EU rethinks future gas strategy in light of ‘European Green Deal’

(EurActiv, 2 Oct 2019) Many in the European Commission were taken by surprise when their incoming president, Ursula von der Leyen, announced bold new climate objectives for 2030 and 2050, sending officials working on a draft gas package of legislation back to the drawing board.

The Commission has gone quiet recently over a highly anticipated reform of EU gas market rules. Its new director-general for energy, Ditte Juul-Jørgensen, did not mention it at a first high-level meeting of member states in September. Nor is it cited in von der Leyen’s mission letter to her would-be energy commissioner, Kadri Simson.

For the time being, what’s changed is the terminology. Energy policy observers in Brussels told EURACTIV that what EU officials once called the “gas package” has been rebranded the “gas decarbonisation package” or simply the “decarbonisation package,” saying they no longer expect it to be published in early 2020 but much later in the year, even in 2021.

The primary purpose of the package is to create Europe’s first regulatory framework for “green” – that is to say renewable or decarbonised – gas, according to the Commission’s director for the internal energy market, Klaus-Dieter Borchardt.

Just a few weeks ago however, his head of unit, Florian Ermacora, said the package will have at its heart the decarbonisation potential of gas – both natural gas in a coal-to-gas switch as well as “green” gases such as biogas and hydrogen produced from renewable electricity.

And he clearly insisted on the potential of natural gas of fossil origin as a way to quickly decarbonise the energy sector. “Because we can see we can achieve major decarbonisation by replacing coal with gas,” he told an event in Brussels in September.

In the gas industry, many feel that a coal-to-gas switch in power generation has been neglected in the rush to decarbonise gas completely. A study by Eurogas in 2017 suggested that this alone could deliver an extra 5% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, on top of the EU’s 2030 emission reduction target of 40%.

External link

EurActiv, 2 Oct 2019: EU rethinks future gas strategy in light of ‘European Green Deal’