- The Council’s position on the Methane Regulation weakens leakage reduction measures and does nothing to slash emissions from imports.
- Czech EU Presidency remains stubborn on the 40% EU renewable target despite a significant number of Member States, civil society and businesses supporting higher ambition.
- The push for low carbon threatens the credibility of the EU’s renewables push.
Brussels, 16 December – On Monday, 19 December, EU Energy Ministers, alongside finalising negotiations on gas price cap, will discuss three key major legislative pieces in the Energy Council: the progress report on the ‘Gas Package’, a general approach on the Methane Regulation and possibly a general approach for the Renewable Energy Directive IV*. The Czech EU Presidency is looking to push through weakened legislation to be agreed before the end of the year, when the Swedish Presidency will take over for the first half of 2023.
Low carbon hydrogen coming through the back door
France and Central and Eastern European countries are pushing to introduce a new article in the Gas Directive amending the Renewable Energy Directive to factor in low carbon fuels. Basically this would allow fossil and nuclear based hydrogen to be taken into account for renewable hydrogen targets in industry and transport. This is despite the Council’s legal service having repeatedly highlighted the fact that existing primary legislation cannot be amended through another set of primary legislation. The new article is to be adopted in a progress report by Energy Ministers next week. Renewable energy industry and NGOs have issued a joint statement against this low carbon push. The upcoming Swedish EU presidency must ensure policy coherence by keeping the renewables directive for renewables only.
“This scandalous attempt to allow the so-called low carbon fuels, such as fossil or nuclear based hydrogen, to account for the industry and transport hydrogen targets in the Renewable Energy Directive must be stopped. Some Member States calling to include these false solutions undermine the credibility of the renewable legislative proposal which should be for renewables only. Moreover, here is no legal backing to introduce such a change through the back door,” said Esther Bollendorff, Gas Policy Expert at CAN Europe
Methane General Approach
The Energy Council is expected to reach a general approach on the Methane Regulation Proposal. However, measures on the frequency of required Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) have been watered down considerably. The Commission proposed leak inspections every three months for all equipment, but the Council is proposing inspections every six months at best and going as low as three years for some equipment. This would seriously impact the amount of methane emissions reductions. Moreover, Member States refuse to look at emissions from energy imports. Reducing methane leakages across the entire supply chain contributes to reducing emissions and limiting temperature increase to 1.5°C, in line with the Paris Agreement.
“More than 80% of the fossil gas consumed in the EU is imported. This consumption represents the majority of the energy sector’s methane emissions. Ignoring emissions occurring outside the EU borders, and related to the EU’s energy consumption, means turning a blind eye to the elephant in the room,” said Esther Bollendorff, Gas Policy Expert at CAN Europe.
CAN Europe’s new Methane Legal Study concluded that it is legally possible to apply measures under the Methane Regulation to non-EU operators placing products on the EU market, thus contributing to cutting emissions occurring throughout the entire supply chain.
Energy Ministers should reject the current proposal on the table. The Commission should strongly push for an ambitious regulation allowing the EU to lead in international efforts to reduce methane emissions through its domestic legislation.
EU Renewable Energy Target
The Czech EU Presidency has continuously supported an unambitious 40% renewable energy target during the negotiations on the EU Council’s position on the RED IV. Thereby the Czechs are ignoring a significant number of Member States who are pushing for much higher ambition with a 45% renewable target for 2030.
New analysis by energy think tank Ember shows adopting a 45% EU renewable energy target higher than 40% would slash EU gas imports in half by 2030 and could amount to an estimated €200 billion in additional savings. These savings can be used to address inflation and alleviate energy poverty across the EU Member States. A further increase to 50% renewables by 2030 can help the EU fulfil its Paris climate commitments and bring in additional cost savings to the EU’s economy – €55 billion in the year 2030.
“This attempt by the Czech Presidency to push through a lower target undermines the EU’s commitment to its people and to Ukraine to wean off fossil gas and ensure a secure, stable, affordable supply that will help keep people warm for winters to come. The public demand for a renewable-based energy system is there, it is now time for EU policy makers and national ministers to follow suit,” said Seda Orhan, Renewable Energy Campaigner at CAN Europe.
*RED III is the legal proposal revising the RED that was launched by the European Commission in July 2021 as part of the Fit for 55 package. RED IV is the legal proposal revising the RED that was launched by the European Commission in May 2022 as part of the REPowerEU.