Sam Morgan The Jolt - 30/October/2023

The Jolt: Spain’s plane vs. train pain

In Monday’s edition of The Jolt, the new series from FORESIGHT Climate & Energy, Sam looks at how a Spanish plan to ban certain short haul flights might affect the aviation and rail sectors, while China breaks yet another clean energy record

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Welcome to today’s episode of The Jolt by FORESIGHT Climate & Energy. In a world underpinned by climate and energy stories, it is sometimes hard to cut through the cacophony of noise and get to the news you need to hear.

This is where The Jolt comes in. Tune in on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for bite-sized updates, expert analysis and a global view.

We kick off with a look at the major global climate and energy news stories.



What do you think?

We want to hear your views on the energy transition! That’s why today’s episode includes a poll on a crucial issue. You can find the links to our polls here and here.

The question today is: 

The European Union is legally obliged to be climate neutral by 2050. Would it be feasible, from a political and technical standpoint, for the Union to bring that date forward to 2045 or even 2040 within the next 18 months?


What you need to know

Here are some of the main climate and energy stories making the news around the world:

  • The United Kingdom’s oil and gas regulator awarded 27 new exploration licences for the North Sea today. Shell, Equinor, TotalEnergies and BP were among the successful applicants. The government insists new fossil fuels are consistent with its net-zero 2050 commitment.
  • China installed 172 gigawatts of renewable energy so far this year alone, according to state regulators. Renewables’ share of power generation is up to 49.6% and officials say it now outstrips coal power. Solar PV is the biggest renewables source. 
  • In Germany, energy giant Siemens Energy is in talks with banks and the German government about guarantees worth up to €16 billion. Its wind division has suffered losses and needs help. Check out last week’s episode on what the EU is doing to help the wider wind sector.
  • German chancellor Olaf Scholz is in Nigeria to strengthen bilateral ties, including energy cooperation and natural gas exports. Our recent deep-dive on Nigerian solar is well worth a read.
  • Malaysia’s state-owned energy firm Petronas is ready to invest $1.6 billion in an Indian green ammonia project in return for a 30% stake. The venture expects to start exporting ammonia within the next two years and reach five million tonnes by 2030.
  • California wants to ease the stress on its electrical grid by making its 1.3 million swimming pools more energy efficient. New rules mean that all new pools must come with equipment that adjusts energy usage to non-peak hours. 
  • And Australia’s national science agency has reported a breakthrough in concentrated solar thermal storage. The agency says it reached 803℃ when testing ceramic tiles that will be used to trap heat and release it as energy. Researchers want to hit 1000℃.


Today’s big story

Spain’s plane vs. train pain

Image MidJourney / Prompts FORESIGHT.

  • Spain’s prospective government plans to ban domestic flights that have a rail alternative. If a train service of 2.5 hours serves the same route then the plane option could be nixed, according to a proposal that is still in the draft phase and which will require the ruling party to form a coalition.
  • The idea closely mirrors an existing ban in France that came into force in May 2023. The number of flights covered by the criteria is low, because connecting flights are exempted and requirements imposed on the equivalent rail services are tight. But it is a step in the right direction, according to climate groups.
  • Two of the three busiest domestic flight routes in Europe are in Spain and there is huge potential for emissions cuts. Regional politicians fear being cut off and the aviation sector warns that jobs are at risk and high-speed trains do not stop regularly enough at airports to make it viable.


“It’s definitely a step in the right direction but it’s nowhere near enough”


  • Greenpeace EU transport campaigner Tom Gelin says it is a good idea but that a six-hour cut off rather than 2.5 hours would be more appropriate. This would bring more routes into play and make a bigger difference to climate policies.
  • He adds that Germany and Italy would be the best next countries to follow suit but warns that a German scheme would need to have a higher cut off point and that Italy’s political climate makes it unlikely. 
  • Belgium is currently working on a domestic private planes ban that would be another step in a similar direction. The UK has shown little appetite whatsoever, check out this episode of The Jolt for more details.


Check out the latest episode of Watt Matters, which digs into how Poland’s recent election result will affect energy and climate thinking, and stay tuned for the next episode of the Policy Dispatch, which will focus on Brazil. Our latest deep-dive looks at how district heating is a natural ally of power-to-x technology.


Audio clip credits:

Pixabay audio sample


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