Energy ministers from eleven European Union countries, led by Austria, on Tuesday formed an alliance to push back attempts by France and others to count nuclear energy towards the bloc’s renewable energy goals.
Calling themselves the ‘Friends of Renewable Energy’, the governments aim to fend off attempts by a rival alliance – led by France, and including the Czech Republic, Poland and others – who want more recognition of nuclear energy in numerous EU policies.
Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain attended the meeting, to strategise ahead of upcoming negotiations.
A rival meeting of pro-nuclear countries’ ministers, convened by French energy minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher, also took place on Tuesday morning.
The stand-off comes a day before EU countries and lawmakers are supposed to agree tougher EU targets to expand renewable energy by 2030 – a key part of the EU’s plans to slash CO2 emissions and wean itself off Russian gas.
France is leading a campaign to recognise the contribution of “low-carbon hydrogen” – hydrogen produced from nuclear energy – under the renewable goals. Pro-nuclear countries have made similar requests regarding a law on gas market rules, which ministers will discuss on Tuesday.
Austrian Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler said the 11 countries rejected the attempt to link these two files.
“The group calls for ambitious targets in the [renewable energy law] in order to have a clear mandate for investors and customers,” she said in a statement.
“This should achieve the strategic European goals of becoming less dependent on energy imports and massively expanding local and renewable energy,” Gewessler said.
France, as well as Romania, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, say EU policies should do more to recognise CO2-free nuclear energy’s contribution to climate goals.
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