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Commission launches public consultation on trans-European energy infrastructure review

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The Commission has launched a public consultation on the review of the EU rules on trans-European energy infrastructure. The consultation will be open for 8 weeks until 13 July 2020 and all responses gathered will be taken into account for the review of the existing trans-European energy infrastructure (TEN-E) regulation, which will make a fundamental contribution to the European Green Deal

Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said: “To become a climate neutral continent by 2050, Europe needs energy infrastructure that is modern, resilient, secure and able to accommodate a much greater share of renewables. The updated TEN-E regulation will set out the rules for cross-border energy projects to make sure that they are in line with our climate ambition. During the public consultation launched today, we are keen to hear everyone's views on how to move forward.”

The Commission intends to publish a legislative proposal to adapt this regulation before the end of 2020. To ensure a broader and more interactive consultation process, the Commission will also organise four dedicated stakeholder webinars, and an inception impact assessment was recently published for feedback. More information is available in this news item.

Energy

Technology Plan 2020 Conference

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Today (23 November), Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson (pictured) will participate in the Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan 2020 conference, which focuses on the theme of ‘Making the SET Plan fit for the EU Green Recovery'. Co-hosted by the Commission and the German Presidency of the Council of the EU, this two-day event will discuss the contribution of the SET Plan to the more ambitious energy and climate targets for 2030 and 2050.

Commissioner Simson will deliver the opening speech and join the high-level ministerial panel to exchange views on the EU's path to clean energy transition and the importance of research and innovation to boost competitiveness and keep Europe at the forefront of clean energy technologies. More details are available on the SET Plan conference website.

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Energy

Nord Stream-2 and US sanctions 

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Washington's threats of sanctions against the Nord Stream-2 project are nothing more than attempts to oust Russia from the European gas market with non-market instruments. This was stated by the head of Gazprom export ("daughter" of Gazprom PJSC) Elena Burmistrova, speaking at online conference, writes Alexi Ivanov, Moscow correspondent.

"Unfortunately, there is an additional threat, which increasingly affect our co-operation is a political confrontation in General and, in particular, the threat of US sanctions against the Nord Stream-2," she said.

According to Burmistrova, American suppliers of liquefied natural gas (LNG) have disturbed the European market and are unable to stabilize him. "Now the US is trying to oust Russia using non - market instruments," the top Manager believes.

US threats to impose sanctions on Nord stream 2 are attempts to oust Russia from the European gas market with non – market instruments, said Elena Burmistrova.

Earlier, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said that the actions of the American side in relation to the "Nord stream – 2" are caused by the desire to make Moscow pay for an independent foreign policy.

Meanwhile, in early October, Denmark found a way to circumvent US sanctions against Nord Stream-2. According to many news reports, Copenhagen, which had been dragging its feet for many years with a permit to build the pipe, gave the go-ahead for its operation in advance and how this would affect the completion of the project.

On the first day of the work of the new Polish government, in which the position of Deputy Prime Minister responsible for national security was given to the Russophobe Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of the Polish antitrust regulator UOKiK Tomasz Krustny said that his Department had completed the investigation on Nord Stream-2 the day before and decided to impose a fine of 29 billion zlotys ($7.6bn) on Russia's Gazprom. In Warsaw they are convinced that the project participants should have previously notified UOKiK and received consent.

"We are talking about construction without the consent of the Antimonopoly German Chancellor Angela Merkel makes similar statements: "We have different views on Nord stream-2. We consider this project an economic one. We are in favor of diversification. The project does not constitute a threat to the diversification," said the politician at a meeting with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in February 2020.

The Germans are really in favor of diversification. The German energy doctrine for the next three years refers to the construction of terminals for receiving liquefied natural gas (LNG). Simply put, Berlin was going to import fuel from other suppliers: Americans or Qataris. This looks somewhat strange, given the current relations between Germany and Gazprom (in which Germany has every chance to become a key player in the European energy market). At the same time the cost LNG is definitely more expensive than main gas. Not to mention that the construction of LNG infrastructure also costs money (at least 500 million euros for one terminal in Brunsbuttel, according to Bloomberg).

On the other hand, the same German energy doctrine prescribes a complete rejection of the use of coal (by 2050). This is done for environmental reasons. Coal is an inexpensive fuel, but its use is dangerous because of harmful substances released into the atmosphere. Gas is a much safer type of fuel for the environment. It turns out that the demand for it from Germany will grow, but the Germans will not be able to meet their gas needs by importing LNG from the United States and Qatar. Most likely, Berlin's plans for liquefied natural gas are just a step to diversify supplies, but the country will not be able to refuse Russian fuel, experts say..

Germany has always been the main lobbyist for the construction of Nord Stream-2. This is understandable: after the gas pipeline is put into operation, Germany will become the largest gas hub in Europe, gaining both political points and financial flows. Two German companies are taking part in the construction of the second branch of Nord stream: E.ON and Wintershall (both have 10% each).

The other day, German foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, claimed that the gas pipeline project is economic. "Nord stream-2 is a project within the private economy. This is a purely commercial, economic project," Maas was quoted as saying by TASS.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel makes similar statements: "We have different views on Nord stream. We consider this project an economic one. We are in favor of diversification. The project does not constitute a threat to the diversification," said the politician at a meeting with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in February 2020.

It seems that no one else in Europe cares about the issue of US sanctions in connection with the construction of the Nord stream - 2 gas pipeline. They have long understood that their own economic interests are much more important than American claims, and therefore they are trying to overcome American pressure in every possible way for the sake of their economic benefits.

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Biofuels

Commission approves one-year prolongation of tax exemption for biofuels in Sweden

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The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, the prolongation of the tax exemption measure for biofuels in Sweden. Sweden has exempted liquid biofuels from energy and CO₂ taxation since 2002. The scheme was prolonged following the Commission decision in case SA. 48069 in 2017 until 31 December 2020. By this decision, the Commission approves a one-year prolongation of the tax exemption (from 01 January 2021 to 31 December 2021).

The objective of the tax exemption measure is to increase the use of biofuels and to reduce the use of fossil fuels in transport. The Commission assessed the measures under EU state aid rules, in particular the Guidelines on State Aid for environmental protection and energy 2014-2020. The Commission found that the tax exemptions are necessary and appropriate for stimulating the production and consumption of domestic and imported biofuels, without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market. In addition, the scheme will contribute to the efforts of both Sweden and the EU as a whole to deliver on the Paris agreement and move towards the 2030 renewables and CO₂ targets.

The support to food-based biofuels should remain limited, in line with the thresholds imposed by the revised Renewable Energy Directive. Furthermore, the exemption can only be granted when operators demonstrate compliance with sustainability criteria, which will be transposed by Sweden as required by the revised Renewable Energy Directive. On this basis, the Commission concluded that the measure is in line with EU state aid rules. More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the State Aid Register under the case number SA.55695.

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