The planning and approval processes of energy transition projects are obstructing the massive rollout of renewables. Germany’s ungainly bureaucracy has the reputation of being an Olympic sport – and in the case of renewable energy development this rap is, unfortunately, right on the mark. For years now, investment capital for clean tech in Germany has been itching to enter the market. The path there, however, is so thick with legal impediments and other hurdles that many interested parties—start-ups, small businesses, prosumers, and established manufacturers alike—simply judge it not worth the risk and hassle. One task of Germany’s incoming government, regardless which party heads it, has to be to gut the blizzard of red tape. Paul Hockenos explains.
After years of resistance, this September Romania promised to exit coal by 2032 ahead of receiving a €29 billion chunk of NextGenerationEU redevelopment money, some 40% earmarked for green and sustainable projects. But then Bucharest’s coalition fell and a caretaker government has since announced plans for a fleet of new fossil gas and biomass plants to power the country past coal. And during COP26 they signed a partnership with the United States to construct Europe’s largest new nuclear fleet. In this series, based on field research funded by a Fellowship from the International Journalists’ Program, lead blogger and podcaster Michael Buchsbaum, trains a spotlight on Romania’s controversial energy transition.
The circular economy constitutes an energy-efficient economic model for a European economy of the 21st century. Paul Hockenos has the details.
This summer the European Commission finally unveiled their “Fit for 55” policy package. Aimed at ensuring the European Union reduces emissions and reaches climate neutrality by 2050, a key part of their plan is phasing in a “Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism” or CBAM. Framed as a pollution solution, it’s been met with howls of protest, threats of trade wars and frustration from many corners.
To unpack CBAM’s complications, in this episode of the Global Energy Transition Podcast series, host Michael Buchsbaum, lead blogger of EnergyTransition.org interviews Silvia Weko, research associate with the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) at the University of Potsdam and Domien Vangenechten, policy advisor at climate change thinktank Third Generation Environmentalism (E3G) in their Brussels office. Authors of separate pieces on CBAM, they share insights into this controversial tool’s potential impacts and what to watch for as it gets hammered into shape going forward.
Audio from the podcast was mixed and edited by audio expert Christian Kreymborg.
In July the European Commission unveiled its Fit for 55 package aimed at pushing EU member states to reduce emissions by at least net 55% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2030. One of the most widely anticipated parts of the package – at least among policy wonks – is the introduction of the world’s first carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM). Intended to level the playing field between domestic and foreign producers of cement, steel, aluminum, fertilizers and electricity, CBAM’s real litmus test will be if it actually reduces overall emissions and incentivizes a greening economy both within and without the EU. But given how controversial and relatively weak the CBAM proposal is out of the gate, critics worry its presence will only distract from more effective climate strategies in the Fit for 55 plan. Worse, despite COP 26 in Glasgow, pushing CBAM could spark an international trade war. Lead blogger Michael Buchsbaum reviews the growing debate. Listen to our podcast on CBAM.
With energy prices soaring across Europe, more gas and coal plants are firing up. Ahead of COP26 in Glasgow, emissions – along with bills – were skyrocketing. Though fossil energy dependent countries like Poland and other allies of dirty fuels are using the crisis to push back on Brussels, putting more scrutiny on the bloc’s overall decarbonization strategies, leadership is standing firm. As imported fossil gas prices are ever more manipulated on complex commodities markets, European Commission leadership says the crisis is another reminder that the best long-term solution is to accelerate the expansion of renewable generation. And thankfully that’s a key aim of the EU’s newly unveiled “Fit for 55” strategy. Lead blogger L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews the situation.
Part two of the series on hydrogen (H2) in Latin America surveys the playing field regarding strategies and regulation. Large investments, mega projects and familiar actors dominate the scene, while there is a lack of proposals for a new governance model towards an inclusive socio-ecological transition.
The hydrogen transition – a crucial political, economic and climate initiative for the European Commission – got a massive boost from their newly released Fit for 55 strategy. But despite growing concerns about how dangerous the expanded carbon footprint of H2 produced from fossil gas will be, many policymakers like EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson remain firm on backing both “blue” and “grey” H2. Among many incentives in the new policy package is the shielding of this highly polluting sector from having to pay additional carbon taxes under the European Trading System (ETS). In a recent Politico Energy Visions web event sponsored by Shell, Simson batted away all criticisms, stating that during the H2 transition phase “we will need all low-carbon hydrogen solutions.” Lead blogger L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews some of the ways not-so-low H2 benefits under the bloc’s new theoretical pollution prevention plans.
The energy transition on the Aegean islands is finally shifting gear. In June, prime minister Mitsotakis and the CEO of the global carmaker Volkswagen, Herbert Diess, visited the small island of Astypalea located in the Aegean Sea. The goal of a joint project between the Greek government and VW is to turn Astypalea into a “green and smart” island, replacing all cars on the island of 1,300 inhabitants with electric vehicles. The project shall demonstrate how the switch to an integrated and comprehensive energy system based on renewable energy can be managed at small scale, basically turning Astypalea into a real-life energy laboratory.
Latin America’s hydrocarbon producers have long considered hydrogen as a good opportunity to render their extractivist models “greener”. There are a range of concerns about blue and grey hydrogen, but even large-scale green hydrogen may have negative social and environmental impacts. This is part one in a series exploring the background of hydrogen and its risks across the region.