Lawmakers ban fossil gas from financing EU energy infrastructure, with few exceptions –



European Parliament lawmakers voted on Tuesday, September 28 to remove support for fossil gas from EU funding rules for cross-border energy infrastructure known as the TEN-E regulation.

The TEN-E regulation creates a framework allowing the European Union to finance cross-border energy infrastructure. It decides which projects are eligible for the European list of projects of common interest, which opens the door to faster authorizations and a pot of money of 5.8 billion euros exempt from EU rules in state aid.

Under an agreement reached by Parliament’s Energy Committee on Tuesday, natural gas infrastructure will no longer be eligible for EU funding under the revised regulation.

However, lawmakers agreed to a waiver for gas infrastructure already approved under the EU’s so-called 4th and 5th lists of projects of common interest.

These projects will only receive EU funding if they help member states move away from more polluting fossil fuels, such as coal, lignite, peat and oil shale, MEPs say.

Environmental groups denounced the deal, saying it would allow more than fifty gas infrastructure projects to be considered a priority for the EU, including the Baltic pipeline in Denmark, the EastMed pipeline connecting Greece and Cyprus as well. than the Shannon LNG terminal in Ireland.

Hydrogen mixture to 100% until 2030

In addition, lawmakers voted to make hydrogen mixed with fossil gas eligible for special status.

Under a compromise worked out earlier this month, EU support for investments in blending infrastructure will end in 2027, and all blending projects will have to go 100% hydrogen by 2029 .

Erik Bergkvist, a Swedish Social Democratic MEP involved in the Parliament negotiations, said the dates would send a clear signal for the industry to start the transition to renewables.

“The blending is only allowed for the purpose of creating dedicated hydrogen pipelines and as a technical necessity in an interim period to allow a switch from existing pipelines to 100% hydrogen pipelines,” he said. he declared to EURACTIV.

“There is no funding for fossil fuels,” Bergkvist insisted. “We have updated the TEN-E to focus on renewable sources. We have connected offshore networks and included new categories. Energy projects applying for EU funding will have to prove their energy efficiency as a main criterion in the process of assessing eligibility for EU funding, ”he said.

But Greenpeace environmental activists have warned that, in practice, this means pipelines could still carry fossil gas or gas mixed with a marginal amount of hydrogen until the end of the decade. This, he argues, goes against the advice of the International Energy Agency, which has called for all investments in new fossil fuel projects to be stopped in order to achieve the target. of the UN to limit global warming to 1.5 ° C.

The vote by the European Parliament’s Energy Committee follows an agreement reached by EU leaders earlier this year that also allowed exceptions for gas investments in the TEN-E regulation – a move widely criticized by environmental organizations at the time.

Infrastructure dispute reveals deep divisions in Europe over gas

On Friday 11 June, the 27 EU energy ministers reached a difficult compromise on the revision of the EU rules on investments in cross-border energy infrastructure, the TEN-E regulation. The heated debate sets an unfortunate precedent for future gas debates.

EU countries are now waiting for Parliament to finalize its position in plenary before starting so-called trilogue talks with the European Commission and working out the EU’s final decision.

And it is inevitable that fossil gas will again be the main source of contention.

“We will continue to fight to keep fossil fuels out,” Bergkvist told EURACTIV. “This will be our priority. We are entering into negotiations with a large majority of the European Parliament, which gives us a strong position in the negotiations, ”he said.

But, according to activists, it will be up to the European Commission and EU countries to resist Parliament and “get Europe out of gas once and for all”.

“MEPs failed to stand up against fossil fuel lobbyists and instead swallowed the gas industry’s desperate attempt to cling to public subsidies, status and support,” said Eilidh Robb , Fossil fuel activist at Friends of the Earth Europe.

Support for carbon capture

In a move that has been more warmly welcomed by environmental groups, lawmakers have also voted in favor of funding carbon capture and storage infrastructure.

This is an important step for industrial decarbonization in Europe, said Lee Beck of the Clean Air Task Force, an environmental NGO.

“Carbon management technologies are an integral option for the sustainable decarbonization of heavy industry such as cement and steel, while protecting and creating jobs,” she said.

“With geological storage resources distributed unevenly across the EU, supporting CO2 infrastructure – geological storage and CO2 transport modalities – means that all countries will have access to carbon management technologies to meet climate goals. She told EURACTIV.


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