natural gas, nuclear are green energies in certain circumstances
01 July 2022, Saxony, Lippendorf: A solar park directly borders the site of the Lippendorf lignite power plant. After more than 20 years, the so-called EEG surcharge, which customers pay via their electricity bill, will no longer apply. It currently still amounts to 3.72 cents per kilowatt hour. Experts do not expect electricity prices to fall as a result of the abolition, but at least the sharp rise will be curbed.
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The European Union voted on wednesday retain some specific uses of natural gas and nuclear energy in its taxonomy of sustainable energy sources.
The European taxonomy is its classification system for defining “environmentally sustainable economic activities” for investors, policy makers and businesses. It is important because it affects project funding and also because it represents the official opinion of the European Union as the region charts its course to combat climate change. In theory, the taxonomy “aims to stimulate green investments and prevent ‘greenwashing'”, according to the European Union Parliament.
Wednesday’s vote on natural gas and nuclear energy followed the initial vote, which was adopted in February, and was a referendum on what was a particularly controversial part of the decision. Natural gas emits 58.5% more carbon dioxide than coal, according to the US Energy Information Association. Nuclear energy does not generate any emissions, although there is the question of the storage of radioactive waste.
Although the Commission voted to keep nuclear and natural gas in its green taxonomy, it did not give these energy sources a free pass to be included in all situations.
Generally speaking, the use of natural gas to generate electricity or to heat or cool multiple homes at once will be considered sustainable, while other uses may be excluded. They will have to be below certain emissions thresholds and are only approved until 2030 or 2035, depending on the specific situation.
New nuclear power plants using the most advanced technologies and modifications to extend the life of existing plants can be approved until 2040 or 2045.
The EU is still required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and to become climate neutral in 2050, in line with EU climate law. But Wednesday’s vote shows the European Union wants to encourage private investment in natural gas and nuclear as the region transitions from fossil fuels, particularly coal, to clean energy.
Members of KoalaKollektiv and Greenpeace attend a protest against greenwashing with green ‘smoke’ and paint next to the Euro Sculpture at Willi-Brandt-Platz in the financial district of Frankfurt, Germany, on Tuesday, January 11, 2022. The EU plans to allow certain natural gas and nuclear power projects to be classified as sustainable investments under the proposed classification system, known as the taxonomy, is under fire. green legislators and climate groups.
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There was an outpouring of opposition to the decision.
Some have objected that continuing to use natural gas means continuing to rely on Russian energy pipelines.
“I’m in shock. Russia’s war on Ukraine is a war paid for by climate-warming fossil fuels and the European Parliament just voted to increase Russia’s billions in fossil gas funding,” Svitlana KrakovskaUkrainian scientist from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said in a written statement shared by the European Climate Foundation.
Others say including natural gas in the European Union’s taxonomy undermines its goal of preventing greenwashing.
“With gas in the taxonomy, the European Union has missed its chance to establish a gold standard for sustainable finance. Instead, it has set a dangerous precedent. Politics and vested interests have taken precedence on science,” said Laurence TubianaCEO of the European Climate Foundationa philanthropic advocacy initiative working to help tackle the climate crisis, in a written statement.
“The EU taxonomy now falls short of its own original purpose, which was to prevent greenwashing in the financial system. Investors, businesses and consumers will now look elsewhere for the scientific clarity and credibility they need,” Tubiana said.
But some are encouraged by the vote and see it as an indication that European government leaders are preparing for the reality that it will take time and many iterative steps to completely transform energy infrastructure, according to David Blackman, Texas-based energy public policy analyst and consultant.
The vote “reflects a growing recognition that the ongoing ‘energy transition’ will be far more complex and difficult to achieve than general, simplistic narratives,” Blackmon told CNBC.
“The fact that such an environmentally conscious legislative body as the European Parliament now recognizes the role that natural gas and nuclear must play in ensuring the continent’s energy security and stability is a welcome change of perspective which should serve valid example of emulation by the Biden administration.”
And if using natural gas contributes to the ultimate goal of phasing out coal, then it’s a justifiable decision, some say.
“Our main and most urgent priority is to get out of coal, as soon as possible in Europe. To do this, gas can play a role of ‘useful activity in the transition’ when replacing coal – and only when replacing coal – because we want to pursue decarbonization,” wrote Pascal Canfin, chairman of the Parliament’s environment committee, in a post on LinkedIn in February after the initial vote on the need to include natural gas and nuclear energy in the EU taxonomy.
“There’s a coalition deal in Germany, the parties have agreed to accelerate the country’s coal phase-out from 2038 to 2030. That means building more renewables, of course, but also more gas,” wrote Canfin. “And this is exactly the specific case where gas can positively contribute to the energy transition: when it replaces coal in electricity generation. Even the German Greens support this trajectory.”