Press release | Dec. 15, 2020

Revised EU Energy regulation fails to deliver on urgent climate needs

15th December 2020, London - Revisions to the key EU energy regulation, TEN-E, proposed today by the European Commission, fail to curb the excessive role of the fossil fuel industry in decision-making, and leave the back door wide open to public funds supporting fossil gas.

Revision to TEN-E - that dictates which infrastructure projects the EU prioritises and finances - was devised as an opportunity to align energy policy with the EU’s own climate targets as part of the EU Green Deal. 

Whilst it is welcome that the Commission’s proposal removes support for projects that are exclusively fossil gas, it also promotes projects that will continue to rely on the fuel. It includes new infrastructure to transport hydrogen - which is largely produced from fossil gas - and in promoting “smart gas grids,” the Commission is committing to  infrastructure that can carry gas. This risks locking in Europe’s dependency on fossil fuels for decades to come.

The Commission's revision is also set to maintain the disproportionate influence on energy policy currently enjoyed by gas companies working through the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSO-G). Under the Commission’s proposal, ENSTOG will retain a huge say over which energy projects the EU supports. Global Witness research this year found a conflict of interest at the heart of this arrangement: 87 percent of all EU fossil gas subsidies since 2013 has gone to projects ENTSOG members are involved in. 

Murray Worthy, Gas Campaign Leader at Global Witness, said:

“Sneaking fossil gas through the back door may save the Commission face, but it certainly does not save our planet. In terms of the bold steps needed to tackle climate change this is an opportunity missed.”

“One of the most outdated and outrageous features of TEN-E has been the huge influence it grants fossil fuel companies to make decisions they directly benefit from. It is therefore utterly perverse that the Commission has left their power largely unchecked in what can only be described as a good day for the fossil gas industry.”

“The revised TEN-E policy has failed on two key tests and the negative impact on the EU as it works toward its climate targets cannot be underestimated. We are calling on the European Parliament and Council to recognise the huge gap between policy and promises and strengthen this proposal before it is enshrined into law.”

Having overtaken coal last year, fossil gas is now the second biggest source of fossil carbon dioxide emissions in the EU. The EU requires a 25% reduction in gas consumption by 2030, and a 90% reduction by 2050, to reach its own climate targets. 

Meanwhile the fossil gas infrastructure that the EU already supports is severely underused. According to new Global Witness analysis using data from Rystad, in 2019 France’s pipelines operated at half capacity, while its gas import terminals imported only 60 percent of what they could. Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain all performed similarly poorly. And in Germany, which is currently looking to build new import terminals, gas pipelines carried only a third of what they could take. 

A Global Witness submission to the TEN-E revision consultation explicitly called for fossil gas to be exempt from EU support, and for ENTSO-G’s role in decision-making to be replaced by an independent body. For a copy of this submission, and a more detailed media briefing on TEN-E please contact:

/ ENDS

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