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Fatih Birol urges Middle Eastern producer economies to accelerate clean energy transition

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IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol today received a lifetime achievement award at the major international energy industry conference ADIPEC, which is hosted by the United Arab Emirates. The award was presented by Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change, in recognition of Dr Birol’s long-standing work assessing the global energy sector and providing clarity on how it can adapt to the clean energy transition.

The acknowledgement of Dr Birol’s efforts to advance the clean energy transition comes at a time when the IEA is multiplying its efforts to build a broad coalition to accelerate global climate action that includes the oil and gas exporting countries in the Middle East and North Africa. It also comes after the recent announcement that the United Arab Emirates will host the COP28 Climate Change Conference in 2023, after Egypt hosts COP27 next year.

“I would like to congratulate Fatih Birol on a truly well-deserved recognition of his lifetime’s commitment across the energy landscape. His understanding of how the whole energy system fits together is unparalleled. Moreover, his practical approach to ensuring sustainable development is having – and will continue to have – a positive, powerful impact on how the world makes an equitable and orderly transition to the energy system of the future,” said Sultan Al Jaber in presenting the award to Dr Birol in Abu Dhabi.

“The global warming that is already affecting us all worldwide is especially treacherous for Middle Eastern and North African countries – some are experiencing warming at a far higher rate than the global average. The region is today going through its worst drought in over 900 years,” Dr Birol said in his acceptance speech during the awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi. He underscored the need for oil and gas producing economies to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and rapidly shift towards cleaner alternatives.

“More than at any other point in recent history, fundamental changes to the economic model of resource-rich countries look unavoidable. The future will look very different from the past,” he told the audience. “That is why it is so important that we work together. We need to deploy traditional strengths in support of economic diversification and low-carbon transformation. First movers – countries that take a proactive approach to this – could do especially well.”

In his remarks, Dr Birol highlighted that the IEA’s work with multiple countries across the region centres on supporting efforts to decarbonise energy systems while also securing the economic benefits that the clean energy transition can bring.

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Accelerating private sector investment in large-scale Renewable Energy

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Following its 2020 edition, the Economic Policy Dialogue series (EPD) is back with six new sessions that will run until June 2023. Organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank Group in Tunisia through TERI Trust Fund, these monthly meetings aim to bring together relevant key stakeholders to create a space for constructive, inclusive, and transparent debate, allowing to collectively address the challenges of economic and social reforms facing the country.

The six EPD sessions are organized to foster dialogue on structural reforms and collectively identify practical and operational solutions to facilitate the implementation of reforms needed to address economic and social challenges as well as economic and development priorities.

The first session will be held on Thursday, 24 November 2022, and will focus on “Accelerating private sector investment in large-scale renewable energy.” Through a frank and direct debate, this dialogue session will aim to propose solutions to accelerate the realization of large-scale renewable energy projects, find ways to overcome the identified barriers and propose innovative mechanisms for a win-win partnership to regain investor confidence and catalyze the development of these projects. Accelerating the implementation of these projects is the only way to reduce the energy deficit and contribute to achieving energy transition objectives: energy security, economic competitiveness, social equity, and climate action.

Tunisia’s interests in the energy transition are evident given the country’s increasing energy demand (1.5% per year) and the worsening of the energy deficit. All the while, the country remains, despite the adoption of several forward-looking laws, far from the objectives it had set itself – namely, 30% of renewable energy in the energy mix in 2030.

At the end of each session, proposed in a participatory format, recommendations will be formulated to initiate and fuel reflection on possible national socio-economic reforms. These reforms aim to improve access to regional development, youth employability, and economic and financial inclusion within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework.

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World Bank Group Announces International Low-Carbon Hydrogen Partnership

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Today, on Energy Day at COP27, the World Bank Group announced the creation of the Hydrogen for Development Partnership (H4D), a new global initiative to boost the deployment of low-carbon hydrogen in developing countries.

H4D will help catalyze significant financing for hydrogen investments in the next few years, both from public and private sources. The partnership will foster capacity building and regulatory solutions, business models, and technologies toward the roll out of low-carbon hydrogen in developing countries.   Through H4D, developing countries will gain further access to concessional financing and technical assistance to scale up hydrogen projects. 

“Low-carbon hydrogen can have a significant role in countries seeking to accelerate their clean energy transition,” said David Malpass, President of the World Bank Group. “Our new hydrogen partnership will enable developing countries to prepare low-carbon hydrogen projects and boost energy security and resilience for their people while lowering emissions.”

Low-carbon hydrogen offers a solution to decarbonize heavy industries that produce more than 25 percent of global CO2 emissions, for which there is presently no viable alternative to fossil fuels. Low-cost, low-carbon hydrogen fuel can become a viable replacement for diesel in transportation. Hydrogen also has the potential to provide long-term energy storage options and bolster the reliability of renewable energies with variable outputs, like solar photovoltaics and wind.

For low- and middle-income countries, low-carbon hydrogen has the potential to generate export revenues, creating a value-added export sector that generates jobs for skilled labor and helps promote food security, since hydrogen can be used to produce ammonia, a key component of fertilizers.  It can also generate energy capacity to meet local needs, including decarbonizing in-country manufacturing and smelting sectors, and provide energy access to remote populations.

The main activities of the H4D partnership, to be hosted in the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) of the World Bank, will include:

  • Convening international cooperation to increase the knowledge base in low-carbon hydrogen technologies for developing countries.
  •  Building capacities by following a global public goods approach.
  • Understanding requirements from emerging markets and the private sector for the deployment of low-carbon hydrogen and its derivatives.
  • Creating opportunities to inform innovation and for new technologies to gain visibility.
  • Generating policy dialogue on enabling the deployment of low-carbon hydrogen across countries.
  • Fostering collaboration with private sector partners for clean hydrogen projects.
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EU leaders accuse US natural gas producers of profiteering

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European leaders are unhappy with natural gas prices. Some leaders are insisting that the EU impose a price cap on all natural gas imports, regardless of origin, – notes Oilprice.com.

France’s president Emmanuel Macron accused the United States of a “double standard” because of the difference between the price at which liquefied natural gas produced in the U.S. sells in Europe and the price at which natural gas sells within the U.S.

“The North American economy is making choices for the sake of attractiveness, which I respect, but they create a double standard,” Macron said, also adding that “they allow state aid going to up to 80% on some sectors while it’s banned here – you get a double standard.”

He wasn’t alone among European national leaders in being unhappy about gas prices. In fact, as many as 15 leaders were unhappy, and they insisted that the EU imposes a price cap on all natural gas imports, regardless of origin.

Now, the U.S. is striking back at the accusations.

“What’s happening is the companies that hold those long-term contracts with US LNG producers, they’re marking that up and earning that margin in the European market,” Brian Crabtree, an assistant secretary at the Department of Energy, – told the Financial Times. “It’s not the US LNG company, it’s basically European-headquartered international oil companies and traders.”

Indeed, producers of liquefied natural gas do not invariably sell their product directly to the consumer, in the face of a country in Europe, for instance, They work with commodity majors such as Vitol and Trafigura, or the supermajors, including BP and Shell.

This is not to say that LNG producers are not benefiting from the much stronger demand for LNG from Europe. And this is exactly the reason they have been benefiting, in the form of higher profits: demand has surged, and when demand surges, prices follow, especially if supply is not growing as fast as demand.

In other words, Europe seems to want businesses to not act as businesses and take every opportunity to make a profit, which is what businesses are all about.

Be that as it may, a Ministry of Energy analyst, told the FT that the U.S. was committed to helping Europe get enough gas “at a price that is affordable to the continent.” It’s hardly a surprise he did not go into detail on how this affordable price would be achieved.

…This is a free market, isn’t it?

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