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    Toyota Tsusho Corp., Ohta Oil Mill Co. and Toyota Chemical Engineering Co., say it and two other firms have jointly developed a technology to produce biodiesel fuel at lower cost. Biodiesel is made by blending methanol into plant-derived oil. The new technology requires smaller amounts of methanol and alkali catalysts than conventional technologies. In addition, the new technology makes water removal facilities unnecessary. JCN Network - January 22, 2007.

    Finland's Metso Paper and SWISS COMBI - W. Kunz dryTec A.G. have entered a licence agreement for the SWISS COMBI belt dryer KUVO, which allows biomass to be dried in a low temperature environment and at high capacity, both for pulp & paper and bioenergy applications. Kauppalehti - January 22, 2007.

    Record warm summers cause extreme ice melt in Greenland: an international team of scientists, led by Dr Edward Hanna at the University of Sheffield, has found that recent warm summers have caused the most extreme Greenland ice melting in 50 years. The new research provides further evidence of a key impact of global warming and helps scientists place recent satellite observations of Greenland´s shrinking ice mass in a longer-term climatic context. Findings are published in the 15 January 2008 issue of Journal of Climate. University of Sheffield - January 15, 2007.

    Japan's Tsukishima Kikai Co. and Marubeni Corp. have together clinched an order from Oenon Holdings Inc. for a plant that will make bioethanol from rice. The Oenon group will invest around 4.4 billion yen (US$40.17 million) in the project, half of which will be covered by a subsidy from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The plant will initially produce bioethanol from imported rice, with plans to use Hokkaido-grown rice in the future. It will produce 5 million liters per year starting in 2009, increasing output to 15m liters in 2011. The facility will be able to produce as much as 50,000 liters of bioethanol from 125 tons of rice each day. Trading Markets - January 11, 2007.

    PetroSun, Inc. announced today that its subsidiary, PetroSun BioFuels Refining, has entered into a JV to construct and operate a biodiesel refinery near Coolidge, Arizona. The feedstock for the refinery will be algal oil produced by PetroSun BioFuels at algae farms to be located in Arizona. The refinery will have a capacity of thirty million gallons and will produce 100% renewable biodiesel. PetroSun BioFuels will process the residual algae biomass into ethanol. MarketWire - January 10, 2007.

    BlueFire Ethanol Fuels Inc, which develops and operates carbohydrate-based transportation fuel production facilities, has secured capital liquidity for corporate overhead and continued project development in the value of US$15 million with Quercus, an environmentally focused trust. BlueFire Ethanol Fuels - January 09, 2007.

    Some $170 billion in new technology development projects, infrastructure equipment and construction, and biofuel refineries will result from the ethanol production standards contained the new U.S. Energy Bill, says BIO, the global Biotechnology Industry Organization. According to Brent Erickson, BIO's executive vice president "Such a new energy infrastructure has not occurred in more than 100 years. We are at the point where we were in the 1850s when kerosene was first distilled and began to replace whale oil. This technology will be coming so fast that what we say today won't be true in two years." Chemical & Engineering News - January 07, 2007.

    Scottish and Southern Energy plc, the UK's second largest power company, has completed the acquisition of Slough Heat and Power Ltd from SEGRO plc for a total cash consideration of £49.25m. The 101MW CHP plant is the UK’s largest dedicated biomass energy facility fueled by wood chips, biomass and waste paper. Part of the plant is contracted under the Non Fossil Fuel Obligation and part of it produces over 200GWH of output qualifying for Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs), which is equivalent to around 90MW of wind generation. Scottish & Southern Energy - January 2, 2007.

    PetroChina Co Ltd, the country's largest oil and gas producer, plans to invest 800 million yuan to build an ethanol plant in Nanchong, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, its parent China National Petroleum Corp said. The ethanol plant has a designed annual capacity of 100,000 tons. ABCMoneyNews - December 21, 2007.

    Mexico passed legislation to promote biofuels last week, offering unspecified support to farmers that grow crops for the production of any renewable fuel. Agriculture Minister Alberto Cardenas said Mexico could expand biodiesel faster than ethanol. More soon. Reuters - December 20, 2007.

    Oxford Catalysts has placed an order worth approximately €700,000 (US$1 million) with the German company Amtec for the purchase of two Spider16 high throughput screening reactors. The first will be used to speed up the development of catalysts for hydrodesulphurisation (HDS). The second will be used to further the development of catalysts for use in gas to liquid (GTL) and Fischer-Tropsch processes which can be applied to next generation biofuels. AlphaGalileo - December 18, 2007.

    According to the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE), Brazil's production of sugarcane will increase from 514,1 million tonnes this season, to a record 561,8 million tonnes in the 2008/09 cyclus - an increase of 9.3%. New numbers are also out for the 2007 harvest in Brazil's main sugarcane growing region, the Central-South: a record 425 million tonnes compared to 372,7 million tonnes in 2006, or a 14% increase. The estimate was provided by Unica – the União da Indústria de Cana-de-Açúcar. Jornal Cana - December 16, 2007.

    The University of East Anglia and the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre have today released preliminary global temperature figures for 2007, which show the top 11 warmest years all occurring in the last 13 years. The provisional global figure for 2007 using data from January to November, currently places the year as the seventh warmest on records dating back to 1850. The announcement comes as the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Michel Jarraud, speaks at the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Bali. Eurekalert - December 13, 2007.

    The Royal Society of Chemistry has announced it will launch a new journal in summer 2008, Energy & Environmental Science, which will distinctly address both energy and environmental issues. In recognition of the importance of research in this subject, and the need for knowledge transfer between scientists throughout the world, from launch the RSC will make issues of Energy & Environmental Science available free of charge to readers via its website, for the first 18 months of publication. This journal will highlight the important role that the chemical sciences have in solving the energy problems we are facing today. It will link all aspects of energy and the environment by publishing research relating to energy conversion and storage, alternative fuel technologies, and environmental science. AlphaGalileo - December 10, 2007.

    Dutch researcher Bas Bougie has developed a laser system to investigate soot development in diesel engines. Small soot particles are not retained by a soot filter but are, however, more harmful than larger soot particles. Therefore, soot development needs to be tackled at the source. Laser Induced Incandescence is a technique that reveals exactly where soot is generated and can be used by project partners to develop cleaner diesel engines. Terry Meyer, an Iowa State University assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is using similar laser technology to develop advanced sensors capable of screening the combustion behavior and soot characteristics specifically of biofuels. Eurekalert - December 7, 2007.

    Lithuania's first dedicated biofuel terminal has started operating in Klaipeda port. At the end of November 2007, the stevedoring company Vakaru krova (VK) started activities to manage transshipments. The infrastructure of the biodiesel complex allows for storage of up to 4000 cubic meters of products. During the first year, the terminal plans to transship about 70.000 tonnes of methyl ether, after that the capacities of the terminal would be increased. Investments to the project totaled €2.3 million. Agrimarket - December 5, 2007.

    New Holland supports the use of B100 biodiesel in all equipment with New Holland-manufactured diesel engines, including electronic injection engines with common rail technology. Overall, nearly 80 percent of the tractor and equipment manufacturer's New Holland-branded products with diesel engines are now available to operate on B100 biodiesel. Tractor and equipment maker John Deere meanwhile clarified its position for customers that want to use biodiesel blends up to B20. Grainnet - December 5, 2007.

    According to Wetlands International, an NGO, the Kyoto Protocol as it currently stands does not take into account possible emissions from palm oil grown on a particular type of land found in Indonesia and Malaysia, namely peatlands. Mongabay - December 5, 2007.

    Malaysia's oil & gas giant Petronas considers entering the biofuels sector. Zamri Jusoh, senior manager of Petronas' petroleum development management unit told reporters "of course our focus is on oil and gas, but I think as we move into the future we cannot ignore the importance of biofuels." AFP - December 5, 2007.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

EU Commission presents climate and renewable energy package

The European Commission has today agreed on a far-reaching package of proposals that will deliver the European Council's commitments to fight climate change and promote renewable energy. The proposals demonstrate that the targets agreed last year are technologically and economically possible and provide a unique business opportunity for thousands of European companies, it says.

These measures will dramatically increase the use of renewable energy in each country and set legally enforceable targets for governments to achieve them. All major CO2 emitters will be given an incentive to develop clean production technologies through a thorough reform of the Emissions Trading System (ETS) that will impose an EU-wide cap on emissions. The package seeks to deliver the European Union to reduce greenhouse gases by at least 20% and increases to 20% the share of renewable energies in the energy consumption by 2020, as agreed by EU leaders in March 2007. The package also contains a binding 10% minimum target for biofuels in transport. The emissions reduction target will be increased to 30% by 2020 when a new global climate change agreement is reached.


In January 2007 the European Commission put forward an integrated energy/climate change proposal that addressed the issues of energy supply, climate change and industrial development (earlier post). Two months later, European Heads of State endorsed the plan and agreed to an Energy Policy for Europe (previous post).

The plan called for a:
20% increase in energy efficiency
20% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
20% share of renewables in overall EU energy consumption by 2020
10% biofuel component in vehicle fuel by 2020

These targets are very ambitious: today 8.5% of energy is renewable. To achieve a 20% share by 2020 will require major efforts across all sectors of the economy and by all Member States.

A European approach is needed to ensure that the effort for reaching the 20% target is shared equitably between Member States. Furthermore, there must be investor certainty regarding the objectives and the pathway to be followed.

The Commission's proposal
To achieve the renewable energy policy goals, the European Commission has proposed a Directive. This aims to establish national renewable energy targets that result in an overall binding target of a 20% share of renewable energy sources in energy consumption in 2020 and a binding 10% minimum target for biofuels in transport to be achieved by each Member State.

Three sectors are implicated by renewable energy: electricity, heating and cooling and transport. It is up to the Member States to decide on the mix of contributions from these sectors to reach their national targets, choosing the means that best suits their national circumstances. They will also be given the option of achieving their targets by supporting the development of renewable energy in other Member States and third countries.

The minimum 10% share of biofuels in transport is applicable in all Member States. Biofuels tackle the oil dependence of the transport sector, which is one of the most serious issues affecting security of energy supply that the EU faces.

Finally, the Directive also aims to remove unnecessary barriers to the growth of renewable energy - for example by simplifying the administrative procedures for new renewable energy developments – and encourages the development of better types of renewable energy (by setting sustainability standards for biofuels).

Target calculation
If the overall 20% target for renewables is to be reached in an effective manner, the individual targets for each Member State have to be determined as fairly as possible. The Commission has therefore put forward a simple five-step approach:
  • The share of renewable energy in 2005 (the base year for all calculations in the package) is modulated to reflect national starting points and efforts already made for Member States that achieved an increase of above 2% between 2001 and 2005
  • 5.5% is added to the modulated 2005 share of renewable energy for every Member State
  • This remaining effort (0.16 toe for each person in the EU) is weighted by a GDP/capita index to reflect different levels of wealth across Member States, then multiplied by each Member State's population
  • These two elements are added together to derive the full renewable energy share of total final energy consumption in 2020
  • Lastly, an overall cap on the target share for renewable energy in 2020 is applied for individual Member States.
According to the Commission, this method of setting the targets provides for a fair distribution of effort across Member States. At the same time, the creation of a tradable guarantee of origin regime allows Member States to reach their targets in the most cost-effective manner possible: instead of developing local renewable energy sources, Member States will be able to buy guarantees of origin (certificates proving the renewable origin of energy) from other Member States where the development of renewable energy is cheaper to produce.

The 10% target for renewable energy in transport has been set at the same level for each Member State in order to ensure consistency in transport fuel specifications and availability. Member States which do not have the relevant resources to produce biofuels will easily be able to obtain renewable transport fuels from elsewhere. While it would technically be possible for the European Union to meet its biofuel needs solely from domestic production, it is both likely and desirable that these needs will in fact be met through a combination of domestic EU production and imports from third countries:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Concerns have been raised about whether biofuel production is sustainable. Whilst biofuels are a crucial part of renewable energy policy and a key solution to growing emissions in the transport sector, they must not be promoted unless they are produced sustainably. Although the majority of biofuels currently consumed in the EU are produced in a sustainable manner, the concerns are legitimate and need to be addressed. The Directive therefore sets out stringent environmental sustainability criteria to ensure that biofuels that are to count towards the European targets are sustainable and that they are not in conflict with our overall environmental goals. This means that they must achieve at least a minimum level of greenhouse gas savings and respect a number of requirements related to biodiversity. Among other things this will prevent the use of land with high biodiversity value, such as natural forests and protected areas, being used for the production of raw materials for biofuels.

Biofuels cost more than other forms of renewable energy and without a separate minimum target for biofuels, they will not be developed. This matters because greenhouse gas trends are worst in transport, and biofuels are one of the few measures – alongside vehicle fuel efficiency – realistically capable of making a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions from transport. In addition, the oil dependence of the transport sector is the most serious security of supply problem of all. And finally, we must remember to send the right signals for the future: the old cars of 2020 are being built today. Vehicle manufacturers need to know what fuel to design for.

Advantages of renewables
The numerous benefits of renewable energy - in terms of the impact on climate change, security of energy supply and the long-term economic benefits - are widely accepted. The Commission's analysis shows that achieving our renewable energy targets will mean the following:
  • Savings of 600 to 900 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year – holding back the rate of climate change and sending a signal to other countries to do the same
  • Reductions in fossil fuel consumption of 200 to 300 million tonnes per year, most of it imported – making energy supplies more certain for European citizens
  • A boost for high-tech industries, new economic opportunities and jobs
All this will cost approximately €13-18 billion per year. However, this investment will drive down the price of the renewable energy technologies that will form a growing part of our energy supply in the future.

Renewable energy makes economic sense
With oil prices at today's levels, renewables are increasingly seen as an economically sound alternative. With increased deployment of renewable energy sources, we can expect to see the cost of renewable energy continue to fall over time, in a pattern similar to information technology. Indeed, costs have already fallen significantly in recent years.

Last year, global investment in sustainable energy increased by 43%. Market revenues for solar, wind, biofuels and fuel cells are forecast to increase to approximately €150 billion by 2016, while record levels of investment in wind, solar and biofuels reflect technological maturity, a growth in policy incentives and increased investor confidence.

Continued and expanded deployment will continue this process. Conversely, the cost of fossil fuels, notably oil, has been steadily increasing since 1998. The dynamics at play are clear: falling renewable energy prices, rising fossil fuel energy prices.

But the use of renewable energy sources also contributes to increasing local and regional employment opportunities. Renewable energy in the EU has a turnover of €30 billion, providing approximately 350 000 jobs. Employment opportunities are vast, ranging from high-tech manufacturing of photovoltaic components to maintenance jobs at wind power plants or in the agricultural sector producing biomass.

The EU's proactive policies on renewable energy provide an industrial opportunity. By beginning the transition to a low carbon economy earlier than would otherwise be the case, the need for more radical and sudden adjustment is reduced. Money will be saved on imported fossil fuels, and greater diversity of energy sources ensures that the European Union is better protected against external shocks.

Renewable energy makes environmental sense
The renewable energy target is closely linked with our greenhouse gas emissions target. Without significantly increasing the share of renewable energy in the EU's energy mix it will be practically impossible to meet the EU's objectives for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

But the term "clean energy" doesn't just apply to reducing greenhouse gas emissions – it also covers traditional pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxides and particulates. These are as detrimental to our health as they are to the environment.

Fossil fuel energy causes environmental impacts all along the chain: from extraction and production to transportation and end-use. With renewable energy these negative effects are minimised, if not removed altogether.

Of course renewable energy is not always a flawless solution and certain environmental and aesthetic concerns cannot be denied, but new technological solutions will contribute to lessening this impact over time. Looking at the bigger picture, however, there is no doubt that the adverse effects of climate change have far greater significance.

Renewable energy means secure energy supply
Our dependence on a limited number of energy sources (oil and gas) is of increasing concern. Oil is no longer a cheap commodity that we can afford to take for granted. Oil prices fluctuated around $25-30 during the first years of this decade but today hover at around $100 per barrel.

From a security of supply perspective, EU renewable energy is mostly generated in the EU. This means that it is less subject to supply disruptions and mitigates fuel price increases. It makes sense, therefore, to produce more of our own energy, and from a growing variety of renewable energy sources. A diverse supply of energy is a more secure supply of energy.

EU Citizens favour renewable energy
Changes in consumer attitudes towards green energy are also becoming increasingly apparent. Surveys show that customers value the environmental benefits of renewable more than conventional polluting energy sources and prefer electricity companies that supply at least part of their power from renewable energy technologies.

According to a Eurobarometer opinion survey undertaken in January 2007, 55% of European citizens perceive great future promise in the use of renewable energies. 60% think that energy research should be a priority for the European Union.

Moreover, citizens appear to support changing the energy structure, enhancing research and development and guaranteeing the stability of the energy field.

Many of them think that guaranteeing low energy prices and continuous supply of energy should be a priority for national government and 40% are prepared to pay more for energy from renewable sources.

These sources clearly underline the importance of renewable energies to Europe's citizens. More and more consider that increasing our use of renewable energy is fundamental in order to live in a clean, sustainable and safer environment.

Renewables in the EU today
The European Union is already a world leader in renewable energy and the sector has huge and growing economic importance worldwide. It is the EU's ambition to stay at the forefront of this fast-developing area. So far, however, development has been uneven across the EU, and renewable energies still represent only a small share of the EU’s total energy mix relative to the dominance of gas, oil and coal.

Different renewable energies are at different stages of technological and commercial development. In certain locations and under certain conditions, sources such as wind, hydro, biomass and solar thermal are already economically viable. But others, such as photovoltaic, will depend on increased demand to improve economies of scale and lower costs.

Currently, two EU directives in the field of renewable energy are in force: one for electricity and one for biofuels. The third sector, heating and cooling, has been excluded at European level so far. The 2020 target setting offers an opportunity to propose one comprehensive directive covering all three sectors of renewable energies. This makes it possible to put in place both individual measures in the different sectors and to address cross cutting issues (e.g. support schemes and administrative barriers). A single directive and single national action plans will encourage Member States to think of energy policy in a more integrated way, concentrating on the best allocation of resources.

The European Commission's new Directive sets out the renewable energy targets and aims to provide a stable and integrated framework for all renewable energy, which is critical to ensure investors have the confidence needed to make renewables play their envisaged role. At the same time, the framework is sufficiently flexible to take into account the specific situations in Member States and to ensure that they have leeway to meet their targets in a cost-effective manner, including through an improved regime for transfers of guarantees of origin. In addition, the Directive contains specific measures to remove barriers to renewable energy's development such as excessive administrative controls and to encourage greater use of better-performing types of renewable energy.

European Commission: Boosting growth and jobs by meeting our climate change commitments - January 23, 2008.

European Commission: Building a global low-carbon economy - January 23, 2008.

European Commission: Memo on the Renewable Energy and Climate Change Package - January 23, 2008.

EuTube: video on renewables in the European Union.

Biopact: EU unveils energy policy for the 21st century: towards a 'low carbon economy' with renewables - January 10, 2007

Biopact: EU reaches historic deal on renewables, biofuels and carbon emissions - March 09, 2007


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