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Daily Briefing |

TODAY'S CLIMATE AND ENERGY HEADLINES

Briefing date 31.03.2022
UK unlikely to authorise big expansion of onshore wind farms

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News.

UK unlikely to authorise big expansion of onshore wind farms
Financial Times Read Article

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has signalled that onshore wind farms may not play a large role in his upcoming energy strategy, the Financial Times reports. Speaking at the House of Commons liaison committee, Johnson said: “Renewables are fantastic and offshore wind – and I stress offshore wind – I think has massive potential. But so does nuclear.” Johnson’s allies told the FT he was still “open to looking at onshore wind”, but added many Conservatives MPs do not support its expansion because of a perception of local opposition in Tory heartlands. The Daily Telegraph also reports on Johnson’s “hint” that he is being cautious over onshore wind. The paper adds a Downing Street source “cautioned against reading too much into the comment, stressing that no final decision had been made about a new onshore wind drive”. It comes as the Independent reports on how climate is increasingly becoming a polarising issue for Conservative MPs.

Elsewhere, the Times reports villagers in Normandy are fighting plans for a wind farm sited 800m from a D-Day war memorial. And the Press Association reports on the provisional approval of two subsea energy links planned to connect Peterhead in the north east of Scotland with North Yorkshire.

Germany: Habeck announces the early warning phase of the gas emergency plan
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Read Article

FAZ reports that “the German government is preparing for a significant deterioration in gas supplies”. Federal minister of economics Robert Habeck announced the “early warning phase” of the gas emergency plan on Wednesday in Berlin. BBC News also has the story, saying: “Germany urged consumers and companies to reduce consumption in anticipation of possible shortages, while Austria said it was tightening its monitoring of the gas market.” BBC News also reports that the “early warning phase, which both Germany and Austria have begun, is the first of three steps designed to prepare the country for a potential supply shortage. In its final stage, the governments would bring in gas rationing.” The head of German network regulator, Klaus Müller, urged consumers and industry to prepare for “all scenarios”, BBC News adds. Politico also has the story. In addition, Bloomberg reports that European Commission antitrust officials raided Russian state oil company Gazprom’s offices in Germany on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Süddeutsche Zeitung reports that the offshore wind industry in Germany is in short supply of skilled workers. “For the federal government’s long-term expansion goals of at least 70 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2045, we need immediate investments and the right political course,” said industry association representative Heike Winkler, according to the publication.

China releases guidelines to accelerate development of clean energy bases in Xizang region
Global Times Read Article

China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) released guidelines on Tuesday to “accelerate” the development of clean energy bases in south-west China’s Xizang autonomous region (more commonly known as the Tibet autonomous region), the state-run newspaper Global Times reports. The outlet says the move is to “promote high-quality energy development”, adding that the guidelines would “lead the work” during the 14th five-year plan (2021-25) period in the region. The guidelines state that a “medium- and long-term goal” of development will be covered, including “set[ting] up clean energy bases” and “improv[ing] energy infrastructure and service support capacity”, the piece notes. It also says that the region – described by the outlet as an “important” base of clean energy – has “outstanding” clean energy resources. Citing Xinhua, China’s state news agency, the report says that these resources are “mainly hydro, wind and solar power, with a potential development exceeding 1bn kilowatts”.

Meanwhile, China National Coal Association (CNCA) – an industry body mainly representing Chinese coal miners – forecasts that China’s coal output will “grow further” in 2022, Reuter reports. The newswire says that the news comes “as the country will need to consume more of the dirty fossil fuel to power its economic growth”. CNCA “expects some big and modern coal mines in northern and northwestern China to add production capacity and production efficiency at coal mines to improve this year”, although it does not give a forecast of the coal production level in 2022, according to Reuters. The forecast says that Chinese coal demand “will rise, albeit at a slower pace”, in 2022. Both the 21st Century Business Herald and Jiemian report that the supply and demand for coal will maintain a “basic balance” in China in 2022, citing the same forecast by the industry body.

Additionally, Bloomberg reports that the world’s largest electric cruise ship has made its maiden voyage after “cruising up and down the Yangtze River”. The vessel “can travel for around 100 kilometres on a single charge, saving around 530 metric tonnes of fuel”, according to Bloomberg. Finally, a Reuters report focuses on a Zimbabwean company which “had been banking on Chinese financing” to build a coal-fired power plant. The article says that the company is now seeking alternative backers “as China pulls back on funding such projects overseas”.

US: Biden to use Korean war-era powers to boost supply of EV battery minerals
Financial Times Read Article

US president Joe Biden plans to use “Korean war-era powers to boost domestic supply of minerals crucial for electric vehicles and large capacity batteries, as his administration tries to reduce its dependence on overseas energy”, the FT reports. The paper says Biden will deploy a presidential determination as early as this week to invoke the Defense Production Act to boost availability of lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite and manganese in the US. The FT adds: “Under the terms of the DPA, an administration can compel companies to prioritise government contracts over private ones, for instance, or to provide loans and grants to boost manufacturing.” Associated Press adds that a White House insider insisted the uptick in production “will occur under strong environmental and labour standards as well as through tribal engagements”. AP adds that “some Democrats in Congress have concerns because the mining sector is regulated through a 150 year-old law”. Elsewhere, Reuters reports that Biden is also considering releasing up to 180m barrels of oil over several months from the country’s emergency oil reserve in response to the energy crisis, which would be the largest single release ever made.

UK: Cambo oil field given two-year extension
The Times Read Article

Regulators have extended the licence for the North Sea’s controversial Cambo oilfield project for two years, “giving its owners more time to bring it into production”, the Times reports. Siccar Point Energy, which owns 70% of the acreage, had paused work last year after its partner Shell, with 30%, withdrew amid public pressure over climate concerns. But in recent weeks Shell has said it is considering rejoining the project, following calls from some to boost UK oil and gas production in response to the energy crisis. The North Sea Transition Authority, the industry regulator, has now given its approval for the companies working on Cambo to assess the options for two more years, the Times reports. In February, Carbon Brief published a factcheck on whether more UK oil and gas production can ever be “climate compatible”.

Third of all compost sold in UK is climate-damaging peat
The Guardian Read Article

More than a third of all compost sold in the UK in 2021 was sourced from carbon-rich peatlands, the Guardian reports. The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) provided the figures in its response to a government consultation on a proposal to ban peat compost sales for gardeners by 2024, the Guardian says. The Guardian explains: “Peatlands cover just 3% of the planet’s surface but hold twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests. The destruction and degradation of peatlands releases CO2 and drives the climate crisis. In the UK, 87% of peatlands are degraded and emit a combined 10m tonnes of CO2 a year.” It comes as the Independent reports that Tesco has pledged to remove all peat from its bedding plants by 2023.

Comment.

Boris Johnson’s fixation on nuclear is a threat to Britain’s energy supply
Simon Nixon, The Times Read Article

In the Times, chief leader writer Simon Nixon argues that Boris Johnson’s plans to build at least six or seven new nuclear power stations is the wrong strategy for meeting the government’s need to ensure the UK’s energy security, lower public bills and achieve its net-zero target. He says: “Britain’s track record on building nuclear power stations is almost as dire as its record in building garden bridges. Plans for a new fleet of nuclear reactors were announced by the Blair government in 2006. Six sites were then identified by the Cameron government. Yet all but one of these have since been suspended or abandoned, two of them by the current government when it decided last year that it was no longer willing to accept Chinese shareholders in the projects.” He continues: “Even if these were to get the green light tomorrow, it takes at least eight years to build a new nuclear power station. And the only bidder for the work is a French company, EDF, that is nearly ten years behind schedule at Hinckley Point.”

This crisis could be the making of Europe’s carbon market
Helen Thomas, Financial Times Read Article

In the FT, business columnist Helen Thomas argues that the volatility caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “might just be the making of Europe’s carbon trading scheme”. The article reads: “This crisis has accelerated a conversation about the costs of energy transition. There will inevitably be more national support to households and industry (and member states do receive income from the permits).” It continues: “Staying the course means Europe’s flagship climate policy could finally achieve its original goals. Until now, the price of permits has largely tracked the cost needed to induce switching from coal to gas in the power sector. At current gas prices, that relationship has totally broken down.”

Elsewhere, the New York Magazine Intelligencer publishes a conversation between writer Benjamin Hart and editor-at-large David Wallace-Wells on what Russia’s invasion of Ukraine means for the world’s efforts to tackle climate change. In addition, Politico explores why European leaders are reluctant to tell the public to “put a sweater on” to lessen reliance on Russian fossil fuels.

Potential disruption to the global energy transition
Christian Schaudwet, Tagesspiegel Read Article

In an article for Germany’s Tagesspiegel, Christian Schaudwet explains the situation with a potential gas and oil embargo for developing countries, specifying that “German economy minister Robert Habeck believes that Germany will become independent of Russian energy sources, but this should not come at the expense of the less prosperous countries of the world”.

The author cites several countries as an example: “Nigeria has committed to become carbon neutral by 2060, but for a country that produces 80% of its electricity from fossil fuels, that means billions of dollars.“ Schaudwet also quotes Indonesia’s energy minister Arifin Tasrif: “We need to develop a programme that will help mining workers survive after they lose their jobs.” (The minister noted that his country, a major coal producer, exports 75% of its coal.)

The article continues that “Moroccan minister for energy transition Leyla Benali stressed Morocco’s desire for closer energy ties with Europe and emphasised the current work on a third power cable to Spain and one to Portugal”.

Science.

Trends in Europe storm surge extremes match the rate of sea-level rise
Nature Read Article

Changes in storm surges and sea level rise have both made “comparable contributions” to the overall change in extreme sea levels in Europe since 1960, a new study shows. The researchers say that “analyses of tide gauge records agree that sea level rise has been a considerable driver of trends in sea level extremes since at least 1960”, but “the contribution from changes in storminess remains unclear”. Conducting their own analysis with tide-gauge observations, the researchers find that the changing pattern of surge extremes reflects the contributions from a “dominant north–south dipole” associated with natural variability and a “single-sign positive pattern” related to human-caused climate forcing.

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