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Highlights on climate and energy R&I, policy roundup and funding opportunities

14 February 2022
In this issue:
 
  • European Parliament's committee aims to strengthen new EU rules for design, production and disposal of batteries
  • EU Chips Act will set the EU on a path of strategic autonomy in semiconductor tech and production
  • EIC Work Programme for 2022 adopted, series of new initiatives launched
  • European energy companies failing on net zero commitments, report finds out
  • Regional innovation divide across the EU grows due to poor R&D investment
  • A Taxonomy round-up: new opportunities for third countries, Germany's moves and investors' fears
  • Renewable energy companies urgently need to address human rights, report says
  • Europe's biggest banks continue funding oil and gas firms despite net-zero pledges
  • How China is green-powering the Winter Olympics 2022 in Beijing
News
EU Institutions
European Parliament's committee aims to strengthen new EU rules for design, production and disposal of batteries

The European Parliament Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) adopted last Thursday its position on proposed rules to govern the entire battery product life cycle, from design to end-of-life. The Commission's proposed text is the first law in the world that sets environmental criteria for the entry of electric batteries onto the market. The Parliament amended the text introducing provisions regarding "batteries for light mean of transport" (LMT) such as e-bikes and scooters. Furthermore, Members of the European Parliament backed the proposed rules on a carbon footprint declaration and label, a maximum value for the life cycle carbon footprint, as well as minimum levels of recovered cobalt, lead, lithium and nickel from waste for reuse in new batteries. The Parliament also decided to accelerate the entry into force of the text by six months starting on 1 January 2027. Yet, the proposed regulation raises many unanswered questions about the availability of raw materials to support growing battery demand and the skills needed to support European electric batteries production.

Read more here and here

EU Chips Act will set the EU on a path of strategic autonomy in semiconductor tech and production

The EU Commission has disclosed a set of documents related to the Chips Act, a strategic new initiative designed to ensure the EU's security of supply, resilience and technological leadership in semiconductor technologies and applications. The proposal of a Chips Act had made itself indispensable in recent months, as a global shortage had imposed factory closures in a wide range of sectors from cars to healthcare devices. According to estimates, production in the car sector shrank by one third in 2021. The aim of the Commission is to mobilise more than €43 billion euros of public and private investments, to create an EU ecosystem that can not only anticipate but also address future crises in the sector. The main effects of the proposal will be the creation of an enhanced "Chips Joint Undertaking", a new legal framework to ensure security of components supply and a new Commission-Member States coordination mechanism.

More info here

EIC Work Programme for 2022 adopted, series of new initiatives launched

The new European Innovation Council Work Programme was adopted last week, with a total budget of €1.7 billion for 2022 to develop breakthrough innovations in sectors like quantum computing and batteries. Among the new elements, there is a new Scale-Up 100 Initiative, aimed at identifying 100 promising tech companies possibly becoming EU unicorns (with valuation of over €1 billion), increased equity investment opportunities (above €15 million). Outside market provisions, the new EIC Work Programme intends to give increased support to women innovators, with the objective to develop an innovation gender and diversity index exploring gaps and barriers. Overcoming these will be a key development for EU tech companies in the years to come. The EIC Pathfinder, targeting multi-disciplinary research teams developing visionary research, will give out €350 million in grants this year.

More info here
 
European energy companies failing on net zero commitments, report finds out

A report by the think tank Ember in collaboration with the Europe Beyond Coal campaign found that the business plans of major European power utilities do not contain the intermediate targets necessary to deliver on their net zero pledges. The report investigates whether the near-term plans of twenty-one Europe-based coal-burning utilities align with zero-emission targets. When examined against the IEA net zero by 2050 roadmap, not one of the analysed strategies reaches all of the milestones on fossil fuel phase-out and accelerated deployment of renewables required to achieve the mid-century target and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. Sixteen of the companies have pledged to reach net zero emissions by 2050, but the analysis reveals that less than half will achieve the required 2030 EU/OECD coal exit, and none have committed to a 2035 exit from unabated fossil gas electricity production in the EU/OECD. Together they will comfortably quadruple solar and wind capacity from 88 GW in 2020 to 428 GW by 2030, but they will fall far short of the growth and acceleration required to achieve climate neutrality.

Read more here

Regional innovation divide across the EU grows due to poor R&D investment

The 8th Cohesion Report published by the Commission shows that Cohesion policy has helped to narrow territorial and social disparities between regions in the EU. As a result, the GDP per capita of less developed regions is expected to increase by up to 5% by 2023. Despite narrowing difference between regions, many of them, including in richer countries, are still innovation laggards. According to the report, the innovation divide is exacerbated by limited human capital spillovers from international trade links in poor regions. "Many regions are unprepared to take advantage of new opportunities and are vulnerable to potential reshoring as value chains evolved", the report says.

Read more here and here

A Taxonomy round-up: new opportunities for third countries, Germany's moves and investors' fears

The announcement of the final EU Taxonomy text continues to be the most discussed topic in the energy field, with impact also outside of the EU.

The Australian liquified natural gas (LNG) industry has used the Taxonomy as an argument in favour of more land exploration, taking it as an example to support additional investments in the sector. Lobbying groups have used the Taxonomy's proposal to say that a similar approach could be used to support the transition to net zero carbon emissions in Asia. At the same time, analysts have remarked how the plans go against the suggestions of the International Energy Agency, who has been asking countries to avoid new investments in fossil fuels.

At the same time, Germany is dealing with a possible government fracture on the approval of the Taxonomy's proposal. While the entirety of the political parties involved are united in rejecting nuclear power's inclusion, gas is a matter of strong debate. The situation is not eased by the issue of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which has been divisive since the creation of the government coalition.

Investor groups are also debating the quality of the Taxonomy's proposal. The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), a coalition of pension funds and asset managers, panned the decision to include fossil gas in the text. "The decision undermines a credible path to net zero", said the organisation in a statement, "negatively impacting investors choices". The criteria of the European Investment Bank and the new goals in the Commission's taxonomy are, as of now, not aligned and this could send mixed signals to the market.
 
International Energy News
Renewable energy companies urgently need to address human rights, report says

A recent publication of the Energy Monitor portal discusses cases of human rights violation in relation to renewable energy projects in different regions of the world. Failing to properly incorporate human rights in renewable energy projects creates risks and time delays for the whole energy transition process. Experts say that the renewable energy sector is facing the same issues fossil fuel companies faced in terms of land grabbing and ensuring free, prior, and informed consent of communities. Human rights abuses in renewable energy projects include cases of land and water grabs, violation of the rights of indigenous peoples, and denial of workers' rights. For example, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre has collated more than 200 human rights allegations linked to renewable energy projects in the past 11 years, with 44% of these linked to wind or solar power. Most of the remaining allegations are related to hydropower - the world's largest source of renewable energy. Among the first essential steps that experts recommend companies take to improve the situation is ensuring basic human rights due diligence, to better understand how business models can impact communities. Simply having a human rights policy is, for example, a recommended good first step to be implemented by the renewable energy companies.

Read more here

Europe's biggest banks continue funding oil and gas firms despite net-zero pledges

Based on the campaign group ShareAction's report, a piece from the British daily newspaper The Guardian criticised Europe's major banks led by HSBC, Barclays and BNP Paribas for providing £24bn ($33bn) to oil and gas companies that are expanding production, less than a year since pledging to target net-zero carbon emissions. Investments in new oil and gas production, backed by funds from major banks, strongly contradict commitments to international agreements and undermine efforts to accelerate the switch to renewable energy sources. 25 of the banks mentioned in the report have officially acknowledged that they have an important role in the transition away from fossil fuels, by signing in April 2021 the United Nations-backed Net-Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA), which requires they set targets to reduce carbon emissions. The report provides data for financing of 50 companies with large oil and gas expansion plans. They include ExxonMobil, Saudi Aramco, Shell, and BP who already have made huge profits from gas price increases in recent months. Overall, there is a growing consensus in the investment community that oil and gas assets could be financially damaging investments – although there are also likely to be many profitable opportunities for those willing to ignore criticisms and climate change risks.

Read more here
 
How China is green-powering the Winter Olympics 2022 in Beijing

Recent analysis of the Carbon Brief portal explored whether it is fair to call the Winter Olympics 2022 in Beijing as the first "green" Olympic games. China branded the ongoing Olympics this way, claiming that the games are running on 100% renewable electricity. The Carbon Brief authors show that the desire of China's leadership to showcase clean energy development is backed by real developments on the ground. For example, Zhangjiakou, the mountain city in China's Hebei province that is hosting the skiing events of the games, now has renewable energy capacity exceeding that of most countries in the world. "Zhangjiakou Green Electric Grid" is a pilot power grid build to deliver electricity from the city to Beijing. The Olympic games were used to pioneer a dedicated renewable power grid. Chinese government sees this pilot being a scale model of a nationwide plan aiming to peak CO2 emissions by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2060. To fulfil the announced 100% renewable electricity target, the government is using the cross-regional "green power trading" mechanism, which allows large consumers to buy renewable electricity generated anywhere in the country. At the same time, China continues being highly reliant on coal. For example, during the first week of the Olympics, a new 2000-megawatt coal-fired power plant was approved in the coastal province of Zhejiang.

Read more here
 
EU Institutional Agenda
Council of the EU
Working Party on the Environment,
15-16 February
Agenda not available yet.
Working Party on Energy,
15-16 February
Agenda not available yet.
European Union-African Union Summit,
17-18 February
Agenda available here.
Working Party on the Environment,
21 February
Agenda not available yet.
EERA Events 
#Energy Materials

EM4I 4th Workshop - Sustainability Assessment of materials and technologies for clean energy transition
Location: Online
Information & registration: click here

The 4th of the Energy Materials 4 Innovation (EM4I) workshop will focus on the societal needs and technological advancement, and how to foster new collaborations necessary for achieving the Clean Energy Transition. During the second day of the workshop, invited experts will discuss key topics: LCSA, sustainable manufacturing, critical raw materials, social-economic aspects and 2050 scenarios. 

#FAIR Data

Workshop N°4: “Supporting technologies for FAIRification"
Location: Online
Information & registration: click here

The 4th EERAdata Workshop, organised in a hybrid meeting by AIT in Vienna, will explore and discuss tools to support a FAIR and open database infrastructure. During the workshop, holders and users of databases will be provided with guidance and easy-access tools to improve the level of FAIRness with a hands-on approach. 

#Energy Materials

EM4I 5th Workshop - "Energy materials for harsh operating conditions"
Location: Online
Information & registration: click here

The 5th workshop of Energy Materials For Innovation (EM4I) aims to overview the needs in terms of materials research that are specific for energy technologies where operation occurs under conditions that highly degrade properties of materials. These include high temperature, high pressure, extreme loading, contact with aggressive chemicals and irradiation environments.  

External Events
#Scientific cooperation

Europe in transition: challenges for research and education
Location: Online
Information & registration: click here

Organised within the framework of the French Presidency of the EU Council by the 5 research alliances ANCRE, AVIESAN, ALLIESTENE, ALLEnvi and ATHENA, the objective of this high-level conference is to strengthen trans-European scientific cooperation in order to reflect on the implementation of new interdisciplinary research and training paths.

#Open Science

EnerMaps tool training at World Sustainable Energy Days
Location: Online
Information & registration: click here

EnerMaps, the sister project of the EERAdata project, will organise its final event in partnership with the World Sustainable Energy Days. The event will be the opportunity to present the EnerMaps online tool, its functionalities, the development behind and the barriers to centralising energy data. On the second day, the event will continue with an online training session, made for energy professionals in research and academia, industry and public administrations. 

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