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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

European Industry in June, 2009-or how much is enough for oil companies?

I must apologise for the late post, but something appears to be wrong with bloggers dates. This was scheduled for 23th!
Today:
  1. Power sector calls for smart grid support
  2. Industry calls for funding to cut CO2 emissions
  3. Commission faces revolt over 'carbon leakage' plans
  4. EU unveils €246m 'innovative medicines' scheme
  5. EU nations scrambling to support small firms during crisis
Quote of the day:"I disagree this is just a PR, I think they are genuinely worried about their investments. Or, wait, I should have said the climate. Well, I'm absolutely sure they don't give a damn about climate change. After all, whatever happen, as long as their is a civilisation, people will require oil for fuel and for production."

Power sector calls for smart grid support

20 May 2009

Europe's electricity industry yesterday (19 May) called on regulators to increase their incentive to develop and commercialise smart grid technologies.

National energy regulators must offer distribution system operators "an appropriate return" on their investments in R&D and the deployment of smart grids, electricity industry association Eurelectric told a conference yesterday.

As most European electricity networks are regulated monopolies, incentives will be crucial to develop the technology required to achieve the EU's climate goals, it said.

Smart grids introduce information technology to electricity transportation, allowing energy to flow in two directions. This gives them a superior capacity to integrate both small and large-scale renewable energy into the grid. It allows households to produce their own renewable energy and sell it back to the grid.

The industry said the EU's commitments to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% and produce 20% of total energy from renewable energy sources by 2020 would prove challenging for the electricity grid, requiring as much as 35% of electricity to come from renewables. Moreover, it expects the introduction of electric cars to put the grid under further pressure in future.

The electricity industry eyes smart grids as a solution, but is worried that it will end up being solely responsible for funding large-scale commercialisation of the technology.

Manuel Sánchez Jimenéz, a senior official at the Commisison's information society department, argued that initial investment had so far presented an obstacle to commercial deployment of the technology. Technically, it would be possible to roll out smart grids within a decade, but uncertain returns on investment and a lack of standardisation are hindering development.

At least 80% of consumers should be equipped with intelligent metering systems by 2020.source

My comment: I think I recently blogged about the smart grid introduction in UK. I think this is a great idea and that the only way for the electricity companies to do it is the government to require it. Because let's be realistic, those companies have no interest in users controlling better their consumption. The more we use, the more we pay, the richer they become. Then it's obvious they won't simply introduce those smart meters in our homes. So, let's say, I could understand some government funding of the installation of smart meters. Hell, i'd pay for my own, if it respects my privacy and helps me regulate my use .But the smart grids from the other side are totally different animal-this is a grid system that allows user to produce electricity and sell it back to companies. And also, it's crucial for big renewable projects, which rely heavily on immediate consumption. So should the government fund these grids? I think not. Because after all, home producers will be a very small part of the over-all production, the big share is for other energy companies, with big renewable projects. And since this is a market issue, then the business should pay for it. All the governments must do is to consider the lack of smart grid as monopolising the market-after all without those grids, the renewable companies will be killed. And then to enforce the new regulation.

Industry calls for funding to cut CO2 emissions

26 May 2009

More than 500 industry leaders gathering in Copenhagen this week are calling on heads of state and government to strike a strong deal to reduce carbon emissions, stressing that long-term policy clarity is required as well as financial backing.

Business leaders are reportedly working on a draft statement that would call for emissions to be cut by at least 50% by 2050, an ambitious target which has also been endorsed by the United Nations.

In a speech to business leaders, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said that only a few businesses had made climate change a priority, with most adopting a wait-and-see approach and others defending "the old order". "For those who are directly or implicitly lobbying against climate action, I have a clear message: Your ideas are out-of-date and you are running out of time," he told delegates.

"This is not about capability, it's about cost," said Tony Hayward, chief executive of British oil company BP.

BP has a joint venture with mining company Rio Tinto to split fossil fuels into hydrogen and carbon dioxide, bury the latter and sell the hydrogen as a clean fuel to utilities - but says it needs public funding support.

Climate bonds, carbon markets and renewable energy subsidies were ideas put forward in Copenhagen by heads of companies such as PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and investors Vantage Point Venture Partners as ways of promoting cuts in carbon emissions.

Royal Dutch Shell, another oil major, said in March that it would scale back investments in solar and wind power because they could not compete with fossil fuels - and announced that it would increase oil output by two to three percent annually over the next four years.

Some doubted the sincerity of large western companies which say they want to fight climate change.source

My comment:Oy oy. Or in Bulgarian style-oh! I disagree this is just a PR, I think they are genuinely worried about their investments. Or, wait, I should have said the climate. Well, I'm absolutely sure they don't give a damn about climate change. After all, whatever happen, as long as their is a civilisation, people will require oil for fuel and for production. So, they're safe. What they are worried however is that people are slowly changing-from consumers to savers. And that's bad for the business. Even more, people will require fossil fuels to become clean. Thus, they have to figure a way how to do it, because other way, they'll have a major problem. And thus, they invest in CCS. Not only the invest, they secure BILLIONS from the European taxpayers money to go for CCS. I'm not sure how much those companies have invested in CCS, but I have the bad feeling that it's the EU that will fund the major part of this absurd research. And that doesn't seem to me extremely fair. Those money should have went to renewables-a clean source of energy, still new to the market, that definitely needs both financial and regulative support. But not this time. And now the same companies require even more money? I'm sorry, but I can't wait to see how the EC will sell this idea to the population. Because people are not that stupid that they seem, and the rise of the Green in France is a good proof.

Commission faces revolt over 'carbon leakage' plans

26 May 2009

European big business and environmental NGOs have disputed the data used by the European Commission to assess whether polluting industries are likely to suffer from foreign competition as a result of Europe's climate change legislation.

As part of the revision of the EU's emissions trading scheme (EU ETS), the Commission was required to compile a list of sectors and sub-sectors that are deemed to be at risk of carbon leakage, that is, relocation to third countries without any carbon constraints. These sectors will continue to receive their emissions allowances for free in the post-Kyoto Protocol period until 2020, up to a benchmark of the best-performing 10%.

The EU executive presented the preliminary results of its exercise at a stakeholder meeting on 29 April, confirming that the lists would be made available for comment in June.

The chemicals industry has expressed its discontent with the preliminary tables. Many sub-sectors fulfilled the Commission's key criteria for qualifying as exposed to carbon leakage, namely exposure to international trade and major cost increases as a result of the EU ETS. Nevertheless, the industry said incomplete assessments had left some vulnerable sub-sectors subject to auctioning.

Cefic, which represents the European chemicals industry, argued that a more sophisticated method was needed to judge the level of exposure of chemicals firms, which have many users further down the production chain.

According to Cefic, the Commission's assessment has not given enough consideration to the higher electricity prices that are passed through to industrial customers as a result of the EU ETS. The trade association thus urged the EU executive to ensure that the measures do not hinder their activities.

Green groups, on the other hand, say the number of sectors exempted from carbon trading will be too high under the Commission's assessment. They argued that half of the sectors are deemed to be exposed to carbon leakage, covering as much as 90% of industrial emissions.

WWF criticised the Commission for failing to run a proper scientific exercise and bowing to big business by excluding most of the sectors from carbon obligations due to their trading intensity. The NGO said that in many cases, the data does not reflect reality.

In the case of cement, the second-largest sector in the ETS, WWF pointed out that the percentage of international trade is in fact very small. Instead of looking at the price increase, the Commission should look at the structure of the market. Indeed, regional markets, usually composed of few new entrants, can easily pass the CO2 price on to customers, the NGO argued.

Some observers have also raised suspicions that the Commission's methodology, based on 100% auctioning, is in breach of the revised ETS Directive, as full auctioning only applies to the power sector. Industrial installations will still get 80% of their allocations for free in 2013, being being gradually reduced to 30% by 2020.

The Commission, however, aims to adopt the list by the end of the year, without considering the outcome of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, which will seek to reach agreement on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol in December.

In the meantime, the cement industry is united in calling for a sectoral approach to emissions reduction in the post-2012 climate treaty.

The sectoral approach would nevertheless provide an incentive to slash emissions by substituting clinker with fly ash, which is a bi-product of steel production. Environmentalists are concerned that the way emissions allowances will be handed over to the big polluting sectors will overshadow all efforts to move to low-carbon alternatives. source

My comment: Not much to say here. I have said it like thousand of time-carbon leakage is a total nonsense. There are very few businesses that will really leak, for the others the cost for relocation will be too big. So, they will stay, pass the expense on the consumers and those that survive, will be fine after 5-10 years. It's a cost we all would pay. Otherwise what's this story about Green Europe-the dirtiest productions will stay and continue to be dirty. What's the point then?

EU unveils €246m 'innovative medicines' scheme

19 May 2009

The pharmaceutical industry and the European Commission have forged a multimillion-euro collaboration aimed at developing new medicines and bringing them to market more quickly.

15 major research projects have been chosen under the Innovative Medicines Initiative, a public-private partnership which is designed to boost Europe's biopharmaceutical industry.

The European Commission will contribute €110 million under the deal, while the European pharmaceutical industry (EFPIA) is providing €136 million of in-kind funding.

Major pharmaceutical companies within the association will fully fund their own participation by providing R&D resources including staff, laboratory facilities, materials and clinical research. European Community funds will be allocated exclusively to other participants including SMEs, patient groups and academic researchers.

The projects covered by the initiative will foster understanding of health issues such as diabetes, pain, severe asthma and psychiatric disorders, while increasing drug safety.

The EU executive said the projects will address delays in bringing new medicines to market in Europe. Enhanced data exchange between researchers and better education and training in the pharmaceutical sector are also a central part of the plan. source

My comment: Good news, I guess. I wait to see when they will focus on health for a change. But that's a good initiative, in any case. It might not make us healthier, but at least, it will make us less sick. And we must become competitive in our knowledge with USA. And the money are not so much, anyway.

EU nations scrambling to support small firms during crisis

14 May 2009

Faced with reluctant credit markets, late-paying clients and sagging consumer confidence, businesses are looking to governments to help them through turbulent times. EurActiv's media network takes a look at the situation in key countries across Europe.

The European institutions and national leaders have taken extraordinary measures to prop up domestic industries given the unprecedented nature of the current economic recession.

To help provide lines of credit to small companies, the European Investment Bank has made €30 billion available over the next three years EIB (EurActiv 13/02/09).

This complements efforts by the European Commission to redraft the Late Payments Directive (EurActiv 09/04/09).

Businesses are suffering serious cashflow problems due to the estimated €270 billion in unpaid invoices (EurActiv 12/05/09).

However, it is at a national level that the real activity has taken place. Governments have become lenders of last resort. Some have cut employment taxes to boost jobs, while others have cut VAT to encourage retail sales. Still more have sought to stimulate demand by embarking on publicly-funded building programmes.

Positions:

Germany

Of the total €115 billion envisaged in Germany's January 2009 recovery plan, 15 billion were reserved for SMEs. But the largest slice of the cake - €75bn - went to large companies, including the much-debated auto bailout plan (EurActiv 04/02/09), bank subsidies and nationalisations.

The package included a scheme aimed at easing credit access for SMEs and a special fund for start-ups. The sums are managed by the state-owned development bank KfW (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau).

So far, only about €2 billion worth of loans have been successfully granted, or under five percent of the €15-billion funding scheme for SMEs, according to the FTD.

France

The French government launched a detailed plan in October 2008 which includes €22 billion for SMEs. €17 billion of this has been funnelled through banks, which have signed a deal with the government agreeing to use the funds to finance SMEs. Banks will have to produce monthly reports to demonstrate that they have fulfilled their obligations.

A further €5 billion has been earmarked for the OSEO – a state body charged with boosting innovation and SME development – which will use the money to guarantee funding from banks and equity capital investors. The OSEO has received requests for assistance from 5,500 SMEs in the past five months and has granted loans to the tune of €450 million.

In addition, the French government has decided to abolish a 'minimum annual tax' for SMEs with a turnover of less than €1.5 million by the end of 2011, and will waive business tax on equipment and property purachased before 31 December 2009.

United Kingdom

Stimulus plans for the economy in the UK centre on cutting business 'rates', a form of local taxation. A number of schemes have been rolled out across the UK's regions, with devolved governments in Scotland and Northern Ireland announcing measures to cut rates for some SMEs.

The government has reduced the rate of VAT from 17.5 percent to 15 percent in an effort to stimulate business activity and consumer confidence.

A new £1.3 billion 'Enterprise Finance Guarantee' has also been announced, which will support bank loans of between £1,000 and £1 million up to 31 March 2010. The guarantee can be used to support new loans, to refinance existing loans where the loan is at risk due to deteriorating quality of security, or to convert an existing overdraft into a loan to release capacity to meet working capital requirements.

Italy

In April, the Italian government has approved plan to increase the Fondo di Garanzia's (a warranty fund for grants) budget from €500,000 to €1.5 million.

The decision is part of an 'emergency decree' aimed at helping enterprises avoid bankruptcy. Measures designed to streamline VAT payments and tackle late payments are also in the pipeline.

Evidence is emerging in Italy which shows businesses led by women are faring better during the crisis than companies run by men. An Italian study published in March shows that a higher number of male managers closed their business compared to their female colleagues.

Ireland

Irish exporters are facing a combination of challenges, as the impact of the global credit crunch is compounded by the reduced value of the British pound. The UK remains the largest export market for Irish SMEs.

The Irish government put together an emergency budget last month where it announced a €100 million Enterprise Stabilisation Fund, which will make up to €500,000 available to help viable firms combat the financial crisis.

The government has already guaranteed deposits in Irish banks and established a so-called "bad bank" to buy toxic assets from financial institutions in order to get credit flowing to businesses and consumers.

Czech Republic

The Czech government is focusing its efforts on improving the business environment, rather than targeting particular types of company or individual industries. The government has already abolished regulations which required tradesmen to pay some taxes in advance.

To get credit flowing to exporting companies, loans are being made available through commercial banks and the Czech Export Bank. The government is also making it easier for SMEs to access EU funds.

Romania

The Romanian government has published a three-year macro-economic plan to tackle the crisis, which includes settling central and local government debts to private companies. It has also announced plans to recapitalise the state-owned banks CEC and EximBank as part of its efforts to boost credit activity.

Unemployment assistance has been extended by three months and health contributions by employers have been suspended. Employees in 'technical unemployment', such as those working part-time due to production suspensions by some factories, can earn 75% of their wage tax-free for a maximum of three months.

SME groups were up in arms last month following the introduction of a tax for all small firms.

Slovakia

In Slovakia, €33 million has been provided to increase the basic capital of the Slovak Guarantee and Development Bank (Slovenská Záručná a Rozvojová banka - SZRB), which provides specialist support for SMEs.

A further €11.5 million has been made available to Eximbank, which is extending loans to exporting SMEs, and €5 million has been earmarked to support between 500 and 750 entrepreneurs through a 'micro loan' programme.

Relaxed state aid rules have enabled the Slovak authorities to channel more resources to SMEs from European structural funds. The government is seeking to link its support to energy-efficient innovations and technology transfer, and has begun to establish clusters of SMEs which can access major European funding programmes.

As part of a plan to cut red tape – which was already well underway before the crisis began – Slovakia is exempting microenterprises from accounting requirements in cases where entrepreneurs do not have any direct employees and have a turnover of no more than €170,000. source

My comment: Ok, this is quite long and I won't comment it. It's just for your information. I'm not an economist and so I will refrain from giving ideas how to save the business.

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