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Monday, March 1, 2010

Climate and energy in EU, 03, 2010 - CCS do it again

  1. Carbon capture to win EU funding before renewables
  2. Commission to tackle 'chemical cocktails'
  3. EU urged to prioritise tackling energy poverty
  4. France plans transitional CO2 tax for big emitters
  5. Germany, France cut support for solar power
Greens embrace enzymes in climate change fight
UN climate panel admits Dutch sea level flaw - they said 55% is below sea level, when only 26% actually was, the rest was susceptible to river floods.

Quote of the day: "According to the report, scientific research demonstrates that the effects of a mixture are considerably more pronounced than the effects of each of its individual components, and that "environmental pollution results from chemical mixtures," not individual chemicals. "

Carbon capture to win EU funding before renewables

18 December 2009

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects will likely be first to benefit from funding out of the EU emissions trading scheme (EU ETS), with support for renewables to follow later, a draft European Commission proposal suggests.

The draft text, sent to member states last week, sets out the rules on allocating the 300 million allowances that were set aside from the 'new entrants reserve' of the EU ETS to CCS and renewable projects.

At a carbon price of €20 a tonne, the revenue would amount to about €6 billion, the EU executive estimates.

The draft proposes to award the allowances through two rounds of calls for proposals. This would "allow, on the one hand, for mature projects to receive financing already in the first round, and on the other hand, to provide for a possibility to adjust any technical or geographical imbalance in the second round," the text reads.

The Commission seems to take "mature projects" to mean CCS at this point. Its impact assessment accompanying the draft decision argues that in the case of renewables, it would be "preferable" to wait until the second call to allow for a "maximum number of technologies to come to maturity".

The EU executive refers to comments by several member states that the funds for the second round should be substantial in order to stretch to funding technologies, particularly renewables, which will not be in a position to take advantage of the first call.

However, the draft stresses that there should be a balance between CCS and renewable energy projects. It lists the technologies eligible to receive funding for at least one project in order to ensure that only technologies that are not yet commercially viable but ready for large-scale demonstration qualify.

Germany has been advocating opening up all renewable categories to proposals, instead of limiting the projects to a closed list of technologies.

To ensure even geographical coverage, the Commission chose an approach whereby each member state is allowed to host a maximum of two projects. The draft states that the second round of proposals can be used to adjust any technical or geographical imbalances.

The draft text requires member states to co-finance the projects by matching the EU ETS investment.

Countries will send their proposals to the European Investment Bank (EIB), which assesses the financial and technical viability of the projects before making recommendations to the Commission.

The European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) argued that the European renewable energy industry is already ready to submit high-quality projects for the first call, and expects to receive funding for them.


My comment: It's not exactly a surprise that CCS are considered for the first call, but still it leaves a bitter taste reading this. I don't understand how policy-makers have no even a trace of decency in their proposals. Because it's already clear for everyone that CCS isn't a green project. It's basically a project to take home the money the country produced. But not back to the taxpayers, back to the corporations that will "develop" CCS. And everytime I see this, I will ask, why the taxpayers should help companies develop CCS and then be charged a green tax, because of the use of the new technology. Because it's pretty clear that will happen when CCS get developed. And all those cute drafts that favor CCS most than anything else, do not mention this little detail. Of course, it must be clear to us, that the EU with its absurd lack of political will cannot count on anything else to decrease the emissions and bring us back into the game, but on CCS, but why this is not well regulated? I don't quite mind giving my money to any project that has scientific value and CCS has (if it's done properly and not just superficially). But i want to be sure that my money will be returned to me in the form of better or cheaper services. So far nothing guarantee this to me. The only guarantees go to the oil companies that will benefit from my money for something they should have funded themselves. Not very fair, right?

Commission to tackle 'chemical cocktails'

5 January 2010

EU environment ministers have asked the European Commission to assess the need for EU legislative action to protect human and animal health from exposure to multiple chemicals.

In their last meeting in 2009, EU-27 environment ministers adopted conclusions on the combined effects of chemicals.

Ministers said that assessments for individual chemicals are not sufficient to evaluate risks and asked the Commission to adapt EU legislation to take into account so-called 'chemical cocktails'.

Under REACH, the EU's chemicals legislation, risk assessments are made on a chemical-by-chemical basis and not much consideration is given to the harmful combined effects of chemicals.

However, this "deficiency" is mainly due to the fact "there has been insufficient knowledge of the matter to date – a situation which is now changing," said Ulf Björnholm Ottosson, environment counsellor at the Swedish Representation to the EU.

EU-27 environment ministers highlighted the results of a recent Danish study, which measured the substances to which two-year-old children were exposed via food, water, air and objects in the home. The results show "serious combined effects that can cause as much harm as too high a dose of one chemical," Ottosson said, stressing the need for more research on the matter and possible adjustments to current legislation.

Ministers were particularly concerned about the combined effects of endocrine disrupters . Endocrine disrupters are substances suspected of interfering with human and wildlife hormone systems and which can influence the development of the brain and reproductive organs, for example.

The Commission is set to finalise a study that scientifically assesses the risks related to exposure to multiple chemicals. It is also expected to recommend, in 2010, how exposure to combinations of endocrine disruptors should be dealt with in existing legislation. source

My comment: More recent report - here:

"There is sufficient know-how to assess risks to human health and the environment resulting from combined exposure to multiple chemicals, a European Commission report argues.

According to the report, scientific research demonstrates that the effects of a mixture are considerably more pronounced than the effects of each of its individual components, and that "environmental pollution results from chemical mixtures," not individual chemicals.

As there is currently no guidance available for assessing chemical mixtures, the study concludes that EU guidelines on the matter would prove "extremely helpful"."source

As we see, this is an absolutely critical issue which the Commission should deal with as soon as possible. I disagree that it's not possible to know how the substances react with each other - they don't do it at random, after all, it's guided by physical principles. And this will make a quite cool project to fund - to make a theoretical model under which one could asses risks of accumulation and reaction of chemical cocktails. After all, USA and Russia developed codes tracking shockwaves and radiation pollution for a decade or something during the Cold War. Now computers are I don't know how many more times quicker and better. It is doable at least to some preliminary level - we don't need to know all, we need to be able to spot risks for human health. It shouldn't be that hard. I hope someone thinks like me, because the EU and human kind needs it badly. It's absurd how much poisons we get into our bodies.

EU urged to prioritise tackling energy poverty

6 January 2010

To help households struggling to pay their energy bills, a group of NGOs has urged the EU to create strategies to combat fuel poverty in its energy legislation by improving efficiency and building social support structures.

The European arm of the International Network for Sustainable Energy (INFORSE-Europe) published a list of recommendations in late December to address fuel poverty, as more and more households struggle to heat their homes during the winter months. Difficulties in affording basic energy services - which arise from poverty and poor housing - are exacerbated by rising energy prices, calling for energy-related solutions, it said.

The NGOs claimed that energy poverty is triggered when a household's energy costs are greater than 10% of its disposable income. This is the definition used in the UK, where fuel poverty is considered to be a significant social issue, but not every European country uses a clear definition.

As the problem is common to many European countries, with the worst symptoms seen in new member states in Central Europe, it should be made an EU priority, the NGOs argued.

Vulnerable households should be given financial assistance to make energy-saving improvements, the NGOs said. In addition, they should have access to free advice on reducing energy bills, they added.

Moreover, lower tariffs for basic consumption and limited price increases could provide further solutions, the organisation said.

Suppliers should consider reducing fixed payment elements and payment models where first units of consumption are charged at higher rates, taxing poorer customers with low consumption, it suggested. The EU's Energy Services Directive could be used to require suppliers to support energy-efficiency improvements in vulnerable households, it said. source

My comment: I hardly can agree with this more. I stay on 16C in the winter, because I refuse to turn on the heating. Why? Because the prices for heating are ridiculous. 10% of the household income? To warm the apartment properly you need to pay more than 150lv/month (~70e/month). This means that a household with a single working member who gets ~700lv (~350e), this is impossible. And when people make economies, the heating and electricity companies rise the prices. To be sure they will get their money! I'm sorry but this is not normal and I refuse to be a part of it, even if I have to stay in a cold room. But not everyone can afford such mad behaviour - if have children or if you're sick or live outside of the big city, where if you don't turn on the heating, you'll have to stay on say 0C or 4C, you simply have to heat your house. And in that case, you'll spend so much money only on heating, there are hardly money left for food. Clothes or services are low on the priority list. Now, I know this isn't the case in West Europe where the food is quite cheap, but we don't all live there. So there must be a common policy about energy prices. If local governments don't care enough for their citizens, then maybe the EU should care of them. It's ridiculous, but it's not more ridiculous than the anti-market principle - the less used a commodity, the bigger the price. So I hope someone takes seriously this report.

France plans transitional CO2 tax for big emitters

2010-01-22 12:55

France has outlined plans to impose a carbon tax on large industrial installations until 2013 when they start paying for emission permits under the revised EU Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS). The tax would come into effect in July.

French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo outlined the upcoming revised proposal on Wednesday (20 January), after the Constitutional Court rejected the government's original plan last December.

The government had originally hoped to levy a carbon tax on oil, gas and coal consumption by households and businesses. It was going to be set at €17 per tonne of carbon emissions, rising gradually (EurActiv 14/09/09).

But the Constitutional Council said the large number of exemptions from the legislation would put an unfair burden on consumers and would not fulfil the objective of fighting climate change. It said that the tax would not be applied to 93% of industrial carbon emissions, and over 1,000 of France's biggest polluters would be able to avoid it.

The court pointed out that the law exempted big emitters from power stations to oil refineries and cement works, which are covered by the EU ETS, and imposed lighter tariffs on groups like farmers, fishermen and truck drivers.

The new proposal would amend the problem by subjecting industrial installations under the ETS to a carbon tax until 1 January 2013, the environment minister said. Until now, the power sector has enjoyed free emission permits, but free allocation will be gradually phased out from 2013.

The new text would retain other aspects of the initial proposal, including the tariff of 17 euros per tonne of CO2 and green cheques designed to compensate consumers, the government said. source

My comment: I like it! That's fair. It's absolutely wrong to put the whole burden directly to consumers, while big emitters are free to do whatever they want. It's a good way to get money for the government, but it won't help those companies to invest in green techs. The new version sounds much better.

Germany, France cut support for solar power

2010-01-21 12:50

Germany said yesterday (20 January) that it would cut its subsidies for solar power in line with the rapid take-up of the photovoltaic market. The news follows a similar announcement by France last week.

German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen (CDU) announced that the government was proposing to cut feed-in tariffs for new roof-mounted solar power by 15% from April.

Open-field sites and farmland installations would follow in July with 15% and 25% cuts respectively.

People who mount solar panels on their rooftops and utilise the energy for personal use would, however, receive higher tariffs.

The environment minister said that the planned cuts were due to the success of the solar sector, which had led to over-subsidisation of the industry. The feed-in tariffs have come under pressure, as the price of solar panels has dropped by around a third due to oversupply in the past year.

But the solar industry warned that the cuts, which will come on top of annual reductions under the German Renewables Act, would lead to job losses. Moreover, concerns were raised about the wider paralysis of the global solar market, which is largely driven by Germany, by far the biggest market in the world.

France last week (13 January) also announced that it would cut its feed-in tariffs for rooftop systems by 24%, from 55 euro cents to 42 euro cents per KWh.

The move was part of a larger overhaul of renewable subsidies, which also saw adjustments to tariffs for geothermal and biomass plants.

The world's highest tariff at 58 euro cents per KWh was reserved for panels integrated into residential buildings or hospitals and schools. Other constructions like offices and industrial sites would get lower tariffs: 50 cents for existing buildings and 42 cents for newly-built ones.

The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) stressed that it would be important for both France and Germany to follow the evolution of market prices in their feed-in tariff systems. source

My comment: Since I think that building should be self-sufficient and only then to sell energy, I support those moves. People shouldn't be over-obsessed with earning from their solar cells, it's not the point. The point is to get off-grid and be free. I know this is naive, but still, I like it. I like the idea of people getting free electricity for their needs, even if the technology and its application is far from that stage.

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