Researchers Advise Against Europe Coal Investments

Researchers Advise Against Europe Coal Investments

The 10 European countries with the highest rates of climate-changing emissions from energy use are spending around €6.3 billion ($6.89 billion) annually on coal subsidies, money that could instead be invested in energy technologies of the future, researchers say. Those countries - from Britain to Spain - produce 84% of the European Union's energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, with Germany and Poland the largest emitters, Reuters reported. "Governments have often used the energy transition, including a shift to renewables, as a justification for extending and introducing new subsidies to coal," the researchers said in a report published on Monday.

Part of the reasoning is that "when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine, you need power on stand-by to provide the grid", said Shelagh Whitley, a co-author of the report and head of the climate and energy program at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), a London-based think tank. "Instead of governments supporting technologies which are part of the future energy system ... they're subsidizing centuries-old technology," she said.

A better use of the funds could be investment in new technologies such as batteries to store renewable power, as well as improvements in energy efficiency and installing demand systems in factories and businesses that can help them power up or power down in times of high demand or low supply.

"We know that renewables are more intermittent," Whitley told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. But "we need an (electricity) grid and systems within people's homes and businesses that can manage that - and the technology exists". Smart technologies can be installed that allow factories, for example, to turn down their refrigeration units when the energy grid has less capacity - and get paid for that in the same way people are paid to supply energy from their solar panels, she said. Reducing coal use would also have health benefits, the report said. About 23,000 early deaths every year are linked to coal burning - 10,000 of them in Poland and Germany, ODI said.

The European Commission has repeatedly urged member states to phase out environmentally harmful subsidies by 2020, including those for fossil fuels.


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