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    Spanish engineering and energy company Abengoa says it had suspended bioethanol production at the biggest of its three Spanish plants because it was unprofitable. It cited high grain prices and uncertainty about the national market for ethanol. Earlier this year, the plant, located in Salamanca, ceased production for similar reasons. To Biopact this is yet another indication that biofuel production in the EU/US does not make sense and must be relocated to the Global South, where the biofuel can be produced competitively and sustainably, without relying on food crops. Reuters - September 24, 2007.

    The Midlands Consortium, comprised of the universities of Birmingham, Loughborough and Nottingham, is chosen to host Britain's new Energy Technologies Institute, a £1 billion national organisation which will aim to develop cleaner energies. University of Nottingham - September 21, 2007.

    The EGGER group, one of the leading European manufacturers of chipboard, MDF and OSB boards has begun work on installing a 50MW biomass boiler for its production site in Rion. The new furnace will recycle 60,000 tonnes of offcuts to be used in the new combined heat and power (CHP) station as an ecological fuel. The facility will reduce consumption of natural gas by 75%. IHB Network - September 21, 2007.

    Analysts fear that record oil prices will fuel general inflation in Kenya, particularly hitting the poorest hard. They call for the development of new policies and strategies to cope with sustained high oil prices. Such policies include alternative fuels like biofuels, conservation measures, and more investments in oil and gas exploration. The poor in Kenya are hit hardest by the sharp increase, because they spend most of their budget on fuel and transport. Furthermore, in oil intensive economies like Kenya, high oil prices push up prices for food and most other basic goods. All Africa - September 20, 2007.

    Finland's Metso Power has won an order to supply Kalmar Energi Värme AB with a biomass-fired power boiler for the company’s new combined heat and power plant in Kalmar on the east coast of Sweden. Start-up for the plant is scheduled for the end of 2009. The value of the order is approximately EUR 55 million. The power boiler (90 MWth) will utilize bubbling fluidized bed technology and will burn biomass replacing old district heating boilers and reducing the consumption of oil. The delivery will also include a flue gas condensing system to increase plant's district heat production. Metso Corporation - September 19, 2007.

    Jo-Carroll Energy announced today its plan to build an 80 megawatt, biomass-fueled, renewable energy center in Illinois. The US$ 140 million plant will be fueled by various types of renewable biomass, such as clean waste wood, corn stover and switchgrass. Jo-Carroll Energy - September 18, 2007.

    Beihai Gofar Marine Biological Industry Co Ltd, in China's southern region of Guangxi, plans to build a 100,000 tonne-per-year fuel ethanol plant using cassava as feedstock. The Shanghai-listed company plans to raise about 560 million yuan ($74.5 million) in a share placement to finance the project and boost its cash flow. Reuters - September 18, 2007.

    The oil-dependent island state of Fiji has requested US company Avalor Capital, LLC, to invest in biodiesel and ethanol. The Fiji government has urged the company to move its $250million 'Fiji Biofuels Project' forward at the earliest possible date. Fiji Live - September 18, 2007.

    The Bowen Group, one of Ireland's biggest construction groups has announced a strategic move into the biomass energy sector. It is planning a €25 million investment over the next five years to fund up to 100 projects that will create electricity from biomass. Its ambition is to install up to 135 megawatts of biomass-fuelled heat from local forestry sources, which is equal to 50 million litres or about €25m worth of imported oil. Irish Examiner - September 16, 2007.

    According to Dr Niphon Poapongsakorn, dean of Economics at Thammasat University in Thailand, cassava-based ethanol is competitive when oil is above $40 per barrel. Thailand is the world's largest producer and exporter of cassava for industrial use. Bangkok Post - September 14, 2007.

    German biogas and biodiesel developer BKN BioKraftstoff Nord AG has generated gross proceeds totaling €5.5 million as part of its capital increase from authorized capital. Ad Hoc News - September 13, 2007.

    NewGen Technologies, Inc. announced that it and Titan Global Holdings, Inc. completed a definitive Biofuels Supply Agreement which will become effective upon Titan’s acquisition of Appalachian Oil Company. Given APPCO’s current distribution of over 225 million gallons of fuel products per year, the initial expected ethanol supply to APPCO should exceed 1 million gallons a month. Charlotte dBusinessNews - September 13, 2007.

    Oil prices reach record highs as the U.S. Energy Information Agency releases a report that showed crude oil inventories fell by more than seven million barrels last week. The rise comes despite a decision by the international oil cartel, OPEC, to raise its output quota by 500,000 barrels. Reuters - September 12, 2007.

    OPEC decided today to increase the volume of crude supplied to the market by Member Countries (excluding Angola and Iraq) by 500,000 b/d, effective 1 November 2007. The decision comes after oil reached near record-highs and after Saudi Aramco announced that last year's crude oil production declined by 1.7 percent, while exports declined by 3.1 percent. OPEC - September 11, 2007.

    GreenField Ethanol and Monsanto Canada launch the 'Gro-ethanol' program which invites Ontario's farmers to grow corn seed containing Monsanto traits, specifically for the ethanol market. The corn hybrids eligible for the program include Monsanto traits that produce higher yielding corn for ethanol production. MarketWire - September 11, 2007.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

A look at Växjö, Europe's greenest city

Earlier this year, the city of Växjö in southern Sweden won the Sustainable Energy Europe Award 2007, for being the greenest community in the EU. Växjö and its 80,000 inhabitants set the standard for Sweden, which has vowed to become a 'zero oil' country by 2025, and for the rest of the world.

The city won the prize offered by the European Commission's DG for Energy & Transport for its relentless efforts in slashing carbon dioxide emissions, for its intelligent energy management and for its communal approach to building a more sustainable environment. More than 50% of Växjö's energy's supplies are now covered by renewables. Because of this, the city suceeded in bringing down greenhouse gas emissions by 30% per capita between 1993 and 2006. This means that every citizen currently contributes to climate change with a mere 3,232kg of CO2 emissions per year.

This level is far below the global average. US citizens emit around 20 tonnes per year, the EU's per capita emissions average 10 tonnes, and China's roughly 5 tonnes. Växjö citizens now have a carbon footprint equal to that found in many developing countries, while at the same time enjoying very high living standards. Proof that low carbon living does not compromise a modern lifestyle. In fact, Växjö has received an economic boost because of its collectively organised green efforts.

Back in 1996, Växjö decided that it would become a completely fossil fuel free city (an overview of the strategy *.pdf). The goal is now to reduce per capita emissions further by 50% by 2010 and by 70% in 2025, compared to 1993.

Växjö's success is due to a comprehensive set of efforts that impact all aspects of life in the city: from teaching kids the basics of sustainable living to applying advanced renewable energy technologies. On the technological front, the biggest emission reductions were achieved because of the big share of biomass in the community's energy mix. In the heating sector, nearly 90% of energy comes from renewable biomass, with 14,000 appartments, 1,700 houses, the local hospital and university, the tourist infrastructure (hotels) and companies all connected to the efficient district heating grid. Biomass is also used for the production of electricy and cooling, in integrated 'trigeneration' power plants.

The reliance on biofuels has been beneficial for Växjö's economy, both for the municipality as well as for individual consumers. To help local politicians implement carbon-sensitive decisions and policies, Växjö initiated an 'ecobudget', which carefully screens the lifecycle effects and costs of all the natural resources locally used. The system is stringent but cuts energy waste. The 'ecobudget' is now proving that considerable energy and financial savings can be made with a good analysis of how the city's natural resources interact.

Biomass gasification plant for the production of bio-DME and biohydrogen, Växjö, Sweden.
Most of the remaining emissions in the city come from transportation, but here too a decrease in emissions has been achieved. This reduction is a result of a bigger share of flex-fuel vehicles and more biofuel blended in petrol and diesel. The University of Växjö also leads an international biomass-to-liquids program called Chrisgas to develop large scale bio-hydrogen and dimethyl-ether (DME) production from biomass. Bio-DME, a clean burning synthetic biofuel, can be obtained from the gasification of biomass, with the syngas liquefied via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis; it is an alternative to diesel fuel. Experts from eight EU member states participate in the project, funded by the Swedish Energy Agency and the EU.

The Fossil Fuel Free Växjö programme incorporates a range of other activities and technologies, such as as smaller scale biomass district heating, district cooling, biomass boilers for households, energy efficient street lightning, energy efficient building/construction (ecobuildings that reduce energy consumption by 30%), solar panels, encouraging the use of public transport and bicycles (comfortable and safe bicycle paths have been built) and biogas production for power and transport fuels:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The Fossil Fuel Free program is developed in co-operation between the city administration and a lot of stake holders, local enterprises, Växjö University, etc. All these initaitives together with announced national incentives is estimated to give 50% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2010 which means that the goal will be met.

In the Sustainable Community Category, the selection committee of the Sustainable Energy Europe award chose Fossil Fuel Free Växjö, Sweden, because:
  • Fossil Fuel Free Växjö is an overall community programme that takes an integrated and cooperative approach to achieving its objectives.
  • It involves a wide array of integrated activities aimed at generating more energy and heat from renewable energy sources and technology.
  • It also focuses on improving energy efficiency in all areas, on conservation and on achieving sustainable patterns of mobility.
Växjö is an example to be followed. With its long standing political commitment to making its community fossil free it is demonstrating to all of us that its efforts are paying off and it is already half way to achieving its objective. The Municipality of Växjö has for a long time successfully worked with environmental issues and the political agreement and involvement in this issue has given the Local Agenda 21-work a prominent place.

All municipal departments and companies are responsible for their work to get a sustainable development. The municipality of Växjö is not able to solve the world’s environmental problems on its own, but thinks we can all participate and share the responsibility. What we do locally also has a global impact.

In the Environmental Programme for the City of Växjö you can read about the three areas in which community interventions are being made: 'Living Life', 'Our Nature' and 'Fossil Fuel Free Växjö', all aimed at protecting the environment and at mitigating climate change.

You can also find more about Fossil Fuel Free Växjö and how a region in Japan is taking advantage of the Swedish city's experience, here: Bioenergy Småland - Expo Växjö.

City of Växjö: Climate Strategy [*.pdf].

City of Växjö: Fossil Fuel Free [*.pdf]

City of Växjö: Environmental Programme [*.pdf].

University of Växjö: Chrisgas project.

Växjö Energi AB: A Biomass CHP in Växjö, Sweden, with recirculation of residual wood ash [*.pdf].


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