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Investing in new energy infrastructure: Green light for EU grants worth nearly €1 billion

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EU Member States agreed yesterday on a Commission proposal to invest €998 million in key European energy infrastructure projects under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). Yesterday’s positive vote provides financial aid for works and studies for ten projects.

The largest amount of funding goes to the Baltic Synchronisation Project (€720 million), to better integrate the electricity markets of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Other projects include a smart electricity grid linking Hungary and Slovakia (€102 million), and the first-ever CEF grant for works on a CO2 transport project for Belgian and Dutch ports. 

Kadri Simson, Commissioner for Energy, said: “These ten projects will contribute to a more modern, secure and smart energy infrastructure system, which is crucial for delivering the European Green Deal and meeting our ambitious 2030 climate targets. Yesterday’s decision marks a decisive step in the Baltic Synchronisation process in particular, a project of European strategic interest. These investments will help sustain the EU’s economic recovery and create jobs.”

The allocation of funds is in line with the objectives of the European Green Deal, with 84% of funds going to electricity or smart grid projects. Yesterday’s vote grants financial aid for ten projects: two for electricity transmission, one for smart electricity grids, six for CO2 transport (including five studies), and one for gas. The projects greenlighted yesterday include:

Baltic Synchronisation Project, Phase II (€720 million): Following a previous investment, this new funding will go to the construction of Harmony Link – an electricity cable connecting Poland and Lithuania through the Baltic Sea. The cable will become a building block for the future offshore grid in the Baltic Sea. This funding will also cover investments such as synchronous condensers in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Danube Ingrid (€102 million): This smart electricity grid project in Hungary and the Slovak Republic will improve network management and increase the quality and security of supply for all market participants. It will also support the efficient integration of renewables.

The Porthos CO2 transport network project (€102 million): This project between the Netherlands and Belgium will develop an open access CO2 transport network in three of Europe’s main ports (Rotterdam, Antwerp and North Sea Port) leading to an offshore storage site in the North Sea.

The Bulgaria – Serbia Interconnector (€28 million): This priority project agreed under the CESEC High-Level Group will improve security of supply and diversification of gas imports in Southeast Europe.

North Sea Wind Power Hub (€14 million): A study to support the development of an important project for the roll-out of offshore wind in the North Sea.

Background

For Europe to transition to a clean and modern economy, it is necessary to adapt European infrastructure to the future needs of the energy system. Interconnections form the backbone of an integrated EU energy market, which will improve Europe’s security of supply, reduce the dependence on single suppliers and give consumers more choice. It is also essential for renewable energy sources to thrive and for the EU to deliver on its Paris Agreement commitments and its ambition to become climate neutral by mid-century.

Only Projects of Common interest (PCIs) on the Union list adopted by the Commission are eligible for a CEF grant. The latest PCI list was published in October 2019 and the next PCI list – the 5th – is expected to enter into force in early 2021. CEF-Energy has already awarded almost €4 billion in grants since 2014 with 65% allocated to electricity projects, including smart grids.

Future CEF–Energy funding is subject to a final agreement by the EU institutions on the Mulitannual Financial Framework for 2021-2027. Future awards will be in line with the planned revision of the Trans-European Networks for Energy (TEN-E) Regulation. The Commission is due to table its TEN-E proposal before the end of 2020, to ensure a future-proof framework to allow the EU to fund the infrastructure needed for delivering the European Green Deal.

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Global emissions are set to surge to an all-time high

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Governments worldwide are deploying an unprecedented amount of fiscal support aimed at stabilising and rebuilding their economies, but only about 2% of this spending has been allocated to clean energy measures, according to new analysis from the International Energy Agency.

The sums of money, both public and private, being mobilised worldwide by recovery plans fall well short of what is needed to reach international climate goals. These shortfalls are particularly pronounced in emerging and developing economies, many of which face particular financing challenges.

Under governments’ current recovery spending plans, global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are set to climb to record levels in 2023 and continue rising in the following years. This would leave the world far from the pathway to net-zero emissions by 2050 that the IEA set out in its recent Global Roadmap to Net Zero.

These findings come from the new Sustainable Recovery Tracker that the IEA launched today to help policy makers assess how far recovery plans are moving the needle on climate. The new online tool is a contribution to the G20 Ministerial Meeting on Environment, Climate and Energy in Naples, which takes place on 22 and 23 July under the Presidency of Italy.

The Tracker monitors government spending allocated to sustainable recoveries and then estimates how much this spending boosts overall clean energy investment and to what degree this affects the trajectory of global CO2 emissions. The Tracker considers over 800 national sustainable recovery policies in its analysis, which are publicly available on the IEA website.

“Since the Covid-19 crisis erupted, many governments may have talked about the importance of building back better for a cleaner future, but many of them are yet to put their money where their mouth is. Despite increased climate ambitions, the amount of economic recovery funds being spent on clean energy is just a small sliver of the total,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director.

Governments have mobilised USD 16 trillion in fiscal support throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, most of it focused on emergency financial relief for households and firms. Only 2% of the total is earmarked for clean energy transitions.

In the early phases of the pandemic, the IEA released the Sustainable Recovery Plan, which recommended USD 1 trillion of spending globally on clean energy measures that could feature prominently in recovery plans. According to the Plan – developed in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund – this spending would boost global economic growth, create millions of jobs and put the world on track to meet the Paris Agreement goals.

According to the Tracker, all the key sectors highlighted in the IEA Sustainable Recovery Plan are receiving inadequate attention from policy makers. Current government plans would only increase total public and private spending on clean energy to around USD 350 billion a year by 2023 – only 35% of what is envisaged in the Plan.

The Tracker shows the stark geographic disparities that are emerging in clean energy investment. The majority of funds are being mobilised in advanced economies, which are nearing 60% of the investment levels envisaged in the Sustainable Recovery Plan. Emerging and developing economies, many of which have limited fiscal leeway, have so far mobilised only about 20% of the recommended spending levels.

“Not only is clean energy investment still far from what’s needed to put the world on a path to reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century, it’s not even enough to prevent global emissions from surging to a new record. Many countries – especially those where the needs are greatest – are also missing the benefits that well planned clean energy investment brings, such as stronger economic growth, new jobs and the development of the energy industries of the future,” Dr Birol said

“Governments need to increase spending and policy action rapidly to meet the commitments they made in Paris in 2015 – including the vital provision of financing by advanced economies to the developed world,” Dr Birol added. “But they must then go even further by leading clean energy investment and deployment to much greater heights beyond the recovery period in order to shift the world onto a pathway to net-zero emissions by 2050, which is narrow but still achievable – if we act now.”

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Portugal’s energy policies set a clear pathway towards 2050 carbon neutrality

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Portugal’s equitable and well-balanced plans for reaching a carbon-neutral economy should support the country’s economic growth and energy security, according to a new energy policy review by the International Energy Agency.

Portugal’s energy and climate policies aim to reach carbon neutrality primarily through broad electrification of energy demand and a rapid expansion of renewable electricity generation, along with increased energy efficiency. These measures are backed by a strong focus on reducing dependency on energy imports and maintaining affordable access to energy. In the longer term, Portugal is aiming for hydrogen to play a major role in achieving carbon neutrality.

“Portugal was among the first countries in the world to set a target for carbon neutrality by 2050, and its Roadmap for Carbon Neutrality shows a strong commitment to electrifying its economy and ensuring a secure and affordable energy transition,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director, who is launching the policy review today at an event with João Pedro Matos Fernandes, Portugal’s Minister for the Environment and Climate Action. “The IEA looks forwards to supporting the Portuguese government as it works on a fair and inclusive transition to a carbon-neutral economy.”

Portugal’s climate and energy goals still face notable challenges, the IEA policy review notes, with an economy that remains heavily reliant on imported fossil fuels today. The report welcomes steps the government is taking to address these challenges. An effective auction process for renewable energy projects should result in almost 2 gigawatts of new renewable generation coming online in the next few years, which will triple Portugal’s solar PV capacity.

Portugal is pushing to reduce oil demand and associated emissions through transport decarbonisation, with over EUR 10 billion of investments in electrified rail and public transport, favourable tax treatment for electric vehicles and support for charging infrastructure. Portugal is also taking a major step towards lowering emissions and reducing energy import dependency by phasing out coal-fired electricity generation in 2021.

Portugal sees a key role for hydrogen produced from renewable energy in hard-to-decarbonise sectors and for achieving carbon neutrality. The National Hydrogen Strategy sets a goal for hydrogen produced from renewable energy to cover 1.5-2% of Portugal’s energy demand by 2030, with use in industry, domestic maritime shipping, road transport and for injection into the natural gas network and potential exports.

“I congratulate Portugal for developing a broad policy framework with robust measures to achieve emission reductions,” Dr Birol said. “Portugal has found a good balance of ambitious targets and competitive support measures needed to drive a cost-effective energy transition.”

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EU energy programme with Eastern partner countries extends into second phase

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The European Commission has launched the second phase of its EU4Energy programme, which promotes low-carbon and clean energy transitions in the Eastern Partnership (EaP), a joint initiative involving the European Union, its Members States and six Eastern European Partners: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

“Promoting the Clean Energy Transition in the Eastern Partnership Countries: EU4Energy Phase II” will run for the next four years and will help develop legislative and regulatory frameworks that support the region’s energy transformation and the liberalisation of its energy markets, as well the digitalisation of its energy systems. Beyond reducing emissions, the programme’s goal is to provide the citizens of the Eastern Partnership Countries with more stable and resilient energy supplies, empowering consumers and increasing energy security.

The International Energy Agency is a partner in the EU4Energy programme along with the Council of European Energy Regulators (CEER) and the Energy Community Secretariat (EnCS). The 8 July kick-off conference for the programme’s second phase includes country representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine who will share their knowhow and experience to further enhance cooperation in the energy sector within the region.

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