22nd November 2021, Brussels – A leaked copy of the European Commission’s proposals for reform of the gas market suggests the EU is ready to further concentrate power and influence in the hands of Europe’s fossil fuel companies, according to Global Witness. 

The final proposals are due to be published in December but a leaked version, seen by Global Witness, includes the creation of a new body to be known as the “European Network of Network Operators of Hydrogen”. Consisting of hydrogen transport companies, this group will assume significant power over the planning of European hydrogen infrastructure, which risks being overwhelmingly reliant on fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. 

The proposals also foresee the creation of an “EU DSO Entity for Gas”, which would give gas distribution system operators (DSOs) sizeable influence over the rules governing distribution gas grids. Global Witness voiced other concerns over the Commission’s leaked proposals, including:

  1. A failure to address the central role of gas companies, called Transmission System Operators (TSOs) in providing the EU with lists of gas infrastructure projects they want built. 
  2. An obligation on Member States to accept a 5% share or blend of hydrogen in cross-border fossil gas pipelines, which would prolong dependence on fossil gas.
  3. Proposals to install smart gas and hydrogen meters and support the creation of renewable gas communities instead of measures to support residential customers and neighbourhoods to switch away from fossil gas heating.

Tara Connolly, Senior Gas Campaigner at Global Witness, said:

“Christmas really has come early for the gas and hydrogen industry who look set to be gifted huge influence over the rules that will govern the European gas market for the coming decade. Trusting the very industry that is causing the climate crisis with managing its own transition and phase out is a mistake the European Commission have made time and time again. And incomprehensibly are set to repeat.”

“This package is completely at odds with what we know is needed to manage the phase out of fossil gas in Europe. The Commission should be focussing on protecting European consumers from dodgy greenwashing deals and bearing the cost of unnecessary hydrogen pipes.”

“We sincerely hope that Commission officials will recognise just how poor these proposals are and go back to the drawing board, ahead of the official publication in December. “

Earlier this year the European Commission announced a consultation for reform of Europe’s gas market, with negotiations set to take place throughout 2022, following the publication of the Commission’s proposals on 14 December.

Global Witness is calling for the removal of gas and hydrogen transmission and distribution companies from central roles in planning processes, and the strengthening of national regulators to oversee a new integrated, transparent energy system planning process.