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    Spanish company Ferry Group is to invest €42/US$55.2 million in a project for the production of biomass fuel pellets in Bulgaria. The 3-year project consists of establishing plantations of paulownia trees near the city of Tran. Paulownia is a fast-growing tree used for the commercial production of fuel pellets. Dnevnik - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Hungary's BHD Hõerõmû Zrt. is to build a 35 billion Forint (€138/US$182 million) commercial biomass-fired power plant with a maximum output of 49.9 MW in Szerencs (northeast Hungary). Portfolio.hu - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Tonight at 9pm, BBC Two will be showing a program on geo-engineering techniques to 'save' the planet from global warming. Five of the world's top scientists propose five radical scientific inventions which could stop climate change dead in its tracks. The ideas include: a giant sunshade in space to filter out the sun's rays and help cool us down; forests of artificial trees that would breath in carbon dioxide and stop the green house effect and a fleet futuristic yachts that will shoot salt water into the clouds thickening them and cooling the planet. BBC News - Feb. 19, 2007.

    Archer Daniels Midland, the largest U.S. ethanol producer, is planning to open a biodiesel plant in Indonesia with Wilmar International Ltd. this year and a wholly owned biodiesel plant in Brazil before July, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. The Brazil plant is expected to be the nation's largest, the paper said. Worldwide, the company projects a fourfold rise in biodiesel production over the next five years. ADM was not immediately available to comment. Reuters - Feb. 16, 2007.

    Finnish engineering firm Pöyry Oyj has been awarded contracts by San Carlos Bioenergy Inc. to provide services for the first bioethanol plant in the Philippines. The aggregate contract value is EUR 10 million. The plant is to be build in the Province of San Carlos on the north-eastern tip of Negros Island. The plant is expected to deliver 120,000 liters/day of bioethanol and 4 MW of excess power to the grid. Kauppalehti Online - Feb. 15, 2007.

    In order to reduce fuel costs, a Mukono-based flower farm which exports to Europe, is building its own biodiesel plant, based on using Jatropha curcas seeds. It estimates the fuel will cut production costs by up to 20%. New Vision (Kampala, Uganda) - Feb. 12, 2007.

    The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has decided to use 10% biodiesel in its fleet of public buses. The world's largest city is served by the Toei Bus System, which is used by some 570,000 people daily. Digital World Tokyo - Feb. 12, 2007.

    Fearing lack of electricity supply in South Africa and a price tag on CO2, WSP Group SA is investing in a biomass power plant that will replace coal in the Letaba Citrus juicing plant which is located in Tzaneen. Mining Weekly - Feb. 8, 2007.

    In what it calls an important addition to its global R&D capabilities, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is to build a new bioenergy research center in Hamburg, Germany. World Grain - Feb. 5, 2007.

    EthaBlog's Henrique Oliveira interviews leading Brazilian biofuels consultant Marcelo Coelho who offers insights into the (foreign) investment dynamics in the sector, the history of Brazilian ethanol and the relationship between oil price trends and biofuels. EthaBlog - Feb. 2, 2007.

    The government of Taiwan has announced its renewable energy target: 12% of all energy should come from renewables by 2020. The plan is expected to revitalise Taiwan's agricultural sector and to boost its nascent biomass industry. China Post - Feb. 2, 2007.

    Production at Cantarell, the world's second biggest oil field, declined by 500,000 barrels or 25% last year. This virtual collapse is unfolding much faster than projections from Mexico's state-run oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos. Wall Street Journal - Jan. 30, 2007.

    Dubai-based and AIM listed Teejori Ltd. has entered into an agreement to invest €6 million to acquire a 16.7% interest in Bekon, which developed two proprietary technologies enabling dry-fermentation of biomass. Both technologies allow it to design, establish and operate biogas plants in a highly efficient way. Dry-Fermentation offers significant advantages to the existing widely used wet fermentation process of converting biomass to biogas. Ame Info - Jan. 22, 2007.

    Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited is to build a biofuel production plant in the tribal belt of Banswara, Rajasthan, India. The petroleum company has acquired 20,000 hectares of low value land in the district, which it plans to commit to growing jatropha and other biofuel crops. The company's chairman said HPCL was also looking for similar wasteland in the state of Chhattisgarh. Zee News - Jan. 15, 2007.

    The Zimbabwean national police begins planting jatropha for a pilot project that must result in a daily production of 1000 liters of biodiesel. The Herald (Harare), Via AllAfrica - Jan. 12, 2007.

    In order to meet its Kyoto obligations and to cut dependence on oil, Japan has started importing biofuels from Brazil and elsewhere. And even though the country has limited local bioenergy potential, its Agriculture Ministry will begin a search for natural resources, including farm products and their residues, that can be used to make biofuels in Japan. To this end, studies will be conducted at 900 locations nationwide over a three-year period. The Japan Times - Jan. 12, 2007.

    Chrysler's chief economist Van Jolissaint has launched an arrogant attack on "quasi-hysterical Europeans" and their attitudes to global warming, calling the Stern Review 'dubious'. The remarks illustrate the yawning gap between opinions on climate change among Europeans and Americans, but they also strengthen the view that announcements by US car makers and legislators about the development of green vehicles are nothing more than window dressing. Today, the EU announced its comprehensive energy policy for the 21st century, with climate change at the center of it. BBC News - Jan. 10, 2007.

    The new Canadian government is investing $840,000 into BioMatera Inc. a biotech company that develops industrial biopolymers (such as PHA) that have wide-scale applications in the plastics, farmaceutical and cosmetics industries. Plant-based biopolymers such as PHA are biodegradable and renewable. Government of Canada - Jan. 9, 2007.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

European utilities fail to reduce emissions - report

Despite attempts to greenwash their image, European electricity producers have not succeeded in reducing their carbon dioxide emissions in 2005. They have spent a lot on marketing themselves as green and clean energy providers, but in reality they're still far from it. According to a report [*.french] by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), more efficient technologies and renewable fuels are widely available, though.

Since 2001, PwC has been making annual studies on the CO2 emissions 23 of Europe's main electricity producers. The fifth edition of the study reveals that the utilities pumped out some 787 million tonnes of CO2 in 2005 for a total production of 2.16 TWh, which represents 70% of Europe's total electricity generation (which stands at 3.093TWh).

There are wide-ranging differences amongst producers, with some scoring relatively well, such as ENEL (Italy/Spain), Fortum (Finland) or PVO (Finland/Sweden), with the latter having reduced its emissions by an impressive 66%. Other utilities, like Iberdrola (Spain), EDP (Portugal/Spain) and Scottish & Southern Energy (UK) scoring badly with increased emissions.

However, the differences are not due to a change in policies or to a switch to green energy. On the contrary, they are the result of external factors, such as the weather. Droughts in Spain in 2005 pushed Iberdrola to generate more at its thermal power plants than at its hydro-power plants, pushing emissions up. PVO's reduced emissions simply come from the fact that it has started importing hydropower from Norway, where exceptional amounts of rainfall benefited hydropower. In short, there's no real committment of utilities to invest in renewables.

In the end, Europe's total power production has only increased by 0.4% between 2004 and 2005, but CO2 emissions have stabilized. This means that for each MWh produced, we now pump 373kg of CO2 into the atmosphere, against 374kg the previous year. An absolutely marginal change.

Green solutions commercially viable

However, Europe's utilities now have a range of incentives aimed at reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. The European Emissions Trading system (EU-ETS) has proved to be totally flawed (earlier post), but if corrected, the carbon market should still work. Besides trading carbon, individual governments have implemented a series of green certificates and efficiency certificates, which result in fiscal advantages.

Investing in increased efficiency, in so-called 'negawatts', is seen as the primary lever to reduce GHGs in the short term. Large producers reliant on coal, like RWE (Germany/UK) or E.ON (Germany/UK) are trying to improve the thermal output of their plants. Utilizing more natural gas and the introduction of combined cycle units is seen as a way forward as well. ENEL invests in the modernisation of its hydroelectric facilities and in its nuclear projects.

The use of carbon-neutral, renewable biomass fuels is another option. European utilities now co-fire biomass with coal for a total capacity of 1.5 GW. RWE for example, is building a 2x800MW biomass plant in the Netherlands, which will rely on biomass imported from all over the world. Belgium's Electrabel converted a coal-plant into one that relies entirely on (imported) biomass (earlier post).

Few utilities are investing in solar, geothermal, hydrogen and fuel cells or wave and tidal power:
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More successful is the utilities' participation in Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects, which allow industries in the developed world to invest in clean projects in the developing world in return for green credits. The majority of these projects come from the following countries: China (36%), India (26%), Mexico (13%), Brazil (12%) and South Korea (12%). Africa is lagging firmly behind and could use assistance in winning such projects (earlier post).

The majority of the credits comes from an industrial sector unrelated to energy, though, namely the decomposition of HFC23 (69%), fluoroforms used in for example refrigrators. These projects have been criticized because the decomposition of HFC23 releases HFC22, an ozone-destroying gas. Other CDM-projects have to do with the methanisation of animal waste (production of biogas: 21%), the use of biomass (4%) or the creation of wind turbine farms (4%).

Finally, in three European countries, including France, utilities get 'white certificates' if they launch programs aimed at consulting and helping their (industrial) clients in achieving greater energy efficiency. Carbon offsetting programs offered by some utilities are similar, in that they rely on the consumer to take decisions. EDF Energy for example offers its clients offsetting opportunities and the utility then invests in clean projects (such as afforestation).

The effects of all these measures can not be felt yet, PwC says, because they are too recent. PwC even thinks it may take years before the range of green and clean investments starts yielding noteworthy results, which means far more efforts have to be done today.


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