EU to cut power use, levy energy companies

EU to cut power use, levy energy companies
Energy prices in the EU are calculated on the basis of the most expensive source, in this case gas, which has gone up around fivefold over the past year (Shutterstock)
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Updated 30 September 2022

EU to cut power use, levy energy companies

EU to cut power use, levy energy companies

BRUSSELS: EU ministers on Friday agreed cuts to peak-hour power consumption and windfall levies on energy companies in an urgent effort to bring down sky-high energy prices, according to AFP.

The decision, announced by the Czech Republic in its role holding the EU presidency, aims to mitigate energy costs sent soaring by Russia’s war in Ukraine and as the northern hemisphere winter looms.

European households and businesses are already staggering under surging energy bills, fueling record inflation that in the eurozone has hit 10 percent.

Extra drama has been injected with several unexplained leaks this week of Russia-Germany undersea gas pipelines, Nord Stream 1 and 2, that were widely seen as “sabotage.”

The EU ministers’ agreement came a day after Germany — the bloc’s export powerhouse that had long been dependent on Russian gas — announced a €200 billion  ($195 billion) energy aid package to shield its consumers.

Other EU countries have deployed smaller-scale national measures with the same aim, but several demanded European-level concertation, in part to clamp down on energy-buying competition between EU peers.

The two measures adopted were proposed by the European Commission.

The EU executive believes it can raise €140 billion from the levies on non-gas electricity producers and on energy majors that are raking in outsized profits from the global energy demand.

Its plan to cut power usage foresees a reduction of “at least five percent” during peak hours, according to a commission document seen by AFP.

Missing from the announced measures, however, was an idea espoused by 15 EU countries — among them France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Malta and Poland — for a price cap on imported gas.

The energy crisis, which had been brewing even before the war in Ukraine, took on greater magnitude when Russia severely curtailed natural gas supplies to Europe in retaliation for Western sanctions over its invasion.

Energy prices in the EU are calculated on the basis of the most expensive source, in this case gas, which has gone up around fivefold over the past year.

Several EU ministers went into the meeting wanting a gas price cap to be discussed.

“There is big disappointment that in the proposal that is on the table there is nothing about gas prices,” Polish Climate Minister Anna Moskwa said.

“This maximum price for gas would be supported by the majority of European countries” and “cannot be ignored,” she said.

But Germany resisted, fearing that a price cap would simply see liquefied natural gas shipments avoid Europe and sent to more lucrative markets, worsening the supply crunch for the EU.

The European Commission shares those concerns, although EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson said there needed to be a way to target just Russian gas — which arrives in the EU by pipeline, not in LNG form.

“We have to remove the incentives that are there for Russia to manipulate these volumes, and the answer is clear: We have to offer a price cap for all Russian gas.”

She and other participants, including Irish Climate Minister Eamon Ryan, said that, for a gas price cap to be effective other major buyers such as Japan and South Korea needed to cooperate with the EU.

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said that, while Berlin was open to the idea of a price cap on Russian gas “as a sanction,” the broader application being called for was “treacherous.”

He insisted that “we need to bring down consumption” as a priority, and “we must not allow insufficient gas to reach Europe.”

While the measures agreed Friday were steps in the right direction, the Bruegel think tank in Brussels had warned in an analysis they were “not sufficient.”

“A more comprehensive plan needs to ensure that all countries bring forward every available supply-side flexibility, make real efforts to reduce gas and electricity demand, keep their energy markets open and pool demand to get a better deal from external gas suppliers,” it said.

Further EU measures were likely to be discussed at an informal summit in Prague next week, and another EU energy ministers’ meeting on Oct. 11 and 12.

“We need to go further on these issues and come to a rapid conclusion,” French Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said.


Saudi Arabia to lead the world in sustainable metal production: Vice Minister  

Saudi Arabia to lead the world in sustainable metal production: Vice Minister  
Updated 20 sec ago

Saudi Arabia to lead the world in sustainable metal production: Vice Minister  

Saudi Arabia to lead the world in sustainable metal production: Vice Minister  

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will become the world leader in sustainable metal production, as the Kingdom explores its mining potential, as a part of its economic diversification in line with the goals outlined in Vision 2030, according to Khalid Al-Mudaifer, vice-minister for Mining Affairs, Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources.   

Speaking at the Mines and Money conference in London, Al-Mudaifer said that minerals are indispensable to the energy transition from hydrocarbons to renewables.   

“Decarbonization – the net-zero transition – cannot happen without minerals and metals: a lot of minerals and metals. We need to scale up discoveries and we need to scale up production,” said Al-Mudaifer.   

He added: “The World Bank says that by 2050 the production of minerals such as graphite, lithium, cobalt and copper needs to increase by nearly 500 percent to meet the future demand for clean energy technologies. To achieve a ‘below 2°C increase’ future, the Bank estimated that more than 3 billion tons of minerals and metals are required.”   

The vice-minister added that mineral and metal supply chains need to become more resilient to meet rising demands, and noted that the ongoing geopolitical tensions have exposed the vulnerabilities in the sector, which may result in “cost spikes of some minerals by 350 percent.”   

The minister further pointed out that the potential of Saudi Arabia in the mining sector largely lies in precious and base metals including gold, zinc, copper, and silver, in addition to a few speciality metals like niobium and tantalum.  

He went on and said that Saudi Arabia is already the world leader in phosphate fertilizer production.   

Al-Mudairef also added that Saudi Arabia is ramping up the green hydrogen production need as a part of its renewable energy push, and the Kingdom will have the largest green hydrogen plant operational by 2026, with a production capacity of 250,000 tons annually.  

Earlier in October, during the Future Investment Initiative, Al-Mudairef said that Saudi Arabia’s ambition is to become a global hub for green minerals and related technologies.

“Minerals now are the medicine to heal our planet,” he said.   

He added that the mining sector should embrace advanced technologies to reduce carbon footprints.

“We need technologies in discovery and survey, and we need technologies in processing and producing green hydrogen and green minerals and to reduce the footprint for smaller mines for the future,” said Al-Mudairef. 


Travel sector emissions nearly 3% lower than reported: WTTC research

Travel sector emissions nearly 3% lower than reported: WTTC research
Updated 21 min 18 sec ago

Travel sector emissions nearly 3% lower than reported: WTTC research

Travel sector emissions nearly 3% lower than reported: WTTC research

Riyadh: Greenhouse gas emissions from the tourism sector were lower than previously thought in the run up to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new data published by the World Travel and Tourism Council.

The research shows that in 2019 the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions totaled 8.1 percent globally — below an earlier estimate of 11 percent.

The findings mean that while between 2010 and 2019 the sector’s gross domestic product grew on average 4.3 percent annually, its environmental footprint only increased by 2.4 percent.

The WTTC’s research, the first of its kind, covers 185 countries and will be updated annually.

Julia Simpson, president and CEO of the WTTC, said: “8.1 percent is the stake in the ground. The key is to become more efficient and decoupling the rate at which we grow from the amount of energy we consume. From today, every decision, every change, will lead to a better and brighter future for all.”

The broader Environmental and Social Research will include measures of the sector’s impact against a range of indicators, including pollutants, energy sources, water use, as well as social data, including age, wage and gender profiles of travel and tourism related employment, the statement said.

WTTC will continue to release data on how the sector fares against these indicators throughout 2023.

The data comes in the same week as the World Travel and Tourism Global Summit in Riyadh.

Simpson used her speech at the event to allude to the research, stating that it was the largest such project ever undertaken by the Council.

“Until now we did not have a sector-wide way to accurately measure our climate footprint. This data will give governments the detailed information they need to make progress against the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals," she said.

“Travel and tourism is making huge strides to decarbonize, but governments must set the framework. We need a steely focus on increasing the production of sustainable aviation fuels with government incentives,” Simpson went on, adding: “The technology exists. We also need greater use of renewable energy in our national grids – so when we turn on a light in a hotel room, it is using a sustainable energy source.”

Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb welcomed the research, and said: “We are proud to be a partner to the WTTC in this important research that will monitor impact for the future. Saudi Arabia recognizes that travelers and investors want policies that promote sustainability in the industry and we have embarked on a journey that will make the Kingdom a pioneer in sustainable tourism."

“Under the Saudi Green Initiative, we launched more than 60 initiatives in the past year to do just that. The first wave of initiatives represent more than $186 billion of investment in the green economy.”


Saudi-based STGC launches awards to recognize sustainable tourism efforts  

Saudi-based STGC launches awards to recognize sustainable tourism efforts  
Updated 25 min 34 sec ago

Saudi-based STGC launches awards to recognize sustainable tourism efforts  

Saudi-based STGC launches awards to recognize sustainable tourism efforts  

RIYADH: A new award system recognizing achievements in sustainable tourism was launched during the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit. The Riyadh-based Sustainable Tourism Global Center used the summit as an opportunity to announce its latest stride in the battle for a more sustainable future. 

The “Sustainable Travel Awards” will recognize individuals and organizations that address climate change, protect nature and support communities. There will be 10 awards in total geared towards recognizing high-impact solutions that are already implemented and that are able to demonstrate a measurable positive impact on the environment. They will be divided into three categories — climate, nature and communities — with three accolades awarded under each category. One leading figure will be identified as a true champion of sustainability and receive an individual award.  

Gloria Guevara, chief special advisor to the Minister of Tourism and a global panel of sustainability experts has been be appointed to judge the awards. 

Guevara said: “We are enormously proud to be launching these awards to recognize the outstanding work being done all over the world in different areas of sustainability work from climate change actions to preserving nature and supporting opportunities for communities. 

“Sustainability has been a core area of debate at the WTTC Global Summit and we are confident that our awards will identify and recognize the outstanding work in this field and incentivize others to innovate and contribute to change.” 

Special guests, supermodels Elle Macpherson, Adriana Lima and Valeria Mazza were there to present the awards in the Saudi capital.  

Announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Saudi Green Initiative and the UN Climate Change conference, or COP26, in Glasgow last year, the STGC brings together governments, international organizations, academic bodies, financing institutions and industry associations. 

The STGC aims to reduce the tourism sector’s estimated 8 percent contribution to total global greenhouse gases and move toward net-zero emissions.


Egypt’s net foreign assets continue to fall as currency devaluation hurts economy

Egypt’s net foreign assets continue to fall as currency devaluation hurts economy
Updated 01 December 2022

Egypt’s net foreign assets continue to fall as currency devaluation hurts economy

Egypt’s net foreign assets continue to fall as currency devaluation hurts economy

RIYADH: Egypt’s net foreign assets fell by 109.9 billion Egyptian pounds ($4.47 billion) in October, extending a decline that began in September 2021, central bank data showed. 

The decrease works out to about $228 million after calculating for devaluations during October, Reuters reported. 

NFAs represent banking system assets that are owned by its non-residents minus liabilities, and foreign assets held by the central bank. Egypt has been relying on its NFAs to steady its devaluing currency.  

Egypt has been facing a currency crisis following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, prompting the North African country to begin negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for a financial assistance package. 

In October, the IMF agreed to a 46-month, $3 billion Extended Fund Facility with Egypt, welcoming a move to “durable exchange rate flexibility” and commitments to boosting social protections, according to Reuters. 

The arrangement was aimed at catalyzing a large multi-year financing package, including about $5 billion in the financial year ending in June 2023, reflecting broad international and regional support for Egypt, the IMF said in a statement. 

The Central Bank of Egypt in October had been allowing the pound to fall in increments of about 0.01 pounds per working day, but on Oct. 27 devalued it by 14.5 percent in one go as part of the $3 billion support package it concluded with the IMF last month. 

NFAs fell to a negative 551.0 billion pounds at the end of October from a negative 441.1 billion pounds a month earlier, according to the central bank data. 

NFAs stood at a positive 248 billion pounds in September 2021, before the decline began. Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February sparked further investor unease, unleashing an even bigger flood of outflows. 

Changes in the amount of NFAs represent net transactions of the banking system with the foreign sector, including those of the central bank, according to the bank. 

On Nov. 29, Saudi Arabia extended the term for a $5 billion deposit the Kingdom made to Egypt’s central bank in March after the North African country came under increasing financial pressure following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Saudi Press Agency reported. 

This came as the two countries want to enhance coordination, especially with regard to pumping numerous investments in foreign currencies into the Egyptian market in addition to Saudi deposits, SPA said. 

It is hoped that these investments will contribute to opening new funding channels with regional and international organizations, SPA added. 


Saudi Arabia launches second edition of Tawteen program to create 170,000 jobs

Saudi Arabia launches second edition of Tawteen program to create 170,000 jobs
Updated 52 min 6 sec ago

Saudi Arabia launches second edition of Tawteen program to create 170,000 jobs

Saudi Arabia launches second edition of Tawteen program to create 170,000 jobs
  • Second edition of the initiative will create 30,000 jobs in the tourism sector alone

RIYADH: More than 170,000 new jobs are set to be created in Saudi Arabia thanks to the launch of the second edition of a government scheme to boost employment in the Kingdom.

The Tawteen program, organized by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, will create 25,000 jobs in the industry sector, along with providing 20,000 employment opportunities in the health, transport and logistics services, and real estate and construction sectors. 

This second edition of the initiative will create 30,000 jobs in the tourism sector alone, as Saudi Arabia is pushing hard to make the Kingdom a global tourist destination by 2030. 

According to Saudi Arabia’s National Tourism Strategy, the Kingdom eyes creating one million jobs in the sector, along with attracting 100 million visitors annually by 2030. 

This edition of the Tawteen program also eyes creating 15,000 jobs in the trade sector and other 40,000 employment openings in other miscellaneous sectors. 

The Tawteen program is an initiative of the Saudi Industrial Development Fund to support and boost the direction of increasing local content spending, along with creating job opportunities for Saudis. 

Saudization, known as the Saudi nationalization scheme, or Nitaqat, is considered a crucial step toward economic success, as the Kingdom is now steadily diversifying its economy which has been dependent on oil for several decades. 

According to a recent report launched by the National Labor Observatory, Saudi Arabia was ranked first in the labor force growth rate among the Group of 20 countries during the period 2012 — 2021. 

Even though Saudization has been going on since 1985, the process was accelerated after the launch of Vision 2030 in 2016 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

As Saudization progresses in the Kingdom, the job market in the nation is also evolving rapidly, as a report from the Central Department of Statistics and Information suggested that the unemployment rate in the Kingdom decreased to 5.80 percent in the second quarter of 2022 from 6 percent in the first quarter of 2022. 

Earlier in September, while speaking at the Local Content Forum, Saudi Transport Minister Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser said that the Kingdom is working to localize 18 professions over the next year. 

He also added that the transportation sector in Saudi Arabia is working to increase the proportion of Saudi nationals in all its services.

“The transportation system is working to increase the proportion of localization in all its services. We are close to the percentage of full localization for the profession of co-pilot, and soon the full localization of pilots will be achieved,” said Al-Jasser.