EU approves nuclear-generated hydrogen for green targets

New rules are win for France after Germany said it was against the inclusion

The new rules aim to incentivise investors and industries to move from hydrogen produced from fossil fuels to hydrogen produced from renewable electricity. AFP
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Some hydrogen produced in nuclear-based energy systems could count towards EU renewable energy goals, the European Commission said on Monday.

Brussels announced in rules published on Monday the types of hydrogen that will count towards the renewable targets.

Hydrogen is central to Europe's plans to decarbonise heavy industry but the inclusion of hydrogen from nuclear in the rules is a win for France.

The rules aim to incentivise investors and industries to shift from hydrogen produced from fossil fuels, to hydrogen produced instead from renewable electricity.

Approved types include hydrogen from production facilities directly connected to a new renewable electricity generator, and those that take grid power if the local electricity zone had more than an average 90 per cent share of renewable power in the last year.

Facilities can also take grid power in regions that meet a low carbon dioxide emissions limit — potentially based on nuclear — if the producer also signs a long-term power purchase agreement with a renewable electricity provider.

Requiring producers to either directly use newly installed renewable power or sign a PPA to support new local renewable energy projects is aimed at stopping hydrogen producers sucking up existing renewable electricity capacity, which could risk driving up fossil fuel generation to meet overall energy demand.

The question of what the EU will count as “renewable” has fuelled a dispute in recent months between France and countries such as Germany who say nuclear-based fuels should not be included.

EU countries and lawmakers have two months to object to the rules, or they will enter into force.

There has been wrangling between countries over nuclear-based hydrogen that has already delayed negotiations on the EU's new renewable energy targets, which are due to resume on Tuesday.

Gas is a fossil fuel regarded as less dirty than coal and oil, while nuclear power is virtually carbon-free, but worries activists because of the risk of an accident and the long-term waste storage that it necessitates.

Opponents of the plans do not have a majority in the 27-member European Council and may struggle to find one in the European Parliament.

Activists say the plans undermine the taxonomy’s intended purpose of making it clear whether investors are using their money as climate-consciously as they claim to be.

The UAE and UK have signed an agreement that will enable sharing of technical knowledge in clean energy, including low-carbon hydrogen and nuclear.

The leaders of France, Spain and Portugal on Friday officially approved an ambitious underwater pipeline to bring green hydrogen from the Iberian Peninsula to the rest of Europe.

The H2Med project, set to be completed by 2030 at a cost of about €2.5 billion ($2.6 billion), will help Europe make the transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energy.

Updated: February 13, 2023, 1:27 PM