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Finding Opportunity In The Energy Transformation: The Perspective From The EU

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As European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete is tasked with accelerating the deployment of renewable energy in the region, both in response to climate change and as an industrial policy imperative.

The EU has made progress. Overall, it improved its energy intensity by over 20% between 2005 and 2016, keeping its final energy consumption stable despite economic growth. In 2015, increased use of renewables reduced greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to Italy’s total emissions and saved the EU €16 billion in fossil fuel imports.

At the same time, Commissioner Cañete reminded the audience at the 4th EU Energy Summit that although significant progress has been made, there is still a long way to go, noting that “still coal, gas and oil together accounted for some 72% of our primary energy consumption in 2016, and most of this is imported.”

In February this year, as part of the Remap programme IRENA published Renewable Energy Prospects for the European Union, prepared in co-operation with the European Commission.  The report found that the EU could cost effectively double the renewable share in its energy mix, from 17% in 2015 to 34% in 2030. IRENA reached out to Commissioner Cañete to get his views on Europe’s energy transformation.

IRENA: In the EU Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth, the European Commission states that “sustainability and transition to low-carbon, more efficient and circular economy are key in ensuring long-term competitiveness of the EU economy.” How, in your view, are the energy transformation and sustainability fundamental to the EU economy as a whole?

Commissioner Cañete: The importance of the energy sector for the EU economy cannot be overstated: It employs close to 2.2 million people, spread over 96,000 companies across Europe, representing 2% of total added value. Energy represents on average 6% of annual household expenditure.

The research and innovation development of new technologies and services across the energy supply chain has led to the creation of new businesses throughout Europe, providing jobs and economic growth for Europeans.

At the end of 2016, the European Commission put together the “Clean Energy for all Europeans” package. Through eight new or revised pieces of legislation, including to the Renewable Energy Directive, this is putting in place the most advanced regulatory framework to facilitate the investment that we need in Europe to modernise our economy.

Although there is the challenge of attracting the necessary investment, this transition represents an enormous opportunity for the EU: By mobilizing up to €177 billion of public and private funds per year until 2021, we can grow GDP by up to 1% and create 900,000 new jobs over the next decade.

Public money alone will not be enough to cover investment needs: the financial sector will have to throw its full weight behind the fight against climate change. This is why the European Commission came up with a dedicated EU Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth. We believe that the clean energy transition also provides an excellent opportunity to re-vitalize the financial sector by attracting private capital to energy efficiency projects, renewable energy technologies and supply infrastructure, smart energy system development; and to exploit the large potential of research and innovation in radically changing energy supply and demand patterns.

IRENA: If the EU was to scale-up renewables to 34% by 2030, there would be an estimated net cost savings of US$25 billion per year, notwithstanding saved health and environmental costs.  This is echoed in the EU Action Plan which states that the “investment gap of almost €180 billion to achieve EU climate and energy targets by 2030 must be closed.”  Yet since 2011, new investments in renewable energy in Europe have slowed.  What do you think accounts for this disconnect, and how is the EU working to address it?

Commissioner Cañete: In the EU, generation capacity from renewable resources, mainly wind and solar, has been increasing since 2000. We estimate that by 2030, more than 50% of the electricity we consume will come from renewables.

But indeed, while new installed wind and solar capacity saw a significant increase to 2011, investments in renewables have slowed since 2011, primarily due to the downward revision of national support schemes in EU Member States and missing regulatory incentives in some Member States. An important factor in this context is the falling technology cost of renewables. As IRENA data has shown, the global cost of solar PV has decreased by almost 70% between 2010 and 2017. Renewables are more and more competitive against conventional technologies.

Since 2013, investments in renewables have been stable. In 2017, the EU was the second largest market for renewables in the world. At the same time, deployment has continued to increase due to the falling costs. For example, in 2017 the EU’s solar PV market grew by 6% and wind turbine market grew by 25%.

The EU is very keen to show leadership in fulfilling our Paris Agreement commitments. Transforming the energy sector is key in this context. Under the Clean Energy for all Europeans package, investments will allow the EU to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030 and ultimately be carbon neutral by 2050, while contributing to economic growth and jobs in Europe.

By setting the right targets and measures for the use of renewables, we believe we can get all EU countries moving together in the right direction and create economies of scale literally at continental level. While Member States are willing to support a renewables target of at least 27% by 2030, I’m pleased to note that the European Parliament is pressing for an even bolder approach that coincides with the IRENA REmap findings.

The 27% target and proposed measures should provide the necessary security to encourage investment, and the clearer legal framework provided by the revised directive will remove uncertainties for investors, reduce administrative burdens and decrease costs. Our focus is on the potential for renewables in electricity, heating and cooling and transport sectors. This will enable Europe to reinforce its industrial competitiveness and to remain a global leader in renewables.

We are confident that with this package in place, investments will continue to grow, as the EU is indeed looking for investments in the range of €180 billion per year to achieve its objectives for 2030. This number constitutes investments in all sectors, as well as in energy efficiency, renewables, and infrastructure. For the power sector alone, the investment needs are around €75 billion per year of which 33% is needed for renewables and 47% for the power grid.

IRENA: What are some of the promising options that you see to scale-up the share of renewables in heating and cooling in the EU, and what are some of the measures that the EU is adopting to support e-mobility?

Commissioner Cañete: In Europe, the share of modern renewables in the heating and cooling sector is 19.1%, largely from biomass. This is significantly higher than any other large economy in the world. Thanks to the uses of bioenergy, 5 EU Member States have shares of 40% or higher of renewables, which makes them global leaders in this area. However, in most of EU Member States there is a significant untapped potential for renewables in this sector.

The European Commission recognises that renewables in the heating and cooling sector are some of the most cost-effective solutions to further increase renewables and has proposed to increase the share of renewables in the heating and cooling sector by 1% per year over the period from 2021 to 2030.

The European Commission’s assessments, like those of the IRENA study, suggest that increasing the share of renewables in the heating and cooling sector will also increase the diversity of renewable energy options, including heat pumps, solar thermal and geothermal options. District heating and cooling systems can particularly help the cost-effective and efficient integration of renewables in urban areas.

Today, transport accounts for roughly a quarter of the EU’s greenhouse gas emission, with road transport alone responsible for 22%, and growing.

The European Commission’s strategy for low-emission mobility reaffirms the objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport by at least 60% on 1990 level by 2050.  Following the principal of technology neutrality in this area, our policy aims at increasing the deployment of zero- and low-emission vehicles overall.

Mainstreaming renewables in the power sector will require high levels of deployment of renewable capacity to replace and repower existing assets, and related infrastructure in order to overcome one of the major bottlenecks in the electric vehicle market. Assuming a rapid market uptake of electric vehicles, by 2020 up to 440 000 public accessible recharging points would be needed in the EU. This could cost up to €3.9 billion, supported finically via the EU’s infrastructure programmes.

The European Commission has therefore put forward an Action Plan aiming to boost investment in alternative fuel infrastructure and develop a network of fast and interoperable recharging and fuelling stations across the EU. We also proposed to include charging infrastructure in the EU’s building stock during construction and renovation works. New provisions for example require the installation of recharging points and ducting infrastructure in our buildings’ car parks.  Technical solutions and a pricing scheme that attracts consumers are also required to promote smart charging.

IRENA

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Natural gas markets expected to remain tight into 2023 as Russia further reduces supplies to Europe

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Russia’s continued curtailment of natural gas flows to Europe has pushed international prices to painful new highs, disrupted trade flows and led to acute fuel shortages in some emerging and developing economies, with the market tightness expected to continue well into 2023, according to the IEA’s latest quarterly Gas Market Report.

Natural gas markets worldwide have been tightening since 2021, and global gas consumption is expected to decline by 0.8% in 2022 as result of a record 10% contraction in Europe and unchanged demand in the Asia Pacific region. Global gas consumption is forecast to grow by only 0.4% next year, but the outlook is subject to a high level of uncertainty, particularly in terms of Russia’s future actions and the economic impacts of sustained high energy prices.

Russia has largely cut off gas supplies to Europe in retaliation against sanctions imposed on it following its invasion of Ukraine. This has deepened market tensions and uncertainty ahead of the coming winter, not just for Europe but also for all markets that rely on the same supply pool of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and sharp reductions in natural gas supplies to Europe are causing significant harm to consumers, businesses and entire economies – not just in Europe but also in emerging and developing economies,” said Keisuke Sadamori, the IEA’s Director of Energy Markets and Security. “The outlook for gas markets remains clouded, not least because of Russia’s reckless and unpredictable conduct, which has shattered its reputation as a reliable supplier. But all the signs point to markets remaining very tight well into 2023.”

The current gas crisis also casts longer-term uncertainty on the prospects for natural gas, especially in developing markets where its use was expected to rise at least in the medium term as it replaced other higher-emission fossil fuels.  

European natural gas prices and Asian spot LNG prices spiked to record highs in the third quarter of 2022. This reduced gas demand and incentivised switching to other fuels such as coal and oil for power generation. In some emerging and developing economies, the price spikes triggered shortages and power cuts. Europe’s gas consumption declined by more than 10% in the first eight months of this year compared with the same period in 2021, driven by a 15% drop in the industrial sector as factories curtailed production.

Natural gas demand in China and Japan was almost unchanged in that same period, while it contracted in India and Korea. Chinese gas demand is forecast to increase by less than 2% this year, its lowest annual growth rate since the early 1990s. Meanwhile, natural gas prices in the United States hit their highest summer levels since 2008, yet North America was one of the few regions of the world where demand increased, supported by demand from power generation.

Europe has offset the sharp falls in Russian gas supplies through LNG imports, as well as alternative pipeline supplies from Norway and elsewhere. Europe’s surging demand for LNG – up 65% in the first eight months of 2022 from a year earlier – has drawn supply away from traditional buyers in the Asia-Pacific region, where demand dropped by 7% in the same period as a result of high prices, mild weather and continued Covid lockdowns in China.

The IEA forecasts that Europe’s LNG imports will increase by over 60 billion cubic metres (bcm) this year, or more than double the amount of global LNG export capacity additions, keeping international LNG trade under strong pressure for the short- to medium-term. This implies that Asia’s LNG imports will remain lower than last year for the rest of 2022. However, China’s LNG imports could rise next year under a series of new contracts concluded since the beginning of 2021, while a colder-than-average winter would also result in additional demand from northeast Asia, further adding to market tightness.

In addition to diversifying supply, the European Union and its member states have taken other steps to increase gas security, such as setting minimum storage obligations and implementing energy saving measures for the coming winter. EU storage facilities were close to 90% full as of end of September, though the absence of Russian supply presents challenges for refilling them next year. Both Japan and Korea have instituted policies to reduce reliance on imported LNG for power generation and have developed contingency plans for possible LNG supply disruptions.

For the new report, the IEA conducted a resilience analysis of the EU’s gas market in the case of a complete Russian supply shutdown starting from 1 November 2022. The analysis shows that without demand reductions in place and if Russian pipeline supply is completely cut, EU gas storage would be less than 20% full in February, assuming a high level of LNG supply – and close to 5% full, assuming low LNG supply. Storage falling to these levels would increase the risk of supply disruptions in the event of a late cold spell. A reduction in EU gas demand through the winter period of 9% from the average level of the past five years would be necessary to maintain gas storage levels above 25% in the case of lower LNG inflows. And a reduction in demand of 13% from the 5-year average would be necessary through the winter period to sustain storage levels above 33% in the case of low LNG inflows. Therefore, gas saving measures will be crucial to minimise storage withdrawals and keep inventories at adequate levels until the end of the heating season.

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Mozambique Readies For Developing Mphanda Nkuwa Hydroelectric Project

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Mozambique is ramping up efforts toward establishing a sustainable energy supply to drive its economy especially the industrialization programme. As it seeks reliable foreign partnerships, it has already shortlisted a few energy groups for the new US$4.5 billion Mphanda Nkuwa hydroelectric dam, on the Zambezi River, located in Tete province that is estimated to generate 2,070 megawatts for Mozambique. It will be 700 metres long and rise 86 metres above its foundations, with 13 floodgates.

The tender for the “Selection of the Strategic Partner or Investor for the Development of the Mphanda Nkuwa Hydroelectric Project” finally in December recieved the results of the market survey carried out in September involving the critical aspects of structuring the project, alignment with potential buyers and shareholder participation. The structure of the energy transmission line, the methodology for selecting the strategic partner, the implementation schedule, among other relevant issues related to the project transaction. 

According to Malaysian newspaper The Star, the process of selecting the seven potential investors was made at the end of an investor conference held in Maputo. It further wrote that there were two individual companies and five large consortiums that previously visited the site to understand the natural conditions of the area and assess the fundamental data to prepare proposals from a technical, economic and financial point of view.

The newspaper estimated the infrastructure cost between US$4.5 and US$5 billion and have capacity to produce 1,500 megawatts, making Mphanda Nkuwa the second-largest hydroelectric dam in the country, after Cahora Bassa Hydroelectric (HCB), which generates 2,070 megawatts. With the two infrastructures in fully operational energy production, Mozambique hopes to achieve the goal of universal access to energy and respond to the growing energy deficit that plagues southern Africa.

General Director of the Mphanda Nkuwa development office, Carlos Yum, envisaged that during the construction phase, more than 7,000 jobs will be created, and 50 percent of the energy generated will be exported, contributing to the country’s economy and thus making a regional energy hub in Mozambique.

The Mphanda Nkuwa project will be a lower-cost power generation option which will position Mozambique as a regional energy hub, and contribute to universal access, industrialization, job creation and technical training while generating tax and concession fee revenue. The project is fundamental for the energy transition and decarbonization of the southern region of Africa.

Carlos Yum has laid out the status of the Mphanda Nkuwa hydroelectric dam construction project. According to Yun, the project is budgeted at around US$5 billion, and work will start in 2024, the year in which financing is expected to be definitively concluded.

The project will take a total of six to seven years to complete. Of the approximately US$5 billion price tag, 60% is for the construction of the dam and 40% for the power transmission line. At this moment, the development office is preparing the launch of public tenders for the updating of the project’s feasibility studies.

By December 2022, the office will launch a tender for the identification of the strategic investment partner, whose financial closing a 2024 deadline has been set. In terms of shareholding, the Mphanda Nkuwa project will have the participation of the Mozambican state, through Electricidade de Moçambique (EDM) and Cahora Bassa Hydroelectric [(HCB), with between 30% and 35% of shares. The remaining 65% will be secured from private investors.

Carta de Moçambique also informed that there would be consultants involved – from Brazil, the United States, Sweden and South Africa – to assess possible problems associated with the project according to the best international practices, avoiding pitfalls that have marred previous projects implemented in the province and in Mozambique generally. 

It reported that experts and strategic investors, including the World Bank (WB) and the African Development Bank (ADB), have discussed some significant aspects concerning the implementation of the Mphanda Nkuwa hydroelectric project.

“Overall, we think this project is very important to the government’s goal of universal access by 2030,” said Zayra Romo, World Bank Mozambique Lead Energy Specialist and Infrastructure Practice Leader. As for the current stage of the project, which consists of the search for a strategic partner for the development of Mphanda Nkuwa, Romo said that the World Bank’s support would consist of ensuring the greatest possible competitiveness for the project, with a view to selecting the best contractor or investors that have experience to effectively manage Mphanda Nkuwa.

A press release from the Mphanda Nkuwa Implementation Office said that these companies and consortia had replied to the tender launched in December 2021, and delivered their pre-qualification documents before the deadline, first fixed on 28 February but, at the request of several of the bidders, it was extended to 18 April. It is hoped that construction of the new dam (which has been on the drawing board for decades) will finally begin in 2024. Construction will last for at least seven years.

According to the media release by the Mphanda Nkuwa Hydroelectric Project Implementation Office, the main objective is to ensure the coordination of actions for the implementation of the Mphanda Nkuwa project.

Location: The Mphanda Nkuwa Dam will be located in Tete Province, Centro region, on the Zambezi River, 61km downstream of the Cahora Bassa Hydroelectric Power Plant.

Project description: The Hydroelectric Power Plant will have a capacity of up to 1,500 Megawatts and an Electric Power Transmission Line from Tete to Maputo with 1,300 kilometres.

Budget: US$4.5 to US$5 billion, 60% for the construction of the dam and 40% for the power transmission line.

Strategic importance: The project will position Mozambique as an energy hub in southern Africa. It will provide lower cost energy in the country and region, contribute to universal access to energy in the country by 2030 and support rapid industrialization, with job creation, skills development and business opportunities (local content). Social and economic benefits, in the form of royalties and income on concession fees for the Mozambican state.

Environmental approach: The project will be implemented in strict compliance with national standards and internationally accepted best practices for the development of projects of this nature, to mitigate negative impacts and maximize positive aspects. In this context, the Mphanda Nkuwa Hydroelectric Project Implementation Office recently signed an agreement with the International Hydroelectricity Association for the assessment of the project’s sustainability, including training and capacity building.

Mozambique News Agency reported, citing government sources, that there were eight international consortiums interested to become strategic partners of Mozambique in building the Mphanda Nkuwa dam, with electricity production: ETC Holdings Mauritius, Longyuan Power Overseas Investment (Chinese), PowerChina Resources, WeBuild Group, Scatec (Norway), Sumitomo Corporation, EDF and Kansai Electric Power (Japan).

With an approximate population of 30 million, Mozambique is endowed with rich and extensive natural resources but remains one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world. It is one of the 16 countries, with a collective responsibility to promote socio-economic, political and security cooperation within the Southern African Development Community. 

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U.S. Government Likely Perpetrated Biggest-Ever Catastrophic Global-Warming Event

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On September 28th, the AP headlined “Record methane leak flows from damaged Baltic Sea pipelines” and reported that “Methane leaking from the damaged Nord Stream pipelines is likely to be the biggest burst of the potent greenhouse gas on record, by far. … Andrew Baxter, a chemical engineer who formerly worked in the offshore oil and gas industry, and is now at the environmental group EDF …  said, ‘It’s catastrophic for the climate.’” The article pointed out that methane “is 82.5 times more potent than carbon dioxide at absorbing the sun’s heat and warming the Earth.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin had been aiming ultimately (and maybe soon) to get the gas to Europe flowing again, and said to EU nations on September 16th, “Just lift the sanctions on Nord Stream 2, which is 55 billion cubic metres of gas per year, just push the button and everything will get going.”

Here is what U.S. President Joe Biden had already promised about that on February 7th:

If Germany — if Russia invades — that means tanks or troops crossing the — the border of Ukraine again — then there will be — we — there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2.  We will bring an end to it. 

Q    But how will you — how will you do that exactly, since the project and control of the project is within Germany’s control?

PRESIDENT BIDEN:  We will — I promise you, we’ll be able to do it

He had promised to cause permanently the end of Nord Stream if Russia invaded, which it did on February 24th. He fulfilled on that promise on September 27th.

Radek Sikorsky, who is a Member of the European Parliament and had been Poland’s Foreign Minister and is the husband of the famous writer against Russia Anne Applebaum, and has been affiliated with Oxford Universisty, Harvard University, and NATO, tweeted on the day of the explosions, “Thank you, USA.” He also tweeted explanations: “All Ukrainian and Baltic sea states have opposed Nordstream’s construction for 20 years. Now $20 billion of scrap metal lies at the bottom of the sea, another cost to Russia of its criminal decision to invade Ukraine.” And: “Nordstream’s only logic was for Putin to be able to blackmail or wage war on Eastern Europe with impunity.”

Furthermore on September 27th, Germany’s Spiegel magazine reported that, as Reuters put it, “The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had weeks ago warned Germany about possible attacks on gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea” 

On September 28th, SouthFront headlined “No Way Back for Europe” and reported

It is reasonably suspected that the pipeline was blown up by the special services of the United States in order to finally stop the gas supplies to Germany from Russia.

On September 27, a detachment of warships led by the US amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge reported on the completion of their tasks in the area of the alleged sabotage in the Baltic Sea and headed for the North Sea.

Since the beginning of September, suspicious activity by anti-submarine helicopters of the US Navy has been observed in the area. In the last few days, reconnaissance activities of NATO aircraft have significantly intensified in the Baltic Sea area. In particular, a US Boeing E-3 Sentry reconnaissance aircraft was on constant patrol over the Baltic States, and a US Joint STARS was spotted over Germany and Poland.

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