The road to European energy independence could start this week

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Spain houses just over a third or 35% of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage capacity in the EU and the UK, according to data from Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIP), the association of European gas infrastructure operators, comprising 67 companies from 26 countries. [INSAGO / Shutterstock]

The EU’s 5th list of Projects of Common Interest (PCI), which will be voted on this week in the European Parliament, must be reviewed to include a “Russian check” making sure that energy projects that receive priority EU status increase our independence from Russian gas, write a group of MEPs.

The opinion article below is signed by 7 MEPs from the centrist Renew Europe political group in the European Parliament (full list at the bottom).

In the current context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at a time when the European Union intends to accelerate and strengthen its energy independence and when Russian gas represents 40% of our gas supply and 27% of the EU’s crude oil imports, the question of the choice of European investments in energy infrastructures is fundamental for our sovereignty.

It is in this context that the European Parliament is voting this week on the 5th list of Projects of Common Interest (PCI), which contains dozens of gas projects that would represent up to €13 billion of investment, of which a significant part could be European and national public funding.

This 5th list is a list of the past, not relevant any more for two reasons. It lacks both a climate consistency check and a “Russian check” making sure that the list is fit for purpose to increase our independence from Russia.

Regarding the climate consistency first. Within this 5th PCI list none of the gas projects have demonstrated their alignment with the Paris Agreement nor with our objective of climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest. This essential step, the climate stress test, is not a wish, but is required by the Climate Law. The Commission must ensure the compatibility of all its legislative proposals with our climate commitments, and if it fails to do so, we end up with massive loopholes.

Indeed, according to an analysis published by Global Witness in October 2020, if the East Med pipeline between Cyprus and Greece were to operate at full capacity until 2050, the gas it would carry could produce more greenhouse gas emissions annually than France, Spain and Italy combined emit in the same period. This is not to mention the Melita pipeline on the list which construction would fuel a power station tainted by suspicions related to the murder of the Maltese journalist: Daphne Caruana Galizia. How could we consider using the European budget given these circumstances?

Europe is at a tipping point where we have the political choice to double our effort and accelerate the green transition as well as ensure EU resilience. This acceleration will require additional massive investments if we want to achieve much higher energy efficiency targets, deploy massively European renewable energy sources and develop a truly interconnected smart grid. Let’s start by giving the right signal, let’s double down investments on those technologies, essential to succeed with the green transition. Every euro will count, let’s not waste money!

Second, in addition to failing to demonstrate the climate consistency, gas projects on the list did not demonstrate that they increase our independence from Russia and not make it easier for Russian gas to transit through our Union.  This assessment must be done by the Commission, both to avoid deepening our dependence but also to grant the European budget to projects that are deemed as priority given this new situation caused by the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Resilience and strategic autonomy are key!

We therefore call on the Commission to review this list of the past. And to ensure that, if some gas projects are to be included, they should both meet the Green Deal requirements and increase our independence from Russia. Failing to meet one of those two conditions will only make us move faster from one dependence to another.

Last week, in the European Parliament, following the developments in Ukraine, we agreed to speed up the clean energy transition and to increase energy efficiency to move on from Russian dependence. Now, we have to deliver. And it starts this week with by objecting the 5th list of Projects of Common Interest.

Signatories:

  • Pascal Canfin
  • Claudia Gamon
  • Christophe Grudler
  • Martin Hojsik
  • Sophie In’t Veld
  • Morten Helveg Pertersen
  • Michal Wiezik

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