MEPs vote for energy market reform but fail to reject gas

21 February 2018

Members of the EU Parliament’s energy committee have supported reform of energy markets to restrict subsidies for dirty fossil fuel power plants, but failed to reject new gas infrastructure, in two important votes on climate and energy today.

(1) Hope for Europe’s energy system

The energy committee (ITRE) voted on rules to govern Europe’s electricity market as part of the 2030 ‘Energy Package’. The committee backed tighter rules to restrict support for high carbon plants to sit on standby (so-called ‘capacity mechanisms’). This would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the profitability of fossil fuels.

The committee also voted in favour of supporting burgeoning local energy communities to access the market – so that local renewable energy schemes can supply energy whenever they are producing it, without being forced to hold back when many actors are trying to sell into the market.

Reacting to the vote, Molly Walsh, renewable energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said:

“The community power movement is a coiled spring ready to unleash Europe’s energy transition, and MEPs today voted to help it fulfil its potential, whilst taking steps to un-rig the rules that favour fossil fuels. The question is whether recalcitrant member states will next follow the Parliament’s lead and put energy in the hands of people, or keep Europe tied to corporate polluters driving us to dangerous climate change?”

The Parliament will next need to negotiate a final position with national governments.

(2) Failed opportunity to reject gas infrastructure

MEPs also voted on a motion to oppose the EU’s Projects of Common Interest (PCI) list, on the basis that it includes over 100 new fossil gas infrastructure projects. However there was no majority to reject the list, which also includes a number of other energy infrastructure projects.

The list covers priority energy infrastructure projects to be built in Europe, drawn up by the European Commission, Member States and European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSOG). Approved projects become eligible for EU funding (under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF)).

The list contains the controversial Southern Gas Corridor which has already been associated with serious human rights violations in Azerbajan; the MidCat pipeline between France and Spain facing growing protests on both sides of the Pyrenees; and three LNG terminals in Croatia, Greece and Ireland, for environmentally destructive shale gas imported from the US. FoEE has previously revealed that the list is based on flawed data provided by the gas industry, and has not been tested against the Paris Agreement's climate targets.

Reacting to the vote, Antoine Simon, extractive industries campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said:

“Gas is a dangerous fossil fuel which emits significant amounts of greenhouse gases. It’s good to see a number of MEPs voting to oppose new gas projects that will shackle Europe to decades of fossil fuel use, but regrettable that this was not a majority. The Commission would be wise to take note that the era of unquestioning support for gas is over – and focus on delivering a clean fossil free energy transition.”