Debunking the dubious arguments for not taking action
On 12 February, the EU Parliament will vote on the PCI list, a priority list for big energy infrastructure, mostly electricity and gas projects. This list contains over 55 fossil gas projects worth 29 billion Euros. None of these projects are needed to ensure EU energy supply; these unnecessary gas projects would be eligible for millions of EU tax money and funding by the European Investment Bank, and will deepen the climate crisis.
So why is there still reluctance within the Parliament to reject this list?
There are still a few lingering arguments which we debunk here:
Argument 1: Temporarily keeping the current 3rd version of the PCI list could benefit gas projects
Parliamentarians may be concerned that if they reject the currently proposed 4th PCI list in February, the 3rd PCI list would stay in force until the EU Commission drafts a new version. The concern is that there are actually more gas projects on the 3rd list than on the one proposed now. But the risk is minimal: Of the 44 projects on the 3rd list that are not on the 4th, 11 are linked to the “MidCat-pipeline”, a project that was rejected by regulators last year, making all projects in this cluster obsolete. Ten of the projects have either been completed in the past years or will be completed in the next months, so PCI status does not impact them anymore. And four projects are in the UK.
Rejecting the 4th list is the only way of stopping the EU giving highest priority to big gas projects,
Others have not moved forward for years, if not a decade; one was blocked by the Swedish government because of climate concerns, at least 3 are affected by an antitrust procedure, others have been repeatedly questioned by the Commission or are subject to disagreement between regulators of two member states.
Argument 2: Electricity projects might suffer from a rejection of the list
Many of the electricity PCIs could involve renewable energy and are necessary for the energy transition. There is little risk to these electricity projects if the 4th PCI list encounters a short delay in its implementation. Firstly, most of the electricity projects on the 4th PCI list are also on the 3rd list: their priority status will not be disrupted by a delay in the 4th list. There are 19 projects that are new to the 4th list, many with commissioning dates of 2025 and beyond. As these electricity projects are much more economically viable than gas PCIs, the priority PCI status is less important. In fact, a revised, climate-proofed PCI list without gas projects would also free up more public money for electricity projects (almost €1bn remaining under the current Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and likely €8.7bn under CEF II from 2021).
Argument 3: If Parliament rejects the list, it is uncertain what will happen afterwards
In fact, the European Commission does have a choice to be confrontational or constructive towards EU Parliament in this cause (and remember, this is the same Commission that proudly presented an EU Green Deal!).
A rejection of the 4th PCI List by the European Parliament puts the ball back in the Commission’s court. If the Commission’s choice is to be constructive and engage with the critiques of parliamentarians, the PCI list could be revised in a short time. The information-gathering and analysis have already been done and would not need to be replicated; however, the Commission would certainly need to review the 4th list through the lens of the Paris Agreement and the EU Green Deal .
Argument 4: We need to concentrate on revising the TEN-E regulation first
The revision of the TEN-E regulation, which sets out all the rules for the PCI list, is an important step towards a Paris-compatible energy policy. However, with a proposal for revision of the TEN-E regulation coming at the end of 2020, new legislation is unlikely to be in force before the 5th PCI list is produced in 2021. This means over 55 gas projects will still receive benefits and EU tax money until at least the end of 2021. A rejection of the 4th PCI List is an indispensable complement of the TEN-E revision, as it is the only means by which MEPs can stop EU support and funding for fossil gas projects now.
Allowing the 4th PCI list to pass while focusing only on the TEN-E revision is akin to eating a whole chocolate cake on Sunday because you’re starting your diet on Monday. The PCI List is directly contrary to the EU’s climate goals, and will make achieving those goals incredibly difficult.
The PCI list both, based on a completely outdated TEN-E regulation, supports unneeded, costly and climate-killing gas projects. The EU Parliament cannot accept this list. All the information on the projects had already been gathered and cost-benefit analyses performed by 4th October 2019. Projects have been ranked internally by their responses to expected needs.
A letter signed by U.S Civil Society Organizations, asking the EU Parliament to reject the PCI list is here.