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EERA Weekly Policy Update
Highlights on climate and energy R&I, policy roundup and funding opportunities 

06 September 2021
In this issue:
  • Latest European Commission’s review on R&I and the green transition is out
  • Switzerland might be excluded from Horizon Europe programme for at least two years
  • Climate change induces rethinking nuclear shutdowns
  • Geothermal power plant discovers the highest concentration of lithium ever found in geothermal fluid
  • EU reforms on biofuel calculation may push waste-based biofuels out of the market, industry claims
  • Google will develop two data centres powered by renewable energy in Germany
  • Call for emergency action to limit global temperature increases, restore biodiversity, and protect health
  • The Nature journal calls for urgent reduction of methane emissions
  • Climate mitigation and poverty eradication are compatible goals within the “decent living standards” paradigm
     
News
EU Institutions
Latest European Commission’s review on R&I and the green transition is out

The European Commission’s Directorate General for Research and Innovation provides quarterly a R&I literature review, with the latest issue focusing on the green transition. The selected papers underline the importance of innovation when designing climate policies to influence the volume, direction and pace of research efforts in Europe. In economies where fossil fuel technologies are initially prevalent, an optimal policy should include R&I subsidies specifically targeted at low carbon and clean R&I. The review also includes studies that touch on other important aspects, like the role of consumers and social norms, in driving the transition.

Read more here

Switzerland might be excluded from Horizon Europe programme for at least two years

As association talks between the EU and Switzerland get more complicated, fear is mounting in the research community that Swiss institutions might end up being excluded from EU programmes, including Horizon Europe, for a prolonged period of time. The main rupture happened over the summer, when Switzerland exited a progressing negotiation on the ties between the bloc and the country; the EU in response barred Swiss-based researchers from Horizon Europe participation. In the meantime, Swiss researchers will still technically be allowed to join Horizon Europe projects as third-country applicants. They identify a possible solution in separating negotiations on Horizon Europe association from those on wider the framework agreement, which is related to specific market access rules and is not related to research. However, this outcome seems not foreseeable in the near future.

Read more here

Climate change induces rethinking nuclear shutdowns

Owing to the severe risks related to nuclear power and the issue of waste disposal, some EU countries, among which France, Germany, Spain and Belgium, have issued plans to shut down 32 nuclear reactors over the following years. Nonetheless, the accelerating pace of climate change has ignited a debate on nuclear shutdowns. The climate cost of shutting down nuclear plants instead of pursuing the extension of their operation and safety improvement is increasingly high. This applies especially to those cases where coal plants make up for the nuclear phase-out – Germany's course of action in the last 15 years. Nonetheless, the majority in Europe still supports the phase-out, as in the case of Belgium, which has recently welcomed the Commission's approval of its Capacity Mechanism, the instrument to regulate the country's electricity supply, given the decision to phase out its entire nuclear capacity by 2025.

More info here
Sector-specific news

Geothermal power plant discovers the highest concentration of lithium ever found in geothermal fluid

A UK geothermal power plant has carried out tests on fluids used to transfer heat from under the Earth, revealing more than 250 milligrams of lithium per litre of the fluid. Lithium is a critical metal for the green transition, due to its use in the batteries industry, and geothermal extraction could become a main source of zero carbon lithium. New sources of the material will be crucial, as the European Union is planning to launch new regulations on the use of electric vehicles looking to ban fossil-fuelled cars by 2035. In general terms, home production of lithium could also solve most of the current problems linked to the sourcing of the material. Reducing transportation from third countries would contribute to lower emissions and would also avoid human rights conflicts, considered much of today’s extraction happens in countries like China and Zimbabwe.

Read more here

EU reforms on biofuel calculation may push waste-based biofuels out of the market, industry claims

Until and still today, advanced biofuels are double-counted towards road transport energy targets, meaning green technologies’ contribution to the targets are inflated to incentive investments in the sector (so-called multiplier method). The EU is planning to remove the multiplier in the revised legislation on alternative fuels, a measure that was met with resistance by a part of the biofuel industry. Representatives of the waste-based biofuel sector, in particular, claim that such a move would shift the market’s focus to cheaper, less sustainable biofuels like crop-based ones. Other associations have distanced from such claims, arguing instead that the EU’s decision shows progress and real efforts towards decarbonisation.

Read more here

Google will develop two data centres powered by renewable energy in Germany

Google will develop two new cloud data centres in Hesse and near Berlin to reduce data traffic latencies and offer German and European customers a better cloud infrastructure. A relevant part of this investment, carried out in partnership with the French company Engie, will ensure that by 2030 the data centres will be supplied only with electricity produced from renewable energies. Economic Minister Peter Altmaier has welcomed the result as an important step towards achieving digital and data sovereignty goals. Nevertheless, Google's plan to switch to renewable energies has sparked criticisms and is described as not ambitious enough. The Green MEP Jutta Paulus claimed that, as a global market leader, Google should invest in startups to develop innovative technologies on a trial basis instead of relying on existing technologies.

More info here

International Energy News

Call for emergency action to limit global temperature increases, restore biodiversity, and protect health

200+ health journals worldwide have published an editorial calling on leaders to take emergency action on climate change and protect health. According to the British Medical Journal (BMJ), it is the first time so many publications have come together to make the same statement, reflecting the severity of the situation. The editorial claims that the continued failure of world leaders to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5C and to restore nature creates the greatest threat to global public health. “Urgent, society-wide changes must be made and will lead to a fairer and healthier world. [...] Global coordination is needed to ensure that the rush for cleaner technologies does not come at the cost of environmental destruction and human exploitation.” Similarly, a report on the effects of air pollution on human health recently published by the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) claims that “air pollution is the greatest external threat to human health on the planet”. According to the report, fossil fuel burning (first of which is coal) is the primary source of dirty air – other than the cause of the climate crisis, which is now adding to air pollution via a vicious cycle through increased wildfires.

Read more here and here
 
The Nature journal calls for urgent reduction of methane emissions

Following the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the scientific journal Nature published an editorial calling for methane emissions reductions, highlighting that CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas for which net-zero logic should be applied. IPCC provides evidence that methane alone contributed as much as 0.5 °C of warming since pre-industrial times, second only to CO2. Scientists estimate that livestock is the largest source of methane, responsible for 31% of the global total. Oil and gas operations rank second, releasing 26%. Other sources of methane include landfills, coal mines, rice paddies and water-treatment plants. Nature points out that reducing methane emissions from livestock requires a major diet change. At the same time, methane emissions associated with the use of fossil fuels (primarily natural gas) can be cut by 57% by 2030 using existing technologies. The popularity of natural gas as a relatively clean and transition source of fossil energy has soared by more than 50% over the past two decades and would continue growing, posing a threat to the global climate if no action is taken. Nature calls governments and businesses to seize the opportunity of reducing methane emissions, “buying humanity a bit more time to do what needs to be done” to reach climate neutrality.

Read more here
 
Climate mitigation and poverty eradication are compatible goals within the “decent living standards” paradigm

A recent article appeared in the UK-based portal “Carbon Brief” provides evidence that achieving climate goals and eradicating poverty are compatible goals. The authors state that these two goals are often considered conflicting because climate mitigation scenarios include energy demand growth assumptions that rarely consider the energy needs for human wellbeing. The authors of the study look at the current status of multiple material and service deprivations and calculate the energy required to provide “decent living standards” (DLS) to all – including to build the infrastructure to reach those that still lack them. The study finds that, on a global scale, supporting DLS for all would require roughly a quarter of projected world energy demand by mid-century – although the share would be more significant in regions with the highest poverty levels. The overall implication of the study is that if the equitable provision of basic services is prioritized over affluence, then less energy demand growth would be required to meet human wellbeing, and the consequent burden of climate mitigation is reduced.
 
Read more here and here

EU Institutional Agenda
Council of the EU
Working Party on International Environment Issues,
08 September
Agenda available here
  • Aahrus Convention
Working Party on Energy,
09 September
Agenda not available yet
Working Party on Research,
09 September
Agenda available here
  • Proposal for a Council Recommendation on a Pact for Research and Innovation in Europe
  • Proposal for a Council Regulation establishing the Joint Undertakings under Horizon Europe
Working Party on the Environment,
09 September
Agenda available here
  • Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) 2018/842 on binding annual greenhouse gas emission reductions by Member States from 2021 to 2030 contributing to climate action to meet commitments under the Paris Agreement
Working Party on Energy,
13 September
Agenda not available yet
Working Party on Research,
13 September
Agenda not available yet
Working Party on the Environment,
13 September
Agenda not available yet
European Parliament 
ENVI Committee, 09 September
Agenda available here (languages: BG, ES, DA, FR, LV, MT)
  • Farm to Fork Strategy
EERA Events 
#Positive Energy District (PED) 

Save the Date - Towards a European PED definition: Workshop of PED initiatives on preliminary results

Time: 10:00-12:00 
Location: Online


Hosted by the EERA Joint Programme on Smart Cities, "Towards a European PED definition: Workshop of PED initiatives on preliminary results" will discuss the preliminary results of the alignment core group on PED definition and integrated approach, as well as further PED definition processes. 
#Wind 

EERA JP Wind and SET Wind Annual Event 2021

Time: 09:00-12:30 
Location: Amsterdam & Online
Information & registration: click here


EERA JP Wind & SET Wind Annual Event 2021 will take place from 20 to 24 September. The intention is to organise a hybrid event where participants can either join physically in Amsterdam or connect virtually. This year's event will particularly focus on R&I priorities and technology development visions. 
#Geothermal

European Geothermal Workshop 2021

Time: 09:00-12:30 
Location: Online
Information & registration: click here


The European Geothermal Workshop (EGW) aims to discuss new scientific and technological approaches, methods or data in the field of deep geothermal reservoirs for energy exploitation. This year's main focus will be on high-temperature thermal energy storage. The EGW provides a platform for scientific exchange, especially between PhD students and scientists.
#EERA 

The Clean Energy Transition: From Vision to Reality 

Time: 09:00-12:30 
Location: Brussels & Online
Information & registration: click here


Join us in this EERA event, featuring high-level discussions and invited speakers from the EU institutions and Member States/Associated Countries, leading international organisations (e.g., UN IPCC, IEA, IRENA), and prominent research institutions in Europe. The event, conducted in a hybrid mode, will mark the launch of the EERA White Paper offering our overview of the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead as we drive the Clean Energy Transition and make it a reality for the EU and its citizens. 
#Nuclear Materials 

First ORIENT-NM Workshop

Time: 13:00-16:00
Location: tbc
Information & registration: click here


This event is the first step of the open dialogue of the nuclear materials research community with all the relevant stakeholders. The objective will be to discuss the opportunity to develop a potential European partnership on nuclear materials and to progress towards reaching a consensus on its goal and impact.
External Events
#Industrial heat

Annual SPOT Event 2021 - Transition to a sustainable industrial heat system

Time: 10:30-12:00
Location: Online
Information & registration: click here

 

TNO is organising its first annual SPOT event. It will take place online, providing participants with the latest information on developments in the area of industrial heat and efficiency. During the webinar, the SPOT programme will be introduced in detail. What are the challenges for a sustainable industrial heat supply and how can a program accelerate the developments in this field. Furthermore, different stakeholders will share with participants the latest developments in sustainable industrial heat solutions from running projects (e.g., heat storage and compression heat pumps). 

#IRENA

Energy Action Day 

Time: 07:30-14:00 (EST)
Location: Online
Information & registration: click here

In the margins of the UN High-Level Dialogue on Energy, Denmark, IRENA, UNEP and the World Economic Forum will host the Energy Action Day. The event will convene a broad set of stakeholders to discuss how to accelerate collective action towards net zero and climate-resilient energy systems while promoting decarbonisation to meet the 1.5°C thresholds. The Energy Action Day will feature in-depth discussions and showcase ambitious energy transition-related commitments and initiatives in an effort to accelerate energy transitions around the world. The event will pave the way towards the High-level Dialogue on Energy and COP26 in Glasgow.

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