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EU Climate Commissioner Brings Fossil Fuel Interests To COP22 Climate Summit

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Fossil Fuel Disinvestment March by Trocaire via flickr

According to a recent lobby meeting analysis, the EU Climate Commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete, and the Vice President for the Energy Union, Maroš Šefčovič, have overwhelmingly met with corporate lobbyists, not public interest groups.

The analysis, which coincides with the officials’ two-year anniversary in office and the ongoing UN climate talks in Marrakech (COP 22), reveals their particularly close relationship to lobbyists representing the fossil fuel industry.

Commissioner Cañete, who also heads the EU delegation in Marrakech, refuses to tackle the severe conflict of interest created when companies making enormous profits while causing climate change are also shaping policies to tackle it. The EU blocked an initiative to address this conflict in the UN negotiations earlier this year, which had been launched by governments representing over 70% of the world’s population.

As the final days of COP22 approach, Corporate Europe Observatory, Corporate Accountability International, 350.org and AITEC have published further evidence of the close relationship between policy makers and Big Polluters in the EU.

Central findings of the analysis, presented in three infographics, show that:

• More than 3/4 of all lobby meetings Cañete and Šefčovič had in the past two years were with business representatives. Less than 20% were with public interest groups like NGOs or trade unions.
• Oil and gas giants BP, Shell and Statoil were among the ten businesses which the Commission officials met most frequently – fourteen times, respectively. Overall, oil and gas companies presented eight of the ten business lobbyists most frequently met by Cañete and Šefčovič.
• The top five oil and gas companies which bagged most meetings, declared lobby spending of up to €19 million to influence EU decision-makers over the past two years.
• Between 2014 and 2016, Cañete and his cabinet met fossil fuel lobbyists four times as often as those representing renewable energy and energy efficiency industries combined.

Corporate Europe Observatory’s climate campaigner Pascoe Sabido said: “Cañete has now been in office for two years. Ever since he took up the position as Climate Commissioner, lobbyists representing big polluting industries have enjoyed unrivalled access to him and his staff.

“Having a look at the top ten industry lobbyists who met Cañete and his boss Šefčovič, each of them is linked to the gas industry, so it’s no surprise to see the Commission pushing ahead with yet more gas infrastructure. This completely ignores the need to leave fossil fuels in the ground if we want to have any chance of keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees. Any transition will fail as long as those in charge of climate policy are in bed with Big Polluters.”

Corporate Accountability International’s Tamar Lawrence-Samuel added: “Big Tobacco wrote the playbook on using closed-door meetings and back-room deals to manipulate policymakers. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Big Oil, Gas and Coal use the same strategies to undermine EU climate policy.

“These revelations underline the urgent need for governments to safeguard the policy-making space from the undue and corrosive influence of the fossil fuel industry. Just like with Big Tobacco before it, the fossil fuel industry has no place at the policymaking table. It’s high time the EU and all governments kick big polluters out of policymaking.”

AITEC’s Amélie Canonne remarked: “Commissioner Cañete claimed that signing the Paris Agreement at COP21 was a turning point. But a year down the road, he is as close to Big Polluters as ever. He has been promoting free trade deals like TTIP to bring more fracked gas from the US to Europe, just as the gas industry has demanded, and he is failing to move the EU towards clean, renewable energy.

“If Cañete and the Commission are serious about tackling climate change, they need to cut ties with the gas industry and distance themselves from the the free trade deals they’re pushing. It is free trade or the climate, not both.”

Nico Haeringer from 350.org said: “The Paris agreement provides a clear roadmap. We need to stop the development of any new fossil fuel infrastructure and organize the managed decline of the fossil fuel industry.

“That means removing our money from fossil fuel but also removing the industry’s political influence. That is not going to happen if Cañete and other political leaders are surrounded by those profiting from climate change and pushing for more fossil fuel infrastructure.”

Energy

Are the UK Governments Plans for the Energy Sector Smart?

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The revolution in the energy sector marches on, wind turbines and solar panels are harnessing more renewable energy than ever before – so where is it all leading?

The UK government have recently announced plans to modernise the way we produce, store and use electricity. And, if realised, the plans could be just the thing to bring the energy sector in line with 21st century technology and ideologies.

Central to the plans is an initiative that will see smart meters installed in homes and businesses the length and breadth of the country – and their aim? To create an environment where electricity can be managed more efficiently.

The news has prompted some speculation about how energy suppliers will react and many are predicting a price war. This could benefit consumers of electricity and investors, many of whom may be looking to make a profit by trading energy company shares online using platforms such as Oanda – but the potential for good news doesn’t end there.

Introducing New Technology

The plan, titled Smart Systems and Flexibility is being rolled out in the hope that it will have a positive impact in three core areas.

  • To offer consumers greater control by making smart meters available for all homes and businesses by 2020. Energy users will be able to monitor, control and record the amount of energy they use.
  • Incentivise energy suppliers to change the manner in which they buy electricity, to offer more smart tariffs and more off-peak periods for energy consumption.
  • Introduce new standards for electrical appliances – it is hoped that the new wave of appliances will recognise when electricity is at its cheapest and at its most expensive and respond accordingly.

How the Plans Will Affect Solar Energy

Around 7 million houses in the UK have solar panels and the government say that their plan will benefit them as they will be able to store electricity on batteries. The stored energy can then be used by the household and excess energy can be exported to the national grid – in this instance lower tariffs or even payment for the excess energy will bring down annual costs significantly.

The rate of return on energy exported to the national grid is currently between 6% and 10%, but there are many variables to take into account, such as, the cost of battery storage and light levels. Still, those with state-of-the-art solar electricity systems could end up with an annual profit after selling their excess energy.

The Internet of Things

Much of what the plans set out to achieve are linked to the now ubiquitous “internet of things” – where, for example, appliances and heating systems are connected to the internet in order to make them function more smartly.

Companies like Hive have already made great inroads into this type of technology, but the road that the government plans are heading down, will, potentially, go much further -blockchain technology looms and has already proved to be a game changer in the world of currency.

Blockchain Technology

It has already been suggested that the peer to peer selling of energy and exporting it to the national grid may eventually be done using blockchain technology.

“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”

Don and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution (2016)

The upshot of the government’s plans for the revolution of the energy sector, is that technology will play an indelible role in making it more efficient, more flexible and ultimately more sustainable.

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Energy

4 Case Studies on the Benefits of Solar Energy

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Demand for solar energy is growing at a surprising rate. New figures from SolarPower Europe show that solar energy production has risen 50% since the summer of 2016.

However, many people are still skeptical of the benefits of solar energy.Does it actually make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint? Is it actually cost-effective for the company over the long-run?

A number of case studies have been conducted, which indicate solar energy can be enormously beneficial. Here are some of the most compelling studies on the subject.

1.     Boulder Nissan

When you think of companies that leverage solar power, car dealerships probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind. However, Boulder Nissan is highly committed to promoting green energy. They worked with Independent Power Systems to setup a number of solar cells. Here were the results:

  • Boulder Nissan has reduced coal generated electricity by 65%.
  • They are on track to run on 100% renewable energy within the next 13 years.
  • Boulder Nissan reduced CO2 emissions by 416,000 lbs. within the first year after installing their solar panels.

This is one of the most impressive solar energy case studies a small business has published in recent years. It shows that even small companies in rural communities can make a major difference by adapting solar energy.

2.     Valley Electric Association

In 2015, the Valley Electric Association (VEA) created an 80-acre solar garden. Before retiring from the legislature, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid praised the new project as a way to make the state more energy dependent and reduce our carbon footprint.

“This facility will provide its customers with the opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada,” Reid told reporters with the Pahrump Valley Times. “That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.”

The solar energy that VEA produced was drastically higher than anyone would have predicted. SolarWorld estimates that the solar garden created 32,680,000 kwh every year, which was enough to power nearly 4,000 homes.

This was a major undertaking for a purple state, which may inspire their peers throughout the Midwest to develop solar gardens of their own. It will reduce dependency on the electric grid, which is a problem for many remote states in the central part of the country.

3.     Las Vegas Casinos

A number of Las Vegas casinos have started investing in solar panels over the last couple of years. The Guardian reports that many of these casinos have cut costs considerably. Some of them are even selling the energy back to the grid.

“It’s no accident that we put the array on top of a conference center. This is good business for us,” Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts told Guardian reporters. “We are looking at leaving the power system, and one of the reasons for that is we can procure more renewable energy on the open market.”

There have been many benefits for casinos using solar energy. They are some of the most energy-intensive institutions in the world, so this has helped them become much more cost-effective. It also helps minimize disruptions to their customers learning online keno strategies in the event of any problems with the electric grid.

4.     Boston College

Boston College has been committed to many green initiatives over the years. A group of researchers experimented with solar cells on different parts of the campus to see where they could produce the most electricity. They discovered that the best locationwas at St. Clement’sHall. The solar cells there dramatically. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 521,702 lbs. a year and be enough to save 10,869 trees.

Boston College is exploring new ways to expand their usage of solar cells. They may be able to invest in more effective solar panels that can generate far more solar energy.

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