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Placing innovation and efficiency at the heart of Korea and the world’s energy future

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Authors: Sung Yun-mo and Dr Fatih Birol

Major shifts are occurring in the global energy system due to the rapid spread of technologies, including energy storage, wind turbines and solar panels. Amid such innovation and change, energy efficiency has emerged as a key area. Although less visible than vast wind farms or eye-catching electric cars, energy efficiency is no less important for the health of people, the environment and the economy.

Energy efficiency brings many benefits to our daily lives: cars that run further on less fuel, lower heating bills for better insulated homes and the smoother operation of factories that make more products while using less electricity. There is still a great deal of room for improvements in energy efficiency across every country and every sector of the global economy which can have a large impact on progress towards sustainable energy goals – all using cost-effective technologies that are already available.

Korea is continuing to forge ahead with its energy transition towards clean and safe energy. On the supply side, energy transition implies lowering the share of coal and nuclear energy in the case of Korea while increasing the use of renewables. In terms of demand, it refers to the creation of a high-efficiency and low-consumption structure by improving energy efficiency.

Korea has continued to implement energy demand management policies since the Energy Use Rationalization Act was enacted in 1979. However, Korea’s energy efficiency-related indexes are still far from satisfactory. Korea’s energy use per capita is among the highest in the world and its energy intensity lags behind at 33rd place among member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Seeing the need to upgrade its consumption structure for a successful energy transition, the Korean government announced the National Plan for Energy Efficiency Innovation in August. This plan is in line with the direction of energy efficiency policies emphasized by the International Energy Agency (IEA): using programs and incentives to increase private investment; market-based instruments for innovation; and data collection. In addition, rather than the government imposing unilateral regulations, Korea’s plan focuses on eliciting the voluntary and active participation of actors in the market with a view to changing overall consumption behavior and values.

Energy efficiency targets will be voluntarily established by industry while the government promotes greater investment by providing incentives. As for buildings, energy-efficiency related data will be collected, evaluated and released to the public. In the case of home appliances, manufacturers, sellers, consumers and the government will sign a social agreement to facilitate the production and distribution of products with high efficiency. In short, consumers will come to choose high efficiency products and facilities in the same way that preference is given to prices, functions and designs.

Korea’s efforts reflect a growing recognition worldwide that greater efficiency offers tremendous opportunities. With the right efficiency policies, the global industrial sector – from chemicals to machinery and airplane manufacturing – could save about USD 600 billion in additional energy spending by 2040, according to IEA analysis. In transport, the average passenger car in 2040 may operate on as little fuel as today’s best hybrids. And across buildings worldwide, energy use could be kept at today’s level through to 2040 despite a 60% increase in floor space.

In terms of tackling climate change, a global effort to boost energy efficiency may cut energy-related CO2 emissions by 12% by 2040, according to IEA analysis. Such a figure represents more than 40% of the emissions reductions required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

But despite energy efficiency’s huge potential, progress is stagnating worldwide at a time when its environmental and economic benefits are needed more than ever. Global energy demand grew by 2.5% in 2018, the largest increase since 2010, and energy-related carbon emissions rose to their highest level in history. Energy intensity improves each year, meaning the world is extracting greater value for the energy it uses. Nevertheless, this improvement amounted to just over 1% last year – well below what is possible if governments take advantage of the opportunities right in front of them – and well below the 3% rate needed to meet global sustainable energy goals.

To help reverse this worrying trend, the IEA is working with governments, companies and other institutions to highlight the urgent need for policy makers around the world to act quickly to improve energy efficiency.

Korea has been actively engaged in global discussions on energy issues as a member of the IEA since 2002. Vast efforts are being made to facilitate the supply of renewable energies. And as the host of the 2019 International Renewable Energy Conference in October, Korea is expanding its roles and responsibilities in the international community.

Korea has now set itself an ambitious challenge for the innovation of its consumption structure. As a nation that imports 95% of its energy from overseas and relies upon an energy-intensive industrial structure, enhancing Korea’s energy efficiency is of great global significance. Through various channels including the Energy Efficiency Hub in the IEA, the Korean government is more than willing to share its experience, and will continue to foster discussions on energy efficiency in the years to come.

IEA

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Price Cap on Russian Oil: The Mechanism and Its Consequences

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G7 countries are working hard to coordinate a sanctions regime to cap prices on Russian oil and oil products. The United States is already drafting a mechanism for applying these sanctions, which its allies and partners will use as a guideline. The new sanctions in the form of legal arrangements are expected to be formalised very soon. How will this mechanism work, and what consequences can this lead to?

An unprecedented range of economic sanctions has been used against Russia since the beginning of the special military operation in Ukraine in February 2022. Their primary aim was to deal the largest possible economic damage to force Moscow to revise its policy and to undermine its resources provision. Since energy exports are extremely important for funding the Russian economy, sanctions against its oil and gas sector were more than just predictable. However, the United States, the EU and other initiators had to act cautiously, because Russia is a major player on the global market. US restrictions on the export of Iranian oil had little impact on the global market, whereas blocking sanctions against Russian oil companies could lead to uncontrollable price hikes. This could accelerate inflation, which was growing fast on the back of COVID-19 and other factors.

Nevertheless, the sanctions noose on the oil sector was tightening. Some sectoral sanctions have been applied since 2014, such as restrictions on loans and on the supply of products, services, technologies and investment in the Arctic shelf oil projects. Blocking sanctions were adopted against a number of co-owners, owners and top managers in the fuel and energy sector. In March 2022, Washington prohibited the import of Russian energy resources to the United States. Canada acted likewise. The EU started with banning Russian coal imports and later spread the ban, with a few exceptions, to oil and oil products. The bans are to come into force on December 5, 2022, and February 5, 2023, respectively. The UK plans to stop the import of Russian oil this year. Overall, Western countries are working to gradually banish Russian oil and oil products from their markets.

However, Moscow has quickly redirected its deliveries to Asian markets, where Western countries cannot easily impose similar restrictions, especially since Russian companies are selling their products with large discounts. The idea of a price cap has been proposed to be able to influence Russian oil prices outside Western countries.

The essence of the proposed mechanism is very simple. The United States, G7 and any other countries that join the coalition will legally prohibit the provision of services which enable maritime transportation of Russian-origin crude oil and petroleum products that are purchased above the price cap. The US Treasury has issued a Preliminary Guidance to explain the essence of the forthcoming bans, to be formalised in a determination pursuant to Executive Order 14071 of April 6, 2022. Section 1 (ii) of the executive order empowers the US Treasury and the Department of State to prohibit the export or re-export of “any category of services” to Russia. The upcoming Determination will explain the ban for American parties to provide services which enable the transportation of Russian-origin crude oil and petroleum products above the price cap. The US administration plans to enforce the ban on oil on December 5, 2022, and the ban on oil products on February 5, 2023, simultaneously with the EU bans on Russian oil imports.

But what is the exact meaning of the phrase “services which enable maritime transportation”? The US will most likely offer an extended interpretation. In other words, such services will include transportation, related financial transactions, insurance, bunkering, port maintenance and the like. This would allow Washington to influence a broad range of service providers outside the United States. For example, the US administration might consider dollar-denominated transactions on oil transportation to fall under US jurisdiction, so that very many players outside the US will face fines or prosecution. Punishment for avoiding the price cap, as well as for using deceptive shipping practices, have been set out in the new Guidance.

It is another matter how strictly the other coalition countries will implement this guidance and how large this coalition can be. The level of coordination within the initiator countries will likely remain very high, which means that the allied countries will do this in accordance with their national legislations. The coalition will include the countries that have already adopted sanctions against Russia.

The biggest question is whether the countries that have not adopted such sanctions, including Russia-friendly countries, can be convinced to join the coalition. The answer is most probably negative, but this will not settle the problem. Despite the official position of the friendly countries, their businesses could surrender to the US demand to avoid the risk of persecution.

The G7 statement and the new Guidance of the US Treasury imply that the sanctions are being imposed out of concern for the international community rather than solely for the purpose of punishing Russia. They say that the price cap is designed to stop the growth of oil prices that have been artificially inflated by the conflict in Ukraine. However, this “concern” can lead to unpredictable consequences.

To begin with, the latest attempt at the political mandating of prices will increase uncertainty, which will further drive the prices up. Prices can grow on expectations of problems with signing deals on the delivery of Russian oil and oil products over excessive compliance, which will lead to temporary shortages. Another problem is that the other oil producers will have to lower prices as well. They will not like this.

In fact, the sellers’ market is being changed into the buyers’ market by artificial political methods rather than for economic reasons.

And lastly, Russia is being forced to become the leader of dumping. Demand for its oil could be higher than for the products of other suppliers, and Moscow can make up for its profit shortfall by increasing deliveries. If the Western countries that prohibit the import of Russian oil and oil products buy other suppliers’ oil at higher prices while Asian countries continue to buy Russian products, this will artificially increase the competitiveness of Asian economies.

It is time for Russia to start thinking about adjusting to the Western restrictions, including by developing its own tanker fleet and abandoning the US dollar in oil deals. The latter is the prevalent task of Russia’s foreign trade in the new political conditions.

From our partner RIAC

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Absolute Proof that EU Leaders Are Responsible for Europe’s Soaring Fuel-Prices

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A BusinissInsider news-report on the morning of September 7th headlined “Putin says Russia will restart Nord Stream 1 gas flows ‘tomorrow’ if it gets turbines, and blames sanctions for the shutdown” and opened with:

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Gazprom could restart gas flows to Europe via the key Nord Stream 1 pipeline tomorrow, if it gets the turbines needed. He blamed Germany and Western sanctions for the indefinite halt in operations for the pipeline, according to media reports from his speech at the Eastern Economic Forum. At the same time, he said pressure from the US was behind the holdup in launching another pipeline, Nord Stream 2.

Putin was telling the EU’s leaders that what has been forcing gas-prices in Europe up 300% since Russia’s February 24th invasion of Ukraine isn’t Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (such as they allege) but instead the U.S.-EU-UK economic sanctions against Russia which have caused all U.S.-and-allied — including all EU — nations to terminate imports of fuels from Russia. He was saying that Russia will turn on the pipelines into the EU as soon as EU leaders turn off their sanctions that prohibit their businesses and consumers from buying it.

The ball is now in their court. Let’s see what they do with it. Have they been lying to allege that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused this 300% gas-price rise? If so, then Putin has said that the moment they stop lying and start to allow the gas to flow again from Russia, that gas will flow again from Russia and those prices will consequently plunge back down again.

If, however, they have been telling the truth (though it’s hard to see how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24th could even possibly have forced up the prices in the EU of all fuels from Russia), then the ball will immediately be in Putin’s court, for him promptly to get the flows of Russian fuels into Europe restored to what they had been prior to the EU’s sanctions that were imposed in the wake of that invasion.

Because it’s hard to see how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24th could even possibly have forced up the prices in the EU of all fuels from Russia, the headline here is based upon the very reasonable expectation: that the result of Putin’s September 7th challenge to the EU’s leaders will be that they are proven to have been lying when they have blamed these price-rises on him, instead of on themselves.

In other words: On September 7th, Putin laid down the gauntlet to EU leaders, regarding whom is to blame for Europe’s now-soaring energy-prices, and for the consequences thereof. That challenge to them tests whom has been telling the truth about this matter, and whom has been lying about it. It is that test, regardless of whether news-reports about his statement (other than this one), report it as testing whom the liars, and whom the truth-tellers, about this matter, have been. This is a big tree that is falling in the news-forest, and that tree is falling, regardless of whether or not (or the extent to which) it is being reported to the public. The test is a fact — an important fact — even if it won’t be reported (other than here). However, something else will be even more important: what the result of this test will turn out to be. And then the test for the news-media will be: will they report that result? Will they report the finding? Because there certainly will be a finding, from this test. And it certainly will be an important one.

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Coal Diplomacy: Could We Be Free from the Climate Crisis?

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One of the things that is perplexing at the moment is that there is no clarity about how life will be lived in the coming year from an economic standpoint. In 2023, both the Indonesian finance minister and the Indonesian president said that “the world is dark.” Uncertainty regarding many topics, particularly economic concerns, is referred to be “dark.” Recession that affected several of the world’s major economies. The biggest issues now are energy shortage and food ingredient scarcity. Politics is no longer focused on how to achieve power, as well as the world’s attention and authority, but on how to sustain tomorrow’s life and escape the perils of hunger and cold.

Since the implementation of Western sanctions on Russia, not only has the political game grown more attractive in terms of military and economics, but it has also had an influence on the economy. Because of Russia’s high price for oil and gas, as well as the growing issue of energy shortages, various European nations have taken the initiative to generate electricity by burning coal. This has recently received a lot of attention in the media. The transfer of energy sources is plainly the polar opposite of the world’s current commitment to reduce emissions and environmental impacts. In the face of global uncertainty, the availability of coal as an energy source will assist emerging nations with coal reserves, such as Indonesia. However, when the time period and amount of coal burned are considered, this definitely accelerates the environmental impact. According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2021 report, worldwide coal consumption in 2020 was 151.42 exajoules. This figure fell by 4.2% from the previous year, when it stood at 157.64 exajoules. China is the largest consumer, accounting for 54.3% of total worldwide spending, followed by the United States, India, and Japan.

How Coal affects the environment

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica (2015), coal is derived from animal and plant fossils that perished and were buried millions of years ago; coal is currently the world’s greatest fossil fuel when compared to oil. necessitates a number of operations and a rather wide space It generates a lot of pollution and environmental harm from coal mining to processing to consumption to the ultimate cycle of use. The following is an example of a coal processing line:

First, when coal is discovered, people and certain groups will plan to mine it. The plan is then carried out by constructing a mine. At this early stage Coal mines will have a negative influence on the ecosystem, beginning with changes in the terrain, which will reduce soil fertility. Biodiversity is under peril.

Second, a variety of chemical reactions occur in nature during coal processing procedures. When fossil fuels are burned to generate energy, the carbon in the fuel interacts with oxygen to make CO2 gas, the majority of which is emitted into the atmosphere. Not only does coal combustion emit CO2, but it also emits methane into the atmosphere. As a greenhouse gas, methane is twenty times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Not only does coal combustion emit CO2 and methane, but it also emits sulfur in the form of sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas.  If these three chemical compounds are released into nature, they have a severe influence on the environment and humans, producing soil degradation, air pollution, and the sulfur content released is also particularly toxic for water. Although there is a new phrase and breakthrough “Clean coal,” according to Michael Economides, professor of chemical engineering at the University of Houston, Texas), it is highly improbable that clean coal can be created by “Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).”

Third, following a series of procedures, the mining and burning of coal will also leave visible traces. Past mining locations’ created craters and changing landscapes, of course, damage the ecology, and former excavations frequently cost life.

 Indonesia and coal

Indonesia is one of the countries that has profited from the present global energy constraint. The Center for Mineral, Coal, and Geothermal Resources reported that Indonesia’s coal reserves were at 31.7 billion tons as of January 19, 2022. Indonesia not only utilizes coal for internal purposes, but also exports it to other nations in order to gain foreign currency. When coal prices rise, it contributes to state income, but these gains are only transitory since the government gives additional relief to coal service employees through power subsidies and compensation.

According to investor.id data source Carbon Brief, the Indonesian government offers power subsidies and compensation with a budget of Rp. 127.9 trillion. This sum is higher than the previous year’s total of Rp. 74.4 trillion. The government provides subsidies and incentives so that PLN may continue to acquire coal from the firm while keeping power prices stable.  Owners of coal mining enterprises will gain the most during this period of energy shortage. In January-March 2022, one of the coal mines had a 457.6% rise in net profit. Until June 2022, Indonesia’s coal output has achieved 283.57 million tons, or around 42.77% of the target for 2022, which was 633 million tons. Meanwhile, national coal sales through June 2022, which included both exports and domestic sales, were 175.15 million tons.

Climate Commitment Challenge

It is quite difficult to retain environmental commitment in these times. On the one hand, humans are attempting and committed to keeping the environment stable by reducing the greenhouse effect, which can harm the ozone layer, but the current situation has not provided an opportunity to obtain energy that is cleaner and environmentally friendly, and can be produced in large quantities quickly, other than rocks and coals.  Coal processing and utilization as an energy source has been known for over a century, and its influence has been felt in recent decades. However, the usage of coal cannot be minimized or eliminated at this time. Europe’s Germany, Poland, and even India in Asia ordered coal from Indonesia to meet their national energy demands. This has occurred since Russia’s sanctions were implemented.

This circumstance demonstrates how the political system affects the food chain. With the increased usage of coal in many regions of the world, it is possible that the Paris Agreement and the G20 statement, as well as other environmental and climate-related pledges, will be revisited. However, increased worldwide coal usage will hasten the depletion of global coal stockpiles. Keep in mind that nature takes thousands of years to generate coal, but human progress in this century is so rapid.

Conclusion

The human task of sustaining the appropriateness of a place to live in the face of global instability will never diminish. These obstacles might arise from the environment in which humans live or from outside sources such as governmental policy, commerce, and conflict.  The recent increase in the use of coal is a short-term effort for humans to survive and carry out their activities, but in the long run, human dependence on coal must be considered, given that humans’ ability to grow and reproduce faster than nature’s ability to produce coal for humans, and even if coal is still relied on, it will accelerate environmental pollution, which then affects weather and climate. It is vital to review how the commitment to environmental protection has been pursued in both local and international obligations.

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