EU energy chief backs new renewable goal post-2020

Updated 12 November 2012
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EU energy chief backs new renewable goal post-2020

BRUSSELS: The European Union needs new binding goals on renewable energy and on cutting carbon emissions to succeed green policy targets that expire in 2020, the EU’s energy chief said, omitting any mention of replacing the current energy savings target.
His comments added to a debate about whether the three existing green goals should be followed by another three, with some EU nations and industry opposing what they see as too much regulation.
“I believe we need a binding target for renewable energy,” Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said, adding that national subsidy schemes were not enough to drive green energy.
Oettinger also cited the need for a carbon-cutting goal, but he did not mention energy savings.
He was addressing the launch of a partnership to unite firms supporting the continued use of gas as a flexible, transition fuel to complement renewable energy, which is intermittent.
The founding members of the partnership are Alpine Energy, a subsidiary of Spanish builder FCC, Dong Energy, First Solar, GE Energy Germany and Royal Dutch Shell.
Like the EU member states, they are divided over how many targets the bloc needs after 2020.
Denmark’s Dong Energy backs a more ambitious version of the existing three 2020 targets — a 20 percent cut in carbon, a 20 percent share of renewables in the energy mix and a 20 percent improvement in energy savings.
Jan Ingwersen, Dong vice president, energy markets, called on the EU to fill what he termed as the post-2020 “policy gap” and urged that incentives for gas be included in tandem with renewables.
Dong supports reform of the EU’s carbon market, in which the cost of emissions permits has fallen so low that burning coal has become cheaper than gas, which is only around half as carbon-intensive as coal.
“Renewables and gas are a strong match in Europe’s quest for a low-carbon and cost-efficient energy supply,” Ingwersen said. “Right now, there’s no business case for gas, and new coal production capacity is coming onstream in greater and faster volumes throughout Europe.”
Shell cautioned against too much regulation. “Less is more if you’re talking about climate policies. The Christmas tree is too full,” said Dick Benschop, president director at Shell Netherlands.
Oettinger has said the bloc needs to establish the rules for 2030 before the end of the current Commission’s mandate in 2014.
Debate is expected to intensify over the coming weeks, closely linked to the arguments about how to support the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) for carbon allowances.
On Wednesday, EU carbon allowances were trading at around 8 euros per ton. That compares with a record low of 5.99 euros in April and levels above 17 euros a ton early in 2011.
Oettinger reiterated his view that the carbon market needed long-term reforms to make it able to respond to economic shifts, such as the recession which has led to a huge surplus of permits.
“The big problem with the ETS is that nobody knows what will be happening in our economy in 2030. Do we have stagnation or recession?” he asked. “The ETS machine is market-based, but it’s not flexible. It should be more flexible to market developments, to our economy.”
The European Commission will present in November its vision for short-term and long-term carbon market reforms.
A short-term fix, known as backloading, would temporarily remove some of the surplus. Longer-term solutions, about which Oettinger has been more enthusiastic in public, include steps such as permanently removing allowances.
Both elements would need the approval of member states, but backloading could be agreed quickly under fast-track EU process.
A stronger ETS is also necessary to justify investment in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which many argue is essential if gas is to retain a role beyond the short term.
“The problem is our ETS mechanism. There’s no clear price signal at the moment, and companies and member states are in difficult times. But I’m optimistic,” Oettinger said of the prospects for CCS, adding the technology for bigger projects could be achieved in the “next five to eight years.”
Environmental groups have argued continued investment in gas is a mistake that will hobble the shift to renewable fuel and that CCS technology is not the answer.
“It’s (CCS) always a few years in the future,” Brook Riley, energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said.


Barclays chief Staley survives whistleblowing inquiry with fines

Updated 15 min 21 sec ago
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Barclays chief Staley survives whistleblowing inquiry with fines

  • Case marks first test of Britain's "senior managers regime"
  • Decision not to dismiss Staley comes as relief for shareholders

Barclays said Jes Staley will be fined by British regulators for attempting to unmask a whistleblower, but will be able to keep his job as the bank’s chief executive.
The country’s banking watchdogs concluded Staley’s attempt to find out who wrote a letter raising “concerns of a personal nature” about an unnamed senior employee represented a breach of individual conduct, Barclays said on Friday.
Staley’s case is the first big test of Britain’s “senior managers regime” (SMR), aimed at making top banking officials personally accountable for their actions after few were punished for their roles in bank collapses during the financial crisis.
If Staley accepts the findings of the regulators, it would be the first time that a sitting chief executive of a major bank in Britain has been fined by its regulators. A bank spokesman said the size of the fine had yet to be determined.
Barclays said the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) were “not alleging that he (Staley) acted with a lack of integrity or that he lacks fitness and propriety to continue to perform his role as Group Chief Executive Officer.”
News of the FCA and PRA fines follows a more than year-long probe in Britain that had led to speculation among some investors and bank insiders that Staley could have been forced to step down if deemed unfit to continue by those authorities.
Barclays also said that the FCA and PRA will not take enforcement action against the bank, while authorities in the United States are still investigating the case.
“Staley will live on to fight another day – which we welcome as a positive development for the bank and a relief for shareholders,” John Cronin at Irish broker Goodbody said.
“He’s been delivering on the strategy far more effectively than his predecessor had and therefore absent any sort of genuine malpractice we’re pretty keen for him to crack on,” one of the bank’s top 40 investors said.
The British bank, which in April last year said it had reprimanded Staley and would cut his bonus for his attempts to identify the whistleblower, will be required to report to the FCA and PRA on aspects of their whistleblowing programs.
The watchdogs could have banned Staley and opting for a fine could dent the fledgling SMR’s credibility.
“The magnitude of banning the sitting CEO of such a systemically important institution made outcomes other than a fine unlikely, but the case does set an interesting precedent,” said Nicholas Queree, an associate at law firm Peters & Peters.
Staley received the draft warning notice last week and was given 28 days to accept the findings or appeal. If he agrees to pay the two fines he would get a 30 percent discount.
The fines have been set according to a formula that considers the type of offense, the offender’s position in the company, any financial hardship, any previous cases, and whether there was any monetary benefit from the offense.
“We ... will announce the outcome once this issue has reached a conclusion,” the FCA and PRA said in a statement.
Legal experts question whether a light sanction for Staley could send a signal to other potential bank whistleblowers that they risk unmasking if they speak out.
Barclays said it will recommend Staley’s re-election as a director at its board meeting on May 1. At the last annual meeting he faced resignation calls, but was given a public endorsement from Chairman John McFarlane.
Staley’s pay package was £3.88 million ($5.45 million) in 2017, 8.5 percent less than the previous year.