The EC has Proposed that Nuclear Energy and Natural Gas be Classified as “Green”Energy | February 2, 2022, Wednesday // 16:34| views
The European Commission proposed on Wednesday that nuclear energy and natural gas be classified as sustainable for the period of transition to a carbon-neutral economy.
“The reason for the inclusion of gas and nuclear energy is that we firmly believe that these energy sources are necessary for the transition,” said EU Financial Services Commissioner Mairead McGuinness.
She acknowledged that all European institutions were divided on the classification of natural gas and nuclear energy, with a vote in the committee and the act supported by a “significant majority”. Immediately after the announcement of the decision, which will be formally adopted after being translated into all European languages, several countries, including Austria and Luxembourg, have announced that they are considering submitting it to the European Court of Justice.
McGuinness stressed that the inclusion of the two sources among the energy sustainable ones is based on science and was taken after lengthy consultations with the European institutions, experts and member states. The European Commission adopted the act 10 months after the first such decision, which concerned the conditions for access to green finance for 140 economic activities, covering 40% of European business and 80% of CO2 emissions. It came into force in early 2022.
Significant private investment is needed for the EU to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, and taxonomy (classification) will allow private investment to focus on activities needed to achieve climate neutrality, the European Commission said.
McGuinness stressed that the decision does not oblige investors to participate in nuclear projects and gas power plants, but only gives it the opportunity and predictability. Countries reserve the right to determine their own energy mix, the commissioner said, adding that the decision is a financial instrument, not an environmental policy.
The activities selected in this area are in line with the EU's climate and environmental objectives and will enable us to accelerate the transition from more polluting activities such as coal-fired energy production to a more climate-neutral future based mainly on renewable energy sources, said the European Commission.
The conditions of Brussels
To gain access to the taxonomy, investment in nuclear and gas communities must contribute to the transition to climate neutrality; for activities related to nuclear energy - to meet the requirements for nuclear and environmental safety; for gas, to support the transition from coal to renewable energy sources.
Special disclosure requirements are introduced for enterprises with regard to their activities in the natural gas and nuclear sectors. External auditors and national authorities will monitor whether the requested investments meet the conditions for taxonomy.
Activities related to fossil gases can be financed through the rules on taxonomy, if it is planned to switch entirely to renewable or low-carbon gases by 31 December 2035. For NPPs - the construction permit cannot be later than 2045. Nuclear facilities must meet safety and environmental protection conditions (including waste disposal) that ensure compliance with the “Do not cause significant harm” principle, the commission said in a statement.
Any new gas power plant or thermal power plant will have to be either below the technology-neutral emission threshold of 100 grams of CO2/kilowatt-hour over the life cycle (i.e. using carbon capture and storage technologies) or have a permit for construction by 2030. The use of gas will be possible only as a replacement for installations operating with more polluting solid and liquid fossil fuels, such as coal. In the case of cogeneration using heat and electricity for heating or cooling, a coal-fired installation of the same capacity must be shut down for each new natural gas-fired power plant that is built.
The European Parliament and the Member States will now have four months, with a possible extension of two more, to assess the document before it enters into force. An absolute majority of MEPs or 20 of the 27 Member States is needed to block it. If not enough objections are gathered, the rules will take effect on January 1, 2023.
So far, only two parliamentary groups in the European Parliament, the Greens and the Socialists, have said they oppose classifying nuclear energy and natural gas as sustainable sources. From the very beginning, Bulgaria has maintained a position in support of the act as an opportunity to compensate for the losses from the refusal to use coal for electricity production, which it must do in the name of the green deal.
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