The European Union needs to work on a divide among its member countries regarding the role of nuclear energy in achieving their renewable energy goals. This disagreement may delay the progress of one of the EU's primary climate policies.
On Wednesday, negotiators from EU countries and the European Parliament will engage in their final round of discussions to establish more ambitious EU objectives to expand renewable energy throughout the next decade. These goals are crucial for Europe's commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 2030 and to become independent of Russian fossil fuels. However, the negotiations have become bogged down by a dispute over whether fossil fuels produced using nuclear power should be considered part of the renewable energy targets.
France is spearheading a push to classify "low-carbon hydrogen" – hydrogen produced from nuclear energy – as equal to hydrogen created from renewable electricity. France is joined by countries such as Romania, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, all of which seek greater acknowledgment of nuclear energy's CO2-free contribution to climate objectives.
On the other hand, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Portugal, and Luxembourg oppose this view, arguing that including nuclear power in renewable energy targets would divert attention from the urgent need to expand solar and wind energy across Europe significantly.
On Monday, EU ambassadors met again in an attempt to resolve the ongoing dispute. During a meeting of EU countries' ambassadors last Friday, nations reaffirmed their established positions, according to EU officials. This has led to doubts surrounding the success of the negotiations in finalizing the law.
In addition to the nuclear energy debate, countries disagree on other aspects of the law, such as the types of wood fuel that can be considered renewable energy sources.
France, one of the world's leading nuclear-powered nations, is interested in whether nuclear energy is recognized under renewable energy targets. The country plans to construct new reactors and modernize its extensive fleet of nuclear facilities.
Agnès Pannier-Runacher, the French energy minister, will host a meeting of pro-nuclear countries' ministers on Tuesday to discuss the issue further, according to a source from the French ministry.
France has also expressed disappointment with other recent EU decisions prioritizing renewable technologies over nuclear power.
Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that "cutting-edge nuclear" projects would only receive access to specific EU incentives designed to support green industries. In contrast, "strategic" technologies, such as solar panels, would be granted full benefits.
As the EU strives to achieve its climate goals, the disagreement over the role of nuclear energy in renewable energy targets could significantly delay progress on one of the bloc's central climate policies. The outcome of the final round of negotiations on Wednesday and the subsequent discussions among pro-nuclear countries' ministers may determine the future direction of the EU's renewable energy strategy.
By Michael Kern for Oilprice.com
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Nuclear power will continue to be used irrespective because no energy transition could succeed without huge contributions of natural gas, nuclear energy and to some extent coal. Moreover, the notion of net-zero emissions by 2050 is a myth. Therefore it is unachievable.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Global Energy Expert