BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union energy ministers on Friday agreed to extend EU support for several cross-border natural gas projects, despite an 11-nation push and the European Commission saying such funding should end. to be in line with the goals of climate change.
EU rules TEN-E define which cross-border energy projects can be labeled as Common Interest Projects (PCIs), giving them access to certain EU funds and permissions quickly followed.
The EU is updating the rules to meet its climate change goals, and in December the European Commission proposed a new version excluding dedicated oil and gas infrastructure.
Energy ministers from EU countries on Friday agreed on their position on the rules, which they must negotiate with the European Parliament.
Ministers agreed that while new dedicated gas and oil projects should not normally receive support, projects in the island countries of Malta and Cyprus with PCI status should retain it until those countries are fully connected to the European gas network.
This could help secure the completion of the pipeline of Greece, Cyprus and the Eastmed Israel to supply Europe with gas from the eastern Mediterranean.
They also said that by 2028, support could go to the conversion of gas pipelines to transport hydrogen, and those projects could continue to hold natural gas mixed with hydrogen until 2030.
These projects should show how they will relocate to transport hydrogen only at the end of this period, the EU council, which represents member states, said in a statement.
The aim is to gradually decarbonize this sector and increase the share of renewable gases in pipelines, the statement said.
Germany, Spain, Austria and Luxembourg did not support the agreement.
These countries, plus others, including Denmark and the Netherlands, had called ahead of the meeting for rules to exclude fossil fuels, including gas.
They had said the TEN-E policy would be a litmus test of the EU’s commitment to eliminating its net emissions by 2050.
Other states, including the Czech Republic and Slovakia, had demanded that gas mixing be allowed by 2035.
Reporting by Kate Abnett; Edited by Angus MacSwan and Louise Heavens
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