EU energy future warnings in lobby row

Environmental NGOs have warned plans for a move by the European Union to a net zero energy future are in danger of being derailed.

New analysis of European Commission policy proposals is said to have found gas industry lobbyists are expected to retain a stranglehold on Europe’s energy future, with a formal role in EU decisions on energy infrastructure development and funding.

The study found the European Commission has proposed to keep an body advocating for gas industry interests – the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSO-G) – at the heart of EU decisions on funding and prioritisation of energy projects. The proposed reforms to laws governing EU energy infrastructure – the so-called Trans-European Energy Infrastructure (TEN-E) regulation – are set to be debated in the European Parliament this month as part of the European Green Deal.

Friends of the Earth Europe and Food & Water Action Europe warned the reforms give too much control to fossil gas companies, while the Commission has ignored civil society and scientists’ concerns.

Myriam Douo, corporates campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: “The last people to take advice from in a climate crisis should be fossil fuel lobbyists. It’s unacceptable for the EU to outsource decisions on Europe’s energy future to gas lobbyists. Gas is a dangerous fossil fuel which must be phased out. The fossil fuel industry’s proximity to our politicians has allowed it to pocket over a billion euros in public subsidies while weakening climate action – this must stop.”

The analysis suggested some of Europe’s most powerful gas companies will be able to influence the awarding of billions in EU taxpayer subsidies.

It added the previous TEN-E oversaw severe delays, abandoned projects, and €440 million of EU taxpayers’ money spent on gas projects which have been or are likely to be cancelled, “thanks to questionable advice” from ENTSO-G.

“The gas transport industry was able to help direct €1 billion in EU taxpayer funds to gas projects by ENTSO-G members, such as the controversial EastMed pipeline, designed to link Israel and Cyprus to Greece, or the abandoned MidCat pipeline between France and Spain,” said Friends of the Earth. “The European Commission has ignored the overwhelming views of the public (99.6%) opposing fossil gas in its public consultation.

“The European Commission promises to stop subsidising fossil gas projects in the new TEN-E regulation, but nevertheless keeps a central role for the fossil gas industry in designing the system. The new regulation risks opening the door to gas through fossil-based hydrogen.”

The NGOs have called on the EU to remove the priority seat that ENTSO-G currently enjoys and replace it with an independent in-house body to advise on all decision-making processes on energy infrastructure; and to end the influence of fossil fuels on our politics.

Frida Kieninger, Senior Campaigner, Food and Water Action Europe said: “Tasking gas infrastructure corporations to help the EU define our future energy system is an endeavour doomed to fail Europeans and the climate. We urgently need an independent expert body free from fossil fuel influence to advise the EU on priority energy infrastructure developments. It is now up to the European Parliament and the Council to correct the proposal and cut fossil fuel interests out of politics.”

Friends of the Earth Europe and Food & Water Action Europe warned the reforms give too much control to fossil gas companies, while the Commission has ignored civil society and scientists’ concerns.

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