May 15, 2018
Key outcomes of Bonn climate talks: progress made, lack of leadership
May 15, 2018
According to some reports, the post-Paris climate talks are “in disarray”, but the website Carbon Brief, which provides a detailed overview of the “key outcomes from the May 2018 UN climate conference”, is much less pessimistic.
It’s true that the parties were unable to agree on a single text, forcing them to schedule an extra week of talks in Bangkok in September, ahead of the next big Conference of the Parties (COP 24) in Katowice, Poland, but according to Camilla Born, senior policy advisor at think tank E3G: “Substantively, they have made quite a significant amount of progress…but [there is] quite a lot more to do.…There’s no drama that there’s an extra session. It’s just hard.”
The main topic of the talks was what is called the Paris rulebook – “a practical and technical operating manual is needed to implement the Paris Agreement and will guide questions such as what climate pledges should look like and how financial support should be tracked.”
Carbon Brief explains that “this complex work is spread across three negotiating tracks and multiple, closely linked “agenda items”. The UNFCCC has a lengthy progress tracker on its website and published a concise list of tasks at Bonn.”
“Most of the work falls to the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA). Its agenda items are shown in the table below and include climate pledges, transparency of action and support and the 2023 global stocktake.”
According to Carbon Brief, “each part of the rulebook made progress at Bonn”. Nevertheless, the article also notes that “securing a robust rulebook is widely seens as vital to the success of Paris, yet it complexity is compounded by a perceived lack of political leadership.”
Poland’s PGE chooses offshore wind over nuclear
May 15, 2018
In news that could have important ramifications for the future of the European energy market, Reuters reports that Polish state-controlled power group PGE, “has abandoned its leading role in plans to build Poland’s first nuclear power station as it focuses on new wind farms in the Baltic Sea.”
PGE, the largest Polish power group, announced a nearly $10 billion offshore wind project in March but has also been responsible for the nuclear project, notes Reuters. Poland has been planning to build its first nuclear power plant for many years, but has not made any firm decision yet.
Both the offshore wind and nuclear plans “are part of a major change in Polish policy”, writes Reuters. “Coal […] provides around 80 percent of its energy and thousands of jobs but makes it one of Europe’s biggest polluters.”
“The government promised to defend coal from competition but has been forced to look for alternatives to fill an electricity shortfall and to meet European Union emissions targets.”
One source told Reuters “PGE could not fund both projects and cheap technology had swung the decision in favor of wind. PGE could still play a smaller role in the nuclear project which has been delayed and still needs government approval.”
“PGE cannot afford both – offshore wind and nuclear. The decision was taken to go for offshore,” the source said.
There is talk now that Polish refiner PKN Orlen may take over PGE’s role in the nuclear project.
Asked whether it could take the project on, PKN Orlen’s press office said in an emailed statement that the company “continuously analyses a number of different projects that could be part of the long-term development plans of the group.”
“Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party promised before elections in 2015 to defend the coal industry and put in place laws to prevent new investment in both onshore and offshore windfarms.
But in March it changed tack”, notes Reuters, “and proposed a law to make it easier to build wind turbines. That is currently being debated in parliament.”
If the law is passed, as expected, several other wind farm projects could also proceed. Polenergia, owned by the Kulczyk family, has said it would like to build a wind farm in the Baltic by 2022. PKN Orlen is also considering building one. PGE said in March that it wants to build offshore windfarms with a capacity of 2.5 gigawatts (GW) by 2030.
Baltic states don’t meet 2030 climate and energy targets
May 15, 2018
The energy and climate policies of the Baltic countries fall far short of what is required by EU agreements and even more compared to what is needed according to the Paris Agreement. This is evident from a recent report drawn up by Nordic Energy Research, commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers.
The report, Baltic Energy Technology Scenarios 2018, shows that the Baltic countries’ proposed renewable energy (RE) targets can be achieved using domestic resources. More renewable energy (electricity, heat and fuels) lets energy demanding sectors reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the RE share.
However, it also shows that the Baltic countries still do not reach their Effort Sharing Sector’s (ESS) 2030 targets in a 4°C Scenario (4DS), i.e. a scenario where global warming reaches 4 degrees. Effort Sharing targets are EU caps for member states for the sectors not covered by the EU Emission Trading System (ETS). “Especially Latvia will need additional reductions or flexibility measures”, notes the report.
The most cost-effective measures to reduce ESS emissions are to decrease oil consumption and to reduce fossil fuel use in smaller district heating plants that are not included in EU ETS.
The report also shows that without policies to stimulate local renewable energy generation, the Baltics are likely to become large net importers of electricity. The deployment of renewable energy would reduce the import dependency of the Baltic countries and provide an effective hedge against high electricity prices, note the researchers. Additional interconnection capacity to the Nordic countries is likely to become economical.
Below the main “opportunities and threats” the report has identified for the Baltic countries:
- The Baltic power systems offer good opportunities for integration of wind and solar power. The most important integration measures are local hydro power, largescale pumped hydro storage, interconnectors to the hydropower dominated Nordic power system, and flexible thermal power plants. In the longer term, power to heat solutions, i.e. electric boilers and large-scale heat pumps, could also play a key role in the integration of variable generation.
- Heat pumps could provide a cost-competitive option for the supply of district heating in an energy system with high shares of wind and solar power. However, further studies are required to substantiate the realistic potential and socioeconomic impacts of large heat pumps in the Baltic countries.
- Energy efficiency measures can save money, reduce GHG emissions, increase the RE share, and improve energy independence in the Baltic countries. Some of the costsaving energy efficiency measures are not implemented due to other barriers, such as conflicting interests between building owners and the people who benefit from the measures.
- The Baltic countries can avoid becoming large net importers of electricity. Modelled subsidy levels about 10 EUR/MWh for all domestic generation were sufficient to reduce annual net imports to zero by 2030 in a situation where wholesale power prices would be approx. 40 EUR/MWh. Wind and solar power provide the most cost-efficient way of reducing import dependency.
- Electricity consumption may increase less than projected if sectoral demands (transport volumes, industry production, floor areas, etc.) grow less than expected or if the electrification of sectors is delayed. This would help to achieve domestic generation targets and reduce costs.
- The economic sustainability of the existing gas-fired capacity in the Baltic countries is being challenged by low-priced imports. Further analyses are necessary to examine if this poses a threat to the security of supply in these three countries.
- Biomass is an important cross-cutting issue, as it can provide renewable energy and GHG reductions to all energy-consuming sectors. There is strong competition for biomass resources both domestically and as an export product, but proposed EU LULUCF and RED2 directives may change the classification of sustainable biomass and alter the available amounts and prices.
WWF and Sandbag: UK does not need gas
May 15, 2018
“Renewables, storage and more flexible technology will provide enough electricity and keep the UK’s electricity grid stable as coal is phased-out over the next few years – eliminating the need to build new carbon-emitting large gas plants”, a new report by WWF and Sandbag has found.
The report – Coal to Clean – models the UK electricity mix up until 2025, the final date for coal phase-out. It finds that gas generation will continue to fall, following the path set by coal.
“In April the UK broke a new record and went without coal generation for 76 hours for the first time since the 1880s”, note WWF and Sandbag in a press release – “a trend that is set to continue with renewable generation on track to entirely replace coal’s contribution to the energy mix by 2025.”
Gas generation has dropped as well, after peaking in 2008. In 2017, gas generation was already 24% lower than that peak, note the two organisations.
“If all current gas development in planning was to go ahead it could lock the UK into emissions for the next 30 years at levels far above our obligations under the Paris Accord. At best it leaves us with expensive, white elephant infrastructure overtaken by renewables”, they warn.
The UK has half of the planned gas power stations in Europe, according to Platt’s Power Station Tracker. The analysis by WWF and Sandbag “shows that these gas projects don’t need to go ahead to keep the lights on – and will cost energy bill payers more if they do.”
Only 5GW of gas capacity will be required in 2025 to support renewable intermittency, says the report. “With continued energy efficiency, renewables and interconnector growth, and expansion in energy storage, that figure will dwindle as the decade continues.”
By 2020 renewables are forecast to be the single largest source of electricity generation in the UK.
Charles Moore, analyst at Sandbag commented: “Amazingly, the UK’s coal phase-out will not require a ‘gas bridge’ as many predicted: surging renewable energy ensures that gas use in the power sector has already peaked. The UK does not need to build any more large gas power plants to keep the lights on.”
“Measures to support the construction of a new wave of large gas plants would prove a costly mistake for energy bill-payers and the climate. Ultimately, meeting our climate objectives will require a total gas phase-out: the Government must begin planning for this now.”