EU countries step up pressure to grant nuclear ‘green’ investment label – Eurasia Review

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By Kira Taylor

(EurActiv) – A group of ten European countries have lobbied the European Commission to give nuclear energy a ‘green’ label as part of the EU’s Sustainable Finance Taxonomy, which serves as a guide climate-friendly investments.

Group of Ten energy ministers backed the inclusion of nuclear in the taxonomy at an extraordinary meeting of the EU’s Energy Council on Tuesday (October 26), hastily convened last week in response to rising energy prices.

A proposal from the European Commission is now expected “by the end of the year,” said Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for Energy.

“Nuclear power is part of the solution to climate neutrality. Therefore, for us taxonomy and nuclear are an important issue, ”said Finnish Energy Minister Mika Lintilä.

Earlier this month, a group of ministers from ten EU countries signed a joint opinion piece saying “nuclear power must be part of the solution” to the climate crisis and included in the taxonomy.

The article was signed by the economy and energy ministers of Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

At this week’s ministerial meeting, the Netherlands offered support while Sweden also spoke favorably of nuclear.

“The Netherlands further supports a rapid conclusion of delegated acts on taxonomy, taking into account nuclear energy. The context for this act should be scientifically based to ensure long-term credibility, ”said Dutch Minister Stef Blok.

“Sweden believes that we will need all cost-effective fossil-free solutions, including bioenergy and nuclear, which contribute to the EU’s climate goals and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels,” said Anders Ygeman, Minister Swedish Energy.

Overall, the group is a collection of historical advocates and recent nuclear converts, says Foratom, the nuclear power industry body.

“What has been very interesting is how the debate has developed over the past few weeks. First of all, I think it’s because more and more Member States recognize that in order to achieve decarbonisation targets we need nuclear in the mix, ”said Jessica Johnson of Foratom.

“This change is partly due to the fact that some Member States are now changing their minds on nuclear and this has happened in the last year. But also [because of] the recent energy crisis, I think more and more people are starting to recognize the risk of depending on imports, ”she told EURACTIV.

The global surge in energy prices has highlighted Europe’s dependence on foreign powers, especially Russia, for its gas.

Nuclear power, however, is less dependent on imports. Uranium is available from many sources and only a small amount is needed to generate a large amount of energy. In addition, most operators store enough uranium on site for two to three years of operation, according to Foratom.

Gas thrown into the mixture

Among the countries pushing for the inclusion of nuclear energy in the taxonomy, there is a smaller faction that is also pushing for fossil gas to be included as a transitional fuel.

This group is made up of Central and Eastern European countries – Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia – which say they need gas to get rid of the more polluting coal.

“We also need to create a positive investment climate for all the technologies needed for the transition to a secure low-carbon energy system,” said Adam Guibourgé-Czetwertyński, Polish Minister for Climate and Environment.

“The Commission should immediately present a delegated act of complementary taxonomy covering both natural gas and nuclear energy in order to alleviate uncertainty for investors,” he added.

“Nuclear power and natural gas are going to have a solid place in the EU’s energy mix in the years to come,” said Karol Galek, Slovak State Secretary. “It is therefore necessary to present as quickly as possible, the complementary delegated act on taxonomy which takes into account the scientific evaluation of nuclear energy and the role of decarbonization of natural gas”, he added.

“A further delay is unacceptable, it would be contrary to the taxonomy regulation, would not respect the interests of EU citizens and would not provide the predictability and stability required for investors,” Galek stressed.

Greece, Cyprus and Malta are also pushing for the inclusion of gas, but have not influenced the inclusion of nuclear.

“Until countries like Cyprus developed storage solutions [and] interconnections, gas will continue to play a role, ”said Natasa Pilides from the Cypriot government.

Anti-nuclear lobby

By far the smallest group of countries in this debate are those who have spoken out against the inclusion of nuclear energy in the taxonomy. Austria and Luxembourg are the most vocal countries here, with Denmark also warning against nuclear.

“We think it would be wrong to use nuclear power as an alternative – it’s not cheap and it’s not safe. The prices for nuclear power generation are much higher than those for solar PV generation, ”said Gregor Schusterschitz from Austria.

Meanwhile, Luxembourg Energy Minister Claude Turmes highlighted the time it would take to build new nuclear power plants, saying these would not be operational until around 2035, rendering them useless as a solution to the energy crisis this year.

He added that “extending nuclear reactors beyond 40 years is only 10 billion tonnes of oil equivalent, so you can see this is a very risky and low impact strategy.”

“With taxonomy, I think we have to be extremely careful. Because look at the financial markets, look at the investors, look at what is already happening with manipulation, ”he told ministers.

Germany – a longtime nuclear opponent – was much more neutral at the meeting, possibly due to its government which has yet to be formed.

“We need to reduce our energy dependence – people see this as a reason for nuclear power. Obviously, we cannot reach a consensus at EU level on the role of nuclear energy, ”said Andreas Feicht, German Minister for Energy and Economy.

Environmental NGO WWF also warned against the inclusion of nuclear power and fossil gas.

“Nothing would do more to undermine the European Green Deal than to include fossil gas and nuclear power in the green taxonomy. At the time of the COP26 summit, institutionalized European greenwashing of this kind would send a totally counterproductive global signal, ”said Henry Eviston, spokesperson on sustainable finance for the WWF European Policy Office.

Positive signals for nuclear

The European Commission has sent positive signals in recent months regarding the inclusion of nuclear energy in the taxonomy.

In July, the Commission’s internal scientific body, the Joint Research Center (JRC), released a long-awaited report concluding that nuclear energy was safe and therefore eligible for a green label – a finding that was later confirmed. by two other groups of experts. .

The taxonomy is science-based and the reports will provide a useful shield for the EU executive if it includes nuclear.

Gas is another matter. A fossil fuel, it must be phased out or replaced by green alternatives such as hydrogen if Europe is to achieve its goal of becoming climate neutral by 2050.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen alluded to it on Twitter: “We also need a stable source, nuclear, and during the transition, gas. This is why we will present our taxonomy proposal, ”she said after an EU summit last week where leaders discussed the impact of rising energy prices on the economy. European.

This was echoed by EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson at this week’s ministerial meeting.

“President von der Lyon has indicated to the European Council her intention to present by the end of the year, the second delegated act under the taxonomy regulation, to address the contribution of natural gas and nuclear energy” , Simson said after the meeting.

At some point, the Commission will have to side with the pro or anti-nuclear camp. Ministers present at the meeting called on the European Commission to publish the delegated act as soon as possible and the executive is running out of ways to turn the tide.

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