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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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UKRAINE

REVEALED: What is Austria’s emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

Amid fears about what would happen if gas supplies to Austria were disrupted, the Federal Government has put together a package of measures to create a strategic gas reserve.

REVEALED: What is Austria's emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

It has been well reported that Austria is heavily reliant on Russian natural gas – but what would happen if supplies were suspended or stopped altogether?

Austria sources 80 percent of its gas from Russia, so the country would be seriously impacted if supplies were disrupted due to the war in Ukraine, a breakdown of diplomatic relations or any other unforeseen event. 

This is why the Federal Government has now unveiled a package of measures to protect Austria’s gas reserves in the event of an energy emergency.

READ MORE: ‘An unprecedented situation’: How would a gas embargo impact Austria?

What is in the package?

Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler and Finance Minister Magnus Brunner presented the plans following a meeting in the Council of Ministers on Wednesday, May 18th.

The most important points include an increase of the strategic gas reserve by 7.4 terawatt hours (TWh) to 20 TWh. This would cover Austria’s gas consumption for two winter months but the additional gas would not be sourced from Russia, according to the Kronen Zeitung

Gewessler said: “This measure will significantly reduce dependence on Russian gas.”

Increasing the strategic reserve with non-Russian supplies will reduce Austria’s dependence on Russian gas to 70 percent, Gewessler added.

Additionally, gas storage facilities located in Austria – such as the Haidach facility in Salzburg – must be connected to the Austrian gas grid. Haidach, which is supplied by Gasprom, is currently only connected to Germany’s pipeline network and has not been refilled for some time.

Finally, any unused gas in company storage facilities should be surrendered to the government if needed. Companies will be financially compensated for this.

READ ALSO: Austrian Economy Minister says gas embargo would be ‘red line’

What about next winter?

Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer has already said that gas storage facilities in Austria have to be 80 percent full before the next autumn and winter season.

The storage level is currently at 26 percent, reports Der Standard.

Gewessler also appealed to the Austrian public to make changes to help reduce the dependence on gas for energy, calling for more gas boilers to be replaced with other heating systems.

She said: “Together we are strong and together we can achieve this feat.”

READ MORE: What would an embargo on Russian oil mean for Austria?

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