France steps up push for nuclear-based fuels in EU renewables law
By Kate Abnett
BRUSSELS, March 21 (Reuters) - France is planning a renewed push for recognition of nuclear-derived fuels in European Union renewable energy targets, setting up a potential clash between countries seeking to approve the goals this month.
Negotiators from EU countries and the European Parliament are preparing for March 29 final negotiations to agree more ambitious EU targets to expand renewable energy this decade.
The attempt to slash Europe's contribution to climate change and help countries end dependency on Russian gas have been deadlocked, however, by a dispute over whether fuels produced using nuclear power should be included in the targets, with France now poised to present a fresh proposal on the matter.
France wants to open up the law to recognise "low-carbon hydrogen" - the term used to describe hydrogen produced from nuclear energy - and has been backed by countries including Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
Germany, Spain and Denmark, meanwhile, are among the countries opposed to such a move. They say nuclear energy does not belong in renewables targets and warn that this would undermine the massive expansion of renewable energy Europe needs to hit climate goals and replace Russian gas.
With countries at odds, some EU diplomats are sceptical a deal will be reached this month - potentially delaying policy viewed as key to the EU's goals on climate change.
In its latest draft proposal, France suggests tweaks to targets being negotiated, including an aim for 42% of the hydrogen used in industry to be produced from renewable sources by 2030.
The proposal, seen by Reuters, would exclude most low-carbon hydrogen from the baseline used to calculate the target - effectively shrinking the volume of renewable fuels needed to hit the 42% goal.
France says the aim is to ensure rapid replacement of fossil fuel-based hydrogen by hydrogen that no longer contributes to climate change, be it produced with renewable energy or from nuclear power.
Seven countries have rejected proposals that would allow low-carbon fuels to count towards the targets, which they said would use the renewable energy law to promote non-renewable energy sources.
(Reporting by Kate Abnett Editing by David Goodman)