Efficient production and supply of energy and raw material resources are vital to attaining the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Making resource development activities sustainable has emerged as a critical challenge. While the performance of energy and raw materials production has improved vastly in recent decades, there is widespread support among stakeholders for efforts to further improve its sustainability.
Having universally acceptable standards, guidelines and best practices in sustainable resource management thus has emerged as an essential requirement in the development and production of an array of resources such as petroleum, coal, gas, minerals, nuclear fuels, renewable energy, anthropogenic resources (from waste), and capture and storage of carbon dioxide.
Rapid urbanization and changing lifestyles will demand more energy and raw material resources, but concerns about climate change and general well-being will dictate what is acceptable and what is not. Investments will not be channelled solely based on commercial returns, but on what social and environmental benefits a project might bring.
Over 350 experts from 80 countries participated in UNECE’s 2018 Resource Management Week (23–27 April) and deliberated on the development of the global standard – the United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC). The experts recommended that an integrated resource management tool be developed.
The exchanges during the ninth session of the Expert Group on Resource Classification, which is tasked with development of UNFC, highlighted that the Sustainable Development Goals are not 17 independent, separate silos. Each goal touches the others. Take SDG#1 – No Poverty – as an example. This goal can be realized only if we have more energy (SDG#7), more resources available for industries to grow (SDG#8), and innovation and infrastructure to support that change (SDG#9). Projects that supply critical resources should demonstrate where they stand relative to the SDGs in order to attract investment and regulatory approval. Many countries and companies have started to recognize this change in perspective, but remain paralyzed at an operational level because there is a lack of globally accepted standards, guidelines and best practices.
“Strengthening UNFC to deliver on comprehensive resource management was recommended by the Expert Group, which is a tectonic shift”, said Scott Foster, Director of Sustainable Energy Division, UNECE. “It is clear that the resource management community is moving towards a paradigm of dare-to-do pro-activism in sustainable resource management.” The expert group will develop all the tools needed to assure sustainable production and consumption patterns for a broad swath of resources, with uniformity at one level, while recognizing sectoral, regional and country level differences in implementation.
For this reason, the meetings and workshops during the week discussed the implementation of UNFC in the European Union and Africa, as well as Russian Federation and China-focused approaches. The newly elected Bureau of the Expert Group includes representation from all regions. Special workshops focused on wide-ranging issues such as availability of raw materials from secondary resources – a key aspect of the circular economy. The workshops also considered waste valorization and critical raw materials, application of UNFC in Africa and redesigning uranium resource pathways among many other topics.
“The fact that the Expert Group remains committed to a phase shift resonated strongly during the week”, said Charlotte Griffiths, Chief, Industries Section, Sustainable Energy Division, UNECE. “Together with many other aspects that make resource management truly sustainable, the issue of gender, diversity and inclusiveness occupied a significant chunk of the discussions”.
Together with many deeply technical issues on food-energy-water security, when social net returns and the empowerment of women become criteria of resource classification and management, a new era is being inaugurated.
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Israeli competition against Egypt in the energy and natural gas sector
Since the success of the (June 30th revolution and the departure of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule in Egypt), then the establishment of the (new republic in Egypt), then to the changes brought about by the policy of building and construction, and then the international conferences that the Egyptian leadership is keen to attend or host, such as: youth and climate conferences, all of these prominent activities have enhanced the volume of successes and the historical changes achieved by the Egyptian state. President “El-Sisi” and the military institution, led the Egyptian masses to make a historic leap from wealth to power, which was inaugurated with the establishment of the (New Administrative Capital) with the great Chinese support and investments. We can here, in brief, (linking and finding a logical relationship between building the new republic in Egypt and the Chinese role in Cairo projects, and deliberately not inviting Egypt and countries in the region interested in building to the conference of American democracies), through:
President (Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi) described all the Egyptian state’s moves in the direction of total and comprehensive development for all sectors in recent years by declaring a new republic and the birth of a new state with the opening of the new administrative capital in Cairo. According to the content of President “El-Sisi’s words”, in which he described the new projects that Egypt will open during the coming period, confirming that:
“The new administrative capital is an announcement of the new republic after a difficult period that Egypt passed through”
The political leadership in Egypt has also been interested in establishing new cities, known as: (the fourth generation cities), which are considered the turning point in the real estate sector in Egypt, and there are about 20 cities, and it is expected to accommodate about 30 million people. Such as:
(The New Administrative Capital, New Alamein, Galala, New Mansourieh, New Ismailia, West Assiut, East Port Said, West Qena)
The (new administrative capital) comes at the top of the urban development that Egypt is currently witnessing with various Chinese and international investments, as this capital will be the headquarters of the state’s strategic leadership center, and a leading political, cultural and economic center for the Middle East and North Africa, on new foundations, including what it includes from advanced international standards by establishing (City of Finance and Business), as a center serving Greater Cairo and the three governorates of the (Suez Canal, Port Said, Ismailia, Suez), and it will be one of the largest centers in the Middle East and the region, in order to serve the state’s orientation seeking to (support the future of its influence in the region to form a pillar for its economic projects in the Mediterranean and securing navigation in the Red Sea and the Suez Canal).
We find here that (the entry of various Chinese investments in the new administrative capital and the Suez Canal) and others, is one of the main analytical reasons from which, it is understood (the increase in the intensity of competition and international polarization between the United States of America, China and Russia in Egypt and all the countries of the region), which makes all questions about the capabilities of those who support it from other parties, and this is the case now.
Additionally, we can identify the implications of the (regional competition and American-Israeli polarization in the face of Egypt in the energy sector and the discovery of a natural gas field in the eastern Mediterranean), the signing of the (Eastern Mediterranean Agreement) between “Egypt, Greece, Cyprus”, and the entry of the Israeli side as a competitor in the energy and natural gas projects of Egypt, was one of the main reasons for excluding Egypt from the American invitation to attend the democracy summit, for reasons (related to the regional competition between Israel against Cairo in the energy sector and natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean region).
With the support of the United States of America to its Israeli ally in confronting and supporting (the energy sector in Egypt and its unprecedented achievements and the entry of Israel as a competitor), in recent years, this has led to (changing the entire energy landscape, in favor of Egypt, and eliminating the large gap between demand and supply), which Washington considered “Egypt is one of the top ten countries in the world that possesses large reserves of natural gas in deep waters”. This is according to the estimates of the well-known US “Global data energy” website.
Perhaps one of the most things that irritated the Israeli side about Egypt is the Egyptian achievements in achieving self-sufficiency in electricity and exporting it abroad, and the (solar power generation project in Benban, Aswan Governorate), which won the annual award distinguished as the best project from the “World Bank” in 2019, at the world level, and Egypt’s success in (transforming into a regional energy center in the face of Israel), this was so enough for Israel to play a negative role in questioning the successes of the Egyptian state, led by President “El-Sisi”, and one of the easiest of which is (the entrance to democracy).
My analysis of the matter goes, that the attention of the whole world towards the (annual youth conferences) called by President “El-Sisi”, and his keenness to host (conferences for Egyptian and international youth to lay the foundations for world peace), was the main reason behind “the Israeli anger at their inability to host and launching similar conferences for youth internationally and directing the world’s youth towards Cairo”, through President “El-Sisi” achieving remarkable results and creating a new situation in the Egyptian state for young people at all levels. So, we can analyze that (The Conference of American Democracies, as a magnet for young people around the world who are seeking democracy). According to the American promotion of this to support the Israeli side as the only democratic state in the region.
Accordingly, we can understand the reality of the achievements of the Egyptian state in recent years, and the inauguration of (the era of the new republic), and considering it as a new era witnessed by Egypt with all its sectors and categories and its transformation into a global economic and investment center, after successive achievements, reforms and national projects, all of which will make Egypt a strong country capable of competing in the global economy and more influential in its regional environment, and this is the long-term reason, which many may not have noticed about (the Israeli role and the US support for it in promoting Israel as a single and unique democratic state in the Middle East and the region).
Is energy transition the answer to Africa’s Socio-Economic Development?
The African Union Commission (AUC) through the African Energy Commission (AFREC) hosted a high-level online side event at the COP26, held under the theme: “Opportunities and Challenges for African Energy Transition: What will it take for Africa to reach net-zero emissions’’?
The meeting called for bold measures related to opportunities and challenges facing Africa, to accelerate actions towards the full implementation of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The meeting aimed at fully unlocking Africa’s position on climate adaptation, to expand modern energy access, reduce poverty and create jobs, whilst contributing to the global objectives of circumventing the lock-in of carbon into future development on the continent.
As impacts of climate change continue to worsen and pose significant threats to socio-economic development globally, speakers across governments, African Union Commission, African Development Bank, United Nations, leading policy influencers and private sectors deliberated through a virtual forum, co-organised by the African Development Bank (AFDB), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD).
In her keynote address, H.E. Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union Commission underscored that it is in the best interest of Africa to join global efforts, to transition towards Net-Zero emissions, in order to mitigate future impacts of climate change on the continent and also reduce the costs of adaptation.
‘‘The availability of abundant renewable energy resources on the continent such as hydropower, solar, wind, geothermal and bio-energy can transform Africa’s energy sector to modern and sustainable energy through both grid and off-grid systems. These resources offer opportunities to accelerate clean energy access on the continent through energy transition and especially factoring natural gas as an energy transition fuel for power and clean cooking’’, She stressed.
Dr. Abou-Zeid also emphasized that Africa’s political will and commitment is highly significant to accelerate the uptake of renewable energy as evidenced by the targets within countries national plans reflected in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to achieve climate and development ambitions. ‘‘COP26 should seek to stimulate concrete actions to address the huge financing gap to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050’’, she further stressed.
Though Africa contributes about 3.6% of the global CO2 emission, there is evidence that climate change impacts on Africa are more severe, bearing in mind that access to affordable clean energy remain one of the biggest challenges facing the continent. Thus, addressing persistent barriers to energy development on the continent through technical, financial, markets, policy and regulatory framework is essential.
H.E Dr Gerd Muller, the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany called for joint forces amongst nations to act now on issues of climate change and decarbonisation. He said that moving to renewable energy will create jobs and many other opportunities, which will make Africa a green continent. “Decarbonisation is necessary because the energy sector is the source of more than two thirds of all CO2 emissions’’ he emphasised. Expressing Germany’s commitment to work with Africa in her energy transition ambitions, he hailed the proposed AU-EU Green Energy Initiative as an appropriate instrument for facilitating a bi-continental approach.
H.E. Mr. Benatou ZIANE, Minister of Energy Transition and Renewable Energy of Algeria noted in a statement read on his behalf by Mr CHABANE Merouane, Permanent Secretary, that Africa needs to diversify its energy sources and liberate itself from the dependency of hydropower, to guarantee energy security for the future generations for the development of an economy which is based on a model that is aligned with socio-economic needs, promote equality, employment creation and responds to Africa’s energy challenges. “Algeria has already started working on a policy framework for a new energy model, to balance a local energy mix which is favourable for transition and reducing emission by 2030. We are also working on developing renewable energy by increasing 15 GW by 2035’’ he stressed.
In their panel discussion H.E Hon. Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Minister of Energy of Ghana, Mr. Jean-Paul Adam, Director Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources Management of UNECA, Mr. Henry Paul Batchi Baldeh, Director Power System Development at AfDB, and Mr. Mamadou Diakhité, Acting Head of Division for Environmental Sustainability at AUDA-NEPAD highlighted the following:
- Africa need to be realistic in choosing the energy transition pathways which address her unique requirements/circumstances;
- Enhancing policy, legislation and implementation approaches across national, regional and continental level, to enable a favourable environment for development;
- Leapfrog into the green development space without ignoring Africa’s infrastructure development and industrialisation ambitions;
- Develop bankable projects to scale up access to funding and investment;
- Adopt a mix of energy solutions to address the needs of each country including solutions to high tariffs and accessibility to sustainable energy options;
- Promote energy efficiency which is necessary for energy transition;
- Focus on building energy infrastructure and strengthening transmission corridors.
The African Union together with its various development agencies and partners have taken concrete actions by developing continental development programmes and projects such as, improving infrastructure to increase regional power system network by 2040, stimulating and expanding energy markets by providing evidence-based policy advise to member states and ensuring that frameworks and strategies which will enhance technology transfer, technical capacity building at continental and national level are adopted and strengthened. Mobilising adequate financing to accelerate the energy transition agenda in Africa is also one the challenges that the Commission has focused its attention.
Energy Sector in Spain: Current State and Future Prospects
Europe’s energy transition is under scrutiny following the region’s soaring electricity prices and the scarcity of fossil fuels. The inadequacy of renewable energies to efficiently respond to these problems has become apparent. Is it necessary to increase the commitment to renewable energies and accelerate the transition? Must Europe re-think the market for emission rights (responsible for 70% of the increase in electricity prices in Spain, according to the Bank of Spain)? Does Europe need to take a step back and stockpile fossil fuels to avoid a future energy crisis?
Spain, like the rest of its European neighbors, has been a victim of the current electricity price crisis and the authorities are still trying to resolve it. To understand it in depth, it is first necessary to understand the state of the energy industry in Spain. This article aims to present a detailed analysis of the most recent developments in the energy field in Spain, the current situation of the sector and its prospects. To this end, it studies fossil fuels, renewable energy, nuclear energy, and ends with an open discussion that seeks to address some of the main issues that will define the future of the energy transition in Spain.
For this analysis, the article takes official documents of the Spanish government as its main basis: the Energy Book 2018 of the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030, the Law 7/2021, of May 20, on Climate Change and Energy Transition. It also uses sources like the Red Eléctrica de España website, multiple Spanish press articles and the IEA Spain 2021 Energy Policy Review.
As of 2018, fossil fuels held a major share in the Spanish final energy consumption. Oil (51% of final energy consumption) is mainly imported from Nigeria, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Yet, Spain is a net exporter of oil products and has 9 refineries. Gas (16,4%) is mainly imported from Argelia (51% of imports), followed by Nigeria, France and Qatar. Around half of the supply arrives in LPG. Finally, coal (1.8%) is mostly imported from Russia, Colombia and Australia.
The government expects a 34% reduction of the fossil fuels contribution to primary energy by 2030 (with compared to 2017 data). In final consumption, oil participation is forecasted to drop by 28% between 2015 and 2030. Gas will maintain a stable share, due to its key role in the combined cycle electricity production that will support the development of renewable energy. Finally, coal will become insubstantial, in line with the Decision 2010/787/EU of the Council of the EU and the closing of the coal extraction in Spain.
Renewable energy made up 7.2% of the total final energy consumption in Spain, a figure that has experienced constant growth since the 1990s, but that has been mostly stable since 2011. In terms of electricity production, data in August 2021 renewable energy accounted for 49% of total production. In addition, a steady growth in thermic renewable energy (1.6% per year, thanks to biomass) and transport renewable energy (thanks to biofuels) should be noted.
Nowadays, the renewable energy sources that have the most installed power capacity in Spain are hydroelectricity and wind power. Wind power and solar PV are expected to experience fast growth, while solar thermoelectric and pumped- storage hydroelectricity will undergo a slower development. Hydroelectricity will remain stable.
The rapid development of renewable energy in Spain is supported by a strong legislative framework. This includes domestic laws as well as the EU policy for Renewable Energy and Climate Change as well as international agreements (the most important of which, the 2015 Paris Agreement, was ratified by Spain in 2017).
Until recently, the main regulatory documents were the 2007 Spanish Strategy on Climate Change and Clean Energy for 2020 and the Renewable Energy Plan 2011-2020, based on EU Directive 2009/28/EC. However, along with the Paris Agreements, Spain is developing a new Legal Framework of 5 documents:
- Law 7/2021, 20th of May 2021, on Climate Change and Energy Transition: sets the minimum targets for 2030 and 2050.
- National Integrated Plan of Energy and Climate 2021-2030: published in 2020 the law sets the medium-term prospects and milestones.
- Strategy for Low Emissions in 2050: has a long-term perspective.
- Strategy for a Fair Transition: attempts to address the problems of regions of Spain connected to technologies that will be displaced because of the National Integrated Plan of Energy and Climate 2021-2030.
- National Strategy against Energy Poverty.
This legal basis is supported by a set of institutions: CENER (National Center of Renewable Energies), IDEA (Institute for Diversification and Saving Energy), CIEMAT (Center of Energy, Environment and Technology Research), and CECRE (Center of Control of Renewable Energy). In addition, the government has created the Inter-ministerial Commission of Climate Change and Energy Transition (for coordinating between the different ministries) and has committed to establishing the Commission of Coordination of Climate Change politics (for coordination with the Spanish regions).
The objectives set by the Renewable Energy Plan 2011-2020 for 2020 of at least 20,8% of the final consumption of energy and at least 39% on the total of the electricity consumption coming from renewable energy were achieved. The Law 7/2021, 20th of May 2021, on Climate Change and Energy Transition sets new binding goals: 42% of renewable energy in total final energy consumption in 2030 and 74% of generation of electricity from renewables in 2030.
The National Integrated Plan of Energy and Climate 2021-2030 draws goals and prospects that are in accordance with the new law. For achieving this, it expects the renewable energy power by 2030 to consist of 50 GW of wind power, 39 GW solar PV, 27 GW combined gas cycles, 16 GW hydraulic, 9,5 GW pumped-storage hydroelectricity and 7 GW solar thermoelectric. The plan expects the price of energy generation to drop by 31% by 2030, carbon centrals to be non-competitive, and a governmental investment of 91.765 million euros in renewable energy (80% of which will be allocated to the private sector). It also forecasts that energy dependency will diminish from 73% in 2017 to 61% in 2030.
As for biomass, which accounted for only 4% of the total renewable energy generation in Spain, it is only recently that Spain took the necessary steps to promote this source. The National Integrated Plan on Energy and Climate 2021-2030 comprises the installed energy potential to double between 2015 and 2030, and states that there should be a further normative development.
The share of nuclear energy in the total electricity generation in Spain was 22.20% in 2020, having remained quite stable over the years. It signifies close to 30% of the total clean energy production in Spain.
The main actors of the system are 4 ownership and production companies (Endesa, Iberdrola, EDP and Naturgy), the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, the Nuclear Safety Council and ENUSA and Enresa (national companies in charge of fuel supply and radioactive waste management). On the issue of fuel supply, ENUSA Industrias Avanzadas is the state-company that produces nuclear fuel for Spanish nuclear plants as well as for exports. As there is no uranium mining in Spain, the country imports the enriched uranium, mainly from the United Kingdom (Brexit was addressed in bilateral governmental contacts) and it is ensured by the Euratom Treaty and the European Supply Agency. Regarding the waste management, high radioactivity waste storage has been planned but not yet implemented, and there is one storage center for medium and low radioactivity already.
By the year 2035 Spain plans to close all of its nuclear energy generation plants, in collaboration with EU nuclear countries. Enresa and the nuclear energy companies agreed in 2019 on a calendar to shut down the 4 nuclear plants by 2030 and the resting 3 before 2035. This signifies the consolidation of the process of shutdown of the reactors: it establishes the necessary protocols and puts an end to continuous disagreements between the parties. It also makes sure that nuclear energy continues contribute to the clean energy production goals of 2030.
In line with this, the Law/2021, 20th of May 2021, on Climate Change and Energy Transition states that the government will not give or extend any prospecting and exploitation permits for radioactive minerals and that it will not allow for new nuclear plants to be built. With the closing of the current nuclear plants and the prohibition on new nuclear plants, the future of nuclear energy in Spain is being replaced by renewable energy.
This article portrays the directions of Spanish energy policy. It notes a number of features: the decline of coal-produced energy and the mining of coal, the preservation of gas as a supporting resource for renewable energy complications, the abandonment of nuclear energy, and the commitment to renewable energy. While these goals are supported by a planned framework and milestones, factors that initially were not accounted for are impacting their progress.
Up until 2020 Spain was successfully closing down coal mining and coal-fired thermal power plants. By 2018 it had abandoned coal mining, and by the end of 2020 it had closed most of these plants. In 2021, however, Spain has had to increase the electricity generation of the remaining coal powered plants due to the storm Filomena and the shortage of energy sources that it is currently suffering. October is expected to be the month this year during which the highest amount of coal consumption. In addition to that, Spain has been buying Moroccan electricity originating from coal.
The use of gas in combined cycle plants is under scrutiny due to recent developments in the country’s main gas source, Algeria. Algeria has traditionally exported gas to Spain via the Medgaz pipeline (directly to Spain) and GME (via Morocco). In recent weeks Alger closed diplomatic relations with Rabat, and three days later hinted that it would not renew the GME pipeline agreement, which expires on 31 October.
Exclusive use of the Medgaz pipeline (which has recently been extended) would not be sufficient to cover Spanish gas demand. Even so, after bilateral contacts, Algeria guaranteed gas supply to Spain and will probably continue to do so via LNG tankers, which will increase prices.
The Spanish nuclear sector is one of the most important sources of clean electricity for Spain. Yet the infrastructure is too old, and its plants have already received too many extensions on their use. The government, therefore, plans to close down all nuclear plants by 2035. As a result, we can expect a rise in the importance of nuclear waste management can be forecasted, as well as problems with the relocation of the industry workers. However, following the electricity prices exponential rice of this summer, the Spanish government has entered into a conflict with the electricity companies (which own the nuclear plants). In response, the companies have threatened to close all nuclear power plants by 2021. Such an event would significantly damage the Spanish stand on clean energy as well as accelerate the termination of nuclear energy in Spain.
In contrast to coal or nuclear energy, renewable energy sources are the focus of government support. The trend in the sector this century has been one of steady development, which this is expected to continue. While hydropower has historically been predominant, wind and solar are set to see the greatest increase. With this, Spain hopes to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and lower the price of electricity.
However, these plans have been called into question by the events of recent months. On one hand, there has been criticism on the stagnation of the development of solar photovoltaic energy (partly due to the inadequacy of the public administration in processing the requested projects as well as the opposition from local communities in rural areas). While this does not jeopardize Spain’s clean development goals, it does imply a certain slowdown. On the other hand, the current electricity price and energy supply crisis has highlighted the limitations of these developments in Spain, and has strained relations between government and energy companies, which may hinder future progress.
The prospects for energy in Spain are clear: renewable energy. The speed, however, at which Spain plans to reach its targets may be affected by factors not initially foreseen. The need to resort to coal, doubts about gas supply, and the conflict between state and energy companies that has endangered the continuity of nuclear energy in the country are examples of obstacles that need to be overcome. This is not to say that Spain will not achieve its goals, but rather that it is in a transition phase, and that the success of this process depends on how it responds to the problems that arise. This is why the future of energy in Spain, although moving in a very specific direction, is still open.
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