Germany, Spain, Denmark, and seven other EU nations have stepped up their opposition to French plans to incorporate nuclear energy toward the EU’s renewable energy targets. This decade, the European Union is negotiating more challenging goals to increase renewable energy, but the negotiations have stalled over whether or not countries can achieve the targets using “low-carbon hydrogen” generated from nuclear power.
In a letter to Sweden, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency and represents nations in discussions about EU policy, the ministers from the seven nations—Austria, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal, and Spain—asked that the targets remain free of non-renewable energy sources. “Taking into consideration low-carbon hydrogen and low-carbon fuels in the 2030 (renewable energy) targets would diminish the ambition and slow down renewables deployment, which in turn would imperil the achievement of the climate targets,” the ministers stated.
They claimed that this decade will be crucial for controlling climate change and that hydrogen and renewable energy sources will be the key forces behind the necessary reductions in emissions. Short timescales and reasonably priced installation of additional renewable energy capacity are possible. Although not renewable, nuclear energy is low in carbon. EU nations are divided over the fuel source, with Austria and Luxembourg strongly opposed, while Germany is gradually shutting down its reactors and Denmark and Ireland are nuclear-free.
The EU’s renewable energy targets are being pushed openly by France, which historically has relied on nuclear energy for 70% of its output. Last month, France, Poland, the Czech Republic, and six other pro-nuclear EU nations issued a warning that leaving nuclear power out of the targets would impede the advancement of hydrogen fuel, which Europe is counting on to decarbonize heavy industries.
An EU ambassador claimed that several nations were becoming increasingly irritated with France’s late-negotiation drive for nuclear power and with Germany’s refusal to implement an already-agreed EU legislation on vehicle emissions. These actions by the two largest economies in Europe “create an image of the major member states playing by different rules than the tiny ones,” the diplomat said. The seven nations stated that they were willing to consider the role of low-carbon fuels in other EU legislation, such as those governing gas networks, but that only renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, should be used to meet renewable energy goals.