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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Energy in Europe, June 2010

  1. Commission cautious on smart grids
  2. Solar industry divided over EU toxic substances law
  3. EU aligns energy-saving laws with Lisbon Treaty rules
  4. Carbon auctioning rules spark EU controversy 
Quote of the day:I totally agree that there should be regulation on the biofuels because otherwise they would be completely useless. But I find it very odd to leave the prove of sustainability to importers. We saw the level of responsibility that BP is willing to take in the spill in the gulf of Mexico, what is to guarantee to us that this won't happen with biofuels too? After all, biofuels are in direct competition with the oil they produce.

    Commission cautious on smart grids

    19 April 2010
    The European Commission is waiting to hear from an expert group before deciding on a possible legislative framework for smart grids. But a high-ranking official cautioned that any potential regulation would only emerge from industry demand.
    The task force, set up in November 2009 to draw up recommendations for the EU executive, is due to report its first findings in June. These concern the functionalities required of smart grids and the need for standards, as well as recommendations for regulation on data safety and the roles of the actors involved in developing intelligent grids.The Commission planning document lists four potential actions for a framework, which is provisionally planned to be adopted at the end of 2011.
    My comment: I have the feeling that it's clear even for a child how important smart grids are. But of course, they are expensive. And we know very well, how badly the EC feels about expensive stuff. It's most likely that that the task force will conclude that smart grids are important but too costly to be implemented immediately and they should be integrated in the system step by step and paid by national budgets. Which means we'll see smart grids in 2050. Yes, you can feel the sarcasm. Simply because I don't think what's going on is right. The EC is running from responsibility and that's not going to end up well. Because we need smart grids. They are crucial for renewables used in people's homes. They are crucial for people finally understanding what is their carbon imprint and how much it costs them to be inefficient. But of course, national monopolists don't want efficient people, because that would mean even more expensive electricity, to the point when it will be hard to explain, why people pay so much for something that costs so little. Not to mention the inefficient transport systems that will also need to be improved. So not convenient. It's easier to say we don't need smart grids right now, because of the crisis.

    Solar industry divided over EU toxic substances law

    23 April 2010
    Solar panel manufacturers are fighting to be excluded from EU legislation restricting the use of dangerous chemicals in electronic products. But some voices are calling for greater scrutiny of the industry, sparking a technology war between rival companies.
    The European solar industry has begun a campaign to exclude photovoltaic solar panels from the recast directive on the restriction of certain hazardous substances (RoHS), which is currently being debated by the EU institutions.
    It argues that having to comply with bans and restrictions originally applied to electrical and electronic household appliances would harm the industry's competitiveness without offering any health benefits, while slowing the EU's fight against climate change.
    The open scope was not part of the original proposal from the European Commission, which consequently did not carry out an impact assessment into it either.Considering the fact that the minimum lifetime of a solar module is 25 years at the moment, it would not be "very logical" to integrate modules into a framework designed to regulate products with short lifespans, which are likely to be dumped at landfills.
    Widening the scope of the directive would affect the renewable energy industry at large, as manufacturers of equipment like wind turbines, fuel cells and geothermal power systems would have to demonstrate compliance with the legislation too.
    A draft European Parliament report, to be voted upon in the environment committee in June, proposes to give an exemption to cadmium in thin-film photovoltaic panels based on cadmium telluride. It argues that the impact of substitution with more energy-intensive and technologically inferior alternatives would outweigh the benefits of using no cadmium.But not everybody in the industry agrees that voluntary recycling schemes are enough to justify an exclusion from the legislation.
    The Non-Toxic Solar Alliance (NTSA), which describes itself as a not-for-profit advocacy group including members of the solar industry, argues that any industry efforts to recycle photovoltaic (PV) modules containing toxic materials require a "sufficient safety guarantee". It wants RoHS to regulate the PV industry to ensure that standards do not encourage the use of toxic materials.
    The debate has opposed producers of thin film modules like current PV market leader First Solar, and those of crystalline silicon, which make up around 80% of the market.
    sourceMy comment: Well, they won the exemption, so that war is over for now. I personally don't have opinion yet, but I think that if 100% of the solar cells are recycled, then the exemption shouldn't cause environmental or health hazard. And the industry really need a little shoulder to get on solid ground in Europe. That of course won't say that they shouldn't eventually be included in the directive, if and when a better in terms of efficiency and toxicity technique is discovered.
    Renewables win exclusion from EU toxic law - The renewable energy sector was in high spirits yesterday (2 June) as MEPs decided to exclude windmills and solar panels from an EU law aimed at curbing the use of toxic chemicals in household electric and electronic goods.

    EU aligns energy-saving laws with Lisbon Treaty rules

    26 April 2010
    EU member states and the European Parliament have agreed changes to two key energy efficiency directives in order to make them compatible with Lisbon Treaty requirements on delegated acts, which will now come under MEPs' scrutiny.
    The deal concerns directives on the energy performance of buildings and energy labelling. The substance of both directives was agreed in November last year, but the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December 2009 meant modifications were required, notably to the legal basis and provisions on delegating acts (formerly known as 'comitology').
    A significant part of the agreement deals with the treatment of the 'delegating acts' created under the Lisbon Treaty. These do away with the comitology procedure, under which the European Commission had to consult with committees made up of member-state experts as part of the implementation process.
    The Lisbon Treaty, however, puts the Parliament on the same footing as the Council, as the delegating acts come under parliamentary control.With the new legislation, the member states wanted to ensure that the EU executive must still consult national experts in the process and establish a mechanism for any institution to revoke an implementation measure, the Council spokesperson said.
    The Parliament, on the other hand, is satisfied it will have more powers under the new rules. It can revoke delegations or object to changes made by the Commission to an annex, for example, a spokesperson for the EU assembly explained. source
    My comment: Not very interesting one, but at least it gives an idea of the benefits of the Lisbon Strategy for the democratic process. Yeah :)

    Carbon auctioning rules spark EU controversy

    11 May 2010
    The European Commission is coming under pressure to revise its draft regulation on emissions allowance auctioning, which would provide multiple auctioning platforms but not enough oversight, according to critics.
    Debating optimal ways to organise auctions in Brussels last week (6 May), business and government experts attacked the EU executive's draft rules on organising the auctioning of emissions allowances in the EU's emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) for the third trading period, which starts in 2013.
    The Commission's first draft showed that it was going to opt for a centralised auctioning plan (EurActiv 04/03/10), but the proposal sent to member states last month showed that the Commission was backing down from adopting a European approach. It gave member states the chance to opt out from the centralised platform and continue auctioning their allowances at national level until 2016.

    Indeed, much of the criticism of multiple platforms centred on the lack of rules and market oversight in the current proposal. Fingers were pointed at the Commission for not providing supervision between the platforms, nor a mechanism to sanction platforms that do not function properly.
    The common rules include a common definition of access to the platform and ensuring that auctions do not overlap, as this could reduce liquidity on the market and impact on prices. The Commission is keen to have a coordinated auctioning calendar.
    The industry is hurrying the Commission to put on the table a clear calendar of when auctions will start and what the final volumes will be, arguing that delaying decisions will create uncertainty on the market.
    But market analysts cautioned that the EU executive needs to carry out a diligent balancing act on how many can be put on the market before 2013 to avoid oversupply, which has rigged the market in earlier phases.
    The International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) stressed the importance of having a single auctioning process rather than the number of platforms. It noted that many European countries have run auctions successfully on different platforms so far, although with much lower volumes auctioned than will be the case in 2013. source
    My comment: I also agree that it's better to have on common platform. After all this is the idea of the EU to join our markets, not to split them. Though maybe the EC should think of a micro-platforms for each country, so that local companies can buy and sell their quotas without bothering the whole European market. This should make the people who want to opt-out of the platform happy. But it's much better to have one platform and it also adds to the security of the market.

    Commission sets rules for green biofuel label - "To ensure that biofuels contributing to the EU's 20% renewable target are produced in a sustainable manner, the European Commission called for industry and governments to set up certification schemes.
    But in the end, the burden of proof of sustainability will be on big companies that import biofuels like BP or Shell, Commission officials explained.
    The scheme, subject to annual auditing, will be approved by the Commission for a five-year period, but can be "de-recognised at any moment" if it fails to deliver, a Commission official said.
    The EU also explicitly demands that forest must not be converted into palm oil plantations and stipulates that biofuel from such production chains does not fulfil EU sustainability requirements.
    In addition, only biofuels that produce 35% greenhouse gas emission reductions fulfil the EU sustainability criteria." - I totally agree that there should be regulation on the biofuels because otherwise they would be completely useless. But I find it very odd to leave the prove of sustainability to importers. We saw the level of responsibility that BP is willing to take in the spill in the gulf of Mexico, what is to guarantee to us that this won't happen with biofuels too? After all, biofuels are in direct competition with the oil they produce. Isn't this a conflict of interests? I find that decision of the EC to be very curious. For me, the sustainability should be assessed periodically be independent agency which also should monitor the documents that the importer provides for the production they buy. Maybe this way our interests could be protected not only on the base of good intentions.
    Finland plans more nuclear, renewables - The Finnish government yesterday (21 April) unveiled plans for two new nuclear reactors as part of the country's drive to meet the EU's climate obligations and free itself completely from Russian imports.

    Once-hidden EU report reveals damage from biodiesel - Biofuels such as biodiesel from soy beans can create up to four times more climate-warming emissions than standard diesel or petrol, according to an EU document released under freedom of information laws.

    Italy joins French calls for EU carbon tariff - France and Italy urged the European Union on Thursday (15 April) to impose carbon tariffs on countries that are not part of a global agreement to curb greenhouse gases, an idea opposed by the European Commission and other EU members.

    Germany raids 50 firms in carbon trading inquiry - German prosecutors said on Wednesday (28 April) they had searched more than 230 sites in a probe based on suspicions of tax evasion in the trading of European Union carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rights certificates.

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