June 23. 2024. 1:19

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Nuclear recognised ‘in principle’ in EU’s renewable energy law, says French minister

The EU’s Renewable Energy Directive will indeed include a reference to nuclear power, according to France’s Energy Transition Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher, though she remains cautious about the substance of the agreement.

European negotiators reached an agreement on 30 March: Member states must collectively reach 42.5% of renewable energy in their overall energy consumption by 2030, with incentives for those that reach 45%.

Those who wanted a 40% target therefore met halfway with those pushing for a 45% objective. France was among the latter, provided that, in one way or another, the contribution of its decarbonised mix – thanks to nuclear power – was recognised.

“This agreement enshrines the recognition of the role of nuclear energy in achieving our decarbonisation objectives,” Pannier-Runacher told a press conference following the agreement.

“In concrete terms, this recognition involves the affirmation that the development of renewable energies is aimed solely at eliminating fossil fuels and must not lead to the replacement of nuclear reactors,” the minister explained.

This will be spelt out in a “recital” added to the preamble of the bill, setting out the reasons underpinning the EU directive, she said.

Although the final text has not yet been published, the minister’s office translated it as follows:

“In order to achieve this objective [the development of renewables], the deployment of renewable energies within the framework of the revised European target should be integrated with complementary decarbonisation efforts, including the development of other non-fossil sources”.

According to the minister’s office, there is therefore an “unambiguous” reference to nuclear power, albeit inexplicit.

EU strikes deal on renewable energy law, agrees 42.5% target by 2030

Agreement on the EU’s renewable energy directive brings to a close an 18-month process to upgrade the bloc’s climate policies and achieve a 55% net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

A “step forward in principle”

For the time being, though, it is only a “step forward in principle,” said Pannier-Runacher.

Firstly, because the agreement reached is only a political agreement: “We need to check what the text actually contains.”

Secondly, because the role of nuclear power is not fully recognised. There is only the assurance that the development of renewable energies is aimed solely at eliminating fossil fuels, and not a eliminating nuclear.

For instance, the suggestion to introduce a “weighting” of the EU’s renewable objective for countries which already have a low-carbon electricity mix was not retained, even though the idea was supported by Paris.

“Renewable means renewable” repeated the anti-nuclear camp, opposing any attempt to include a reference to nuclear power in the EU’s renewable energy goals.

The slogan seems to resonate with the member states, even if Pannier-Runacher affirms that France will continue to fight, alongside other like-minded EU countries, for nuclear and renewable energies to be treated on an equal footing.

Nuclear vs renewables: Two camps clash in Brussels

EU energy ministers were divided into two camps at the EU Council meeting on Tuesday (28 March): the pro-nuclear alliance, which includes France and 10 other member states, and the “renewable friendly” group, composed of 10 EU states.