EU gas market reforms focus on hydrogen

Move designed to boost uptake of renewable and low carbon gases including biomethane and hydrogen into EU gas market.

Measures to phase out fossil gas and support the development of a EU hydrogen backbone have been approved by the EU’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE).

The legislative proposals backed, a regulation and a directive, are aimed to facilitate the uptake of renewable and low carbon gases, including biomethane and hydrogen, into the EU gas market.

The legislation would also create a certification system for low carbon gases and ensure that consumers can switch suppliers more easily to choose these gases over fossil fuels in their contracts.

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In its amendments to the directive, the Committee found that the hydrogen corridors identified in the REPowerEU plan should be supported by adequate infrastructure and investments.

The aim is to ensure that enough cross-border capacity is available to establish an integrated European ‘hydrogen backbone’ enabling the product to move freely across borders.

Regarding the phase out of fossil gas, the Committee wants it phase out by EU countries as soon as possible, taking into account the availability of alternatives.

Member states may decide on an earlier end-date for the duration of long-term contracts for unabated gas before the end of the year 2049.

In the interim on the replacement of Russian gas supply the Committee agreed that by the end of 2030 member states should ensure collectively at least 35 billion m3 of sustainable biomethane.

This would be produced and injected into the natural gas system annually, with the aim of replacing 20% of Russian natural gas imports.

Reform to the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSOG) to also cover hydrogen network operators also was proposed.

Jens Geier, rapporteur on the directive, said the vote is the next step towards a climate-neutral Europe.

“We call for gas, hydrogen and electricity infrastructure to be planned jointly to better coordinate energy systems in the future.”

Jerzy Buzek, rapporteur on the regulation, said the age of hydrogen is coming.

“To make it happen in the EU, we need a stable and well-balanced regulatory framework, financial support as well as investments in new infrastructure. With this legislation, we are preparing it.”

Hydrogen Europe has welcomed the ITRE Committee’s conclusions, saying it is a big step towards the establishment of hydrogen as a traded commodity and as a crucial energy carrier in the campaign for net zero.

“It is now up to the Council to develop its general approach in line with the ambition of MEPs and industry and to shore up all remaining issues in this important legislative package.”

Nevertheless, some outstanding issues remain, the organisation says.

Policymakers should be cautious when imposing excessive conditions on hydrogen pipelines without considering the different usages of hydrogen transported and their specificities.

Hydrogen Europe also calls on policymakers to ensure appropriate exemptions for existing hydrogen networks; ensure independence on the governance of hydrogen infrastructure planning and network codes and provide flexibility for member states in applying third party access for storage and terminals.

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