March 4. 2024. 5:10

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France calls for ‘coherence’ in sea of EU hydrogen rules

France is calling for “coherence” in the sea of legislative texts related to hydrogen after the European Commission published new rules yesterday recognising the contribution of nuclear-derived hydrogen to the EU’s decarbonisation objectives.

The European Commission published a long-awaited set of rules on Monday (13 February) defining what can be considered “renewable” hydrogen.

This comes after France’s months-long push to ensure green hydrogen also comes from low-carbon nuclear electricity, not just renewables.

France will be exempt from the so-called “additionally” rule for renewable hydrogen, as long as the country’s electricity mix emits less than 18 gCO2eq/MJ – an objective easily attainable by France thanks to its fleet of 56 nuclear reactors.

The Commission’s recent green light thus gives France the ability to take advantage of its low-carbon hydrogen production capacities.

In the same vein, EU lawmakers who met on Thursday (9 February) in Parliament’s industry and energy committee defined “low-carbon hydrogen”, agreeing to put it on par with renewable hydrogen in the race for decarbonisation.

France now intends to build on these two important wins to ensure coherence across EU hydrogen legislation, according to Agnès Pannier-Runacher the country’s energy minister.

“The work of persuasion that I carried out with my European colleagues has borne fruit,” Pannier-Runacher said in a statement to the press on Monday (13 February).

“The publication of these hydrogen [rules] recognises the decarbonisation efforts made by France. We now need to apply this logic to our renewable hydrogen targets in the RED3 directive,” she said in reference to the EU’s renewable energy directive, which is currently being revised for the third time.

“This is a hard point for France and for its partners and we are not there yet,” she warned.

LEAK: France wins recognition for nuclear in EU’s green hydrogen rules

The European Commission has tabled long-awaited rules defining the circumstances under which hydrogen can be labelled as coming from “renewable” energy sources. Last minute, Paris also won recognition for low-carbon hydrogen produced from nuclear electricity.

Renewables directive

In a “logic of parallelism”, France now insists that all other EU texts related to hydrogen also take into account the contribution of nuclear to the EU’s decarbonisation objectives.

For instance, Paris is asking that its decarbonised nuclear power mix be taken into account when defining the EU’s renewable energy targets for 2030.

Negotiations “are not taking a satisfactory turn” on this issue, Pannier-Runacher warned earlier this month, referring to ongoing “trialogue” talks currently taking place on the EU’s renewable energy directive.

Other EU initiatives that need adaptation include the ReFuelEU regulation on aviation fuels, and memorandums of understanding signed with EU partner countries, French sources say. Another is the upcoming EU Hydrogen Bank, which was announced by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in September.

For this, France is counting on the support of Germany and Spain, with which it recently signed agreements to develop a cross-border hydrogen pipeline called H2Med.

An inconsistent application of EU hydrogen legislation in the renewable energy directive could jeopardise this pipeline project supported by Berlin and Madrid, warned the office of Pannier-Runacher.

“We wouldn’t want the result of these European negotiations to ultimately call into question the economic balance of these infrastructure projects,” said an aide to French energy minister. “And this is the risk that we have today,” the aide added.

France in new row with Germany and Spain over nuclear-derived hydrogen

A new row has erupted between France, Germany and Spain over nuclear energy, with Paris furious about a lack of support from Berlin and Madrid for its efforts to have nuclear-derived hydrogen labelled as ‘green’ in EU legislation, sources said.