In early June, a coalition of 11 EU countries, including Germany and Spain, publicly took a stand in favor of excluding gas from trans-European energy infrastructure projects.
But France chose not to join that coalition and remained silent on the issue at a meeting of EU energy ministers on June 11, despite European Commission estimates that gas consumption is expected to fall by 25% to meet the EU’s climate targets by 2030.
The divide was palpable at last week’s Energy Council, where EU ministers had to decide on the future of gas as part of discussions on the new EU regulation on trans-European networks d energy (RTE-E).
Ministers agreed – after a heated debate – that the existing pipeline projects in Cyprus and Malta could be maintained in order to connect the two islands to the European gas network.
The EU-27 also decided that the future TEN-E regulation would end financial support for gas-hydrogen mixing projects in 2027 rather than 2029.
It was a sticking point for France, which did not support this position without really explaining why.
“We must raise the level of ambition by better regulating the eligibility of projects to modernize existing gas infrastructure, with the objective of being able to mix hydrogen and natural gas only temporarily”, declared Barbara Pompili, Minister of Ecological Transition .
“It is essential that new gas infrastructure projects are no longer eligible for the status of Project of Common Interest or for European funding”, added the Minister, declaring herself “delighted that the regulation supports future technologies, in particular the offshore wind farm. hydrogen production and transport projects.
Alliance of interests with gas countries
According to Friends of the Earth, a green NGO, France’s failure to adopt a clear position on gas is due to “its alliance of interests with pro-gas countries on the nuclear issue”.
“This alliance makes it difficult for France to position itself against fossil gas, even if it means increasing the EU’s dependence on fossil fuels for decades to come,” Friends of the Earth said in a statement.
“By supporting the inclusion of blending and the opening up of bridging technologies, Ms. Pompili has taken an extremely short-sighted position. There is no room for temporary solutions, especially not for temporary solutions that require and divert public subsidies, ”commented Elisa Giannelli, policy advisor at E3G, a climate think tank.
At Friday’s meeting of European energy ministers, “France has prioritized speed over quality” in the agreement on the TEN-E regulation, she added.
“Such projects not only threaten the climate but also reinforce Europe’s dependence on producer countries such as Russia and Azerbaijan, which are far from being reliable and exemplary human rights partners. », Underlined Neil Makaroff, European head of the Climate Action Network.
Contacted by EURACTIV on the subject, the French Ministry for Ecological Transition did not comment further.
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]