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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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Monday, December 11, 2006

European regions commit to energy savings, renewables: energy action on the ground

For readers unfamiliar with the intricacies of European politics, a quick note. There is the Europe of nation-states and a supra-national level known as the Union. Within each nation-state, there is of course the very local level consisting of districts, municipalities and cities, governed by the memberstates' own institutions (subsidiarity principle, stay close to the citizen). But there exists an intermediate level - the regions - who use platforms to get their voices heard directly at the EU level. After all, three quarters of all the EU legislation is implemented at this local and regional level.

This intermediate level also cooperates on the front of energy policy. It has now come out with a declaration on energy efficiency and renewable energy, which was signed on 7 December 2006 at a round table organised in Brussels by the Committee of the Regions, the European Federation of Regional Energy and Environment Agencies and the Assembly of European Regions. The motto of the round table: "when it comes to energy, think globally, act regionally".

The declaration offers an interesting fresco of Europe's diversity and shows how energy policies are implemented in a 'bottom-up' manner. Supra-national decisions and visions are important, but the real action happens on the ground. Combating climate change and going green does not start in Brussels. It starts on your front lawn.

The document also shows how different renewables - wind, solar, biomass - are combined in a unique mix, suitable for each separate region. There is no single blueprint. Moreover, the document indicates how energy policies at a local level touch a great variety of other fields, from social (reducing energy poverty) and health policies (problems associated by energy poverty) to micro-economic (aiding households and SME's to become more efficient) and macro-economic interventions (reducing the overall 'energy intensity' of a region's economy).

'Totally fossil-fuel free'
Separate pledges towards increased use of renewables and higher efficiency were made by individual regions. Some interesting examples are the commitment by the Kalmar County Council in Sweden to be "totally fossil-fuel free by 2050 or earlier" and a commitment by the Navarra region in Spain to have 75% of its electricity produced from renewable energy sources by 2010.

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The EU's Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs made a speech at the roundtable, saying he hoped more regions would follow suit and set quantitative targets as well. He said that forthcoming measures at EU level would include a revision of labelling requirements for electrical appliances (Ecodesign directive) that will reserve "A" label standard only to the "10-20% most efficient appliances".

In the buildings sector, he said that member states and regions "could and should consider doing much more already now and not wait for a move from Brussels" to lower the 1,000 square-metre benchmark for minimum efficiency requirements.

Piebalgs said that EU state-aid rules will be re-examined in 2007 to scrap guidelines that explicitly prohibit support for the production of energy-efficient goods. As they currently stand, EU state-aid rules only allow member states to adopt fiscal measures promoting the purchase of energy-efficient appliances and cars that emit less CO2.

More information:
Fedarene: Declaration - European Regions for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Sources - 7 Dec. 2006
Speech by Commissioner Piebalgs: Energy efficiency: the best way towards a sustainable, competitive and secure energy system - 7 Dec. 2006
Assembly of European Regions: Energy at the service of regional economic development: It's a win-win situation - 7 Dec. 2006


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