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Macron Wins First Round of French Presidential Elections

France’s sitting president Emmanuel Macron won the first round of the French presidential elections, with 28% of the vote. However, right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen came in a close second with 23%. Left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon came in third with a surprisingly strong 22% of the vote, but not enough to qualify for the runoff. Since no candidate won the majority of the vote in the first round, the elections will head to a runoff on April 24. 

The results from Sunday night set up a repeat of the 2017 runoff between Macron and Le Pen, when Macron won the presidency. But opinion polls show that Le Pen is closer to Macron in this election, with only a few percentage points difference between the two candidates. The two traditional French political parties, the Socialists and the Republicans, got less than 10% of the vote, showing the continuing rise in the popularity of more extreme parties on the left and the right. 

The French presidential election results will have a significant impact on European politics, as EU leaders respond to Russia’s continued attacks on Ukraine. Macron has backed sanctions against Russia, while Le Pen has raised the impact they have on the rising cost of living.

What Do Consumers Cut Back On in a Recession?

High inflation in the U.K. has lowered consumer confidence and disposable incomes and raised the specter of a recession, reports Investment Monitor. Britain’s inflation rate hit a 30-year high in March at 7% and is expected to rise to nearly 9% later this year.

A survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that 87% of U.K. adults had seen their cost of living increase in the past month, up from 62% in November. Real incomes have also fallen by almost 2% since last year and are expected to fall another 2.3% this year, according to ONS. As a result, Brits are cutting back on spending, with over half reducing their spending on non-essentials, 45% cutting back on their energy use, and 33% spending less on food and other essential items.

The Bank of England has been under pressure to decrease inflation by raising interest rates without causing a recession.

EV Charging Stations Will Pop Up Across Europe

There could be 5 million electric vehicle (EV) battery charging stations across the EU by 2030 — and double that by 2035, according to a new report from Transport and Environment (T&E). 

As part of the European Green Deal, the EU aims to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels), and EVs are a large part of the solution. However, after an audit of charging infrastructure across the EU, the European Commission found that charging stations were placed at irregular intervals across the region. 

The EU’s draft infrastructure bill requires EU states to install charging stations at a rate high enough to keep pace with the rise of EV fleets, easing consumer concerns of being on the road without access to sufficient charging stations.

Fabian Sperka of T&E says: “Public charging is a key concern for drivers, and governments will be required by law to address this by expanding national networks in line with the electric car fleet. European lawmakers don’t need to hold back on setting higher car CO2 targets for fear of a lack of charge points.”

Global Donations to Ukraine Top $1.5 Billion

Institutions and companies around the world have donated over $1.5 billion to Ukrainian charities since the start of the crisis in February, according to the foundation Candid.

Corporate giving programs account for the majority (60%) of the grants and pledges given to Ukraine at over $900 million. Public charities and foundations combined account for 31% of donations raised, with high-net-worth individuals accounting for almost 5% of donations. The top funder so far is Epic Games, which raised $144,000 by donating the money that Fortnite players spent over two weeks. 

Almost a third of the grants went to organizations in Ukraine, with others going to the Red Cross and other international organizations. Of the donations directed toward a certain population, half are for the relief and resettlement of the over 5 million Ukrainian refugees. Over a quarter of those donations are for the care and protection of children. Only women, children, and the elderly are able to flee the conflict, as Ukraine has banned all able-bodied men between 18-60 years old from leaving the country. 

Smart Grid Technology Is Taking Off Globally

Renewable energy sources will account for 95% of the increase in power capacity through 2026. But changing energy supply and consumption patterns are complicating demand planning and investment decisions for the energy sector. This is exacerbated by more frequent climate-influenced operational disruptions and stricter sustainability regulations.

Furthermore, legacy grid infrastructure often struggles to keep pace with industry innovations, underscoring the importance of an accelerated yet considered transition towards a smarter, more resilient grid. Many countries across the world are already starting to transition: Canada is putting about $80 million toward utility modernization work; Sweden, Finland, Spain and Italy have installed smart meters at a rate of 95%; China is working to install 30GW of battery storage capacity over the next three years; and Mexico, Paraguay, El Salvador and Chile are aiming to only sell zero-emissions vehicles by 2040. 

To navigate this transition successfully, stakeholders across the value chain must balance the imperative to modernize with the financial obligation to capitalize on existing infrastructure assets. Expanded risks associated with the transition — new cyber vulnerabilities, data privacy protection obligations, and gaps in workforce talent — must also be mitigated.

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