These meetings were the latest in a series organised as part of the European Advanced Biofuels Flightpath initiative backed by the EC, Airbus, leading European airlines (Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France/KLM) and key European biofuel producers (Choren Industries, Neste Oil, Biomass Technology Group and UOP), to speed up the sustainable commercialisation of biofuels in the aviation industry.
Launched at the 49th International Paris Air Show in June 2011, the Flightpath initiative commits members to support and promote the production, storage and distribution of sustainably produced drop-in biofuels for use in aviation, with an annual target of 2 million tonnes by 2020. The initiative also seeks to establish financial mechanisms to support the construction of industrial-scale prototype advanced biofuel production plants.
At present the aviation industry is almost totally dependent on fossil fuels (oil), consuming about 200 million tons of kerosene globally each year. And while it already accounts for nearly 3% of all EU CO2 emissions, the figure is growing and is up about 87% on 1990 levels. Even with increases in fuel efficiency in the industry, CO2 emissions are expected to be two to three times higher by 2050 than at present. Biofuel is a strong candidate to turn these figures around. It has a higher energy density than conventional jet fuel, so can already lead to one percent gains in fuel efficiency, while emitting about half as much CO2 and also being free of sulphur compounds.
Under the EC Renewable Energy Directive (2009), 10% of all energy in the EU transport sector must come from renewable energy sources, including sustainably produced biofuels, but aviation grade biofuels are more expensive than conventional kerosene. As an incentive for the EU aviation industry to reduce carbon emissions, all flights in and out of EU airports are now (from 2012) included in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Under this “cap and trade” scheme, CO2 emissions by airlines above a preset allowance will effectively be taxed, with airlines being able to buy credits on the carbon market, or sell any surplus allowances they may have. Under the ETS, the current price of about EUR 8.5 for an allowance to emit one tonne of CO2 would not add enough to the price of kerosene to make biofuels attractive, even if sufficient sustainable supplies were available. But, as the price of carbon allowances rises, the gap is expected gradually to close.
According to EU Commissioner for Energy, Günther Oettinger, speaking at a workshop on ‘Financial mechanisms for advanced biofuels flagship plants’ in Brussels on March 20 this year, “in spite of continuous efforts to make its engines more efficient and its airframes lighter, the aviation sector has no other near-term credible solution in addressing climate change than sustainable biofuels.”
Now IATA (the International Air Transport Association) has also said it will make biofuels part of its pledge to reduce net CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050, compared to 2005 levels. Indeed, the airline industry has already started to look seriously at the potential for sustainable biofuels. New industry performance standards allow up to 50 percent ‘bio-derived synthetic blending components’ to be added to conventional jet fuel. These renewable fuel components, called hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA), are identical to hydrocarbons found in jet fuel, but come from vegetable oil-containing feedstock.
During its “burnFAIR” research project, Lufthansa flew an Airbus A321 eight times daily between Hamburg and Frankfurt from 15 July to 27 December 2011 – some 1187 flights – with one engine powered with a half-and-half mixture of biofuel and conventional fuel. And on 12 January 2012 the airline flew a Boeing 747-400 successfully from Frankfurt to Washington carrying 40 tonnes of a biosynthetic fuel mix. According to a Lufthansa communiqué, this flight alone reduced CO2 emissions by about 38 tonnes, equivalent to the emissions of six scheduled flights between Frankfurt and Berlin.
Now that the principle and feasibility of aviation biofuels have been demonstrated, attention is being focused on the sustainability of the raw materials and the capacity to produce enough commercially. As conventional biofuel feedstocks are not suitable for use as aviation fuels, research is concentrating on so-called second generation biofuels, notably synthetic Fischer-Tropsch (FT) based kerosene produced through high temperature biomass gasification, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils (HVO) and Hydrogenated Pyrolysis Oils (HPO) produced from lignocellulosic biomass. HVO production has already been proven on a full commercial scale. There is also growing interest in the use of algae as raw feedstock, as this does not require farmland to be set aside, which can raise environmental and sustainability issues. However, algal oils will not be commercially available within at least the next 5-8 years.
While the aviation industry backs the Flightpath initiative, it is calling for further incentives to switch to increased use of biofuels. According to a technical paper produced in support of the Flightpath initiative, the immediate obstacles to the commercial production of second generation aviation biofuels are “the lack of policy incentives, the lack of adequate financial instruments in constructing the plants and the lack of long term off-take agreements between the biofuel producers and the aviation industry.”
Eric van den Heuvel of the Netherlands-based ECOFYS consultancy, speaking at the Workshop on Incentives for Biofuels Flightpath in Brussels on 20 June, argued that the ETS alone would still not be sufficient to create parity between the price of kerosene and biofuels. He tabled the possibility of combining road transport and aviation incentives to reduce carbon emissions, for example by swapping emissions certificates between the two sectors.
Meanwhile, European financial institutions have so far shied away from financing second generation biofuels, especially those suitable for aviation, while waiting for the implementation of sustainability criteria. They are also reluctant to bear the full cost of the technical risks associated with building a first-of-its-kind plant, and are calling for targeted policy and financial incentives from the public sector. These are also precisely the priority ambitions of the European Advanced Biofuels Flightpath.
For further information on the Flightpath initiative:
Overview by the European Biofuels Technology Platform:
"This is binding legislation and our Member States have to decide on their priorities, and a priority is to invest in existing buildings, to make them more efficient," Oettinger said during the 19 June press conference in Brussels as part of European Sustainable Energy Week.
But under the proposal, the only obligation for Member States regarding buildings is the renovation of 3% of all central government owned and occupied buildings with a total usable floor area exceeding 250 square metres. In many countries, this narrows down the scope of the Directive to only a few buildings.
The Energy Efficiency Directive is stated to become one of the EU's main tools to achieve its 20% energy efficiency target by 2020, but the law fell short of that initial goal.
Commissioner Oettinger said he expected 2.5% of savings to be delivered by the transport sector, but did not indicate what measures he will propose in this respect. The remaining percentage, he said, will be reached by additions to already existing legislation on the energy-efficient design and quality of products, such as the Eco-design or Eco-label directives.
The remaining responsibility for the 20% target will be left to the market. "With some additional market-based instruments, we can close the gap (...) internal competition between Member states now is key to consume better energy with more efficiency and less consumption," Oettinger said.
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Renewable power, excluding large hydroelectric, accounted for 44% of all new generating capacity added worldwide in 2011, compared to 34% in 2010. Meanwhile, gross investment in renewable energy capacity stood at USD 257 billion in 2011, catching up on investments in fossil fuel capacity of USD 302 billion for the same period.
Total investment in solar power in particular jumped 52% to USD 147 billion, with rooftop photovoltaic (PV) installations booming in Italy and Germany, while large-scale concentrating solar thermal (CSP) projects attracted major investments in Spain and the USA. By the end of 2011, total renewable power capacity worldwide was over 1360 GW, up 8% compared to 2010. Renewables made up more than 25% of total global power-generating capacity (estimated at 5360 GW in 2011) and supplied an estimated 20.3% of global electricity.
One of the effects of this growth is that the cost of low carbon technology is dropping, making it a more feasible option for supplying energy in developing countries. But it has also meant that some countries are cutting their subsidies to renewable energies. "We are entering a fascinating period," said Michael Liebreich, Chief Executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, "with clean energy’s costs starting to be competitive with fossil fuels. The challenge for policy-makers is to reduce support mechanisms at just the right pace – too fast and the long-term future of the industry will be harmed. Too slow and you do the world’s taxpayers and energy consumers a great disservice."
For the full reports, please see:
Some 530 participants attended the first conference last year, one third of them from utilities. Themes and topics to be discussed this year include: data security in grid communications, management software, upstream meters, the interoperability of smart objects, Broadband over powerline (BPL) communication technologies, microgrid projects, security and protection of privacy, sensors dedicated to network quality and monitoring, investment costs and project profitability, various business models, the use of smart grids for other forms of energy: natural gas and propane.
Debates will focus on the economic, regulatory, legal, industrial and social implications of all these developments. The Smart Grids Paris 2012 Congress targets all market players – electricity providers, network managers, IT firms, telecom operators, institutional bodies, representatives of trade associations, manufacturers, industrial consumers and journalists. Nearly 200 speakers from industry, the utilities and the public sector will give presentations.
For information and registration:
This is one of the reasons that the European Commission is currently drafting a strategy – set for publication in the autumn this year – to boost the construction industry. The announcement was made by EC Vice-President, Antonio Tajani, speaking at the annual congress of the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC), in Istanbul, last week.
Although the proposed EC strategy is concerned with boosting the European construction industry as a whole, it does target sustainable construction as a priority. This includes stepping up renovation of existing buildings, to make them more energy efficient. According to Mr Tajani, current building renovation rates (1.2% per year) and practices in terms of improvements in energy efficiency are insufficient to achieve EU 2020 energy saving targets.
Another idea on the table as part of the proposed strategy is to use Structural and Cohesion Funds (2007-2013) for investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy, not only in public and commercial buildings but also in existing housing. The new proposal for an EU Cohesion Policy for 2014-2020 places even greater emphasis on supporting investments related to EU energy targets and suggests nearly doubling the amount allocated to sustainable energy in the current period, including for building renovation.
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Most of this growth has been since 2000, when the share was 7.2%. The Federal government has made it a priority to increase the share of renewables in the energy mix. Its 2010 Energy Concept envisages that renewable energy will account for at least 35% of gross electricity consumption in 2020, 50% in 2030, 65% in 2040 and 80% in 2050. These targets are more ambitious than the EU targets as a whole.
As well as introducing feed-in tariffs (FITs) for renewable energies, Germany has introduced a number of other incentives, including capital grants and low-interest loans, reduced tax rates for renewable-generated energy and heat, tax exemptions and quotas for biofuels and financial incentives for the use of renewables in buildings.
However, unlike FITs in other EU countries with similar schemes, the additional cost is passed onto end-use consumers as a surcharge on the electricity price. And these costs have increased sevenfold, from EUR 1.4 billion in 2000 to EUR 9.8 billion in 2010. This represents about 10% of the electricity price per kWh paid by the residential customer. According to the OECD report, an inherent risk in this policy is that, while the high prices can encourage energy savings, they could also push consumers to look to less expensive, carbon-intensive fuels. “Since renewables remain the core of German energy policy,” concludes the report, “controlling the cost of renewables support will remain a key challenge.”
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According to a JRC communiqué, JRC's nuclear safeguards activities will be significantly improved by the new facility. “With this state-of-the-art facility,” says the communiqué, “JRC scientists can detect within a few hours the existence of nuclear particles in samples taken during safeguards inspections and determine their enrichment level. This allows international safeguards authorities to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear activities.”
New devices installed in the new laboratory make it possible to search for traces of nuclear materials in particles collected on cotton swipes during nuclear safeguards inspections.
This allows nuclear safeguard authorities to verify not only the correctness of a state's declaration about its nuclear activity, but also its completeness, confirming the absence of undeclared activities by correlating the measured isotopic composition with the declared operations at nuclear facilities.
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Entitled Spreading the Net: The Multiple Benefits of Energy Efficiency Improvements, the 40-page ‘working paper’ finds that the impact of energy efficiency measures can "go far beyond energy savings, and energy efficiency improvements can be an important contributor to economic growth and social development."
Some of the benefits attributed to the implementation of energy efficiency measures are felt at an individual or community level, such as lower energy bills, improved health, well-being and social development, while others are more wide reaching, including industrial productivity, improved asset values and reduced environmental damage. The report also finds that “national competitiveness, jobs, consumer surplus and energy security, as well as poverty alleviation and greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation in both developed and developing countries, are further associated with energy efficiency measures."
There is also "significant evidence", claims the report, that these outcomes stem from energy efficiency policies. However, more work now needs to be carried out to quantify the effects "so that they can be more readily assessed alongside energy savings." And, the report adds, "expanding evaluation to such matters could offer a new perspective on energy efficiency measures and, by improving the cost/benefit assessment of energy efficiency programmes, could help decision-makers reconcile perceived trade-offs between supporting economic growth and reducing energy use."
For further information and to download the report: :
European Commission urges greater effort to achieve 2020 renewable goals and to set targets for 2030
As part of this drive, the Communication urges Member States to make greater use of trading renewables, to help them meet their binding targets efficiently. According to Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, this means “producing wind and solar power where it makes economic sense and trading it within Europe, as we do for other products and services.”
The Communication also stresses the need to look beyond 2020. “To maintain robust growth of renewable energy beyond 2020,” says the paper, “[…] a supportive policy framework will be needed to address remaining market or infrastructure inadequacies. As the Roadmap 2050 states, it is crucial to consider options for concrete 2030 milestones.”
An impact assessment accompanying the Communication explores three policy options for this: decarbonisation without renewable energy targets, relying on the carbon market and a revised Emission Trading Scheme (ETS); continuing the current regime, with binding targets for renewable energy, emissions reduction and energy efficiency; and “an enhanced, more harmonised management of our whole energy sector with an EU renewable energy target.”
The full text of the Communication, “Renewable Energy: a major player in the European energy market” may be downloaded at: