EU to try again for renewable energy deal after nuclear row

Climate Change – European Union countries will try again next week to pass a deal on new renewable energy targets, which have been stalled by concerns from France and other states that the law sidelines nuclear energy.

A group of countries including France lodged last-minute opposition to the EU’s law on more ambitious renewable energy goals last month, putting on hold a main pillar of the bloc’s plans to tackle climate change.

Visit at EDF's Penly Nuclear Power Plant
French utility EDF’s Penly Nuclear Power Plant in Petit-Caux, near Dieppe, France, December 9, 2022. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

EU country diplomats will attempt to approve the law on Wednesday, according to an agenda for the meeting published late on Friday.

Paris has sought changes to the law to offer more favourable treatment of nuclear energy, and said the final deal puts at a disadvantage countries like France with large shares of nuclear power. Nuclear energy is low-carbon, but not renewable.

The EU law is designed to drive a rapid expansion of renewable energy sources like wind and solar. The deal negotiated this year offered some compromises, including lower renewable fuel targets for industry, in countries that have already used nuclear power to slash their use of fossil fuels.

Paris had said the rules still excluded low-carbon hydrogen produced from nuclear electricity. In its hunt for a deal, the EU has considered options such as providing a declaration, accompanying the final law, that acknowledges the challenge this poses for some countries, diplomatic sources said.

That would avoid reopening the deal on the law agreed by EU countries and lawmakers earlier this year – a scenario the European Commission and some other countries want to avoid.

France’s energy ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday France will not give up the competitive advantages linked to nuclear power, noting that EU countries have the right to choose their own energy mix.

Other pro-nuclear EU members including Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic had also signalled they would not support the renewable law – citing concerns including, for some, that the targets are simply too high.

Together, they have enough votes to block the law.

It is unusual for countries to reject pre-agreed deals on EU laws, which follow months of negotiations.

Meanwhile, states including Germany and Luxembourg – both anti-nuclear countries – plus Denmark and Ireland have urged the EU to resolve the spat quickly, warning the delay endangers investments in renewable energy.

Reporting by Kate Abnett Additional reporting by Dominique Vidalon Editing by Frances Kerry

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