germany's Vattenfall has expressed interest in becoming a minor participant.

Coreso will not only facilitate market coupling, but also help achieve the greater penetration of renewable energies foreseen across Europe.

Cooperation between electricity system operators is increasing in Europe as the EU negotiates its Third Energy Liberalisation Package, which aims to fully open the bloc's electricity and gas markets. source

My comment: Nice! And I mean it. This is simply adorable piece of technology and it's nice to see national companies cooperating into it. And in the end, this will benefit citizens the most, because it will make sure they will always be electrified. Very very nice! (As for the renewables, I absolutely agree such monitoring stations are essential for the volatility of the energy renewable provide-imagine that there are very strong winds in Norway-having this station, you can reroute the generated electricity in Germany or even Bulgaria chosing the best routes and this way guaranteeing the safety of the grid and optimal use of the resources.Check here for a review about Romania's plans: (Romania)

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