Thursday, June 13, 2024

Hydrogen under the spotlight, CCS back in fashion

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Legislative rush. As the six-month Spanish EU Council presidency draws to a close – and the von der Leyen Commission reaches the end of its five-year term – legislators in Brussels are busy closing as many files as possible, hoping to push the last remaining parts of the European Green Deal past the finishing line before the European Parliament goes into recess for the June EU elections.

This resulted in a frenzy of legislative activity last week, with a string of parliamentary votes Monday and Tuesday – on the right to repair,  certification of carbon removals, net-zero emission technologies, and CO2 emissions from trucks.

But the Parliament wasn’t quite done yet. On Wednesday (22 November), MEPs gave their blessing to a report by  Belgian MEP Frédérique Ries that saw targets for reuse scaled back and bans on unnecessary packaging removed. Greens, predictably, were unhappy, reports Kira Taylor.

This week saw more Green Deal files reach their conclusion, this time in trilogue talks involving the Parliament, the Council of the EU, and the European Commission.

Partial deal on hydrogen and gas package: On Monday evening (27 November), negotiators reached agreement on the EU’s proposed hydrogen and gas directive, which sets out rules for investments into Europe’s future hydrogen networks.

The main battle centred on ownership rules for grid operators and – as expected – Germany won the day by obtaining an exemption for its multitude of small-scale municipal gas grid operators, who will be allowed to simultaneously own gas and hydrogen grids.

There will be a second leg to the negotiation though, because legislators failed to agree on a related regulation to determine the structure of the EU’s future hydrogen market. Our Berlin reporter Niko Kurmayer has the story, confirming his earlier report here.

Hydrogen cash. It was the fourth edition of hydrogen week in Brussels on 20-24 November and the European Commission had something in store for the hundreds of industry delegates attending the high-level conferences and trade show in Brussels.

On Thursday, the EU executive launched the first auction under its €800 million plan to subsidise green hydrogen projects via the newly-established European Hydrogen Bank. More on that story here, from Niko.

Hydrogen from Africa. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was on a visit to Italy on 22 November, where he met with far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. Both countries have a sizeable gas industry and the two leaders were keen to strike deals on… you guessed it, hydrogen. This time, the idea is to bring hydrogen from Africa and transport it to German consumers in Bavaria through Italy, circumventing the Alps. Our hydrogen expert Niko Kurmayer has more.

CCS back in fashion. Over the weekend, the German Greens held their annual pow-wow, with a focus on their programme for the upcoming European elections in June. One of the highlights was the confirmation of the party’s pragmatic shift under the leadership of Robert Habeck, the country’s vice-chancellor and minister for economy and climate action.

The proof? Their change of heart regarding carbon capture and storage technology, which the party now decided to embrace. It’s a U-turn in policy for the German greens, who – like their European counterparts – have until now opposed CCS as a costly diversion from renewables and other technologies to reduce carbon emissions. More here, from Niko.

The change of heart on CCS was also on display this week at the Commission’s carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) forum that took place in Aalborg, Denmark on 27-28 November. There, Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson gave a keynote speech and announced that “as many as 14 CO2 transport and storage projects” will receive funding as part of the EU’s updated list of projects of common interest. The full PCI list of selected projects can be found here and here.

Green sceptics. The shift on CCS from the German greens comes at the right moment for the Commission, which is expected to publish an “industrial carbon management” plan in the coming weeks. But not all greens are supportive of CCS. Food and Water Europe, an environmental NGO, denounced the Commission’s updated PCI list, drawing attention to past failures on CCS and the high cost of the technology which is needed to generate ‘blue’ hydrogen from fossil gas.

COP28. CCS will also be a key topic at the upcoming COP28 international climate summit, which opens in Dubai on Thursday. Part of the talks in Dubai will center on wording to phase out “unabated fossil fuels” – a reference to CCS technology, which activists say leaves a loophole for continued use of fossil fuels. The EU’s climate commissioner, Wopke Hoekstra, felt the heat about CCS at a recent event attended by Kira Taylor. Follow all our COP28 coverage here.

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LISBON. Portugal’s hydrogen project gets EU green light. Portugal’s hydrogen project in Sines was selected as one of the cross-border energy initiatives eligible to apply for EU financial support because they are in line with the Green Deal, according to a list published by the EU Commission on Tuesday. Read more.

PARIS. France wants to set aside 10% of its territory to protect biodiversity. France will place 10% of the country under “strong protection” to halt the gradual destruction of plant and animal life, the country’s new biodiversity strategy for 2030 that Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne unveiled on Monday. Read more.

SOFIA. Russian oil imports to EU via Bulgaria surge. The amount of Russian oil imported into the EU through the Lukoil refinery in Bulgaria has increased significantly in the past few months, Martin Vladimirov, the leading energy analyst of the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD), told Euractiv Bulgaria in an exclusive interview. Read more.

PARIS. France unveils 2030 energy targets, criticised by environmental NGOs. The document that sets out France’s 2030 energy targets and was submitted for public consultation that the Energy Ministry unveiled on Wednesday has insufficient data to judge the actions taken by the public authorities,  the Climate Action Network France said on Wednesday. Read more.

PRAGUE. Czechia will use EU’s Just Transition Fund for large ‘risky’ projects. Czechia wants to devote a larger part of the EU’s Just Transition Fund to large-scale strategic projects that have long faced criticism and are connected with significant risks, said Czech Deputy Environment Minister Jan Kříž, adding that projects must undergo a robust approval process to receive the funding. Read more.

  • 30 NOVEMBER-12 DECEMBER. UN Climate Change Conference (COP 28), Dubai
  • 6 DECEMBER. Commission proposal on Protection of animals during transport
  • 7 DECEMBER. Final trilogue on Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD)
  • 7-8 DECEMBER 2023. EU-China summit
  • 11 DECEMBER. Parliament plenary vote on small modular reactors
  • 14-15 DECEMBER. European Council
  • 18 DECEMBER. Environment Council
  • 19 DECEMBER. Energy Council
  • 1 January. Belgium takes over EU Council presidency
  • 2024 – Q1. Commission proposals:
    • Communication on carbon storage technologies
    • 2040 Climate target communication
    • Communication on water resilience
    • Communication on advanced materials for industrial leadership
  • 15 JANUARY. Parliament plenary votes:
    • European Hydrogen Bank
    • Geothermal energy
  • MARCH 2024. Parliament plenary votes:
    • Directive on waste
    • ‘Green claims’ directive, protecting consumers from greenwashing
  • 4 MARCH. Energy Council
  • 25 MARCH. Environment Council
  • 22-25 APRIL. Last European Parliament plenary session before the European elections
    • Circularity requirements for vehicle design and on management of end-of-life vehicles
  • SPRING 2024. First European Climate Risk Assessment
  • 6-9 JUNE: European elections

Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Frédéric Simon. Interested in more energy and environment news delivered to your inbox? You can subscribe to our daily newsletter and to our comprehensive weekly update here.

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