EU Green Deal Undermined by Infrastructure Legislation that Opens Backdoor for Fossil Gas

BRUSSELS – The EU Commission’s new proposal for a revised Trans European Networks for Energy (TEN-E) regulation creates, despite improvements, still loopholes for fossil gas, which risk the overall credibility of the European Green Deal.

The legislative proposal determines rules for top-priority cross-border energy infrastructure (Projects of Common Interest or PCIs). It is one of the first energy draft laws since the EU Green Deal was announced one year ago, and aims to  align EU support for infrastructure with climate targets.

“Proudly presenting a TEN-E regulation that fails to exclude climate-wrecking fossil gas projects is beyond cynical, says Frida Kieninger, Campaign Officer at Food & Water Action Europe. “We are in the middle of a climate crisis, and we cannot afford to continue with fossil fuel business as usual, let alone expand fossil fuel infrastructure with tax money. It is now up to the EU Parliament and Council to fix what the EU Commission failed to present: A truly fossil-free TEN-E regulation.”

While Europe needs to swiftly move away from fossil fuels, the TEN-E regulation draft proposes new gas categories which could benefit from streamlined environmental impact assessments, accelerated permitting procedures and EU taxpayers’ money. Both the categories for smart gas grids as well as mega hydrogen pipelines (a ‘hydrogen backbone’) risk being back doors for fossil gas infrastructure which will further lock Europe into a costly and polluting trajectory. 

The EU Commission’s inclusion of hydrogen infrastructure among priority infrastructure in the TEN-E does not specify the kind of hydrogen that should be transported. While less than 0.1% of hydrogen generated in the EU today is renewables-based, fossil fuels-based “blue” hydrogen combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS) to abate CO2 emissions is often hailed as a climate solution. The TEN-E draft proposes both hydrogen and CO2 transport infrastructure as top EU priorities. This risks supporting ‘blue hydrogen’ and CCS, a dangerous, unproven technology which the fossil gas industry promotes as a silver bullet. As long as the TEN-E does not explicitly exclude fossil-based hydrogen, our chances to limit global warming are dire. 

The links between hydrogen and the fossil gas lobby are documented in the recent report ‘The hydrogen hype: Gas industry fairy tale or climate horror story?’

A number of NGOs’ have criticised the crucial role that the current TEN-E grants to the gas transport industry (ENTSO-G) in the PCI selection process. The draft proposal, unfortunately, only suggests minor changes. The blatant conflict of interest the proposal keeps largely unaddressed risks harming its credibility as a legislation in line with EU climate targets.

“It was already unacceptable that the fossil gas-heavy TEN-E allows the fossil gas transport industry to hand out EU tax money to its own members. It is even more unacceptable that a revised TEN-E that wants to be aligned with the Paris Agreement and EU climate targets tasks again the very same fossil gas transport industry to select allegedly ‘green’ infrastructure projects like hydrogen pipes or biogas grids. The companies that have a clear vested interest in expanding the gas network should not be tasked with  building the energy networks of the future,” says Frida Kieninger.

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Notes to the editor:

Food & Water Action Europe and Friends of the Earth Europe report on the role of ENTSO-G in securing subsidies for its members’ projects, titled “On The Inside: How the gas lobby infiltrates EU decision making on energy” and Global Witness report “Pipe Down How gas companies influence EU policy and have pocketed €4 billion of taxpayers’ money“.

The Commission proposal places ENTSO-G, among other things, at the heart of determining the methodology for the Cost Benefit Analysis of the projects and at the heart of determining which projects can be included in the network plan (TYNDP), a prerequisite to become a PCI.