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26th Sep 2020

EU still giving gas projects 'fast-track' status

  • Gas projects account for 30 percent of the list of projects of common interests, but environmentalists say that figure masks that many projects were simply grouped together (Photo: turkstream.info)

The European Union will continue to provide fast-track procedures for gas projects, despite that energy source's negative consequences on climate change.

The European Commission published on Friday (24 November) an updated list of so-called 'projects of common interest' (PCIs).

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  • Canete stressed that the list now has less gas projects (Photo: European Commission)

If a project is listed as PCI, it is stamped as a priority energy project. Once on the list, governments are required to provide permits and environmental impact assessments faster than normal.

Presenting the list on Friday, climate action commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said that it contained fewer gas projects than the previous version, published in 2015.

He noted that in 2015, 39 percent of projects related to gas, while the new version has only 30.6 percent gas projects.

According to environmental lobby group Friends of the Earth, however, that the actual number of gas plans has increased.

The decrease is "only the result of the grouping and clustering of multiple projects", the group said in a press release on Friday, adding that the list showed "the extent of Europe's addiction to fossil fuels".

"We should not be fooled by some clever numbering and clustering - this selection represents an increase in gas projects and illustrates the immense lobby influence of the gas industry," Friends of the Earth said.

Gas is a fossil fuel that contributes to global warming, but it is often framed by industry as a "bridge fuel" that will be needed longer than coal and oil.

To a certain extent, that framing argument has also been adopted by the EU.

"Gas PCIs are still needed to achieve diversification and to complete the integration of the energy markets in the EU and beyond, thus enhancing energy security and competitiveness," the Commission said in a press statement.

In the press conference, Canete acknowledged there was a risk of "stranded assets", but did not address the criticism of Friends of the Earth.

Since governments are becoming more aware that they need to phase out fossil fuels to prevent climatic disaster, there is a risk that large-scale gas projects could end up being closed before their investments are earned back, a so-called 'stranded asset'.

The list also contained projects that aim to set up carbon capture and storage facilities in and around the North Sea.

"They are especially important for energy-intensive industry as a way to further reduce [their carbon] footprint by enabling carbon capture use and storage," said Canete.

EU to pump €101m into Cyprus gas network

The EU also agreed on financing a study into the Southern Gas Corridor, to send a signal that the EU is still invested in the project - but leaves questions over renewable energy sources.

Analysis

Why is EU off track for 2020 energy efficiency target?

Most EU member states are likely to miss the 2020 target on energy efficiency, since they were not legally-binding targets. "Transformative" measures are needed to reduce energy consumption while boosting efficiency, experts say.

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