Tuesday, December 21, 2021

EU: conservative lawmakers warn Commission President unfulfillable energy requirements

 As the decision about the "green character" of different energy sources is scrutinized, conservative lawmakers caution European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that some requirements might be unrealizable and thus damage companies and strain consumers, writes WELT:

The argument has been smoldering for months, but Ursula von der Leyen wants to end it soon. The European Commission will shortly decide whether it will classify nuclear power and natural gas as sustainable in the future - and under what conditions.

Before the final spurt in Brussels, MEPs warn that companies and consumers in many European countries could suffer the wrong decision. They fear that excessively strict requirements from Brussels could ensure that the energy supply is at risk, that energy prices remain high in the long term - and that the energy transition could fail on top of that.

That is the tenor of a letter that 22 MPs from eleven countries sent to von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, on Friday. “We remain convinced that Europe must make the transition to climate neutrality realistic, responsible and appropriate; especially when it comes to the specific needs of small and medium-sized companies, ”says the letter initiated by CDU member Markus Pieper. The unpublished letter is available to WELT.

The MEPs also urge von der Leyen to be guided by the real needs in the member states and not by ideological considerations, as the letter says. Your central demands: The low-CO2 nuclear energy should be considered sustainable in the future. And the specifications for power plants that produce electricity with natural gas must be so realistic that they are technically feasible and the construction continues to be worthwhile for investors.

The letter is delicate, as all 22 signatories are members of the Christian Democratic EPP parliamentary group - the party family to which CDU politician von der Leyen herself belongs. The MPs come from Germany, France, Denmark, Slovakia, Italy, Sweden, Poland, Slovenia, Portugal, Bulgaria and Romania. Von der Leyen is said to have made the highly controversial decision a top priority.

The decision is about a lot, even if Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) recently said it was "overrated". Should the authority declare green in the taxonomy, its “green bible” for the financial markets, nuclear power and natural gas, that would be an important signal for investors.

The green label could pave the way for billions in investments over the next few years. If the requirements of the taxonomy are too strict, the seal could even prevent investments.

The latter is the fear of the MPs. According to a proposal by France, which the Commission is apparently listening to, the pending delegated act, which completes the taxonomy regulation, should only award the label "sustainable" to gas-fired power plants that have less than 100 grams of CO₂ over their entire service life produce per kilowatt hour.

The only thing is that such power plants are not even on the market yet. From the point of view of experts, the limit value rather implies that from 2030 hydrogen will be burned instead of natural gas. "It is highly unlikely that by then there will be enough climate-friendly hydrogen available for electricity production," says the letter. The Commission should therefore dispense with the strict limit value.

Instead, sustainable natural gas power plants should in future meet two conditions: The power plants should either generate 340 grams of CO₂ per kilowatt hour produced; this corresponds to the efficiency of ultra-modern gas-fired power plants. Or they should be allowed to emit up to 700 kilograms of CO₂ per kilowatt and year of installed capacity every year. Such an annual budget would allow operators to run dirtier power plants for a limited number of hours per year.

The MEPs have chosen the timing well for their writing. The EU Commission has once again postponed the adoption of its decision on the sustainability of nuclear power and natural gas: The adoption is not due to take place until mid-January, Internal Market Commissioner Breton told WELT on Friday. The Commission must first consult those affected, but changes are still possible. At least this process should begin before the end of the year, said a commission spokesman on Monday.

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