REA to review UK bioenergy's 'long-term potential in low carbon energy mix'

Renewable Energy Association to assess potential role for bioenergy - including biomass, green gas and energy from waste - in meeting UK climate targets

A "far-reaching" review into the future of bioenergy in the UK has been launched by the Renewable Energy Association (REA), as the trade body seeks to quantify the extent to which the sector can contribute to the country's decarbonisation goals.

The group has this week called on its members to submit their views and supporting evidence on the potential for biomass, green gas, and energy-from-waste technologies to help meet the UK's legally binding climate targets.

Launched yesterday and running until 25 February, the call for evidence focuses on energy - both heat and power - generated from bio-based fuels such as wood pellets and biodiesel, and their role in helping meet the UK's existing carbon budgets to 2032, as well as full decarbonisation by 2050.

It is aimed at helping inform a new policy strategy for government and industry currently being developed by the trade body for release later this year, which it said would outline "how bioenergy can fulfil its long-term potential in a low carbon energy mix".

Independent renewables consultant Adam Brown, a former analyst at the International Energy Agency, has been appointed to lead the review and author the resulting report.

"Many of the policies which have helped spur the growth of bioenergy are now coming to an end and the energy markets and technologies have advanced significantly," said Brown. "So it's time for an update of the UK's strategy. We want to explore the role of bioenergy and how public policy and industry practice need to change if we're to get the most out of this sector. We're looking at everything from sustainability and air quality to economic value and its ability to cut energy bills."

Biomass energy and biofuels remain some of the most contentious parts of the green energy mix. Critics argue some sources of wood pellets and plant fuels are unsustainable, require significant areas of farmland to cultivate, and can do more harm than good for the climate.

However, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said last year that with stricter governance rules to ensure sustainable supplies for biomass, domestic biomass sources could more than double their contribution to total UK energy by 2050.

Moreover, advocates of bioenergy have argued that it could have a critical role to play in delivering a net zero emission economy, as biomass power plants combined with carbon capture technologies remain one of the few mechanisms for delivering negative emissions.

Counting various bioenergy firms as members, the REA is a leading advocate of biomass and renewable transport fuels as a means of providing clean and renewable heat and power in the UK.

Dr Nina Skorupska, REA chief executive, argued bioenergy had been central to the UK's progress to date in cutting carbon emissions and had an important role to play going forward.

"Bioenergy is already a major part of British life," she said. "It's our largest source of renewable heat, second largest source of renewable power and is a key solution to decarbonising transport today and into the future. For bioenergy to fulfil its potential long into the future, we need a strong evidence base, expert inputs from industry and real political will. That's why we've launched this review and invited all stakeholders to contribute their expertise."


UK’s Renewable Energy Association launches bioenergy strategy review process

In the UK, the Renewable Energy Association has launched a far-reaching review into the future of bioenergy in the UK. Bioenergy is energy generated from bio-based fuels, such as wood pellets and biodiesel.

The review comes shortly after the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) estimated bioenergy’s contribution to UK total energy could more than double by 2050. The International Energy Agency (IEA) described bioenergy as ‘the overlooked giant of renewables.’

The review is expected to form a new policy strategy for government and industry, outlining how bioenergy can fulfil its long-term potential in a low-carbon energy mix.

It will provide a comprehensive up-to-date assessment of the current role of bioenergy and the potential it has in meeting carbon targets by the year 2032, when the UK’s final carbon budget will draw to a close. The Strategy will also look at bioenergy’s role in meeting the UK’s 2050 targets for decarbonization.

The publication of the REA’s Bioenergy Strategy will come two years after the long-awaited first review of the Government’s 2012 Bioenergy Strategy was expected.

To launch the review, the REA is seeking stakeholder and expert views on the future and potential of bioenergy through their Call for Evidence, hosted at www.bioenergy-strategy.com. Industry, academic specialists, NGOs and political stakeholders – as well as the wider public – are invited to submit evidence to the review.

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UK Government Sets Outs Mediocre Support For Small-Scale Renewable Energy Generators

Published on January 13th, 2019 | by Joshua S Hill

January 13th, 2019 by

 

The UK Government on Tuesday finally proposed what amounts to relatively mediocre guidelines intended to support the development of small-scale renewable energy technologies by ensuring remuneration for any and all electricity generated that is supplied to the grid by small-scale generators.

The proposed Smart Export Guarantee was unveiled by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and opened for consultation until early March, and comes less than a month after all hell broke loose when the BEIS announced in December that existing schemes to incentivize small-scale generators to supply electricity to the grid were closing, and that no replacement was intended. Such schemes — a Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme and a generator export tariff — remunerated small-scale generators for the electricity they generated but then supplied to the grid. Both are set to close on 31 March, and in December the BEIS made it clear there were no plans to replace them, leaving new small-scale generators in the lurch.

Those most obviously affected by such a shift are rooftop solar owners, but the UK boasts approximately 560,000 households and businesses generating small-scale electricity under the FiT scheme using a range of technologies including anaerobic digestion (generating energy from waste products), wind power, biomass, and hydro-electricity. However, these technologies are in the overwhelming minority, with 99% of small-scale generators under the FiT using rooftop solar.

This 99% accounts for 80% of the capacity being generated by these small-scale generators, with wind accounting for 12%, hydro for 3%, and anaerobic digestion for 5%.

The BEIS announced on Tuesday, however, a proposed Smart Export Guarantee for small-scale renewable electricity generators which would guarantee payment for excess electricity supplied to the grid. The proposed Guarantee would specifically replace the FiT scheme and would require electricity suppliers to pay new small-scale energy producers for excess electricity generated from homes and businesses which is supplied to the grid.

“This new scheme could help us to build a bridge to the smart energy system of the future, with consumers firmly at its heart – not only buying electricity but being guaranteed payments for excess electricity they can supply to the grid,” said Claire Perry, the UK’s Minister for Energy and Clean Growth. “It could also reduce strain on energy networks with a more decentralised and smarter local network delivering resilience much more cost effectively, unlocking innovative products for electric vehicles and home energy storage; a win-win for consumers and the environment and a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy.”

While this is good news, the welcome by the renewable energy industry has been tepid, representing concerns over the specific value of remuneration small-scale generators can expect.

“We give these proposals a cautious welcome,” said Chris Hewett, CEO of the UK’s Solar Trade Association.

“We are very pleased the Government is unequivocal; small generators will be compensated for the power they contribute to the system, but the issue remains providing remuneration at a fair market rate. We are particularly pleased to see a clear requirement to meet MCS standards for participation in the scheme, which means safeguards for consumers will be retained.

“Positively, the Government again identifies the System Sell Price as accurately reflecting the market value of power spilled to the grid,” Hewett continued. “However, the consultation acknowledges many of the market barriers we have raised with Government and the associated costs. Our worry is that these may impede the ability of suppliers to offer fair and meaningful rates, even though they may wish to. Customers are freely able to switch suppliers in a competitive market so where these costs fall remains vital to developing meaningful offers.” – Hewett

“These new government proposals rightly recognise the role that small-scale generation can play in developing a smarter, more decentralised energy system that benefits consumers,” added RenewableUK’s Head of Policy Barnaby Wharton.

“Small-scale wind energy and other renewable generation reduces overall demand on the grid and supports thousands of jobs in industries across the UK. It is vital that the value of this locally generated, low-carbon power is reflected in the final Smart Export Guarantee proposals.”

“Owners of small scale solar will be paid for the power they export, which is an improvement on the proposal that they give their power away for free,” said Dustin Benton, Policy Director at the UK’s Green Alliance, who spoke to me via email. “But the guarantee is very limited: there’s no minimum price, and it won’t come into force before the current export tariff is cancelled, which means there could be a gap of up to a year in which new small scale generators aren’t paid.

“Rather than this stopgap, we’d like to see a new regime for small scale power which enables small generation to get paid for exports when it supports the decarbonisation of the grid.” – Wharton

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New Grangemouth incinerator claims to prevent landfilling a fifth of Scotland’s annual waste

19th December

By Brian Donnelly  @BrianDonnellyHTBusiness Correspondent

Image of Earls Gate Energy Centre and Edward Northam, head of GIG Europe

Image of Earls Gate Energy Centre and Edward Northam, head of GIG Europe

WORK on a new £210 million Energy from Waste plant that will prevent the equivalent of a fifth of Scotland’s total annual landfilled from going underground each year is under way after financial close was announced by its partners. 2 comments

The project in Grangemouth was launched by Edinburgh-based Brockwell Energy, which funded and led the development over the past three years, and the Green Investment Group (GIG), also rooted in the Scottish capital, and is described as having "unparalleled environmental credentials".

Earls Gate Energy Centre (EGEC) is the first investment in Scotland for GIG (formerly the Green Investment Bank) since it was privatised by Macquarie last year.

Brockwell will retain 50 per cent of EGEC while GIG together with its co-investor Covanta Energy will acquire the other 50% of EGEC though a jointly owned vehicle.

The move will "future-proof full time local jobs", said Alex Lambie, Brockwell Energy's chief executive.

It is claimed the heat and power generated will make it one of the most efficient EfW plants in the UK.ADVERTISING

The EGEC facility will prevent 216,000 tonnes of household and commercial waste going to landfill each year - about a fifth of the country's annual total - and provide low-carbon heat and power to four local industries.

The remaining electricity will be exported to the grid.

Mr Lambie said: "The success of EGEC reflects the skills and dedication of the Brockwell and GIG teams and delivers a new world-class renewable CHP (combined heat and power) facility to support the site.

"This is the first of a number of EfW projects that we will build over the next three years.

"As one of the most efficient plants in the UK, EGEC has unparalleled environmental credentials.

"The use of heat and power on-site will future-proof full-time local jobs."

He added: "It will also create roles during construction, including a range of professional, skilled and entry-level positions and apprenticeships."

Brockwell also aims to deliver community benefits focused on employment and training, support for local businesses and education programmes, it said.

HeraldScotland:

Edward Northam, head of GIG Europe, above, said that 2017 saw Scotland recycle more waste than it sent to landfill.

He said that is "a fantastic achievement, but there remains a lack of capacity to unlock the value to businesses and households from converting residual waste into low-carbon energy".

He added: "The Earls Gate facility will play a major role in changing that.

"GIG is very proud of its Scottish roots and base in Edinburgh.

"Earls Gate is our nineteenth investment in Scotland and we’re delighted it will further support the decarbonisation of the Scottish economy."

Neil Partlett, chief executive of CalaChem, the chemical manufacturer and site utility service provider, said: "CalaChem has been a part of Grangemouth industry for almost 100 years.

"In addition to improved environmental performance and operational reliability, EGEC will enhance CalaChem’s international competitiveness by controlling overall energy costs."

The heat and power plant will use mixed household, commercial and industrial waste from the Central Belt that would otherwise enter landfills every year.

Matthew Mulcahy, of Covanta, said: "Today marks a significant milestone in our valued partnership with GIG, as Earls Gate represents the first of our four advanced UK development projects to reach financial close.

"The project is well-structured with long-term contracts on both waste and energy and will provide critical sustainable waste disposal capacity in Scotland.

"It will also greatly benefit the local economy by supplying neighbouring industry with reliable, low-carbon heat and power."

HeraldScotland:

GIG was launched by the UK Government as GIB in 2012 to boost the green economy and sold last year to Australian bank Macquarie for a reported £2 billion.

EGEC, as GIG’s nineteenth Scottish project, follows a range of investments supporting sustainable economic growth in Scotland.

It says that by preventing volumes of waste equivalent to around 20% of Scotland’s total annual landfilled household waste from going to landfill, the facility will make a significant contribution to the local authority’s ability to achieve the goals of Scotland’s biodegradable municipal waste landfill ban, which is due to come into effect on January 2021.

Brockwell moved to "myth-bust" that "Scotland has too many incinerators", adding: "Although there are a number of EfW plants consented in Scotland, very few of these are expected to be built."

Permission to replace a gas-fired plant at Earls Gate was granted in January 2017.


100% Renewable Energy across Europe is More Cost Effective than the Current Energy System and Leads to Zero Emissions Before 2050

As climate discussions are underway among global leaders at COP24, the annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference, a new report released Tuesday showcases the feasibility of a European energy transition to 100% renewable sources. The new scientific study shows that the transition to 100% renewable energy will be economically competitive with today’s conventional fossil fuel and nuclear energy system, and lead greenhouse gas emissions to zero before 2050, infromed Energy Watch Group.

The study’s financial case for an energy transition becomes even stronger when taking into account significant projected job growth and the indirect economic benefits for health, security, and the environment, that were not factored into the study.

Undertaken by LUT University and Energy Watch Group, the first-of-its-kind scientific modeling study has simulated a full energy transition in Europe across the power, heat, transport, and desalination sectors by 2050. The study’s publication came after approximately four and a half years of data collection, and technical and financial modeling under the research and analysis of 14 scientists.

“This report confirms that a transition to 100% renewable energy across all sectors is possible and not more expensive than today’s energy system,” said Hans-Josef Fell, former German parliamentarian and president of Energy Watch Group, during its COP24 press conference, “It demonstrates that Europe can switch to a zero-emission energy system. Therefore, European leaders can and should do much more for climate protection than what is currently on the table.”

 

Some of the study’s key findings:

  • The transition will require mass electrification across all energy sectors. Total power generation will exceed four to five times that of 2015, with electricity constituting for more than 85% of primary energy demand in 2050. Simultaneously, fossil fuels and nuclear are phased out completely across all sectors.
  • Electricity generation in the 100% renewable energy system will consist of the following mix of power sources: solar PV (62%), wind (32%), hydropower (4%), bioenergy (2%) and geothermal energy (<1%).
  • Wind and solar make up 94% of total electricity supply by 2050, and approximately 85% of the renewable energy supply will come from decentralized local and regional generation.
  • 100% renewable energy is not more expensive: The levelised cost of energy for a fully sustainable energy system in Europe remains stable, ranging from 50-60 €/MWh through the transition.
  • Europe’s annual greenhouse gas emissions decline steadily through the transition, from approximately 4200 MtCO2 eq. in 2015 to zero by 2050 across all sectors.
  • A 100% renewable power system will employ 3 to 3.5 mln people. The approximate 800,000 jobs in the European coal industry of 2015 will be zeroed out by 2050, and will be overcompensated by more than 1.5-mln new jobs in the renewable energy sector.

“The results of the study showcase that the current goals set forth under the Paris Agreement can and should be accelerated,” said Dr. Christian Breyer, professor for solar economy at Finland’s LUT University, “The transition to 100% clean, renewable energy is very realistic, right now, with the technology we have available today.”

The study concludes with policy recommendations to promote a swift uptake of renewable energy and zero-emission technology adoption. Primary measures promoted in the report include support of sector coupling, private investments, tax benefits, legal privileges, with a simultaneous phase out of coal and fossil fuel subsides. By implementing strong political frameworks, the report shows that a transition to 100% renewable energy can be realised even earlier than 2050.

 

Simulation of the energy transition in Europe is part of the study “Global Energy System based on 100% Renewable Energy”, co-funded by the German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU) and the Stiftung Mercator. State-of-the-art modeling, developed by LUT University, computes a cost-optimal mix of technologies based on locally available renewable energy sources for the world structured in 145 regions and determines a most cost-effective energy transition pathway for energy supply on an hourly resolution for an entire reference year. The global energy transition scenario is carried out in 5-year time periods from 2015 until 2050. The results are aggregated into nine major regions of the world: Europe, Eurasia, MENA, Sub-Saharan Africa, SAARC, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, North America and South America.

 

Energy Watch Group (EWG) is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan global network of scientists and parliamentarians. EWG conducts research and publishes independent studies and analyses on global energy developments. The mission of the organization is to provide energy policy with objective information.

LUT University has pioneered as a science university combining technology and business since 1969. It has been recognised in international rankings as one of the world’s top universities.Clean energy and water, a circular economy and sustainable business are pivotal questions for humankind. LUT University applies its expertise in technology and business to seek solutions to these questions. LUT University strongly promotes entrepreneurship stemming from its scientific research. An example of this is the business accelerator Green Campus Open, which supports new spin-off companies that are based on LUT’s research. LUT’s international science community consists of 6500 students and experts.

 

 


GE Renewable Energy Invests £9 Million In UK Offshore Wind R&D Program

Clean Power

Published on November 22nd, 2018 | by Joshua S Hill

November 22nd, 2018 by


GE Renewable Energy announced on Wednesday that it has signed a £9 million ($11 million) four-year research partnership with the UK’s Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult intended to minimize the time people need to spend offshore, which will both enhance safety and reduce operating costs for the offshore wind industry.

The UK’s Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult program bills itself as the country’s leading technology innovation and research center for offshore renewable energy. Founded in 2013, ORE Catapult works with OEMs and other large industrials to improve existing infrastructure and develop the next generation of renewable energy technology. GE Renewable Energy has been working in partnership with the Catapult since the beginning of 2018, when GE signed a five-year research and development agreement with the Catapult to test GE’s mammoth 12 megawatt (MW) Haliade-X wind turbine at the Catapult’s Blyth test facility.

This latest research partnership between the two organizations is intended to launch focused technology innovation challenges to the UK Small to Medium Enterprises and academic community, in fields such as robotics, blade and tower inspections, and repair processes.

“We are a nation of innovators and this latest £9 million research partnership between GE Renewable Energy and the Government’s ORE Catapult is a fine example of how we’re working with industry to embrace cutting-edge technology to ensure the UK offshore sector stays ahead of the pack,” said the UK’s Minister for Energy and Clean Growth Claire Perry. “As part of our modern Industrial Strategy, we’re putting the finishing touches to our Offshore Wind Sector Deal to create the right business conditions to export this type of expertise around the world to ensure this sector goes from strength to strength.”

ORE Catapult’s Blyth testing facilities

The new research £9 million ($11 million) partnership has been dubbed the “Stay Ashore!” program and is intended to provide new digital and service solutions for operating and maintaining wind turbines remotely. This, in turn, will serve to reduce the operating costs of offshore wind, which will trickle down and benefit electricity consumers. The Stay Ashore! program is built on three pillars:

  • Reliability by design, which is primarily focused on the validation of key wind turbine components
  • Enabling full remote operability and troubleshooting of the turbines through advanced digital functionality, to reduce the need to go offshore for unplanned events
  • Use of robotics for planned maintenance events, specifically repetitive tasks, inspection activities as well as activities in areas that are difficult to access

“This further strengthening of ORE Catapult’s partnership with GE Renewable Energy will see significant investment in nationally important R&D, growing not only our expertise but providing opportunities for the UK supply chain to capture domestic and international market share in an offshore wind market expected to be worth £30 ($39) billion per year by 2030,” said ORE Catapult Chief Executive, Andrew Jamieson.

“By eliminating unplanned offshore human intervention through increasing productivity with digital and robotic tools, in addition to our Haliade-X 12 MW performance and design features, we will contribute significantly to reducing the cost of offshore wind energy,” added John Lavelle, president & CEO of GE’s Offshore Wind business.


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About the Author

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at about.me for more.




Why Scotland is leading the way in renewable energy and what we can learn from it

(A note from Agile Energy: Spot the negative element to the story in the picture - anyone? We think it is 'stuff' waiting collection after a beach clean-up earlier in the day, just before the photo was taken) 

 

This week we're reporting on how devolution has affected the environment in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In the complicated world of devolved responsibilities, environmental protection was one of the clearest areas in which law and decision-making was given from Westminster to the devolved parliaments and assemblies.

In the quest to go green, Scotland is way ahead of the rest of the UK, with nearly all electricity produced by wind power.

In October, 98% of Scotland's electricity was produced by wind turbines, with the devolved government on track to produce all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

One area of Scotland which is at the forefront of renewable energy is Orkney, where they generate more electricity from wind turbines than they can use, and also have the world's leading testing facility for emerging wave and tidal power systems.

While the owners of wind turbines can sell excess electricity back to the National Grid, Orkney with its 750 domestic wind turbines and several larger ones owned by community energy cooperatives, has come up with a different idea: using the electricity to split water (two resources they have plenty of) to produce hydrogen and oxygen with the help of a hydrogen electrolyser.

As Neil Kermode of the European Marine Energy Centre explains, the uses of hydrogen are many: "Once you've got hydrogen you can either turn it back to electricity somewhere else, or there's the ability to store it and transfer the power, or you can use it for heating and burn it, or you can put it in cars for hydrogen fuel cell cars."

In Orkney, they're attempting to put their hydrogen to several of these uses.

Currently they are using hydrogen to power the fuel cells on the ferries which sail between the islands, providing the vessels with all the energy for their auxiliary powers such as lighting, refrigeration and heating, but the islanders are not stopping there.

Their ultimate goal is to replace the diesel ferries with a new generation powered by hydrogen charged fuel cells.

So why is Scotland so much more successful than the rest of the UK in harnessing its natural resources to create green energy?

The devolved Scottish government has control over environmental protection, meaning it can promote renewables and energy efficient homes.

"Energy policy is not devolved," explains Andy Kerr, Executive Director, Edinburgh for Carbon Innovation.

"But what is devolved is the ability to promote renewables and to promote energy efficiency, and what the Scottish Government did was take that and just expand it massively.

"The Scottish Government has seen renewables and climate action as an economic opportunity rather than just an environmental thing that had to be done."

While energy subsidies paid for all of us have helped Scotland's renewable revolution, experts believe it's leadership on green electricity and energy efficient homes should be a lesson to the rest of the UK as we face the challenge of a rapidly warming world.


Raw materials ‘megatrends’ point to looming supply risks in Europe

Markets for raw materials have recovered from the 2008 financial crash, fuelled by the continued digital transformation of the economy and the rapid deployment of green technologies. Is the world on track for a repeat of the resource boom seen in the early 21st century?

The global fight for natural resources was nearing an all-time high when the European Commission first laid out an EU strategy for raw materials, back in 2008.

“A strong and unforeseen surge in demand” driven essentially by double-digit growth in China, had led to a tripling of metal prices between 2002 and 2008, the Commission said at the time.

China, the world’s de facto sole supplier of rare earth metals, took advantage of its monopolistic position to impose restrictions on exports, prompting Japan to start stockpiling in fear of a supply crunch.

At the European level, those concerns resulted in the establishment of a “raw materials diplomacy” to secure supplies from abroad – including legal action at the WTO when necessary – a push for resource-efficiency inside Europe, and the creation of a list of critical raw materials to monitor potential supply risks.

Those fears were quickly swept away by the financial crisis, which depressed the global economy for many years.

But ten years later, the fundamental economic trends that fuelled EU worries at the time are still there. If anything, those trends have intensified, driven by the continuous digitialisation of the economy and the transition to renewable energies.

“Irreplaceable” raw materials

“It’s already happening,” said Maroš Šefčovič, the European Commission’s vice-president for the Energy Union, when asked about fears that raw materials prices could start rising again.

“All the focus now in the European Commission is to reduce dependency on fossil fuels,” he told EURACTIV in an interview.

“This is why we are looking at access to raw materials with increased scrutiny,” he added, saying the objective was to avoid trading dependency on imported oil and gas with dependency on imported raw materials.

“I really think that, when it comes to the issue of dependency, we could end up in a situation where raw materials become the new oil,” he warned.

To illustrate his point, Šefčovič likes to produce one statistic about the materials necessary to produce a 3 megawatt wind turbine. Manufacturing one of those requires 335 tonnes of steel, 4.7 tonnes of copper,  1,200 tonnes of concrete, 3 tonnes of aluminium, 2 tonnes of rare earth elements as well as zinc, he says.

“For me that is really illustrative of the volume of raw materials you need for the green transition,” he told EURACTIV.

Critical raw materials “are irreplaceable in solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles, and energy-efficient lighting” which are essential for the energy transition, the European Commission said in its latest Report on Critical Raw Materials and the Circular Economy, published in January 2018.

Everyday consumer products in the telecoms sector are also highly exposed to raw materials price fluctuations. “A smartphone might contain up to 50 different metals” all of which provide essential properties to the final product, the EU executive remarked, pointing to the importance of critical raw materials for high-tech products.

And the majority of these primary raw materials are produced and supplied from non-European countries, the report pointed out:

 

 

Nowadays, industry people say supply risks are driven mainly by emerging demand for new products such as electric cars.

“Raw materials will be essential for manufacturing the products of the future. They form the basis of modern societies, our cities, digitalisation and the European energy transition,” said Roman Stiftner Secretary-General of the European Mineral Resources Confederation (EUMICON).

“Megatrends such as digitalisation and the decarbonisation of transport and production are resulting in new demand for raw materials, in terms of volume and of complexity,” EUMICON said in its raw materials charter, published earlier this year.

Other megatrends identified by EUMICON include increased wealth and global population growth. Global GDP is ten times higher than 50 years ago, and the world’s population has doubled. A further 3 billion people are expected to join the middle-class between 2010 and 2030, and all of them will want cars and smartphones.

Meanwhile, urbanisation, digitalisation, the low-carbon transition and the switch to electricity as the main source of energy for industry are further accelerating developments, it says.

“Electricity demand is rising, while increased production of wind and solar energy requires a greater quantity of a different mix of raw materials,” EUMICON pointed out, wondering whether the world has entered “a new age for metals and minerals”.

To be sure, the digital revolution that was already underway ten years ago has accelerated and branched out into new areas, creating excitement around things like robotics, smart cities, industry 4.0, electric vehicles, autonomous driving, and artificial intelligence, to name a few buzzwords.

On the manufacturing side, concepts have evolved. The European Commission’s resource-efficiency agenda of 2011 has morphed into a more ambitious circular economy strategy, which places recycling at the centre of attempts to close raw material loops and keep valuable resources inside Europe.

Raw power

Vanadium, borate, bismuth, gallium – they may sound like planets from a science fiction movie, but in fact they are some of the most critical elements of the European Union’s economy.

New risks, new solutions

However, recycling has its limits, even under the most optimistic scenarios. “The overall demand for raw materials is growing, and recycling alone cannot supply the market,” EUMICON said, citing aluminium as a case in point.

And “since recycling efforts will not be sufficient to feed the demand, supply of primary raw materials is irreplaceable,” it argues, calling for “new solutions” to establish “a future-proof raw materials policy”.

This includes exploiting Europe’s own geological deposits as well as securing access to raw materials on global markets to strengthen the future resilience of European industry.

But is Europe – and indeed the world – better equipped to deal with those global challenges today than it was ten years ago? From a technological point of view, maybe yes. But from a global trade perspective, definitely not.

Under President Trump, the United States has taken a hostile stance against Europe and China on trade, launching attacks on all fronts, ranging from steel to cars and food, raising the spectre of a new global trade war.

China itself has long pursued unilateral policies on access to raw materials, cutting deals with resource-rich African countries in return for cheap loans and infrastructure.

This makes the current trade environment more volatile than it was ten years ago, under a more accommodating Obama administration and a less assertive China.

“This time around, governments seem to be taking a more assertive, and in some cases, pre-emptive stance,” according to the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), a think-tank.

“Witness, for example, China’s disputes on rare earth elements or President Trump’s Mineral Order at the end of 2017. This new attitude may pose new challenges for EU trade policy,” CEPS wrote in a policy paper published in February.

A future ‘Made in Europe’?

Faced with those challenges, Europe has also taken a more assertive stance, launching WTO disputes against Chinese export restrictions on raw materials such as graphite, cobalt, copper, lead and chromium.

In his latest State of the Union speech, Jean-Claude Juncker proposed a new ‘Africa-Europe Alliance’ that hopes to tap “the full potential of economic integration and trade,” with an objective to leverage up to €44 billion of investments into the region by 2020.

Juncker offers EU-Africa trade deal in new 'partnership of equals'

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker held out the promise of an EU-Africa trade pact on Wednesday as part of a ‘partnership of equals’ between the two continents, signalling Europe’s stronger involvement in Africa, where Chinese influence is rapidly spreading.

At home, the European Commission has targeted an increase in the recovery of key raw materials as part of its Circular Economy Strategy put forward in 2015, placing the emphasis on recycling and reuse with a view to “closing the loop” of product lifecycles. Supporting innovation in European recycling technologies is also part of that plan.

But EUMICON says technological solutions, although necessary, won’t go far enough to meet the challenges Europe is facing.

“A complete approach to sustainability requires us to consider economic, environmental and social sustainability together,” EUMICON said, stressing that “all three aspects need to be addressed with equal focus” in order to ensure a future that is “Made in Europe”.

What it boils down to is the importance of strengthening raw material value chains in Europe at a time when the international trade order is being challenged.

“The EU will need to develop a proper thinking how to put raw materials in the centre of its industry strategy, since we will be facing a new global race for raw materials in the future,” said Gilbert Rukschcio, managing partner at Pantarhei Advisors, a consulting firm based in Austria.

“Global megatrends such as digitalisation and the energy transition will also force Europe to act on this field,” Rukschcio said.


SSE looking to spin-off renewable energy assets in UK and Ireland as it...

SSE plc (LON:SSE), the power firm which is looking to merge its UK retail division with Innogy's npower, said on Wednesday that it is looking to create a new company that will include its renewable energy assets in the UK and Ireland as it confirmed a big drop in first-half profit.

The FTSE 100-listed firm said the new company - to be known as SSE Renewables, - will comprise around 4 gigawatts of SSE's existing renewable assets such as hydropower, onshore wind and several stakes in offshore wind projects.

READ: SSE merger with Npower hangs in the balance as parties renegotiate terms

The group said the new entity will provide greater visibility of assets and future earnings for investors and improve its ability to raise finance for projects.

The spin-off plans came as SSE reported an almost 41% slump in adjusted pre-tax profits to £246.4mln for the six months to September 30, down from £416.7mln a year earlier, as operating profits at its Wholesale business plunged by 98%, while retail profits dropped by 13%.

In September, the energy company had warned that its profits would be hit as calm weather cut renewable output and a summer heatwave curbed demand.

Alastair Phillips-Davies commented: “The operating environment for energy companies is likely to remain complex and challenging.  SSE is taking decisive action to deal with all of the key issues and making material progress in its core businesses of regulated energy networks and renewables.”

In spite of the profit slump, SSE has raised its interim dividend by 3.2% to 29.3p per share and said intends to recommend a full-year dividend of 97.5p and to deliver the five-year dividend plan it set out in May 2018.

In early morning trading, investors took heart from the pay-out news, pushing SSE shares 1% higher to 1,142.50p.

Some uncertainty over npower tie-up

Commenting on its plans to merge its UK retail division with npower, SEE said:  "There is now some uncertainty as to whether this transaction can be completed as originally contemplated."

It added: "The Board believes that the best future for SSE Energy Services ... will continue to lie outside the SSE group.”

Earlier this month, the two companies said the tie-up would be delayed beyond the first quarter of 2019 due to market developments such as the looming implementation of a price cap by the UK energy regulator Ofgem from January 1.


Firm behind £100m Dundee incinerator says construction to continue despite Michelin blow

The firm behind the £100 million replacement for the Baldovie incinerator in Dundee said construction work would continue.

Baldovie Incinerator

The combined heat and power facility is being built by energy company MVV in partnership with Dundee City and Angus councils and Michelin, which had planned to use heat generated by the plant.

Paul Carey, managing director of MVV Environment Baldovie, would not be drawn on the economic implications on the incinerator project when the factory closes.

He said: “Clearly, this is devastating news for Dundee. We are considering the situation, but the construction of the new energy from waste combined heat and power facility will continue.”

The new incinerator will last for 25 years and burn about 110,000 tonnes of waste each year, mostly from Dundee City and Angus councils.