EU vote on networks "could open door to more gas"
Members of the European Parliament's committee on industry (ITRE) voted September 28 to "lock in EU support for fossil gas infrastructure," granting some network projects special status as Projects of Common Interest (PCI), environmental pressure group Global Witness (GW) said.
MEPs will now enter direct negotiations with the Energy Council and the European Commission on the final law, after securing a mandate to bypass a plenary vote.
The vote was viewed more positively by Hydrogen Europe (HE). It said September 29 that all infrastructure investments had to be aligned with the European Green Deal and repurposed infrastructure had to be fit to carry pure hydrogen.
"The coming talks will be key to ensure that converting existing natural gas infrastructure into a hydrogen backbone is not used as a backdoor for the continued use of unabated fossil fuels,” it said.
But it added that the vote was "a solid step towards the realisation of a hydrogen economy. The deployment of clean hydrogen at large scale goes hand in hand with the availability of an appropriate infrastructure to transport hydrogen from the point of production to demand centres locally, regionally and internationally."
GW said PCIs are a "key channel for subsidies for the fossil gas industry" and so parliament has taken a less ambitious position than either the European Council or the European Commission on the phase-out of fossil gas.
It added that fossil gas projects on the fourth and fifth PCI lists – the latter still to be finalised –would be allowed to apply to maintain their access to fast-tracked planning and other regulatory benefits. These projects could bring into Europe "as much carbon dioxide every year as Germany’s entire coal fleet."
With most hydrogen being produced in the EU today from natural gas, and with no concrete plans to switch wholesale to renewable-based hydrogen before 2030, this would be another back door by which "fossil gas and its infrastructure are locked into our energy system," it said.
It did not comment on the amount of public money already spent to ensure LNG terminals were built, and how little of their capacity was being used this year.
Given the huge cost of hydrogen manufacture, transport and consumption, most of the volume is expected to come from reforming methane in the early days. The gas would then be transported through existing networks and stored in converted salt caverns owned by transmission system operators. To save money, companies such as Dutch Gasunie, Slovak Eustream, Czech Net4Gas and Cadent in the UK have all talked about repurposing networks in order to economise on hydrogen.