Portugal criticized for backtracking on gas financing
A group of member states are seeking to extend EU funding for cross-border natural gas projects – contrary to plans by the European Commission to cut all support for such infrastructure, according to a draft document viewed by EUobserver.
The so-called TEN-E regulation determines which cross-border energy infrastructure projects in the EU are eligible for public funds through the European Investment Bank – listed under “projects of common interest” (PCI).
But Brussels proposed a revision of the TEN-E rules in December, excluding dedicated support for oil and gas infrastructure – with the aim of aligning a key element of energy policy with the Green Deal and the objective of climate neutrality of the EU in 2050.
However, some member states are contesting this position, as part of a proposal drafted by the Portuguese Presidency – sparking outrage from the Green groups.
“Portugal is at the forefront of decarbonization. Therefore, it is not acceptable that our country, as EU Presidency, supports the continuation of investments in natural gas, in flagrant contradiction with the objectives of EU climate neutrality, “said Francisco Ferreira, President of Lisbon. NGO based ZERO.
The leaked European Council proposal, which is due to be discussed by EU ambassadors this week, proposes to support projects through 2029 in which existing gas infrastructure is modified to blend hydrogen and natural gas.
This process, known as “mixing”, is seen as one of the main sticking points in the discussion.
“If the mixture does occur, it can block investments in a mixture of natural gas and fossil hydrogen for years. If the mixture does not materialize, there is a lockdown on the modernized natural gas infrastructure,” a European diplomat told EUobserver, arguing that it is “a lose-lose scenario”.
“There is a blocking minority against the mixture because of the risks of market fragmentation and natural gas blockage,” said another European diplomat.
In the meantime, the condition set out in the European Commission’s proposal that hydrogen must come from renewable sources has also been broadened to include “low carbon gases” – which could open the door to l fossil fuel industry to block investment for years. .
“It is absolutely a failure on the part of the Portuguese Presidency to reach a progressive deal with member states that is suited to the climate emergency the world is facing,” said Tara Connolly of Global Witness.
“It appears that their strategy, although claiming to represent real climate action, has been to accept positions that satisfy the lowest common denominators, in order to reach an agreement at all costs,” she added.
The Council’s position also plans to continue supporting the controversial EastMed pipeline, designed to link Israel and Cyprus to Greece.
A final investment decision is expected by 2022, aiming to complete the project by 2025, Reuters reported.
A previous study showed that EastMed’s gas could emit more emissions than Europe’s most polluting coal-fired power station in Poland.
The current PCI list includes some 74 fossil gas projects eligible to receive public funds, including the EastMed pipeline. The full list will be adopted by the end of this year.
EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said last week that project assessment should be finalized soon, stressing that this time gas projects will be assessed “through a new methodology including enhanced sustainable criteria” .
Earlier this month, 11 EU member states – Austria, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Luxembourg, Latvia, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden – stressed the need to stop funding fossil fuels – in accordance with EU rules for cross-border energy projects.
The Portuguese Presidency was not available for comment.