Monday, August 22, 2022

EU: Commission approves german 27.5 Bn energy-compensation scheme

 The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, a German scheme to partially compensate energy-intensive companies for higher electricity prices resulting from indirect emission costs under the EU Emission Trading System (‘ETS').

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “This €27.5 billion scheme will allow Germany to reduce the impact of indirect emission costs on its energy-intensive industries and hence the risk that these companies relocate their production to countries outside the EU with less ambitious climate policies. At the same time, the measure will facilitate a cost-effective decarbonisation of the German economy in line with the Green Deal objectives, while limiting possible distortions of competition.”

The German measure

The scheme notified by Germany, with a total estimated budget of €27.5 billion, will cover part of the higher electricity prices arising from the impact of carbon prices on electricity generation costs (so-called ‘indirect emission costs') incurred between 2021 and 2030. The support measure is aimed at reducing the risk of ‘carbon leakage', where companies relocate their production to countries outside the EU with less ambitious climate policies, resulting increased greenhouse gas emissions globally.

The measure will benefit companies active in sectors at risk of carbon leakage listed in Annex I to the Guidelines on certain State aid measures in the context of the greenhouse gas emission allowance trading scheme post-2021 (‘ETS State aid Guidelines'). Those sectors face significant electricity costs and are particularly exposed to international competition.

The compensation will be granted to eligible companies through a partial refund of the indirect emission costs incurred in the previous year, with the final payment to be made in 2031. The maximum aid amount will be generally equal to 75 % of the indirect emission costs incurred. However, in some instances, the maximum aid amount can be higher to limit the remaining indirect emission costs incurred to 1.5 % of the company's gross value added. The aid amount is calculated based on electricity consumption efficiency benchmarks, which ensure that the beneficiaries are encouraged to save energy.

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EU: energy cooperation between the bloc and Ukraine and Moldova

 Transmission System Operators for Electricity of Continental Europe agree to increase the trade capacity with the Ukraine/Moldova power system,

On 28 July, the Transmission System Operators (TSOs) of Continental Europe agreed to increase the trade capacity with Ukraine/Moldova to 250 MW which is more than double the capacity that was set in the initial phase (100 MW). The possibility of further increasing trade capacity will be assessed in September based on power system stability and security considerations.

Commercial electricity exchanges with the Ukraine/Moldova power system started on 30 June on the interconnection between Ukraine and Romania, followed by the Ukraine-Slovakia interconnection on 7 July. Electricity trading on the other interconnections (Ukraine-Hungary and Moldova-Romania) is expected to follow later.

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Germany: politicians shun fracking-option to mitigate gas import problems

As Germany is severley affected by the cut-back of russian piped gas and also in the light of ethical consideration the fracking-option, banned in 2017, is again put forward. However politicians and lawmakars are reluctant: WELT:

Germany is stuck in the natural gas crisis and is dependent on Russian supplies, which are being reduced. The focus is on Germany's own resources: Huge amounts of natural gas lie beneath Germany, which geologists say could supply the country for decades.

The energy reserves could be tapped by fracking. But the previous federal government banned the drilling technology in 2017, even though scientific reports had also shown fracking to be practicable in Germany.

The ban is not set in stone, according to the Water Resources Act it should be reconsidered: The German Bundestag was obliged to review the appropriateness of the fracking ban as early as 2021 - "on the basis of the current state of science and technology", as the law states . However: That did not happen – despite the gas crisis.

When asked by WELT, the Bundestag pointed out that the “Fracking Expert Commission” only submitted its report from 2021 at the end of June, on the basis of which advice should be given. The factions of the parties represented in the Bundestag would now decide when the parliamentary deliberations would take place.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Natural Gas: Germany considers LNG imports from Senegal

 With gas supply from russia becoming more precarious and ethically problematic, Germany is scouting around for new sources of supply. On his jorney through several african countries, germany Chancellor Olaf Scholz has explored options of gas exportations of gas from Senegal zu Germany. Climate advocates however find fault with this, WELT:

Senegal has big plans: The West African country wants to use the newly created gap in the gas supply and supply industrialized countries like Germany with liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the future.

According to estimates by the energy company BP, more than 425 billion cubic meters of natural gas are waiting to be extracted off the coast of Senegal and Mauritania. The local enthusiasm is great: “Experts consider the estimated gas resources in Senegal to be world-class. Senegal is on the way to becoming a major gas exporter,” says the Senegalese newspaper Le Quotidien.

Although the country has large gas reserves, it was only the Ukraine war and the move away from Russian gas that really revived hopes of a boom. "The war changed everything," quoted the Washington Post as Mamadou Fall Kane, deputy chief of Senegal's natural resources agency. "Now Europe is knocking on our door."

Because after Africa was asked for years by the European Union, for example, to rely on renewable energies, the energy crisis is now also focusing on fossil fuels again in industrialized countries that want to free themselves from dependence on Russia.

The federal government is also positioning itself: during his trip to Africa in May, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) campaigned in Senegal for closer cooperation on the expansion of the gas infrastructure. It makes sense to "follow closely" such cooperation, this is a "common concern," Scholz said after talks with Senegalese President Macky Sall in Dakar. "We also want to do this with regard to the LNG issue and gas production here in Senegal."

At first glance, that sounds like a win-win situation: African gas can put Germany's energy supply on a broader footing. In return, Senegal could benefit if liquid gas terminals are built with the technical know-how from Germany.

In reality, however, the project is more complicated.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Mediterranean: Lebanon and Israel dispute over access to Karish gas field

 Lebanese party and militia leader Hassan Nasrallah was issued a warning to Isreal to claim the gas field for itself, writes SPIEGEL:

In the border dispute over gas deposits in the Mediterranean, the head of the radical Islamic Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, has warned Israel against claiming them for itself. "The hand that reaches out for our riches will be cut off," the head of the Iran-backed militia said in a televised speech in Beirut on Tuesday. This is reported by the AFP news agency.

Nobody should be allowed "to plunder the country," said the Hezbollah chief in his speech to supporters. Lebanon's oil, gas and water supplies would have to remain under Lebanese control.

The USA is currently mediating in the smoldering and recently escalated border dispute between Israel and Lebanon over mineral resources in the Mediterranean – so far without a result. US mediator Amos Hochstein told the Lebanese media in early August that he was "optimistic" and was aiming for a solution for both sides. Accordingly, Israel should be able to continue its activities in the Karisch gas field and at the same time allow Lebanon access to the energy market.

The conflict escalated after Israel sent a gas production vessel towards the Karish gas field in June. However, parts of the gas field are claimed by Lebanon. Beirut then called for the resumption of talks mediated by the United States.

The discovery of large gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean in recent years has aroused the desires of all the neighboring countries and fueled border disputes. From Israel's perspective, the gas field lies within its territorial waters and not within a disputed area at stake in negotiations with Lebanon over the maritime border between the two countries.

Lebanon and Israel negotiated their disputed sea border for the first time in October 2020, mediated by the United States. Negotiations were suspended in May 2021. The border dispute was initially about an 860 square kilometer stretch off the coast of both countries, and finally Lebanon demanded an additional 1,430 square kilometers, which also includes the Karisch field.

Formally, the neighboring countries are still at war and do not maintain diplomatic relations. The United Nations peacekeeping force Unifil, stationed in Lebanon since 1978, has patrolled the border since the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese conflict.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Europe: Countries of the bloc sound out strategies to avoid the commodities trap

 After the rude awakening caused by the military aggression by Russia on Ukraine and the assessment of the overwhelming dependency of countries - especially Germany - on gas supply from Russia, thinktanks in the EU reflect about how not to repeat the same mistake with other commodities such as rare earths, titanium or graphite, writes WELT:

The Ukraine war and the gas crisis are causing politicians to view Europe's heavy dependence on a few raw material suppliers with greater concern than before. When it comes to mining and processing strategically important raw materials, countries such as China hold quasi-monopolies – and of all things when it comes to the materials on which the European energy and mobility transition depends.

The business-oriented think tank Center for European Politics (CEP) has now investigated how dependent the EU is on such raw materials. Germany and other European economies are therefore too dependent on raw materials from a few countries for future key technologies and should end this dependency as quickly as possible. "The chances of survival of the European economic and social model are also decided on the international commodity markets," says the unpublished study, which is available to WELT.

For the study, the researchers specifically identified resources that are indispensable for future technologies, but whose supply situation is critical. To do this, they brought together two analyses: on the one hand, a study by the German Raw Materials Agency (DERA), which identifies groups of raw materials that are essential for the energy transition and digitization, and on the other hand, a list from the European Commission of 30 raw materials for which there are supply risks.

The researchers have identified twelve substances that are equally promising and supply-critical. The list includes materials such as lithium, cobalt and rare earths, which also dominate the public debate about the scarcity of raw materials. However, substances such as titanium, graphite and more exotic substances such as scandium and vanadium also appear.

They are in wind turbines, solar systems, batteries for electric cars, fuel cells, electric motors or in microchips, displays and fiber optic cables. And for all the substances examined, a few or even just individual countries dominate the global supply.

"Not only is a large part of the relevant raw material deposits outside of one's own sphere of influence," says study author AndrĂ© Wolf. “The global markets are currently also predominantly dominated by countries that represent strategic rivals or that do not share the environmental and social standards that are essential for the EU’s self-image. The move away from fossil resources threatens to replace old dependencies with new, unwanted ones.”

The dominance of China is particularly striking: The country was the most important sponsor of eight of the twelve substances examined in 2020. If one also takes into account the processing of raw materials, China's dominance is likely to be even greater.

And the leadership in Beijing has shown in the past that it is willing to use this power. At the end of 2010, China had stopped exports of rare earths to Japan because of a diplomatic dispute in order to extort concessions from Tokyo.

The realization is not new, but Brussels and national capitals have been alarmed since Russia invaded Ukraine. The fact that geopolitical upheavals are jeopardizing the supply of raw materials is suddenly no longer an abstract danger.

“Russia is blackmailing us. Russia uses energy as a weapon,” said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission recently. There is concern in her authority and in the national capitals that such a scenario could happen again.

Because geopolitically the world threatens to split into two blocs again: on the one hand the western world, on the other hand countries like Russia, China and other authoritarian systems. Against this background, the EU states want to secure the supply of critical raw materials and end one-sided dependencies.

Two years ago, Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton's staff presented an action plan on raw materials, but it was relatively non-binding. Since the outbreak of the Ukraine war, the agency has tightened its course. In March von der Leyen announced a law on critical raw materials. The draft should be available by the end of the year.

One of the things discussed in Brussels is that companies or even states should build up strategic stocks of important raw materials. The increased mining of critical raw materials in Europe should also make the EU more independent from the rest of the world.

However, the CEP experts warn that the Commission's plans could overshoot the mark. In particular, the scientists consider plans to mine critical raw materials in Europe to be misleading. "Massive state support for the mining of future raw materials in the EU area would be a questionable strategy from an economic policy point of view," says the study.

The EU does have significant deposits of lithium and rare earths, for example. States like China are not only so dominant on the raw materials markets because of the deposits there, but also thanks to state subsidies, low wages and low environmental standards. “The EU cannot and should not copy such a strategy.”

Instead, in the short term, Europe should look around for new sources of raw materials in friendly countries that have large deposits, good infrastructure and share Europe's values. Norway, Canada and the USA in particular are ideal partners.

In fact, the EU is striving for such strategic raw material partnerships, but so far it has only agreed on two: with Canada and, of all places, Ukraine. However, a sense of proportion is required for the agreements, after all, new one-sided dependencies must not arise.

In the long term, the EU must expand the recycling of strategically important raw materials in order to secure supplies, write the CEP researchers. The EU Commission is also in favor of this. According to a study by the authority, the recycling rate for cobalt and platinum metals, which are mainly used for electric motors, was 20 percent in the EU in 2020. In the case of iridium or lithium, however, the quotas would be close to zero.