The Friday Express

Energy and environment week highlights

Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

Summary

1.European Union increases targets for renewable energy and decreases greenhouse emissions for 2030;

2.Also European Union unveils plan to cap profits of energy companies to cushion consumers to from high energy prices;

3.Caltech researchers make nitrogen out of thin air with electricity and catalysts.

European new renewable energy and greenhouse emissions targets

European Parliament approves a 45% renewable energy target by 2030. The new 45% target is the second increase over the current EU legal limit of 32%. Previously, in June, the EU commission increased the limit to 40%, which the EU parliament now further increased.

In addition, the EU parliament set targets for energy efficiency. Final energy consumption must decrease by 40%, and primary energy consumption decrease by 42.5%.

A large majority approved the new targets. The new targets come from revisions of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and the Energy Efficiency Directive recast (EED).

Both are part of the European Parliament’s Fit for 55 package, approved in 2021, aiming to reduce greenhouse emissions by at least 55% by 2030. They relate to the European Commission’s 2022’s “RepowerEU” package, which is part of and reinforces 2019’s EU green deal.

The Renewable Energy Directive also sets sectorial targets for transport, industry, buildings, and district heating and cooling.

The transport sector must decrease its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 16% by 2030.

Industry must increase the use of renewable energy by at least 1.9% a year until 2030 (measured in three-year period averages). The national governments should also promote the use of renewable hydrogen (some high-temperature industrial processes are not feasible with an electric power source, like the steel industry).

In addition, industrial green products must contain labels with the share of renewable energy used to produce them (article 22a).

Building’s district heating networks must increase the use of renewable energy by 2.1% per year (article 23). In addition, buildings gain an indicative target of a 49% share of renewable energy in their heating and cooling by 2030 (article 15a).

The European Parliament further amends article 29 to prohibit biomass sourcing from primary forests for energy production. The amendment is part of a struggle that resulted in clashes between NGOs and the European Commission.

This description shows how fast the EU bodies are updating and increasing the targets for renewable energy while decreasing greenhouse emissions. In 2022, Europe contends with the Ukrainian war and the worst drought in 500 years, only to contend recently with extreme floods. Both spurred support for energy security and independence and for fighting climate change.

European Union new plan to deal with high energy prices

The European Union unveils a new plan to deal with rising energy prices. EU’s sanctions on Russian natural gas and subsequent cut of gas exports by Russia provoked an energy crisis.

The plan sets:

1- Mandatory power savings during peak hours;

2- A tax on profits above €180 per megawatt-hour for electric generation from renewable sources;

3- A taxation of at least 33% over the profits of fossil fuel companies (oil, gas, and coal).

The EU estimates to make €117bl from item 2 and €25bl from item 3, to redistribute amongst consumers to fare price hikes. Item 2 is valid until March 2023, and item 3 is for the fiscal year 2022.

Item 2 rationale is to tax the price differential between the current high price of natural gas-fired electric generation and the other cheaper sources. The effort focuses mainly on solar PV, wind, and hydro, already the most affordable electricity sources, now reap increased profits.

So if a solar PV farm sells electric energy on the market at €300 per megawatt-hour, the EU collects €120 above the €180 cap. The measure still allows lower-cost energy sources like solar PV to profit significantly.

However, the benchmark comes from the day ahead market, but there are others for the electricity trade. The cap should take this into account, particularly in the case of forwarding hedging. Figure 1 sums up some pros and cons of the price cap.

Pros and cons of RU new energy profit cap plan (source)

The tariff for item 2 happens at the time of the sale.

In addition, there is item 3. Unlike item 2, which falls on renewable generation, item 3 targets oil and gas companies. Revenue collection happens at the end of 2022 upon the company’s profits instead of the moment of sale. The additional tax is at least 33% of profits, conditional they present a 20% increase over the average of the last three years.

Item 3 may be contested in court, but it makes sense to tax the extraordinary profits of fossil fuel companies when item 2 targets the exceptional profits of its renewable counterparts.

Caltech scientists breakthrough on electric ammonia generation

Caltech scientists make a breakthrough in an electric-based process to capture nitrogen to make ammonia. The process works at room temperature and pressure and can supply feeds for fertilizers and fuels, bypassing the energy-intensive and hydrocarbon-based Haber–Bosch process.

The new method is at a research level but is crucial to help make fertilizers without fossil fuels, using nitrogen captured from the air since it makes up 80% of our atmosphere.

The new process opens the future possibility of making fertilizer locally anywhere on earth and in off-grid places, based on solar PV, wind, or hydroelectric generation. In addition, ammonia can serve as fuel for vehicles.

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Architect with scholarly background. Writing on the intersection of Buildings, Energy & Environment with People. Top writer in Energy. @miguel_pacheco@masto.pt

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Miguel Pacheco

Architect with scholarly background. Writing on the intersection of Buildings, Energy & Environment with People. Top writer in Energy. @miguel_pacheco@masto.pt