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ENVIRONMENT

EU moves to label nuclear and gas energy as ‘green’

The EU is planning to label energy from nuclear power and natural gas as "green" sources for investment despite internal disagreement over whether they truly qualify as sustainable options.

The cooling towers of Civaux nuclear plant are seen over the clouds
The cooling towers of Civaux nuclear plant are seen over the clouds on November 10th, 2021 in Chatellerault, western France. France has led the charge for nuclear power to be included as 'green' energy sources. Guillaume SOUVANT / AFP

The proposal, seen by AFP on Saturday, aims to support the 27-nation bloc’s shift towards a carbon-neutral future and gild its credentials as a global standard-setter for fighting climate change.

But the fact the European Commission quietly distributed the text to member states late Friday, in the final hours of 2021 after the much-delayed document had been twice promised earlier in the year, highlighted the rocky road to draft it.

If a majority of member states back it, it will become EU law, coming into effect from 2023.

The commission confirmed on Saturday that it has started consulting with member states on the proposal where it covers nuclear and gas energy.

“The activities covered in this complementary Delegated Act would accelerate the phase out of more harmful sources, such as coal, and in moving us towards a more low-carbon greener energy mix,” it said.

It said it “considers there is a role for natural gas and nuclear as a means to facilitate the transition towards a predominantly renewable-based future”.

France has led the charge for nuclear power — its main energy source — to be included, despite robust opposition from Austria and scepticism from Germany, which is in the process of shutting all its nuclear plants.

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Germany’s Environment Minister Steffi Lemke told German media group Funke on Saturday that including gas and nuclear would be “a mistake”, arguing that atomic power “can lead to devastating environmental catastrophes”.

Austrian Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler also criticised the project, denouncing nuclear power as “an energy of the past” that was “too expensive and too slow” to combat climate change.

Conditions attached
Fossil-reliant countries in the EU’s east and south have defended the use of natural gas, at least as a transitional source, even though it still produces significant greenhouse emissions.

“It is necessary to recognise that the fossil gas and nuclear energy sectors can contribute to the decarbonisation of the Union’s economy,” the commission proposal says.

It added that, for nuclear power, appropriate measures should be put in place for radioactive waste management and disposal.

Its proposal calls for the building of new nuclear power plants to be conditioned on permits given out before 2045, and work to extend the functioning of existing plants would need to be authorised before 2040.

For gas, it said that carbon-emission limits should be set to well below those produced by coal-burning plants, and it should only be a transitionary source with plants needing building permits given before 2031.

The member states and experts consulted by the commission have two weeks to demand revisions to the proposal before a final draft is published in mid-January.

The European Parliament would then have four months to either approve or reject the text with a simple vote.

Member comments

  1. France and Germany did this. Understandable since they failed to build green infrastructure and now they want to ride this out – as a bridge Technology. Also, it is just about investments. Stakeholders could still only invest in real green technologies. We know they wont, a quick dime i guess. Sweden will also ride out their nuclear power plants but as a country should invest more into regenerative power. Otherwise middle and southern sweden will pay the bill for the energy hungry german industry. Btw 1kwh windrotor is only 2500€, suffices for most baseline consumption.

  2. “fossil gas … can contribute to decarbonisation” has to be the most absurd sentence I’ve read in a long time. If it burns fuel that produces CO2, it’s not green.

    By this logic, coal is good for the environment because burning cow patties is worse.

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ENERGY

Spain’s PM hopes European gas link will become a reality ‘soon’

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Tuesday he hopes a gas pipeline linking the Iberian Peninsula to central Europe through France could soon become a reality.

Spain's PM hopes European gas link will become a reality 'soon'

Europe is currently undergoing an energy crisis as it struggles to rapidly reduce its dependence on Russian gas following the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has reduced deliveries and nations are scrambling for supplies to avoid a possible shortage this winter, while prices for gas and electricity have soared.

“Spain has a lot to contribute to help Europe reduce its energy dependence on Russia thanks to our immense regasification capacity,” Sánchez said on a visit to La Palma in the Canary Islands.

Spain currently has six liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals for processing deliveries made by huge sea tankers back into gas and injecting them into its pipeline network.

But the country has only two low-capacity links to France’s gas network, limiting its current ability to act as a conduit to boost EU gas imports.

Last week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said a pipeline bringing gas from the Iberian Peninsula through France to central Europe could make “a massive contribution” to easing the supply crisis, in remarks hailed by Madrid and Lisbon.

Madrid has for years championed the idea of a pipeline across the Catalan Pyrenees with France to significantly increase transfer capacity and insisted such link could be built within months.

“This is something the Spanish government has been demanding from Europe for a long time now… and we hope we can soon make this dream into a reality,” Sánchez said.

Spain is already showing solidarity with its European partners by exporting energy “and we will do so even more when we improve the energy interconnections”, he added.

The pipeline would be similar to the defunct MidCat project, which sought to link Spain to France, but which was halted in 2019 over opposition from environmental groups and a lack of funding.

Spain’s gas network operator Enagas said last week it could have the Spanish section of the pipeline ready within “eight or nine months”.

Sources familiar with the project said it would initially transport natural gas, but would ultimately switch to hydrogen.

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