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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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Sunday, November 26, 2006

European energy choices: Russia, renewables and France's nuclear lobby

The EU-Russia summit, which was held in Helsinki on Friday, failed to reach a new Stabilisation and Cooperation pact, as Poland vetoed progress because of a trade dispute with Russia. The summit was planned to result in a preparatory framework for a new energy agreement between the EU and Russia, but no formal decisions were taken on this front either.

The postponement of the pact comes at a time when Europe is facing some tough energy choices. The European Commission has been aiming to create a common European energy policy, but member-states are hesitant to hand over national sovereignty on energy issues saying there is no 'ideal energy mix' that would apply to all members.

The EU Commission opened the debate on a future common European Energy Policy with the publication of its 'Green Paper' in March 2006 (Green Paper - A European Strategy for Sustainable, Competitive and Secure Energy - *.pdf or see the dedicated Green Paper on Energy website).

However, in the absence of a legal base for energy policy at European level, the process will require strong political will from European leaders if it is to deliver. At a March 2006 summit, EU member states already made clear that they would not tolerate interference with national sovereignty, especially when it comes to making sensitive political choices on the energy mix such as opting for nuclear power.

Minimalist consensus
EU ministers shared views on energy efficiency and renewables on 22 November as part of a broader Energy Council discussion [*.pdf] on the EU's energy choices ahead of a Strategic EU Energy Review to be presented by the Commission in January. The review will assess the contribution of every source of energy - bioenergy, nuclear, coal or other - to the objectives of sustainability, competitiveness and supply security endorsed by EU leaders in March. It will also include a renewable energy road map with possible new targets after 2010.

The ministers were only able to reach a minimalist consensus, saying that renewable energies "enhance competitiveness and security of supply". They insisted on R&D programmes at both national and EU levels to make the technologies more competitive. Discussions were held based on a questionnaire circulated by the Finnish Presidency. On renewables, the Finns recalled "each member states' right to decide on its own energy mix", bearing in mind local circumstances. But it added that the development of renewables also "has consequences in terms of generation, transmission and distribution and therefore cannot be treated in isolation from decisions on the overall fuel-mix."

France's nuclear lobby
Addressing the Energy Council, Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said that mandatory targets were the best option to increase the share of renewable energy in Europe. But while there is a broad consensus on the benefits brought by renewable energies, questions remain as to "how far to go with new EU binding targets", French diplomats said, explaining that "there is no ideal EU energy mix."

"Many member states expressed their concerns about continuing the current structure of EU renewable energy policy, which is based on specific targets for the three sectors: electricity, heating and transport," said EREC, the European Renewable Energy Council.

France's Industry minister François Loos said after the meeting that there needed to be "a clear hierarchy of objectives", with climate change mitigation prioritised as the overarching goal:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

He referred to the Commission's energy green paper which suggests that the EU should aim to obtain 50% of its primary energy from low-carbon energy sources, including nuclear.

"It is this objective that we should trail," Loos told journalists after the meeting, indicating that France had already achieved 46% while the EU as a whole reached 21%. However, he declined to say how much of the French figure could be attributed to nuclear.

The European Atomic Forum (Foratom) also recalls that the Commission's energy green paper acknowledges the role currently played by nuclear energy as "the EU's largest source of largely carbon-free energy in Europe".

A "nuclear relaunch" is currently taking place in Europe with a host of countries, including the UK, planning to extend the life-cycle of existing plants or to replace them with new ones.

Separately, the European Parliament's Industry Committee on 23 November backed calls for binding targets for renewable energies in order to achieve a 25% share of renewables in primary energy by 2020.

More information

-European Council (Press release): Energy Council [*.pdf] - 23 Nov. 2006
-European Council: Policy paper: Energy Policy for Europe - Promoting Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy [*.pdf]
-European Commission: Green Paper - A European Strategy for Sustainable, Competitive and Secure Energy [*.pdf] - 8 March 2006
-European Commission (DG TREN): Green paper on energy - Website

-Euractiv Dossier: Renewables in the European Union - links, documents, positions
-Foratom: The nuclear relaunch in Europe
-Foratom: COP/MOP: "Nuclear energy : changing our climate for the better"
-European Greens/EFA: EU Energy Strategy: EP committee calls for meaningful renewables targets in EU Energy Strategy - 23 Nov. 2006
-Friends of the Earth: EU ministers dodge commitment to cut energy waste - 23 Nov. 2006

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