Correspondent's Choice

This story about the EU energy strategy for 2020 was published by EurActiv on 8th November 2010.

The European Commission will present on Wednesday (10 November) its energy strategy for the coming decade, calling for investment of around €1 trillion to secure the bloc’s energy needs in a sustainable way.

The new strategy will set out priorities for 2020 in order to deliver on the EU’s energy and climate goals.

This will require the EU to spend €1 trillion over the next decade on infrastructure, new technologies and electricity storage, according to a draft, seen by EurActiv.

“In the next decade, investment in energy, both to replace existing resources and in order to meet increasing energy requirements, will oblige European economies to arbitrate among energy products which, given the inertia of energy systems, will condition the next 30 years,” it says.

Energy savings top priority

The draft strategy identifies energy efficiency as its first priority, arguing that it needs to be mainstreamed into all relevant policy areas. The details will be set out in the new energy efficiency plan, which is scheduled to be presented next spring.

The EU has set itself a 20% energy savings objective for 2020, but measuring progress will require the establishment of “a set of fair and measurable objectives,” according to the document. The national energy efficiency action plans drawn up by member states will become the annual reporting tool, it explains.

Until now, national efficiency plans have failed to exert the same influence as similar plans on renewable energy, mainly because the targets are not legally binding.

The Commission seeks to tap into the energy savings potential of Europe’s existing building stock. Renovation rate should be accelerated by investment incentives and innovative financial instruments like revolving funds, it argues, promising to address the problem of split incentives between tenants and owners.

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  1. Sirs: Commission to unveil €1 trn energy strategy for 2020.

    Yet again I come across the issue that generically you talk of an Energy Strategy and then continually refer to – what has been stated here in these pages as – Dry Energy meaning Electricity and Heat. It bemuses me, and it also causes consternation with others to whom I have discussed the issue earlier today, that this is a mind-set which needs breaking particularly when it is already clear that we should address this in the collective form and include the Wet Energy issues of the Fuels we need for our transport which others have also reported upon recently.

    To many that read these EurActiv issues and the relevant data that supports these and then fills in the questionnaires this “apparent” (concentration of effort) and continued emphasis on electricity is very concerning. Perhaps therefore through this mechanism I might again raise the issue again and hopefully bring to the fore the position with respect to the Fuels which, in a roundabout way, I would like to refer to as Liquid Fuels (although on some occasions I have seen them referred to as Wet Fuels!)

    It is correct as always to say that there is a decision-making process that is driven by inertia! Trying not to change is equally as forceful as changing!

    In this article though (and we have to believe it as though it was the real truth) part of that impetus is the funding source – and potential costs – which here you have indicated is likely to be €1 trillion (it is a large sum of money and we should be reminded is €1,000,000 Million) over the next decade which then comes down to €100,000 Million a year! To put it another way if we assumed that the population of the EU was 570 Million it would mean spending around €175 per year for the next ten years for each man woman and child irrespective of their position within the community! (For comparison the EU budget is €141.5 Milliard/Billion which is €248 per person in 2010!) I have to say that I believe that this is not going to be easy to spend and it is definitely not possible from a standing start.

    Some of the issues that are raised may be very appropriate in the general round but their implications are more significant that at first glanced. Energy efficiency can mean a lot or a little. Losses in the electrical transmission system as we see in countries like Malta (at 30%) or Cyprus (somewhere near 26%) for example – where unaccountable losses of electrical energy cannot be explained away – would be a major concern if they were repeated across the whole of the EU. Fortunately these occurrences whilst they are seriously damning for Malta are not that critical in general terms across the rest of the EU. Just as well for if this was the case each house-hold would be footing the Bills to pay for it as the residents of Malta have to do at this time. One wonders whether the need for the Sicily to Malta Electrical Power link would be needed if these losses were “accounted for” by the Government of Malta rather than brushed under the carpet!

    Another area of this “Efficiency” that could be considered as a priority might be the result of concomitant losses in the other “utilities” like water supplies! Imagine scenario where the real losses between potable water storage and water usage is around 30 to 40% as in Scotland France and Spain or again in Cyprus and Malta, and imagine what those electrical costs are: it bears not thinking about for too long since the treatment and distribution costs are a very large proportion of the total cost.

    For the Dry Energy portfolios we seem still to be referring to the provision as an adjunct to existing fossil fuel sources of which coal, brown coal, peat, oil and petro-carbons figure very highly. But the rush to develop alternative sources dressed up in the so-called “clean” coal – is still a fossil fuel, and natural gas – is still a fossil fuel, and LPG – is still a fossil fuel, and shale-oil – is still a fossil fuel and the gases projected to be pumped by the Nabucco or South Stream pipelines – are still fossil fuels! This mad dash (a term which I will refer to again a little later) to augment supplies with readily available fossil fuels that are finite (limited) in quantity is a continuing worry. It is all very well placing a new pipeline to transmit these gases across from Kazakhstan through the Black Sea and Turkey in to the EU for as we are all aware these pipelines are well-known targets for terrorists to disrupt, Further we should also be aware that once we become reliant upon a significant source of “Fuel” from such a link (watch out Italy!) it would not take long for the Supplier to manipulate the costs by applying subtle means: for when the cards are down he who pays the most wins! The EU must remember that such strategic pipelines have been disrupted by both, terrorists and the suppliers of gases in recent time, as the Ukraine can assert!

    The same is equally of concern over the future of (what I would like to call) traditional nuclear power stations. Originally these were set up to provide fissile material for nuclear weapons, however as that need is – dare I say – diminishing? – the need to use long-life Trans-Uranic elements is also becoming less significant. That being the case the time is now upon us to look at the elements that have shorter radio-active “half-life” periods for the fuelling of such “nuclear” power stations. Do wee still need elements that have “half-life” periods of 2,000 years (say) when there are others – which have lower placing in the Periodic table of the Elements – i.e. Atomic Masses of half that of the Trans-Uranic elements – and radio-active “half-life” periods that may be less than 20 years – which can offer the same benefits. However let it not be ignored that there is still the same issue over the terrorist threats and the potential disruption of the source materials. What a pity therefore that in this instance that the EU doesn’t think ahead for the common good of the population and consider building four or five major nuclear power stations (centred on this form of technology) and have them ring-fenced by a common (European Union or NATO) military presence! I have often wondered why it is that very little effort is addressed to securing the existence of the existing nuclear power stations in Europe (be it the UK, France, Germany etc.) by military means when such is so necessary: the RSA the PRC and the USA (and so we assume other countries) already takes such precautions! Perhaps therefore the presence of the various Air Force bases in North Western Europe could find a suitable use after all as protectors of these (for those people in Scotland) that would be justification for retaining Lossiemouth and Kinloss! Perhaps (you never know) these two locations be used as a common European Union Air Bases for such purposes…its an idea albeit far-fetched but practical and not far from the current needs where all major infrastructure is needed to be protected from miscreant sources. The UK is looking also to build nuclear power stations for its needs so why not build a new one near to an Air Force base that would generate an interesting comment from the locals nearby! Size though would matter as it would not be too advisable to “put all of your eggs in one basket” for the reasons espoused earlier.

    Let us now move onwards to the supplies of what this article also refers to in its own words as: “This will require the EU to spend €1 trillion over the next decade on infrastructure, new technologies and electricity storage, according to a draft, seen by EurActiv.” and concentrate on the last part of the sentence which I have highlighted.
    I am not necessarily totally “at a loss” to understand, here, what is in fact implied although I have opinions as to what it does in fact imply. For this therefore I will have to refer to my previous notes in the pages I sent through here last month and earlier this month.

    The concentration of effort in this article on Energy (which without a doubt implies “Dry Energy” is a problem for many, as there are many methods to it. By implication therefore this has to mean the technologies we come to recognise as “Renewable” and to which we make common reference in those from Wind, Solar, Photo-Voltaic systems (both small and large), Wave and Tidal Catchments and Hydro-Electric systems, Hot Rocks and Sinks, and others. Many of these we already know about but please be reminded that there are the Ultra-thin-film Photo-Voltaic systems that can be applied as paint technologies to buildings dams bridges and other such structures (large or small) that could generate huge amounts of energy. Say for example the Milieu Viaduct was painted with this system or the various dams used to store water were equally addressed. Improbable – no it certainly isn’t for these photo-voltaic systems are already here and they just need bring forward to the front by a little help from the EU.

    So that will help for the Dry Energy area what about the Liquid Energy uses (Wet Energy sector?) As before I say that the EU is talking this through with a forked tongue of opinions. We currently use King Oil as though we were “gone out” of our brains. This is a resource which is dwindling, and yet it is a resource that is being used in ever larger quantities. Admittedly it is a mainstay for transport uses and for private cars and vans.

    Unfortunately we cannot change the World overnight and I repeat what I have said before – with the PRC and India and other developing countries’ populations all aspiring to their own personal transport we are in for a 30 to 40 year demand increase that is frightening everyone in the industry (but they do not say so!) The Middle East countries say with one breath that they have ample resources for 40 years (or did they say 25 to 30 years?) but the prospectors say otherwise! Can we trust anyone in the “Oil is King Industry” any more? I somehow do not think we do, and importantly we shouldn’t! Their only control on demand is by price! They say there are others but frankly they are wrong.

    The biggest incentive to dissuade anyone from using oil is to double the price at the point of use (in other words at the point of production of oil at source!) Brazil knows this and so do other countries. We are going to be using personalised transport for the best part of the next 40 years or more and in the main – irrespective of the developments in electrically-driven or hydrogen-fuelled cars or hydrogen-cell driven cars they will need a liquid fuel. Of course we can all say that we can make these run more efficiently (kilometres per litre) but there is a limit. The bigger the engine and the weight of a vehicle the more fuel used. Restricting speed is one way to control the use: down-grading all engine-sizes to a maximum of 2500 centilitres may be another but seriously it won’t happen. Those that want to will still aspire to bigger and more powerful cars: just look at the advertisements of cars in the television channels across China, and in Nigeria and you will see why “4-wheel drive vehicles” are seen there as the ultimate “must have” symbol of status. Look at the same issue in Korea, they have Hyundai but they want up-market Audis and Mercedes and Lexuses in preference. And the same is equally the case in the new entry states of the EU like Hungary Malta Poland etc. The only country that seems to have partially addressed this is Ireland (the ultimate Green Country – in more ways than one!) who has applied significant taxes to such vehicles. It will not work across the rest of the EU – there are too many vested interests to address here,

    What we need to do therefore is address how to bring forward the Renewable Fuels at a pace that keep pace with the growth in need of such fuels. Bio-Diesel from sustainable sources is one area and the developments there which seem to be moving towards sustainable terrestrial sources as well as micro-algae is one solution. Bio-Ethanol from sustainable sources is another area which we must push for. We cannot rely on Food Crops and Land that should be used to grow Food Crops for this much longer. The EU must realise that the mad dash for Bio-Ethanol (as much as for Bio-Diesel) and the ridiculous subsidies that were placed out to encourage the production was wrong and that it was Seriously Wrong and Mis-Guided. If not then why did the USA and Brazil make so much out of these at the Public’s expense (free trade is not an excuse: phooey – it was an error of judgement!) Transferring the subsidies to the Producer within the EU has been a partial success but the imports still occur. No what is needed is a proper change of thought processing to the manufacture of Bio-Ethanol (and indeed the equivalents as Butanol or Kerosene) to Biomass that includes Non-Food crops (certified as not growing on prime agricultural lands or unduly fertilised and the like) that includes for example Biomass contained in Farming and Agricultural Waste, Food and Drinks Manufacture, Industry and Commerce, and from Municipal Solid Waste as well as Macro-Algae (sea-weed) as grown in lagoon systems developed in Israel and Argentina that use salt/brackish/polluted water into which carbon dioxide from sources including power stations and industry can use to promote growth. These systems can already produce yields of Bio-Ethanol in excess of 25 times the equivalent of that from sugar cane per hectare of land and they can be gown in deserts! Lets not have this forked tongue approach from the EU of allowing this Biomass be sent to the major Power Companies or their hench-men when they are only interested in making a quick buck on the back of huge Green Energy Tariffs for the sale of Electricity (Dry Energy) that ends up in the shareholders’ pockets. These inducements should be redirected towards the Renewable Fuels like those being developed by ST 1 (Finland) or Genesyst (Netherlands and UK for example) or Applied Biofuels Limited is also doing in Malta for a recently announced programme there Israel and we also hear elsewhere. These pioneering companies are showing the EU the way forward using the ultimate and simplest technology that was proven in the 19th century and well and truly expounded upon in the 20th century – lingo-cellulose hydrolysis economically and without too much publicity. Let’s see the EU help these companies further their aims. These raw materials, the Biomass, are limited in quantity and the best source for the manufacture of the Renewable Fuels to meet the increasing demand for the liquid fuels and the EU must clear the way for that use or by 2050 face the consequences from the public.

    EurActiv portal has said as much in its own writing over the past year and more so lets hear it again for this initiative!

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