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lithium recycling of batteries

Four of the largest environmental organizations in Europe call on negotiators to introduce an environmentally ambitious legislative framework for batteries, particularly with regard to due diligence, low carbon footprint, collection of used batteries, the establishment of a deposit system, replaceability requirements, high-quality recycling, prevention of illegal imports and promotion of second-life applications.

After the European Parliament and the Council submitted their final amendments to the Commission’s proposal for a Batteries Regulation, decisive negotiations among the three institutions are kicking off.

Ahead of the trialogues, NGOs provide negotiators with an overview of civil society recommendations on each institution´s position to ensure a truly sustainable battery market in the EU.

Notably, NGOs warn that requirements risk being dramatically weakened during the course of the negotiations, especially as some proposals do not cover all battery types or foresee delays of several years before they enter into force.

With electromobility and digitalization booming, the EU Batteries Regulation is crucial to guarantee sustainability requirements for the whole life-cycle and recycling of batteries, from ethical mining of raw materials to their end-of-life. The final outcome of this Regulation will be an important blueprint for other future legislative initiatives, such as ecodesign requirements for sustainable products and collection and treatment rules for waste electrical appliances.

Rita Tedesco, Senior Programme Manager at ECOS – Environmental Coalition on Standards, said: “We are at a turning point for battery production. In Europe alone, at least 38 battery gigafactories are planned or have been announced, with enough capacity to power around 8 million electric cars. The final result of the trialogues will determine whether the battery boom will be truly sustainable. Weak rules could result in tonnes of additional waste, and make Europe dependent on a handful of countries for the sourcing of rare materials, such as nickel, cobalt and lithium. For batteries to sustainably power the energy transition, regulations must enable batteries to have long lifetimes, be easily repaired when they break, and, at the end of the road, be repurposed for a second life”.

Jean-Pierre Schweitzer, Senior Policy Officer for Circular Economy and Product Policy at the EEB, said: “Europe relies on imported resources to produce batteries, so it must lead on high environmental standards and its ambition for a circular economy. It is crucial to make reuse, repair, refurbishment and high-quality recycling the default option for all batteries. Going into the negotiations, the Parliament’s position is our best bet to minimize the risks of future dependencies”.

Alex Keynes, Clean vehicles manager at Transport & Environment, said: “Amendments adopted by the European Parliament put Europe firmly on the path to a sustainable zero-emission future and ensure that electric vehicles and light means of transport will continue to improve their climate advantage over combustion engine equivalents. With regard to battery recycling targets, it is essential that policymakers prevent current proposals from the Council from delaying the recovery of secondary raw materials. Europe’s battery factories are being set up today, and industry cannot wait until 2029 to start building up a domestic supply of critical metals like Lithium”.

Thomas Fischer, Head of Circular Economy at Environmental Action Germany (Deutsche Umwelthilfe – DUH), said: “The collection of old batteries is a necessary prerequisite for reuse and recycling. If portable batteries end up as household waste, valuable resources are lost completely and there is a higher risk of fires in treatment plants. Therefore, return incentives, high collection targets and consumer-friendly take-back options are essential to guarantee proper treatment for all batteries. A highly effective solution to guarantee high collection would be a deposit system for Lithium-Ion batteries. Unfortunately, the current proposals delay the setup of such a system for many years. Another crucial point within trialogue negotiations may be the undermining of battery regulations by non-EU sellers through online marketplaces. The Council proposed effective measures against illegal imports, which must not be weakened under any circumstances”.

NOTES

[1] Decision aid for negotiators giving an overview of current proposals from EU Commission, EU Parliament and EU Council as well as presenting NGOs joint positions on decisive topics for sustainability during battery life-cycle: https://eeb.org/library/eu-batteries-regulation-four-position-paper/

[2] Environment Council, 17 March 2022 – Fit for 55 package: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/env/2022/03/17/

[3] Transport & Environment brief – Weak climate rules put Europe’s battery boom at risk: https://www.transportenvironment.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Battery-brief-1.pdf

[4] New rules on batteries: MEPs want more environmental and social ambition: europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20220304IPR24805/new-rules-on-batteries-meps-want-more-environmental-and-social-ambition

[5] McKinsey & Company – Recharging economies: The EV-battery manufacturing outlook for Europe: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/oil-and-gas/our-insights/recharging-economies-the-ev-battery-manufacturing-outlook-for-europe

wind power clean energy transition

The latest edition of SEB’s The Green Bond report explains why the war in Ukraine may at first delay the clean energy transition and increase emissions, but ultimately will lead to an even faster acceleration in the pace of the transition as a push for energy independence amplifies the boost from low cost and climate risks. The report also looks at the challenging start to the year for sustainable financing, with the first quarter seeing a decline in sustainable debt issuance and sustainable assets underperforming in secondary markets.

“The war in Ukraine is above all a human tragedy, but it will also have a major impact on the outlook for the energy transition given the fact that Russia is the world’s largest fossil energy supplier,” says Thomas Thygesen, Head of Research, Climate & Sustainable Finance, at SEB. “Even though we will have to use more coal and oil in the next year or two to compensate for acute shortages as a result of the war, which is likely to lead to higher CO2 emissions in the near term, these tragic events are now also resulting in the convergence of three powerful drivers for transition investment.”

First, the political motivation for investing in renewables has changed as the war exposed Europe’s vulnerability and reliance on external suppliers of energy. Energy policy has thus essentially become part of security policy focused on securing energy independence, with renewable energy and nuclear power the main sources of energy that are not dependent on access to fossil materials. Secondly, the economic case for renewable energy has strengthened tremendously following the supply shocks related to the war in Ukraine.

The high cost of fossil-based energy relative to renewable energy means countries can significantly reduce the cost of energy by accelerating the transition. The final argument for clean energy transition investment is the one that has been there all along – the need to prevent an irreversible climate disaster by reducing CO2 emissions.

Sustainable Financing for clean energy transition

The report also looks at the challenging start to the year for sustainable financing, after the first quarter saw the first year-on-year decline in sustainability debt transactions since at least 2016. According to preliminary figures reported until 1 April, a total of USD 255.9 billion in new labeled bonds and loans were transacted from January to March 2022, which marks a more than 30 percent decline from the USD 416.3 billion that was transacted in the same period last year.

“This is the first decline in at least six years but it is likely to be a temporary reaction to geopolitical turmoil,” says Gregor Vulturius, Advisor at Climate & Sustainable Finance at SEB. “We expect issuance to pick up again in the coming months, not least for social bonds that may help fund spending to support those afflicted by war.”

“There are also signs of a change in the pricing of sustainable assets,” says Thomas Thygesen. “For bonds, lower ‘greeniums’ reflect lower realized returns and higher realized risk. In equities, the clean energy index has de-rated after what looks like a liquidity bubble, but still looks expensive. We think this is a healthy repricing to more realistic assumptions about future returns.”

About The Green Bond report

SEB, which together with the World Bank developed the green bond concept in 2007/2008, publishes the research publication The Green Bond 5-6 times a year. It strives to bring readers the latest insight into the world of sustainable finance through various themes. Even though the report covers all kinds of products and developments in the sustainable finance market, we have decided to keep its historic name – The Green Bond – as a tribute to our role as a pioneer of the green bond market. You can find The Green Bond report here.

tree felling for biomass

A new report from the Forest Defenders Alliance, an international coalition of environmental NGOs, demonstrates that many wood-burning power plants and wood pellet manufacturing plants in the EU appear to be using tree felling for biomass, logged directly from forests, despite claims to use sawdust and other mill waste for fuel and feedstock.

European Commission scientists have warned that burning trees for energy undermines both the EU’s climate and nature restoration goals. The report includes photos of more than 40 biomass and pellet plants across Europe that appear to be utilizing tree trunks (stemwood) for fuel and feedstock. Report photos were sourced from a variety of publicly available information and on-site photographs, including Google Maps/Earth satellite view, Google Street-view function, images and videos from companies’ own websites, and on-site photographs.

The report compares evidence for use of logs with company website statements about the type of wood they utilize, finding that about a quarter of the companies make misleading claims, usually that they utilize sawdust and other mill residues, with no mention of stemwood.

The report also examines company claims about climate impacts of tree felling for biomass, burning forest wood. Despite unequivocal statements by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and leading scientists that forest biomass should not be assumed to be “carbon neutral” or beneficial to the climate, 25 of the companies – more than half – make misleading claims of this nature, in direct contradiction of accepted science. The claims often rise to a level that seemingly should trigger scrutiny under the EU’s consumer protection laws.

coal mine

How can a sector that is responsible for 30% of global carbon emissions be held to account for its impacts, including ensuring that coal companies meet growing stakeholder demands for transparency in how they align with the low-carbon transition?

GRI 12: Coal Sector 2022 is the authoritative, internationally applicable standard for coal organizations to communicate their impacts on the economy, environment and people. GRI is developing new standards to enhance accountability on the issues that matter most within sectors. As demonstrated by coal – which remains a significant source of energy and revenue generation – these issues are often complex and inter-linked, highlighting the urgency of improved reporting.

The Sector Standard for Coal enables comprehensive and comparable disclosure on:

  • How companies respond to climate change mitigation demands, as reflected in the Paris Agreement, including plans to transition away from coal mining.
  • Accountability for social impacts that span human rights issues and the safety and wellbeing of employees and communities –  with added focus on assessing risks related to catastrophic incidents, such as tailings facility failure.
  • Measures to effectively manage impacts on the environment and biodiversity, given the coal sector is a major contributor to water, air and soil pollution.
  • Robust reporting on the closure of coal mines and the ways this affects communities and workers, with the focus on how organizations contribute to a just transition.
  • Fulfilling financial obligations and steps to tackle corruption – recognizing coal mining often takes place in developing economies or areas of poverty – including transparency on payments, ownership structures and contracts.

Transition challenges

Judy Kuszewski is Chair of the Global Sustainability Standards Board, the independent entity that sets the GRI Standards. She said:

 “It is abundantly clear that, to reach the ambition in the Paris Agreement, an urgent transition away from coal has to be a part of the solution. Indeed, as the UN Secretary-General set out in response to the new assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, coal and fossil fuels are “choking humanity”.

That is why more scrutiny is needed on the companies that remain in the coal sector, with accountability for their impacts. GRI’s Coal Standard reflects these challenges – not only in terms of climate change and a just transition, but across the full socio-economic and environmental spectrum. From minimizing waste to corruption-free operations, GRI 12 guides companies to deliver comprehensive and comparable reporting.

Global challenges call for different actions from different sectors. Numerous stakeholders – including investors, governments and civil society – require decision-useful data to assess the sustainability performance of companies. That is why we are growing the family of GRI Standards, with coal now added alongside our Oil and Gas Sector Standard, and more to come soon.”

Applicable for any organization in coal mining, exploration, processing, transport and storage, GRI 12 was developed by a working group that ensures multi-stakeholder and global legitimacy. This expert group includes representatives from the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, standard setters EITI and SASB, and investment institutions FTSE Russell and S&P Global. The working group emphasized climate change as the most critical issue for the sector, requiring enhanced disclosure.

Sector standard

The project to deliver a Sector Standard for Coal was initiated and approved by the Global Sustainability Standards Board. Prior to finalization, an exposure draft of the Sector Standard underwent a global public comment period. GRI 12: Coal Sector 2022 comes into effect for reporting from January 2024, with early adoption encouraged.

An assessment by the International Energy Agency estimates that coal-fired energy generation accounts for 30% of CO2 emissions. While coal’s position in the global energy mix is diminishing, IEA research finds production is growing in China, India, Australia, Indonesia and South Africa. The outcome of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November saw agreement by countries to ‘phase down’ (rather than ‘phase out’) use of coal.

GRI Sector Standards will initially cover 40 sectors, starting with those with the highest sustainability impacts. The first completed Sector Standard – for oil and gas – published in October 2021. A Sector Standard for agriculture, aquaculture & fishing is expected to launch this summer, with standards for mining, textiles & apparel, and food & beverage next in the pipeline.

 

solar power csp EU Sustainable Energy Awards

The best European clean energy projects and leaders received top recognition at the EU Sustainable Energy Awards ceremony. Five winners took home awards in their respective categories – Engagement, Innovation, Woman in Energy, Young Energy Trailblazer – and the Citizens’ Award. An expert jury selected the winners in the Engagement and Innovation categories while European citizens chose the others via a public vote. European Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, was on hand to congratulate the winners at the online awards ceremony which kicked off Day 1 of the EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW).

Commissioner Simson praised all five EU Sustainable Energy Awards winners commenting, “The projects and individuals that are being recognised today are not only leaders in transforming Europe’s energy landscape, they are role models. Their work is a testament to the importance of citizen engagement in making the European Green Deal a reality. We’ve been working hard to develop policy instruments, which guide and support action on the ground, and it is truly inspiring to see this vision at work. Together, we are bringing Europe closer to its climate goals.“ 

EnergyNeighbourhoods

EnergyNeighbourhoods took home the Engagement award for its green lifestyle programme that empowers citizens to save energy in Hungary

The Engagement award recognises activities with high social acceptance potential, that inspire and motivate citizens to change their energy usage habits.

“The EnergyNeighbourhoods programme helps citizens take action against climate change without any investment but by changing their everyday behavior,“ says Edina Vadovics, Scientific Director at GreenDependent Institute, the programme’s coordinator.  “We help people change their lifestyles, save energy and reduce their carbon footprint, thus reducing their contribution to climate change.“ 

Read more about EnergyNeighbourhoods in English or Hungarian.

LIFE-DIADEME

LIFE-DIADEME won the Innovation award for its innovative public lighting scheme which reduces emissions and improves pedestrian safety

The Innovation award recognises outstanding EU-funded activities that show an original and innovative path toward the clean energy transition.

“We have installed almost 800 sensors on light posts in the two pilot areas in Rome, and an additional 200 in Rimini and Piacenza,” says Linda Meleo, Councillor for Infrastructure Development in Rome’s Department of Infrastructure. “It is an energy-saving technology but it also promotes pedestrian safety. Many municipalities are reluctant to implement adaptive lighting technologies for fear of lighting dimming when the conditions are unsafe, but the real-time aspect of LIFE-DIADEME overcomes this.”

Read more about LIFE-DIADEME in English or Italian.

Woman in Energy award

Birgit Hansen, Mayor of Frederikshavn, won the Woman in Energy award for her local leadership in climate planning

The Woman in Energy award recognises outstanding activities led by women that, if replicated, help to advance the clean energy transition in Europe and contribute to the European energy and climate targets.

“My role as a mayor and as a leader is to motivate people to act on this agenda. I need to be at the forefront and bring together industry, citizens and the municipality to make things happen. We made partnerships within the municipality, so all actors who want to get involved in our green transformation can do so,” explains Birgit when discussing the role of leadership and climate action.

Read more about Birgit Hansen in English or Danish.

Young Energy Trailblazer

 Koprčina scooped the Young Energy Trailblazer award for democratising solar energy ownership

The Young Energy Trailblazer award recognises outstanding activities carried out by young people (under 35) which advance the clean energy transition in Europe and inspire ambitious climate and energy action.

“I wanted to show that the choice between making money and having a positive impact on the environment is a false dichotomy,” says Filip, “citizens who invest in these solar projects can expect greater returns than they would receive if their money was in a bank. The amount of energy we will save from the investments committed to date is equal to charging 17.5 million smartphones.” 

Read more about Filip Koprčina in English or Croatian.

Citizens’ Award

RenOnBill took the Citizens’ Award for bringing financial institutions and utilities together to increase renovation uptake

The Citizens’ Award recognises initiatives and individuals working on innovative and engaging ways to reinvent Europe’s energy landscape. The six projects competing in the Engagement and Innovation categories were up for consideration for this award, determined by public vote.

“Together with financial institutions, utility companies cover the initial investment of a building renovation. The resulting savings that homeowners eventually see on their energy bills is used to pay back the utility, appearing as a line item on the customer’s energy bills,” explains Paolo Michele Sonvilla, RenOnBill Project Coordinator from Creara, Spain. “On-bill financing can reduce the upfront costs of energy renovations to zero.” 

Read more about RenOnBill in English, Spanish or Italian.

About the EU Sustainable Energy Awards 

Twelve outstanding individuals and projects are highlighted at the EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) 2021 for their innovation in energy efficiency and renewables. Finalists were chosen from a list of the year’s most successful projects for clean, secure and efficient energy. The EU Sustainable Energy Awards have four categories – Engagement, Innovation, Woman in Energy and Young Energy Trailblazer – as well as the Citizen’s Award. Prizes were awarded by an expert jury (for Engagement and Innovation), and by citizens via a public vote.

EUSEW 2021

EUSEW 2021 runs from 25 to 29 October 2021, under the theme ‘Towards 2030: Reshaping the European Energy System’. Taking place ahead of the decisive COP 26, the event brings together energy policy experts, industry leaders, academia and civil society representatives to discuss how forward-looking policies for decarbonisation, energy efficiency, climate mitigation, and many others comprising the European Green Deal, can help rebuild a better and more resilient society and economy.

Photo: Mike McBey 

wind power

The production of renewable energy from solar and wind power is increasing every year. But after analysing the growth rates of solar and wind power in 60 countries, researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and Lund University in Sweden and Central European University in Vienna, Austria, conclude that virtually no country is moving sufficiently fast to avoid global warming of 1.5°C or even 2°C.

Read more

floating windfarm kincardine
The 50 MW Kincardine Offshore Windfarm is now the largest floating windfarm on the planet. It is located 15 km off the coast of Aberdeenshire, in water depths ranging from 60m to 80m.

The project consists of five Vestas V164-9.5 MW and one V80-2 MW turbine, each installed on WindFloat® semi-submersible platforms designed by Principle Power. The Kincardine project was started back in 2014 by Allan MacAskill and Lord Nicol Stephen, now both directors of Flotation Energy plc. In 2016 Cobra Group became the main investor in Kincardine Offshore Windfarm Ltd. (KOWL)

Cobra Wind, a subsidiary of Cobra Group, has been responsible for delivery of the project, including engineering, construction, installation and commissioning.

Cobra’s Senior Manager, Jose Antonio Fernández, said:
“The Kincardine project is not only the world’s largest. It has also been a fantastic foundation for other joint venture projects between Cobra and Flotation Energy. Our Round 4 success with the 480MW Morecambe project, our 7GW of bids into the Scotwind leasing round and our White Cross 100MW floating project in the South West are all signs of our confidence in Scotland and the UK Floating wind is set for massive growth in the future – and we want to do more.”

Floating windfarm other firsts

In addition to being the largest floating windfarm in the world, the development also features another first, using the highest capacity wind turbines ever installed on floating platforms.

Kincardine will generate over 200 GWh of green electricity a year, enough renewable electricity to power more than 50.000 Scottish households and to help fight climate change.

Jaime Altolaguirre, KOWL Project Director from Cobra, said: “The completion of Kincardine comes at a pivotal time in determining Scotland’s leadership in the floating offshore sector. Kincardine offshore windfarm has shown that the largest and most advanced wind turbines available can be installed on floating platforms in the challenging North Sea environment. The project proves that floating wind can play a vital role in tackling climate change not only in Scotland and the UK, but also around the world.”

The Kincardine team has also announced the selection of Aberdeen as its operations and maintenance base.

Jaime Altolaguirre continued saying: “Our local team, managed by Cobra, will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the project. We will be using Scottish based companies with proven North Sea capabilities, drawing on their experience maintaining offshore semi submersibles and platforms over the last 50 years. It could not be a better fit.”

Aaron Smith, Chief Commercial Officer, Principle Power, said
“Kincardine floating windfarm is further showing the readiness and commercial potential of floating technology. With eighty percent of the world’s offshore wind resources in deep water areas, floating technologies like the WindFloat® open several new geographies to harness the boundless supply of clean energy contained therein.  The UK has led the way in realising the potential of floating wind and is now recognised globally as a key market for floating wind developments. Kincardine demonstrates the readiness of floating wind to support the government’s net zero ambitions ahead of the forthcoming lease awards in ScotWind, floating wind leasing rounds managed by Crown Estate Scotland.”

Nils de Baar, President, Vestas Central & Northern Europe, said:
“The Kincardine project shows how boundaries of offshore wind technology are constantly being pushed forward. We have once again demonstrated that the world’s most powerful turbines can be installed on floating substructures.
We stand ready for the next phase of commercial scale floating offshore wind. With appropriate policy and regulations, floating technology offers the UK an opportunity to expand its global leadership position in offshore wind and build further opportunities for the domestic supply chain. We are proud to be part of the pioneering Kincardine project.” 

About Kincardine Floating Windfarm

  • Developer: Kincardine Offshore Windfarm Ltd. (KOWL). Established in 2014 by Allan MacAskill and Lord Nicol Stephen. Majority owned by the Cobra Group
  • EPC Contractor: Cobra Wind International Limited (CWIL)
  • Turbines: 5 x Vestas V164-9.525 MW turbines and 1 x V80-2 MW
  • Blade tip height: 190 meters
  • Foundation: WindFloat (floating, semi-submersible type)
  • Project Capacity: 50 MW
  • Location: Aberdeen, Scotland
  • Distance from Shore: 15 km
  • Water Depth: 60-80 meters
  • Nominal Voltage: 33 kV
  • Number of homes powered annually: over 50.000
  • Expected life: at least 25 years