Carbon Price Crash Threatens EU Transition Funds

The price of carbon dioxide on the European Union’s emissions trading markets, ETS, has taken a bad tumble. On the face of it, this is good news—it means industries covered by the scheme are emitting less. But in this case, fewer emissions mean less money for the transition.
Earlier this year, the price per carbon permit on the ETS dropped to the lowest in over two years, at 55 euro, equal to some $58. The drop came as a surprise to ETS architects and supporters in Brussels, who had plans for much higher emission prices with a view to filling up the funds meant to pay for the transition away from emitting sources of energy.
Reuters reported this week that the continued decline in carbon prices on the ETS has, since the start of this year, erased over 4 billion euro, or $4.36 billion, from that market. This means there is over 4 billion euro capture, and other transition tech. The kicker? There was no other way this could have played out.
When the ETS was being devised, its purpose must have seemed simple enough. Power-generating companies produced emissions of carbon dioxide during the course of their normal operations. Because that carbon dioxide was selected as enemy number-one of modern Europe, they were obliged to pay for their emissions by buying so-called carbon permits at market prices. Market prices meant demand and supply would determine how much emitters pay to continue emitting.
This idea would, on the one hand, secure money for advancing the transition away from carbon dioxide-emitting sources of energy such as coal and gas and towards presumably non-emitting sources such as wind and solar. On the other hand, by making it expensive to emit, the mechanism would also stimulate emitting businesses to invest in alternatives that reduce their emissions. And this is exactly what happened.
Solar and wind installations in Europe have been on a tear, at least they were until last year. As a result, the EU is sourcing a record amount of its electricity from these two. But this means that coal and gas generators are producing less electricity—and fewer emissions. And this, in turn, means they need fewer emission permits, which, in its own turn, means less money available to go into the transition funds. Demand and supply at their finest—only no one in Brussels seems to have thought about it.
This is quite surprising given the simplicity of the idea and, more than that, this idea’s essentially paradoxical nature. The people who devised the ETS believed it would stimulate more wind and solar—which it did—while also encouraging emitters to keep emitting, so the EU could pay for even more wind and solar. And they made that assumption based on the notion that the supply of carbon permits would be gradually squeezed, pushing prices higher.
Another thing that the authors of the ETS believed was that the carbon market would reduce emissions—and it did. Last year, emissions covered by the ETS fell by a substantial 15.5%, which was a record. This was a result of the growing share of wind and solar electricity, which also hit a record and, it bears repeating, led to lower output from gas and coal generators. The fact that carbon permit prices also fell was in no way a coincidence, yet it seems no one thought about it at the time, and now many are concerned about the falling prices. Not only that, but it seems that no lessons have been learned.
The EU’s climate commissioner, Wopke Hoekstra, recently said that he would aim for a 90% reduction in emissions across the bloc by 2040. London Stock Exchange Group researchers calculated that this would mean ETS prices would soar to 400 euro per ton by that year, according to a Euractiv report from October last year. But would they really? Judging by what happened last year, the answer is “Hardly.”
Theoretically, limiting supply for a necessary product or service while essentially mandating demand should have done the trick. But what the mandate-issuers appear to have forgotten is that they can’t really force generators to keep operating on a business-as-usual basis when this business-as-usual costs ever more to keep going. So, they are curbing output because it’s increasingly harder to compete with heavily subsidized wind and solar. And because they are curbing output, they are emitting less and need fewer carbon permits.
Now, the EU is planning to expand the ETS to other industries as well, including transport. The hope is that this would bring in more money for the transition. What it would likely achieve as a side effect would be a repeat of what happened with power generators: higher costs would kill demand, ultimately failing at achieving one of the two primary purposes the EU had assigned them. But the extension would probably succeed at achieving the second primary purpose: demand destruction would definitely lead to lower emissions.

South Africa won’t Ditch Coal anytime soon

If you’re expecting South Africa will make a quick shift away from coal-fired power in favor of green energy, prepare to be disappointed.
Expecting South Africa to quickly give up on coal-fired power would be “very wrong,” South Africa’s energy minister Gwede Mantashe told Bloomberg this week.
Instead, South Africa will continue to rely on coal and other fossil fuel-generated power, even as richer nations push the country towards greener forms of energy, because it is less intermittent than green energy, Mantashe said, and the country is already grappling with electricity shortages.
“This belief that you can leave coal and move to renewables: there’s a technical mistake, very wrong, it will never work,” Mantashe told Bloomberg.
South Africa’s coal-fired power isn’t without problems, however. It’s state-run electric company, Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd, is already struggling with electricity outages because the country’s coal-fired power stations aren’t all operating 24 hours a day like they could be. Breakdowns and extended impromptu maintenance have put a serious crimp in the country’s power generation thanks to load shedding for as much as 12 hours a day in some cases.
Nevertheless, coal-fired power will have a long life in South Africa, Mantashe has vowed.
Mantashe acknowledged the errors the country has made in its power industry, citing delays in building out new power plans and a critical design flaw in the current plants.
“That is one of those mistakes and we are learning out of it,” Mantashe explained.
South Africa has been reluctant to jump onto the green energy transition train for quite some time, saying last October that the country had no plans to curtail its oil and gas operations in favor of green energy, and even announced plans to boost its oil and gas exploration activity in the future as it tries to shore up energy security and reduce its energy imports.
Coal currently accounts for roughly 80% of the country’s energy mix and is the world’s fifth-largest coal exporter.

Al Gore Calls on S. Korea to Bump up Solar and Wind in Energy Mix

Al Gore told the Hankyoreh on Thursday he’s confident that expanding renewable energy is where countries are headed, no matter which government may be currently in power.
The 75-year-old climate crusader and former US vice president acknowledged in a Zoom interview with the Hankyoreh that there may be bumps in the road when a new administration takes power through elections in South Korea or the US.
Gore had been asked to comment on the fact that nuclear power’s share of the Korean energy mix will rise from 23.9% to 32.4% and renewable energy’s share will fall from 30.2% to 21.6% by 2030, in line with Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol’s pledge to roll back his predecessor’s nuclear phase-out. While energy policy varies depending on who’s in office, in other words, all governments will have to make the shift to renewable energy if they want to reach carbon neutrality and overcome the climate crisis.
It was Gore, as a US House representative, who organized the first congressional hearing about climate change. In 2006, he wrote “An Inconvenient Truth: The Crisis of Global Warming,” bringing the climate crisis into the spotlight. The next year, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on responding to climate change.
The former vice president continues that work with the Climate Reality Project, a nonprofit he established to pursue advocacy and education related to climate change.
Gore will be visiting Korea on Aug. 19-20 for Seoul Climate Reality Leadership Training, a free program that’s available to young people who are interested in the climate crisis.
In the interview, Gore emphasized that the transition to renewable energy has gained momentum around the world. The US passed its biggest ever climate change bill (the Inflation Reduction Act) 10 months ago, Australia passed the Climate Change Act under a new government that’s eager to tackle climate change, and Brazilian voters elected Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to the presidency, where he has promised to take action on climate change. Meanwhile, the EU has accelerated its shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, standing up to Russia’s energy blackmail, Gore added.
Gore emphasized that among the various kinds of renewable energy, solar power and wind power will become even more important. “Solar and wind will gradually become more attractive because of falling costs,” he said.
The International Energy Agency recently projected that offshore wind and solar (US$65 per megawatt hour) and onshore wind (US$85/MWh) would become the cheapest sources of energy in Europe by 2040, compared to nuclear (US$110/MWh), gas (US$115/MWh), and coal (US$145/MWh).
Gore explained that while he isn’t opposed to nuclear power, which doesn’t produce carbon emissions, many countries, including the US, are ambivalent about nuclear energy because of its high cost. In connection with that, he called on Korea to boost solar and wind generation, which only make up 5.4% of the country’s energy mix — less than half the global average of 12%.
In the interview, Gore was also asked about the decision by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea to ask the Korean Constitutional Court to review the constitutionality of Korea’s Framework Act on Carbon Neutrality and Green Growth.
“While I can’t express a personal opinion about the lawsuit, I would like to express my respect for the National Human Rights Commission for its position,” he said. “I think it was a wise decision.”
Gore also noted that lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry have been attending the UN climate meeting over the past few years and their political sway appears to be growing, adding that it’s unfortunate that the head of an oil company will be chairing this year’s conference.
Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), which is owned by the United Arab Emirates, has been named chair of the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference, also known as COP28, which will be held in Dubai in November.
Gore noted a potential conflict of interest since Al Jaber is the head of a state-run oil company. “I think he ought to step down either as chair of COP28 or as CEO of ADNOC,” he said.
“The CEO’s company has announced plans to crank up crude oil production by 50% over the next seven years. It seems ridiculous for the CEO to boost emissions at his own company by 50% while calling on the world to cut emissions by 50% [as COP28 chairman],” Gore said.
To keep global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, as set forth in the Paris Agreement, the world must reduce greenhouse emissions to 43% of 2019 levels by 2030 and to 60% of those levels by 2035.

Australia and India to Boost Clean Energy Cooperation

Australia and India on Wednesday pledged to work closer to advance renewable energy, increase cooperation in the critical minerals sector, and study green hydrogen development during a visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Australia.
“Renewable energy was once again a focus and an important topic in our discussions,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.
Australia and India also signed an agreement to create an Australia-India Green Hydrogen Taskforce, which will comprise Australian and Indian experts in renewable hydrogen and report to the Australian-Indian Ministerial Energy Dialogue. The task force will identify opportunities for the countries to cooperate in renewable hydrogen, Albanese added.
“Investments like the taskforce will help power our industries in the future, and ensure that Australia and India meet our energy targets in the interests of both our respective countries, but also in support of reduction of global emissions,” the Australian PM noted.
India’s Modi, for his part, said, “We had constructive discussions on strengthening our strategic cooperation in the sectors of mining and critical minerals. We identified concrete areas for cooperation and in renewable energy sector.”
Australia’s government has recently allocated $1.33 billion (AUS$2 billion) in the 2023- 24 budget to accelerate large-scale renewable hydrogen projects, aiming to become a world leader in green hydrogen production. Australia is also a major producer of lithium, the key mineral in the current leading battery technology globally.
This weekend, Australia signed with the United States a clean energy manufacturing pact with a focus on the energy transition and emissions reduction. Under the agreement, U.S. President Joe Biden will support Congress taking action to treat Australian suppliers and activity as domestic activity in the United States for the purpose of the Defense Production Act and to open tax incentives for green energy in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to Australian companies.

Will the EU’s Renewables Directive Change the Landscape for Forest Biomass?

A provisional agreement on the Renewable Energy Directive (REDIII) was reached between the European Council, European Parliament, and the European Commission on 30 March 2023.
REDIII is part of the ‘Fit for 55’ package, bringing EU legislation in line with the 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction goal.
Biomass currently contributes around 60% of EU renewable energy, across the electricity, heat and transport sectors. There is no doubt biomass will be needed to meet the increased renewable energy target of 42.5% in 2030.
Agreeing on the sustainability criteria for forest biomass was a major sticking point for REDIII negotiators. Mandatory sustainability criteria for biomass used in heat and power were only introduced to the previous version of the directive – REDII – from 2021.
For REDIII, some parties pushed to further strengthen those criteria to ensure sustainable biomass use.
The Parliament position even proposed to exclude primary woody biomass from the EU’s renewable energy targets, arguing that the focus needs to be on regrowing forests as carbon sinks in the face of climate change.
Others wanted to continue implementing the existing sustainability provisions, given they were only introduced less than two years ago.
The final agreed text does not ban the use of forest biomass for energy, but it does include significant updates to strengthen the sustainability requirements.
There are three key updates to be aware of, but the implementation of these updates may be limited by significant exemptions.
Implementing the cascading principle for biomass
A key update is to ensure that Member States implement the so-called ‘cascading principle’.
This principle aims to ensure that “woody biomass is used according to its highest economic and environmental added value”, being prioritised first for wood-based products, before being recycled, burned for energy or disposed of.
The concept was mentioned in REDII, but the updated directive now provides more concrete detail on how this principle should be implemented.
Strengthening sustainability criteria to protect biodiversity and habitats
Secondly, the mandatory sustainability criteria for forest biomass are extended with more detail on what is regarded as sustainable harvesting, such as no conversion of forest land into plantations, minimising large clear cuts, no use of roots or stumps and no degradation of primary or old growth forest.
Furthermore, Member States may not grant direct financial support for the use of saw logs, veneer logs, industrial-grade roundwood, stumps or roots for energy.
These additions, in combination with the link to reporting domestic forest supply and compatibility with LULUCF (land-use, land-use change and forestry) targets, provide at least a strengthening of protections for natural habitats and biodiversity in comparison to REDII.
Lowering the capacity threshold and not supporting electricity-only installations
Thirdly, under REDIII, Member States will not be allowed to grant new or renewed support for electricity-only installations using forest biomass (with certain exceptions).
In addition, the capacity threshold for installations that need to comply with the sustainability criteria for biomass fuels is lowered from 20 MW to 7.5 MW, and a new threshold is added for installations producing gaseous biomass fuels.
Exemptions risk undermining the implementation
While these three key updates generally raise the level of ambition, exemptions could undermine implementation.
Plants already operating in 2020 producing heat and power could be exempted from the minimum GHG saving requirements until 2030, potentially allowing a wider range of globally produced feedstocks to be used and reducing the GHG impact that could be obtained from these plants.
Furthermore, Member States may also count energy from biomass fuels that comply with the previous (less stringent) RED II criteria towards their renewable energy targets until the end of 2030, if support was already granted to that installation before the Member State has transposed the RED III.
This allows room for many existing installations to delay complying with the strengthened criteria.
Overall, negotiators have achieved the impressive feat of agreeing on a compromise position on what has at times seemed like an unagreeable brief.
But the final position is exactly that – a compromise. The criteria are not as strict as they might have been, but they are stricter than they were.
The detail on the cascading principle is surely a strong step towards steering limited forest biomass resources towards their highest value use – both from an economic and a carbon sink perspective.
However, the proof of whether the European industry can deliver a sustainable contribution of biomass fuels will be in the implementation, and whether the strengthened REDIII criteria can be implemented without being undermined by the exemptions.

Europe’s Hunt for Clean Energy in the Middle East has a Dirty Secret

On September 10, a ship docked at the German port of Hamburg carrying a little-known fuel that’s being billed as a potential clean answer to Europe’s energy woes: blue ammonia. Made from hydrogen, it can also be burned without producing any emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide and has the advantage of being easier to transport. Europe’s first test cargo is destined for the continent’s largest copper producer, Aurubis AG, under a deal struck with the United Arab Emirates just three weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended global energy markets. The second shipment will depart within weeks, Mariam Almheiri, the UAE’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said last week.
If all works as planned, blue ammonia could offer a solution to European nations looking to wean themselves off Russian gas without undermining commitments to combat climate change. It could also herald a new era for Gulf Arab nations, which are vying to dominate the nascent but fast-growing market for “future fuels” as the world shifts away from unrestricted burning of oil and gas.So far, blue ammonia has only been shipped in small quantities to countries including Germany, South Korea and Japan, almost all of it from the oil- and gas-rich Middle East. But when German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited the region this weekend to secure more gas supplies, he also discussed future supplies of hydrogen and ammonia — as part of Germany’s broader transition toward cleaner energy.The trouble is, the blue ammonia that’s been shipped to Europe so far isn’t nearly as clean as it seems, according to multiple insiders who spoke to Bloomberg Green on condition of anonymity. The C02 captured in its production has been used by some of the world’s biggest oil producers to extract fossil fuels that are difficult to reach.
In theory, both hydrogen and ammonia can be considered clean fuels because they burn without releasing carbon dioxide. But much depends on how they’re made in the first place. If these future fuels are derived from water in a process powered by renewable energy, no carbon emissions are generated and the resulting product can be labelled “green.”
Until now, however, ammonia has largely been made using natural gas, an energy-intensive process that releases CO₂ and further heats the planet. When that carbon is captured and permanently prevented from entering the atmosphere, the resulting ammonia is considered “blue” — not the cleanest fuel, but cleaner than burning fossil fuels. For the German shipments, Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. is capturing about 70% of the associated carbon emissions, according to a person familiar with the plan. So far, so good. The captured greenhouse gas will then be transported about 200 kilometers (124 miles) by truck — burning fossil fuels on the way — to a facility where it will be injected into wells in Abu Dhabi to extract more oil, according to the person. That process, known as enhanced oil recovery, isn’t new or unusual in the industry. But it also isn’t considered climate-friendly.
The additional oil yielded from this process will end up emitting more CO₂ when burned. So while using ammonia from the UAE will allow Aurubis and other end users to reduce their own emissions when compared to the natural gas they normally burn, in the atmosphere, where CO₂ lingers for up to a century and heats the planet, it’s not clear what, if any, net gains will have been made.
The world’s very first blue ammonia cargo was produced in a similar way, leaving the industrial city of Jubail on Saudi Arabia’s east coast in 2020. Some of the CO₂ was used to make methanol, which when burned also sends greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. The rest was trucked to the country’s Uthmaniyah field for enhanced oil recovery.
In trying to beat the competition to ship the first ever batch of blue ammonia, Saudi Aramco and its chemicals arm, Saudi Basic Industries Corp., also took some other shortcuts. Sabic and Aramco spokespeople last year confirmed that they didn’t capture CO₂ directly from the ammonia plant. Instead, they subtracted emissions captured in a separate chemical-making process to “offset” the pollution created by the ammonia production. That means no extra greenhouse gases were prevented from entering the atmosphere.
“This is very creative accounting,” said Gniewomir Flis, an independent clean technology analyst. “Ideally, you’d have carbon captured at source, because once you start accounting for carbon captured in a different process you’re getting into the world of carbon offsets and that is a whole new game.”Adnoc declined to comment. Aramco and Sabic previously confirmed the process used to produce their initial ammonia shipment but did not respond to further questions for this story. Germany’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action, which negotiated the Adnoc deal, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
While the market is in its infancy, researchers at BloombergNEF predict that, if clean hydrogen plays a major role in limiting global warming and it gets enough support, global sales could be worth up to an annual $700 billion by 2050. The initial German cargoes suggest Middle East gas producers could find ready buyers in Europe, where governments are scrambling to secure energy as Russia cuts off supplies and may be more willing to overlook fuels that are branded as environmentally-friendly, even when they don’t stand up to scrutiny. The blue ammonia deal with Adnoc was finalized in March, when Germany’s Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck visited Abu Dhabi on the hunt for new energy sources in the frantic aftermath of Russia’s invasion. Germany’s said it sees the pilot shipments as the foundation for a medium-term transit route and wants the deliveries to cover demand that the federal government forecasts will reach as much as 110 terrawatt hours — equivalent to about a quarter of Germany’s current annual electricity consumption — by 2030.Germany is already reopening shuttered coal plants and abandoning pollution rules for rubbish incinerators to avoid a spike in winter electricity prices; by comparison, the Middle East’s ammonia looks relatively clean.Saudi Arabia and the UAE didn’t break any rules when they made their blue ammonia — the world is still debating what the standards for these new fuel sources should be. Once those guidelines are set and the Russian energy shock has worn off, the global prospects for blue ammonia begin to look less certain.
The European Commission has proposed that for hydrogen and related products like ammonia to be considered low-carbon, at least 70% of emissions from making and transporting the substance must be captured and permanently stored. Under proposed EU rules, buyers of ammonia made like these early cargoes would have to pay for the carbon emitted during production, making the end product far more expensive.
Read More: Europe’s Green Hydrogen Rules Raises Costs for IndustryTo address those evolving standards, Saudi Aramco and Sabic have already started capturing carbon directly from the ammonia-making process and hired a German company as an independent assessor for the blue hydrogen and ammonia that they produced in 2021. Even with those improvements, however, only a fraction of the output could be classified as “carbon neutral” because around 60% of the emissions were contained in the hydrogen-making process. That’s on top of carbon dioxide emissions from the production and transportation of natural gas needed to start the process.Aramco’s Sasref refinery produced around 50,000 tons of hydrogen last year but only 8,075 tons were classified as blue, Olivier Thorel, Aramco’s vice president of chemicals, said in an interview. Aramco and Sabic also made blue ammonia destined for export, but only a fraction of the output was classified as “blue” for the same reason. The company will be able to produce more blue ammonia once it’s able to permanently bury the C02, Thorel said. It plans to use near-depleted oil and gas fields to store its emissions underground.
Aramco’s first facility will be able to sequester as much as 9 million tons of carbon dioxide per year and begin operating in 2026, according to Thorel. Qatar’s $1 billion blue ammonia plant is scheduled to start up around the same time. The UAE also hopes to use its old fields for carbon storage, and Adnoc is planning more blue ammonia plants that would capture 90% or more of the emissions they produce, a person familiar with the plan said.Adnoc and its partners are also in discussions with the governments and regulators of importing nations in Asia to determine what percentage of the emissions from a separate 1 million-ton-per-year plant that will come online in 2025 need to be captured, whether carbon must be captured at source and if it can be used to extract more oil, a person familiar with the talks said in May. That facility, located in the same Abu Dhabi complex, will produce ammonia from existing industrial activities, including steel-making, to avoid extra emissions.“Japan and Korea are currently behind Europe in terms of defining these kinds of regulations and what is eligible for government support or regulatory obligations,” said Aramco’s Thorel, who sees additional regulations on the horizon in these markets. “Our ambition when we design future facilities will be to meet the most stringent requirement.”One reason that the world has even considered blue ammonia and hydrogen is because making green versions has so far been prohibitively expensive. The cost of producing green hydrogen is currently $2.82 per kilogram at its cheapest and will still be around $1 by 2030, according to BloombergNEF analysis. By contrast, Japan reportedly paid less than 60 cents per kilogram for the world’s first blue ammonia cargo from Saudi Arabia. If standards are tightened, the price of blue ammonia will rise significantly.
Carbon capture and storage has suffered many false starts over several decades — largely because of the enormous costs of building sequestration infrastructure, which sometimes run higher than $100 a ton, according to a 2021 report by management consultancy firm Kearney.That’s even more than the price paid for credits under Europe’s emissions trading scheme. In contrast, support from US and European governments is set to drive down the price of green fuels in the coming years, with the cost of renewable energy, large-scale electrolyzers needed to produce hydrogen and other related technology expected to fall. Even before the US introduced major incentives under a historic climate bill passed in August, researchers at BloombergNEF were predicting green fuels would become cheaper than their blue alternatives after 2030.
Representatives of Aurubis, GETEC and Steag, three of the four German companies that will receive blue ammonia from Adnoc’s test cargoes, said they view it as a stop gap until green fuels are commercially available. The long-term goal “is to produce green hydrogen,” a spokesman for energy firm Steag said. “On the way there, however, it is right and important to start with the emission-reduced options that are already available today.” For now, Steag said, the emissions from Adnoc’s project are in line with other low-carbon ammonia and among the lowest in the world.
Middle Eastern sellers are hedging their bets. Saudi Arabia has already started work on a large green hydrogen facility in Neom, its Red Sea city-in-the-making. The UAE is also planning to build a commercial facility after installing a pilot in Dubai last year.
Yet even the market for green ammonia and hydrogen is far from secure.Read More: Miracle Fuel Hydrogen Can Actually Make Climate Change Worse
While hydrogen is not a greenhouse gas, if it leaks into the atmosphere it can extend the life of methane, which is a potent planet-warming gas. Every ton of hydrogen leaked can have the indirect warming impact of 33 tons of carbon dioxide. Ensuring leaks are minimized would add to the cost of these clean fuels.
Despite the uncertainties over future gas prices and how fast green alternatives will fall in price, claiming a slice of the blue ammonia market will be tempting for countries sitting on vast reserves of gas, said Anne-Sophie Corbeau, a global research scholar at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy. “There’s a lot of potential competition between would-be exporters of blue ammonia,” she said, “so it’s a good thing to be among the first.”

Shipping Emissions on the Rise as EU Shifts Energy Supply Chain away from Russia

Western countries’ unilateral sanctions slapped Moscow with ignite even more man-made carbon dioxide emissions from the shipping industry as Europe rejiggers energy supply chains away from Russia by sourcing energy products from far away. Jan Dieleman, Cargill Inc.’s head of ocean transportation business, told Bloomberg that European importers are hiring tankers for long-distance hauls of energy products from countries halfway around the world. If it weren’t for the sanctions, natural gas and other refined energy products would flow via pipelines from Russia to Europe.
But since Europe is hellbent on rapidly shifting its entire energy supply chain away from Russia. EU importers are hiring tankers to source liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Asia.
Dieleman said higher fuel costs for vessels mean ship operators are switching to dirtier-burning fuels like diesel or crude oil on these long-haul trips.
Meanwhile, EU countries are aggressively restarting fossil fuel power plants ahead of what could be a very dark and cold winter. Some governments have even asked residents to burn firewood to heat their homes as the energy crisis could induce rolling blackouts during peak demand hours.
So the whole strong climate action EU has been promoting to decarbonize its grid to save the planet is at risk of unraveling this winter.
The very fact that Europe has to source LNG from Asia on longer routes while vessels burn dirtier fuel is entirely hypocritical to the bloc’s stance about saving the planet. For some context, shipping is responsible for almost 3% of man-made carbon-dioxide emissions.

Renewable Energy to Reduce Electricity Generation from Natural Gas

In the EIA’s January Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), it is forecasted that rising electricity generation from renewable energy resources such as solar and wind will reduce generation from fossil fuel-fired power plants over the next two years. The forecast share of generation for US non-hydropower renewable sources, including solar and wind, grows from 13% in 2021 to 17% in 2023. It is forecasted that the share of generation from natural gas will fall from 37% in 2021 to 34% by 2023 and the coal share will decline from 23% to 22%.
One of the most significant shifts in the mix of US electricity generation over the past 10 years has been the rapid expansion of renewable energy resources, especially solar and wind. The amount of solar power generating capacity operated by the US electric power sector at the end of 2021 is 20 times more than it was at the end of 2011, and US wind power capacity is more than twice what it was 10 years ago.
Another significant shift in the generation mix has been a steady decline in the use of coal-fired power plants since their peak output in 2007 and the increasing use of natural gas, primarily as a result of sustained low natural gas prices. However, that trend reversed in 2021 when the cost of natural gas delivered to US electric generators averaged US$4.88 per million Btu, more than double the average cost in 2020. As a result, the share of generation from natural gas declined from 39% in 2020 to 37% in 2021, while the share of generation from coal rose for the first time since 2014 to average 23%.
In the EIA’s current STEO, it is forecasted that most of the growth in US electricity generation in 2022 and 2023 will come from new renewable energy sources. It is estimated that the electric power sector had 63 GW of existing solar power generating capacity operating at the end of 2021, and it is forecast that solar capacity will grow by about 21 GW in 2022 and by 25 GW in 2023. It is expected that 7 GW of wind generating capacity will be added in 2022 and another 4 GW in 2023. Operating wind capacity totalled 135 GW at the end of 2021.
This forecast of growth in renewable electricity generation over the next two years leads to a forecast of a reduced need for fossil-fuelled generation. Although it is expected that natural gas prices for electric generators will decline, the operating costs of renewable generators will continue to be generally lower than natural gas-fired units. Regions of the country with the largest increases in renewable capacity, such as Texas and the Midwest/Central regions, will experience the largest reductions in natural gas generation.

Hydrogen to Cover 12% of Global Energy Use by 2050

The International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) estimated that hydrogen will cover up to 12 per cent of global energy use by 2050.
“Hydrogen could prove to be a missing link to a climate-safe energy future,” Francesco La Camera, Director-General of Irena, said while presenting the key findings of new report: ‘Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation: The Hydrogen Factor’ in Abu Dhabi.
According to the agency’s analysis, rapid growth of the global hydrogen economy can bring significant geoeconomic and geopolitical shifts giving rise to a wave of new interdependencies. The report noted that hydrogen is changing the geography of energy trade and regionalising energy relations, hinting at the emergence of new centres of geopolitical influence built on the production and use of hydrogen, as traditional oil and gas trade declines.
Irena estimated that driven by the climate urgency and countries’ commitments to net zero emission, hydrogen could account for up to 12 per cent of global energy use by 2050.
“Hydrogen is clearly riding on the renewable energy revolution with green hydrogen emerging as a game changer for achieving climate neutrality without compromising industrial growth and social development. But hydrogen is not a new oil. And the transition is not a fuel replacement but a shift to a new system with political, technical, environmental and economic disruptions,” La Camera said.
Growing trade and targeted investments in a market dominated by fossil fuels that is currently valued at $174 billion is likely to boost economic competitiveness and influence the foreign policy landscape with bilateral deals diverging significantly from the hydrocarbon relationships of the 20th century.
“It is green hydrogen that will bring new and diverse participants to the market, diversify routes and supplies and shift power from the few to the many. With international cooperation, the hydrogen market could be more democratic and inclusive, offering opportunities for developed and developing countries alike,” La Camera noted.
Irena estimated that more than 30 per cent of hydrogen could be traded across borders by 2050, a higher share than natural gas today. Countries that have not traditionally traded energy are establishing bilateral energy relations around hydrogen.
Cross-border hydrogen trade is set to grow considerably with over 30 countries and regions already planning for active commerce.
“Some countries that expect to be importers, such as Japan and Germany, are already deploying dedicated hydrogen diplomacy. Fossil fuel exporters increasingly consider clean hydrogen an attractive way to diversify their economies, for example Australia, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. However, broader economic transition strategies are required as hydrogen will not compensate for losses in oil and gas revenues,” the report mentioned.
The technical potential for hydrogen production significantly exceeds estimated global demand. Countries most able to generate cheap renewable electricity will be best placed to produce competitive green hydrogen.
“While countries such as Chile, Morocco and Namibia are net energy importers today, they are set to emerge as green hydrogen exporters. Realising the potential of regions like Africa, the Americas, the Middle East, and Oceania could limit the risk of export concentration, but many countries will need technology transfers, infrastructure and investment,” the report said.
The geopolitics of clean hydrogen will likely play out in different stages. The report noted the 2020s as a big race for technology leadership. But demand is expected to only take off in the mid-2030s. By that time, green hydrogen will cost-compete with fossil-fuel hydrogen globally, poised to happen even earlier in countries like China, Brazil and India.
Countries with ample renewable potential could become sites of green industrialisation, using their potential to attract energy-intensive industries.
Green hydrogen may strengthen energy independence, security and resilience by cutting import dependency and price volatility and boosting flexibility of the energy system.
“Shaping the rules, standards and governance of hydrogen could lead to geopolitical competition or open a new era of enhanced international cooperation. Assisting particularly developing countries to deploy green hydrogen technologies and advance hydrogen industries could prevent the widening of a global decarbonisation divide and promote equity and inclusion, creating local value chains, green industries, and jobs in renewable-rich countries,” the report added.

Japan’s ‘Carbon Neutral’ LNG Shipments May Not Offset Emissions

Japan’s natural gas industry is making controversial claims about the fuel to make it more appealing to climate-conscious buyers.
Tokyo-based Inpex Corp. this month said it sold two “carbon neutral” liquefied natural gas shipments to Shizuoka Gas Co. and Toho Gas Co., offsetting the fuel’s lifetime emissions using credits from projects that include forest conservation in Indonesia. Those credits would offset more than 450,000 tons of carbon-dioxide emissions from the two shipments, covering the entire value chain from production to combustion, according to spokespeople at Shizuoka Gas and Toho Gas.
The three Japanese companies said they will use the credits to meet their targets for zero emissions. The companies didn’t disclose who paid for the credits, price or supplier.
But terms such as “carbon neutral” and “net zero” imply balancing emissions by removing an equivalent amount of carbon from the atmosphere. Climate scientists at bodies including the United Nations-backed Science-Based Targets initiative say measures such as preventing deforestation or supporting renewable energy projects actually do little to extract additional carbon from the air, and shouldn’t contribute to net-zero claims.
Inpex, whose biggest shareholder is the Japanese government, is aware that SBTi does not consider the use of compensation-type offsets for net-zero calculation, and understands the intention is for companies to prioritize initiatives on reducing their own emissions impact, according to a spokesman.
To that effect, Inpex “will proactively engage in energy structure reforms toward the realization of a net-zero carbon society by 2050,” the company said in an emailed statement. “The strategy includes, but is not limited to, upstream CO2 reduction and developing a hydrogen business.”
A Toho Gas spokesperson said that the credits were certified by Verra, an internationally recognized organization, and they are assisting in removing carbon dioxide from the environment. Verra did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
While the Japanese companies declined to comment on the price of the carbon offsets, LNG traders surveyed by Bloomberg over the last year say that those type of credits generally cost less than $6 a ton. That compares with about 61 euros ($72) a ton emitters pay in the European Union’s carbon market, the world’s most advanced.
An Inpex spokesman said that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on the impacts of global warming suggests it will be necessary to reduce and remove carbon dioxide emissions through forests in order to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The practice of marking LNG shipments as “carbon neutral” has garnered criticism as there is no standard for measuring emissions from LNG, nor is there government oversight to ensure that offsets come from projects that deliver the carbon savings promised. Japan has been the top destination for these cargoes, importing nine of the 24 shipments since 2019, according to BloombergNEF.
The adoption of LNG with carbon offsets shows the challenges facing Japan and its pledge to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The archipelago nation is heavily reliant on imported fossil fuels and has little space for massive solar projects or onshore wind farms. The country is yet to fully embrace technologies like offshore wind and carbon capture and storage, which could help its decarbonization goals without needing a lot more land.
That’s why Japanese companies from utilities to hotels have been eager to purchase “carbon-neutral” natural gas, as they can tell customers and investors that they are zeroing-out emissions by paying a small premium. That’s despite experts warning against the use of offsets for balancing carbon books.