Pipe: Europe

Tödliche Unfälle: GM wusste schon früher von Zündschloss-Problemen

Thu, 2014-03-13 10:49
GM geht in die Offensive: Nachdem der US-Hersteller 1,6 Millionen Autos wegen technischer Mängel zurückgerufen hat, versucht er nun den Vorfall aufzuklären - und wirft dabei nur neue Fragen auf.

Government publishes recommendations on use of methane and biomethane in HGVs

Thu, 2014-03-13 09:59

The Department for Transport (DfT) and the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) have published papers and recommendations to increase the use of biomethane in heavy goods vehicles (HGVs). The recommendations include views gathered by the Low Emission HGV Task Force, of which the LowCVP is a prominent member.


Autogramm BMW S 1000 R: Fratzengeballer

Thu, 2014-03-13 08:47
Mit ihren unterschiedlich großen Scheinwerfern ist die BMW S 1000 R garantiert keine Schönheit unter den Motorrädern. Aber eine feinfühlig abgestimmte Elektronik, die den bulligen Motor gut im Griff hat, macht das Bike zur Königin der Kurven - und sie schiebt, und schiebt, und schiebt.

Chargemaster acquires Charging Solutions

Thu, 2014-03-13 03:49
Chargemaster, a leading provider of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, has acquired Charging Solutions, which supplies a complete range of charge points, associated electric vehicle charging pr

Autogramm Audi S1: Aktenzeichen S rumgedüst

Thu, 2014-03-13 01:34
Wenn die Audi-Ingenieure an der Leistungsschraube drehen, kommen die sogenannten S-Modelle dabei heraus. Jetzt bekam auch der Kleinwagen A1 das Brandsatz-Kürzel verpasst. Mit 231 PS unter der Haube und Allradantrieb hängt er so manchen großen Bruder ab.

Expert: Renewables and nuclear can integrate reasonably

Wed, 2014-03-12 11:44

EU countries making changes to their mechanisms for renewable energy support need to do so in an orderly and predictable manner, so as to ensure stability, David Buchan has told EurActiv Czech Republic in an interview.

David Buchan started his career as a journalist with the Economist and the Financial Times, covering energy, defence, the Soviet Union and diplomacy, from Brussels and Washington. He specialises in EU energy and climate policy at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. He spoke to EurActiv Czech Republic’s Adela Denkova.

A group of twelve large energy companies is calling for fundamental changes in EU energy policy, because they are not satisfied with what is going on in the European market nowadays. How do you perceive this initiative, which seeks to change attitudes towards renewable sources of energy?

I think it is natural that they have taken this initiative. There are many problems arising at the electricity market, because there is a growing capacity of renewable sources without any increase in demand. It is natural that they should speak up and it is probably natural that the European Commission should listen to them. However, these companies do not represent the whole EU and I was rather surprised when Commissioner Oettinger said at a press conference in October that he would be not only consulting these companies – which is natural – but that he would be [only] consulting the ministers of the countries from which these companies come from.

Is there any problem in this?  

For example, there was no company from Britain. That is partly because the British electricity industry is so divided up and it is mainly in foreign hands. Anyway, there is no specific British company involved. So, I think this so called Magritte Group [the CEOs of 10 utilities companies, which together own half of Europe's electricity generating capacity, calling for an end to subsidies for wind and solar energy] is an important initiative for the Commission to listen to, but they should also make sure that at the political level they talk to the entire 28 members.

How about environmental groups, for example? Does the Commission pay enough attention to these people?

Of course there are different parts of the Commission which listen to different lobbying groups. The Magritte Group exercises their influence on the energy directorate and the environmental groups obviously speak to the environmental and climate directorates of the European Commission. They listen quite carefully to green groups and provide small amounts of money to them as well.

When we talk about renewable sources of energy, some European countries have to solve a problem with the financial support of these sources. Is there any feasible way to deal with these problems?

In November, the Commission published guidelines on this and I think they got it right. The problem lies in the past, in existing contracts which have been signed – and the Commission is advising countries not to break these contracts and not to change them retroactively or change the terms for existing projects retroactively. Which has happened in Spain and it was supposed to happen in the Czech Republic. Instead of changing the contract you added a new tax on the existing solar power plants. But the advice about the past is that EU governments may have made some bad contracts, they may have overpaid some of these renewable generators, but they will have to live with that, because if they do not and break the contracts, they also break the investors’ confidence.

And how about the future schemes?

In future contracts, governments will need to change the tariffs downwards in almost all cases as the technology becomes more mature. But if the governments change these tariffs, they should do it in a regular and predictable way. They should have a review every year or six months and the investors must have certainty about it. For example, in Germany they plan on a certain amount of renewable energy each year and if they go over that limit, it will definitely result in a cut in tariffs.

The Commission has also published guidelines for back-up capacities for renewable energy. It deals provisionally with the issue of capacity mechanisms, which is a question we can hear a lot about in Europe today. What do you think about this concept?

I think that capacity mechanisms are inevitable. The entrance of renewables to the electricity market results in much lower electricity prices and is pushing some of the conventional capacity out of the market. However, renewables that are dependent on the weather – wind and solar power – do need the conventional capacity to be available as a back-up when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining. And this is more or less a common problem across Europe.

But there are different conditions in different European countries…

Yes, the particular problems are different. Britain begins to have problems with overall capacity no matter of which kind. They have coal plants that are being closed; they have very old nuclear plants that will be closed. So that is a problem of shortage of overall capacity. Even if everything was working fine, in a couple of years they would be short of power.

I guess there is a different situation in Germany, for example.

Germany does not have an absolute shortage of capacity. What they lack is some flexible capacity to respond very quickly to the very large surges of wind and solar power in the grid. In particular, they need gas plants to respond to the actual situation and back-up the renewables. Various countries have this problem of back-up in slightly different ways. That is one of the reasons why I think a common European capacity mechanism will be very hard to design. The problem is not identical in every country. The other reason is that we are talking about keeping the lights on. The national politicians are obviously very keen to keep the lights on in their countries and there is a reluctance to depend entirely on the foreign back-up supplies for this. It is very difficult for the Commission to say “no you cannot have national system; you must have the European one”.

What are the principles that the Commission encapsulate into the mentioned guidelines?

The message from Brussels is that the capacity mechanism should be a last resort. First of all, they want the governments to go through series of steps. Firstly, they want the governments to think about the exact problem. Secondly, they ask whether there are any other ways that the countries can deal with the problem. For example, they can reduce demand; they can think about how to rely on their neighbours, they can build interconnectors with neighbouring countries etc. And if all these measures do not solve the problem, they should design a capacity mechanism. It is sensible from the European point of view. My criticism of it is that it lacks the urgency that is shown for example by the Magritte Group. Because these companies do not have the money for new investments, that are needed in low carbon energy now.

In some forms, the capacity payments already exist in some European countries, is it right?

They do exist in some countries in a form so called a strategic reserve. The government basically designates a few gas or coal power plants to be available for a few days a year to generate electricity and they pay them an agreed sum of money. The system which the Commission would prefer to see and which some countries are now beginning to develop is a capacity market. In this capacity market you can supply capacity as a generator and you can also get paid for that but you can also help to solve capacity problems by reducing the demand. Companies or associations can actually agree at certain times to reduce demand, either in a single company or group of companies or a collection of households. So the capacity market would work on both the supply side and for the first time on the demand side. That is a more sophisticated and more market-sensible way to approach the problem. The British and the French are quite far advanced in developing a market like that.

We are now speaking about flexible sources to back-up the renewables. However, some countries also want to support the development of nuclear power, although it is not that kind of flexible source as gas or coal. It is also the case of Britain and the Czech Republic. Do you think it is still time for the nuclear power in Europe?

I think nuclear still has a future in the countries that want to have it. This is less than half of the member states. But it has a future. I have been doing some work in France recently and nuclear is not quite as inflexible as you think. In France and also in Germany, they learned how to vary the nuclear output when they needed to accommodate renewables. Obviously, it is not as flexible as gas and coal but it is better than one might imagine in terms of the prospect of integrating it with renewables. So I think that is something that the Czech Republic, for instance, might take some encouragement from. In the Czech Republic you turn rather against renewables and you are still enthusiastic about nuclear. But the two forms of power can integrate in a reasonable way.


Paris Autolib-style electric car share scheme coming to London

Wed, 2014-03-12 07:30

An electric car sharing scheme, pioneered in Paris and known as Autolib, is set to come to London in March 2015 according to the Bolloré Group which has won a contract from Transport for London to upgrade and extend the electric charging network.


Cross-country EV charging network launched

Wed, 2014-03-12 05:51
A network of 14 electric vehicle (EV) rapid chargers, forming Milton Keynes CrossLink, has been launched, four weeks ahead of schedule.

VW e-Golf im Test: Ein Star wird leise

Wed, 2014-03-12 05:19
Es ist das meistverkaufte Auto von VW - und jetzt erstmals als rein elektrisch betriebene Version erhältlich. Der e-Golf kostet genauso viel wie der BMW i3 und zeigt sich rundum als Gegenentwurf zum größten deutschen Konkurrenten.

Jeep Renegade: Landadel verpflichtet

Wed, 2014-03-12 04:38
Jeep gilt als ein Vorreiter bei Geländewagen, doch den Boom der Mini-SUVs hat der Hersteller bislang verschlafen. Das soll sich jetzt mit dem Modell Renegade ändern. Bei dem Auto betont Jeep die traditionellen Werte der Marke - dabei ist es größtenteils ein Fiat.

Magneten in der Fahrbahn: Volvo testet "unsichtbare Schienen"

Tue, 2014-03-11 10:01
Volvo testet derzeit eine Ortungstechnik, die angeblich verlässlicher als GPS funktioniert. Auf wenige Zentimeter genau soll sich dabei bestimmen lassen, wo sich ein Auto gerade befindet. Der Haken an der Sache: Die Straße muss mit Magneten gepflastert werden.

Audi traffic light monitoring system can improve vehicle efficiency

Tue, 2014-03-11 09:42

German car manufacturer Audi has developed a new online information system which it says could save up to 900 million litres of fuel and reduce a vehicle's CO2 emissions by up to 15%. The system works by anticipating changes in traffic lights and could be particularly applicable to urban driving. 


Leasing model is ‘best for batteries’

Tue, 2014-03-11 05:35
Renault is adamant that its battery leasing model still offers the best deal for drivers contemplating a plug-in car.

Autogramm Mercedes C-Klasse: Ausweitung der Komfortzone

Tue, 2014-03-11 05:13
Die C-Klasse ist das meistverkaufte Daimler-Modell - jetzt kommt eine neue Baureihe auf den Markt. Mercedes setzt verstärkt auf Luxus und Komfort. Denn: Kommt das Auto beim Kunden nicht an, haben die Schwaben ein ernstes Problem.

Liberian campaigner calls for EU action on logging law dodgers

Tue, 2014-03-11 03:53

EXCLUSIVE / An award-winning Liberian environmental campaigner has called on the EU to act against 20 member states which have still not implemented a timber regulation to combat illegal logging, a year after it came into force.

New research from the environmental group Client Earth shows that eight EU countries have done nothing to transpose the law, while ten have only produced draft legislation. A clear majority of countries have no penalties in place to deal with illegally-logged timber entering the bloc.

Speaking from Nairobi, where he is working on new IT technologies to map illegal logging, Silas Kpanan’ Ayoung Siakor of the Sustainable Development Institute told EurActiv that the issue should be treated as “a matter of urgency.”

“The EU needs to demonstrate that it is serious about addressing the problem and taking action against member states that do not fulfill their legal obligations is important,” he said. “It will show that they are not only trying to ensure that non-state actors follow the regulations, but that they will make sure that their own member states actually comply.”

Siakor won the prestigious Goldman environmental prize in 2006 for his high-risk work exposing the then-president Charles Taylor’s use of profits from widespread illegal logging to fund a merciless 14-year-war. His work led the UN Security Council to ban the import of Liberian timber. Taylor is now serving a 50-year sentence for war crimes.

Flouting of the timber law would send “a very bad message” to African governments, Siakor said. “It would undermine the EU’s public message that it is trying to curb illegal logging and it would increase deforestation. Politicians would turn to people like ourselves and say: ‘Look! Even the EU does not see the need to take action on illegal logging’.”

“It would also show a lack of commitment to helping Africa and the Global South to address this problem,” he added.

Rogue states

According to the as-yet unpublished new data from Client Earth, eight EU states have registered the timber regulation on their statute books: Austria, Denmark, Croatia, Germany, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Portugal, Luxembourg, Slovenia and the UK.

A further ten countries have drafted legislation, without adopting it: Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Ireland, Poland, Romania and Sweden.

But eight countries – Estonia, Lithuania, Greece, Malta, Hungary, Slovakia, Spain and Italy – have taken no action, and the European Commission could send these states - and the ten which have only produced drafts - a warning. This could be followed by costly infringement proceedings at the European Court of Justice.

The Netherlands has an interim system in place, and Latvia declined to comply with the survey. 

Even where enforcement regimes have been enacted in Europe, they are reportedly lax and ridden with inconsistencies. Penalties for violating the law, for example, can reach €7,500 in Bulgaria, €5 million in the Czech Republic, and an unlimited sum in the UK.

The Commission team monitoring the file appears to be under-funded and operating almost as a ghost ship, sources say. The European Investigation Agency says that illegally logged timber from Myanmar (Burma) worth more than $8 million was last year imported into the EU by countries such as Germany and Denmark - which have transposed the logging law - as well as those such as Italy, Belgium and Sweden which have not. 

Voluntary Partnership Agreements

The timber regulation was intended to provide a deterrent for countries exporting illegally logged timber, making the EU’s incentive of Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) for certified timber all the more attractive.  

Negotiations are ongoing with several countries, including Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo to establish these VPAs. Silas said that the agreements had “huge potential to improve governance systems in countries that the EU is working with. But to get the ongoing political and financial support for action, there needs to be a motivation to keep the VPA countries engaged.”

However, not all environmental campaigners in the Global South agree. Isaac Rojas, the regional coordinator for Friends of the Earth in Costa Rica said that a stronger focus should be placed on land tenure rights for indigenous peoples and communities.

Even when their land management procedures were technically ‘illegal’, they were still better for the planet he said. “In Central America, regulations [like the VPAs] coming from the EU are linked to free trade agreements,” he said.

“The EU and Central American countries are calling for partnership agreements but their most important part deals with free trade," he added. "This means that if the industrial logging sector feels their rights will be violated by a new forest legislation [supporting indigenous people] in say, Honduras they can sue the Honduran government.”


Germany expects quick deal over 'ambitious' EU climate goals

Tue, 2014-03-11 03:13

Despite persistent opposition from some EU member states, German environment minister Barbara Hendricks said she expects an agreement over the EU's proposed climate and energy package for 2030, reports.

Speaking in Berlin alongside EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, Hendricks said she expected quick agreement over the European Commission's proposed objective to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40% compared to 1990 levels.

The objective, presented by the Commission in January, were part of a broader package of proposals on energy and climate change for 2030 which would see Europe emit 40% less carbon dioxide, use renewables for 27% of its energy, and employ a reserve mechanism to regulate its carbon market.

The European Parliament and EU member states must still sign off on the proposal.

>> Read: EU sets out ‘walk now, sprint later’ 2030 clean energy vision

"I am quite confident that this will succeed," said Hendricks, who added EU heads of state and government could sign off on the target at a  summit in Brussels at the end of March.

The proposal is widely disputed in the EU, particularly by countries like Poland, which are highly dependent on coal power generation and view the target as overly ambitious.

But, according to Hendricks, 15 countries in total have already committed themselves to upholding the 40% greenhouse gas reduction target.

German immediate action programme needed on climate protection

Germany plans to meet the 40% mark by 2020. But at the country's current rate, only 35% can be achieved, Hendricks pointed out.

"We need an immediate action programme," she said, adding that the target must also include the transportation, heating and construction sectors. After power generation, these areas are responsible for the brunt of CO2 emissions, which have experienced a recent rise in Germany because coal power plants operated for a longer time than expected, to the detriment of more environmentally safe gas-fired power plants.

In addition, Hendricks pointed out that Germany could agree to the 27% target share of renewable energy proposed by the Commission by 2030. Germany intends to achieve at least 30% more.

During a Franco-German ministerial meeting on 19 February, both states expressed their support of the 27% goal. In the years up to 2030 the target could be intensified, Hendricks said, emphasising that "ambitious goals during the period are desired and certainly possible".

Commission proposal "far off" from scientific findings

But for Juliette de Grandpré from World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) the announcement from Minister Hendricks is not enough. "What is on the table at the moment is not good," she told

"The numbers in the Commission's proposal are far off from our expectations. And our expectations are in harmony with scientific findings," De Grandpré said.

In a position paper published with other environmental organisations, WWF calls for a 55% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030, as well as a 45% share for renewables.

De Grandpré shares Hendricks' appraisal, that the package could actually be passed in the upcoming EU summit on 20-21 March. 

Poland will present a position paper to other members next week, containing concrete conditions for its approval, she said. But since the Ukraine conflict has intensified, Poland is looking for solidarity with EU partners. As a result, the WWF expert's analysis said, Poland is also moving forward in the climate negotiations.

Still, this is not something De Grandpré can look forward to. In her view, it makes more sense not to rush into an agreement over target values. "More time and a better package is preferable to something quick in March that could end up blocking things over the next few years," she concluded. After the numbers are fixed, the WWF expert fears they will be harder to adjust.

Simone Peter, federal chairman of the German Green party (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), expressed a similar view when she spoke with "Environment ministers must take braver steps on climate policy," she said.

"The planned EU target of 40% CO2 reduction by 2030 would amount to a decade of stagnation on climate policy. That undermines the efforts toward a global agreement on containing global warming at a maximum of 2 degrees," Peter contended.

7th EU Environment Action Programme

At the presentation of the EU's seventh Environment Action Programme, Hendricks and Potočnik portrayed a common commitment to an "ambitious EU environmental policy". Environmental and climate protection are central principles for sustainable economic development and "living well" in Europe, the two agree.

The programme will serve as a framework for the EU's environmental and climate policy up to 2020. After the Commission's proposal, it was concluded by the European Parliament and the member states at the end of 2013. Nine priority targets are covered, including the transition to an efficient, environmentally friendly and competitive low-CO2 economy. The plan is considered an effective means of tackling environment-related health risks and achieving better implementation of EU environmental law.


Nachzahlungen: ADAC schließt Beitragserhöhung trotz Steuerschuld aus

Mon, 2014-03-10 11:29
Der ADAC will Unruhe unter seinen 19 Millionen Mitgliedern vermeiden: Dem Automobilclub drohen zwar eine Steuernachzahlung von 500 Millionen Euro und viel höhere Abgaben als bisher - eine Erhöhung der Beiträge schließt der Verein jedoch aus.

Auto-Salon Genf: Zwang zum Zwerg

Mon, 2014-03-10 09:27
Als Cabrio oder SUV, mit mehr PS oder als Öko-Mobil: In Genf präsentieren die Autohersteller reihenweise neue Kleinwagen in immer neuen Ausstattungsvarianten. Viel Gewinn lässt sich mit den Zwergen nicht machen - aber sie sind das Einstiegsangebot, das die Kundschaft zur Marke locken soll.

JLR announces collaboration with ClimateCare to create opportunities in developing countries

Mon, 2014-03-10 08:19

JLR has announced a collaboration with ClimateCare which it says will create opportunities for 12 million people around the world by 2020 through a range of humanitarian, conservation, environmental and educational initiatives. The initiative is a central part of JLR's community welfare strategy.