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Friday, June 12, 2009

Energy in May-smart meters in UK and new agency in sight, 2009

Today:
  1. Russia’s Nord Stream pipeline project 'on track'
  2. IEA predicts surge in energy use by electronic 'gadgets'
  3. Smart meters in all UK homes by 2020
  4. EU 'silk road' summit explores gas synergies
  5. Eastern states jostle to host EU energy agency
Quote of the day:...that would work only in the case we have an amazing internal gas and electricity grid that could reroute powers to wherever needed. Otherwise, it's again the big guys securing their markets and the little guys walking on the edge of international politics.

Russia’s Nord Stream pipeline project 'on track'

14 May 2009

The construction phase for the project, which is designed to bring Russian gas directly to Germany via the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine, is due to start in April 2010, EurActiv has learned.

Paul Corcoran, the Nord Stream consortium's financial director, told EurActiv that he expected the necessary environmental permits to be delivered in December 2009.

The project finance will be put in place in the third quarter of this year, allowing construction to begin in the spring of 2010 as planned, he said.

The official insisted that there was a solid base for securing financing.

"The shareholders agreement for Nord Stream had a clear view on how the project should be financed. Thirty percent would be financed by shareholders' equity - that was received upfront - and the consortium holds 1.5 billion euros of shareholders' funds," he explained. "Seventy percent of the investment cost will be covered by external financing, and that would come through project financing."

Corcoran said he was confident that the shareholder equity and a 22-year ship-or-pay contract with Gazprom represented a "good financing proposition" for commercial banks interested in financing the projects. Completion risk will be taken by the shareholders, he added, which should also be attractive for banks.

He admitted, however, that lenders will want to see solid environmental credentials and final technical specifications before pouring money into the project. As soon as the transport route, technical design and environmental impact studies are finalised, the consortium will approach the lending market, he said. source

My comment: I can't say I dislike the North Stream project. It's a good way to add diversification to the routes. And with good internal infrastructure, it might be essential in future gas crises. If we suppose that Germany would share that gas in such situations. Which I find somewhat dubious. But let's say it's just my pessimism. In any case, if all the new routes get finished in 2012 I think Europe will be much more energy-secured, even if only with one provider. But again, that would work only in the case we have an amazing internal gas and electricity grid that could reroute powers to wherever needed. Otherwise, it's again the big guys securing their markets and the little guys walking on the edge of international politics.

IEA predicts surge in energy use by electronic 'gadgets'

14 May 2009

Measures to reduce the energy consumption of mobile phones, computers, TVs and other electronic devices are failing to keep up with soaring global demand for new appliances, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report yesterday (13 May).

If left unchecked, the IEA predicts energy use by new electronic gadgets will triple by 2030, jeopardising efforts to improve energy security and keep emissions of global warming gases under control.

"Despite anticipated improvements in the efficiency of electronic devices, these savings are likely to be overshadowed by the rising demand for technology," said IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka.

Electronic devices currently account for 15% of household electricity consumption, but their share is rising rapidly, mainly due to growing demand in Africa and the developing world. There are already nearly two billion television sets in use, the Paris-based agency noted, and over half the world's population already subscribe to a mobile phone service.

Over the next seven months, the number of people using a personal computer will surpass the one billion mark, according to the IEA report, 'Gadgets and Gigawatts'.

The rise in demand is expected to bring energy consumption up to 1,700 TWh by 2030, "the equivalent to the current combined total residential electricity consumption of the United States and Japan," said Mr. Tanaka. "It would also cost households around the world $200 billion in electricity bills and require the addition of approximately 280 Gigawatts (GW) of new generating capacity between now and 2030."

On the positive side, the IEA said energy-saving opportunities were considerable, noting that consumption from consumer electronics could be cut by more than half with available technologies.

To deliver these savings, strong public policies are needed, the IEA stressed. "The largest improvement opportunity must come from making hardware and software work together more effectively to ensure that energy is only used when and to the extent needed," the agency said. source

My comment: Yeah, what a problem that there is a rise in the electricity demand in Africa! Are you crazy? This is actually a good sign-that more people have access to technologies. And I must say, I don't believe there is a limit in the cheap electricity we can produce-there are so many sources available. The key moment is to deliver the electricity cheaply, which might be hard for current monopolies who'll have to eventually invest something if they want to keep up with progress. And the other key moment is efficiency. There are so many ways to cut use without affecting the quality of life, it's a shame we don't use them. (I mean why on Earth would someone wants to keep the room-temperature to 30C, when outside is -20C? Is this a need or a caprice?)

Smart meters in all UK homes by 2020

12 May 2009

The UK government yesterday (11 May) announced the world's largest roll-out of smart electricity and gas meters to help households to get on top of their energy consumption.

The government's plans oblige the country's 26 million homes and millions of businesses in the country to have high technology meters installed by 2020. The technology enables remote meter readings and comes with display devices that give customers accurate, real-time information on their energy consumption.

"Smart meters will empower all consumers to monitor their own energy use and make reductions in energy consumption and carbon emissions as a result. Smart meters will also mean the end of inaccurate bills and estimated meter readings," said Ed Miliband, the UK's energy and climate change secretary.

The government estimates that the economic savings of the scheme will be between £2.5 billion and £3.6 billion over the next twenty years.

The plans are part of a revamp of Britain's climate strategy. Last month, the country became the first to commit to a binding framework for greenhouse gas emission reductions, committing to cut their CO2 emissions by 34% by 2020.

Yesterday's announcement included the launch of a public consultation on how to install and manage the meters. The government would prefer energy suppliers to install and operate the devices and a third party to coordinate all communications to and from them, it said.

Two other models under discussion would either trust all aspects of smart metering to suppliers, or set up regional franchises to manage installation and operation, with communications managed on a national level.

The European Parliament last month called for smart meters to be installed by default in all new buildings, as well as when renovating older ones (EurActiv 24/04/09).

The new metering devices are a prerequisite for so-called 'smart grids', which not only supply buildings with energy, but also enable them to sell back to the grid electricity generated on-site through solar panels, for example. source

My comment: That's absolutely awesome. I only have a little question-what information would these meters give to the companies themselves. I don't mind distant-reading, it really saves time. But I mind if the company would know my consumption at every moment-that's invasion in my privacy. And they do not need that information!

EU 'silk road' summit explores gas synergies

11 May 2009

The European Union moved to curb its heavy dependence on Russian gas on 8 May by signing an agreement to smoothe the way for more gas imports from the Caspian region.

In return for their commitment to supply gas to Europe, the EU offered to provide more trade and stronger transport links to gas producers and transit countries such as Turkey and Azerbaijan, which form a so-called 'southern corridor'.

The deal, signed in Prague by leaders from Europe, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia, envisions the creation of a central EU gas-buying consortium and new terms for the transport of Caspian gas.

The declaration commits the EU, as a consumer, to providing producer countries with reliable commitments on aggregate demand. It commits producer countries to identifying specific additional volumes of gas and oil that have not already been commercially committed, and which can be dedicated specifically to the EU. And it explicitly recognises the need for commitments by transit countries for a long-term, predictable and stable regulatory regime.

But on the negative side, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan refused to sign the declaration.

Topolánek said the EU should concentrate its efforts on a single project, such as the construction of the proposed 3,300 km (2,000 mile) Nabucco pipeline, if its gas plan was to gain momentum.

The $10 billion Nabucco project envisages pumping Caspian gas via Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary to Austria, but it has only secured a fifth of the gas it needs to be viable. Its main source of gas from Azerbaijan may be delayed until 2016.

Leaders at the summit also agreed that EU countries and Turkey would sign an intergovernmental deal on conditions for putting gas through Nabucco by the end of June -- a move that would remove one of the main uncertainties for potential investors.

The summit agreement called for progress on a Caspian Development Corporation to act as a central EU gas-buyer - a move aimed at ending the bloc's long-running problems with securing deals in the region.

European Investment Bank President Philippe Maystadt said the bank had held funding talks with the consortium behind Nabucco and those behind two other proposed pipelines to bring Caspian gas to Europe - the TAP pipeline into Hungary and ITGI pipe into Italy.

Maystadt said while the three projects were all focused on carrying gas from Azerbaijan, there was not enough Azeri gas to go around and some would need to find alternative sources.

"Other projects that came later would need to get gas from Turkmenistan, which would imply the creation of a link through the Caspian Sea." source

My comment:I wonder what's with Czechs so desperately supporting Nabucco. It's odd. Or not too old-after all, they are kind of US pets. But still, they should have done it in a more delicate way-they can't simply stand up and say-we have to focus on Nabucco-a project that still in its idea stage. What a shame. I think what we really have to focus is the smart electricity grids and the pan-European grid. Then we can talk about Nabucco.

Eastern states jostle to host EU energy agency

3 June 2009

Romania launched a campaign yesterday (2 June) to host the future European agency for the cooperation of energy regulators (ACER), entering a competition with existing rival bids by Slovenia and Slovakia.

Adrian Videanu, Romania's economy minister, officially launched his country's bid to host the European agency at a public event in Brussels.

The agency's establishment is part of the European Commission's ambition to further liberalise EU energy markets and streamline cross-border cooperation for gas and electricity transmission between member states.

The minister underlined what he presented as the many advantages of the Romanian offer, including a five-year rent-free period.

Slovenia and Slovakia had already presented their bids, which included two-year rent-free periods.

To further sweeten its bid, Romania also offered diplomatic immunity to all ACER staff, including VAT exemptions for goods and services, while Ljubljana and Bratislava provided for similar privileges only for its high management.

A decision on where to host the agency could be taken as early as 18-19 June, when EU leaders will meet in Brussels to decide on the next Commission president after the European elections.

Bucharest has various other attractions, the minister added, including a "vibrant nightlife", "tasty food" and "excellent wines".

He said Romania could also build on its geographical position at the EU's eastern border by promoting European initiatives in the neighbourhood.

But the geographical argument has also been used by Slovenia.

As for Slovakia, the country is hoping to benefit from its well-developed power sector.source

My comment: Yup, that's precisely what we all need, one more useless agency that will enjoy vibrant nightlife and tasty food. Seriously, anyone feel ridiculed by this article? Anyway, I don't care who'll take the host, obviously, Bulgaria didn't see it necessary to make a bid. So, good luck to all of them and I certainly do hope that ACER's staff will find some time to work in their tight schedule of wine, food and clubs.

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