Status: 02/13/2023 4:20 pm
France requires hydrogen produced using nuclear energy to be classified as “green”. The EU Commission also supports this – under certain conditions. Germany is against it. Is there a new dispute over the future of renewable energy?
By Emal Atif, tagesschau.de
The European Commission has come up with a Europe-wide standard definition of “green” hydrogen. Hydrogen therefore “should only be considered renewable hydrogen if it is generated from electricity from renewable sources”, the EU Commission said on Monday. Under certain conditions, hydrogen produced with the help of nuclear energy must also be considered sustainable.
France in particular, with its high proportion of nuclear energy, wanted to qualify as “green” hydrogen – so there is a risk of a dispute with Germany. Because Germany is taking a stand against it. “We, as the federal government, along with other states, clearly reject this,” a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Economic Affairs said when asked by tagesschau.de.
Does “red” hydrogen count towards climate targets?
The Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) is being negotiated in Brussels. It aims to promote the expansion of renewable energies. According to the Portal news agency, ministers from France, Poland, the Czech Republic and six other EU Commission member states had proposed in a letter that so-called low-carbon or “red” hydrogen be included as renewable energy in the EU’s climate targets. HUH. Both terms are used for hydrogen produced using nuclear power.
However, the federal government and most other EU countries fear this will slow the expansion of wind and solar energy. “Nuclear power is not a renewable form of energy,” said one EU official, who warned against “watering down” renewable energy targets.
However, the federal government has previously agreed to a French demand that nuclear power should at least count towards European decarbonisation targets. Government circles in Berlin were therefore taken aback by the new French initiative.
Paris threatens to delay pipeline project
The emerging dispute could even affect recently agreed cooperation in building the planned billion-dollar hydrogen pipeline, which is being driven by France and supported by Spain and Germany. It runs from the Iberian Peninsula via France to Central Europe and will cover around ten percent of the European Union’s hydrogen needs by 2030. However, in the context of recent disagreements, France is now threatening to postpone this project.
However, EU diplomats pointed out that France could certainly feed hydrogen produced with nuclear energy in this pipeline. As with nuclear energy, it is no longer possible to distinguish in a common European network how hydrogen or electricity was produced – whether it is, for example, “red” (atomic), “green” (wind, water, sun), “turquoise” (methane) or “gray” (natural gas, coal, petroleum) hydrogen.
Not the first argument about forms of energy
It is not the first argument about the future of renewable energy in the EU. Last year, the so-called EU taxonomy dispute caused controversy. The bottom line is that the EU wants to become climate neutral by 2050. The EU Commission estimates that around €350 billion will be needed for this. The taxonomy is intended to categorize financial products according to their sustainability and to help investors invest more of their money in eco-friendly and climate-friendly economic sectors.
However, many scientists, environmentalists and some investors criticize that the taxonomy promotes “greenwashing” – that is, the classification of unsustainable technologies as sustainable – rather than preventing it. Because the EU Parliament voted in July 2022 to include nuclear power and gas in the taxonomy. Both forms of energy are considered climate-friendly since January 1, 2023, which amounts to a recommendation to financial markets to invest in them. The federal government backed this up with the argument of using a “bridging technology”.
“The EU Commission’s draft could therefore lead to substantial capital misallocation,” criticizes Karsten Löffler, a sustainability expert at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management. He was a member of the group of technical experts that made proposals for the EU taxonomy. The environmental organization Greenpeace recently announced that it will file a lawsuit against this classification at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg in April. Austria and Luxembourg also want to sue. Germany does not join. In addition, France’s demand to classify hydrogen produced from nuclear power as climate-friendly may now bring the taxonomy dispute to a boil again.
“Pipeline expansion separate from taxonomy discussion”
In any case, the federal government does not want to be impressed by France’s threat to delay the pipeline project: “Several countries are involved here, not just France. Therefore, in our opinion, the expansion of the pipeline must be seen separately from taxonomy discussion,” the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Economy told tagesschau.de.Furthermore, France has clearly committed to the pipeline.
However, sustainability expert Löffler cannot understand the argument that nuclear energy should also be used in times of energy emergency: “The taxonomy does not specify what you can and cannot do. It is a label that should make it easier investment decisions for the financial market. true.” One can argue which forms of energy might still make sense for a while, but one cannot label less sustainable energy such as nuclear energy as climate friendly.