Substantial support for fossil hydrogen will worsen
global warming warns Friends of the Earth
The European Commission is set to propose to continue
EU support and subsidies for fossil fuel infrastructure when it unveils a new
framework for future energy investment next week. Friends of the Earth Europe
warns the move could undermine the clean energy transition and the newly-minted
EU climate target
of at least 55% net greenhouse gas emission cuts by 2030 agreed by EU leaders.
This comes as NASA confirms that 19 of the 20 warmest years have occurred this
Tara Connolly, energy campaigner for Friends of the
Earth Europe, said:
"If you find yourself in a climate crisis, the
first rule is to stop pouring fuel on to the fire by subsidising fossil fuels.
As the European Commission shapes Europe’s future energy infrastructure, it
needs to unambiguously exclude support for all fossil fuels including fossil
hydrogen infrastructure. Anything else makes a mockery of the EU’s new 2030
"Hydrogen may seem clean and futuristic, but 99%
of hydrogen in Europe today is made by fossil fuel companies splitting gas and
releasing carbon, worsening global warming.
"Instead of asking what hydrogen can do for
Europe’s gas industry, the EU should be asking what hydrogen can really do for
Europe’s energy transition."
FUTURE ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE
On Tuesday (15 December), the European Commission is
set to propose reforms to the EU rules for selecting energy infrastructure
projects for financial and regulatory support, the so-called TEN-E regulation.
Energy projects identified as being of ‘common interest’ benefit from
fast-tracked planning and can receive millions in public subsidies. Controversy
has dogged the current system, which has diverted over €1.5 billion in EU subsidies to outdated fossil gas projects without
fully considering the impacts on the climate crisis.
However, a recent leak of the draft proposal reveals
that, while the Commission plans to remove direct support for fossil gas
projects, it will back hydrogen projects, including those produced from fossil
fuels which worsen the climate crisis. It will also add a new category of smart
gas grids, which allow local gas grids to use more hydrogen and biogas; and
continue to facilitate so-far unproven carbon capture and storage projects.
The proposal maintains the central role of Europe’s
gas grid industry in selecting infrastructure projects and identifying gaps in
Europe’s energy infrastructure network. NGOs have complained repeatedly of excessive corporate influence in prioritising energy projects selected for EU
Friends of the Earth Europe is demanding that the
European Commission exclude all projects that support fossil fuels, including
fossil hydrogen, and that the European fossil gas transport industry be removed
from the decision-making process.
On Monday (14 December), EU energy ministers are expected
to adopt conclusions on Europe’s hydrogen strategy. The strategy, which was
proposed by the European Commission in July, was criticised by Friends of the
Earth Europe for failing to rule out support for hydrogen from fossil fuels and
creating new vested interests.
Ministers are expected to emphasise the need to boost
renewable hydrogen over fossil hydrogen and to invest in local hydrogen grids,
rather than creating a pan-European hydrogen network.
Hydrogen is not a clean
or a dirty source of energy - it is a vector to store and move energy. The
issue for the climate is carbon. If the production of hydrogen releases CO2, as
with the 99% of hydrogen made by splitting methane gas, it worsens global
The fossil fuel
industry claims that it can in future capture and store the carbon when it
produces hydrogen (so-called ‘blue hydrogen’). In reality, the large-scale and
secure storage of carbon remains unproven and uneconomic.
Hydrogen is not energy
efficient. When compared to its alternatives, both fossil and renewable
hydrogen are very energy intensive and expensive. Five times more wind or solar farms would be needed to
heat our homes with hydrogen than if we were to heat them directly with
electricity using a heat pump.
The fossil fuel industry has a big stake in
Europe, the industry lobby organisation, includes oil and gas majors like Total
and Shell, and gas grid operators. Hydrogen helps the fossil fuel industry look
like they are part of the solution to the climate crisis, rather than the
hydrogen infrastructure comes as the expense of more important energy solutions
- energy efficiency, replacing fossil fuels in the power, heating and transport
sectors with renewable alternatives, and electrifying as much of the heating
and transport sectors as possible.
After the European Commission releases its TEN-E
proposal on Tuesday 15 December, MEPs and EU energy ministers will agree their
separate positions on it by next summer before entering negotiations to
finalise the law.
MEPS in the energy committee will finalise their
position on the European Commission’s European Hydrogen Strategy early next year.