STRASBOURG – Members of the European Parliament rejected on 12 February calls to veto the fourth list on projects of common interest (PCI), on the grounds that it contains fossil fuel infrastructure.

Kadri Simson, who participated in her first plenary session as energy commissioner on 10 February, a late evening joint debate on the 4th PCI list and Trans-European Networks – Energy (TEN-E) revision, noted that making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 requires moving towards cleaner energy infrastructure.

She said she is fully committed to review the TEN-E regulation still this year and work closely with the European Parliament to make the investments fit for EU’s future.

Simpson said she shares the European Parliament’s vision of a modern, clean, secure and smart EU energy infrastructure. In the Green Deal Resolution adopted in January, Parliament stressed the importance of modern, clean, secure and smart new energy infrastructure for delivering the European Green Deal. Simson told MEPs turning this vision into reality requires making the TEN-E Regulation adopted in 2013 fit for Europe’s future energy system and fully aligned with the European Green Deal.

By 2050, the share of electricity in the total energy consumption is expected to be more than double. “We need electricity infrastructures and innovative technologies such as smart grids, offshore wind and hydrogen that works. Also carbon capture, storage and utilisation and energy storage,” Simpson said.

However, the EU Energy Commissioner expressed her support for the 4th PCI list. “The list includes key infrastructure projects that sustain the increasing share of renewables, address the remaining energy security challenges and underpin the modernisation of an integrated infrastructure,” she said. “Electricity projects make up three quarters of the 4th PCI list. An objection to the 4th PCI list would mean that the 3rd PCI list remains in force, a list with 40% more gas projects than the new list. As a consequence, key electricity interconnectors and energy transition projects such as the North Sea wind-power hub, new smart green projects and new CO2 network projects would not be eligible for funding under the Connecting Europe Facility,” she added.

At the end of the debate, Simpson said the Commission is committed to make Europe the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050. “And I’m glad that most of you expressed support for the Commission’s plan to revise the TEN-E Regulation by December 2020. Because a modern, secure and smart energy infrastructure will sustain this energy transition and help us roll out the large-scale deployment of energy from renewable sources,” she said.

She called the 4th PCI list a step forward towards a cleaner energy infrastructure system. “It supports key new electricity projects that help us step into more renewables and the digital potential of our grid. We will have, clearly, the European Green Deal in mind when addressing the funding of projects from this list and other self-regulation. This list is not a guarantee,” Simpson said. She added, however, that the 5th PCI list will be a very different list. “Two years after the launch of the Green Deal, sustainability criteria will be thoroughly applied for any projects, including gas candidate projects,” she said.

Asked by New Europe about calls to veto the 4th PCI list, on the grounds that it contains gas projects, EPP President Manfred Weber said this question is part of the Green Deal and defining the future sustainable sources of energy. “On one hand, we want to create an interconnected European energy market and that implies also to interconnect the gas infrastructures, which is today one of our energy sources. On the other hand, we all know on the long run, gas is also a source that produces CO2 emissions. That’s why to bring these two things together is a challenge,” Weber said.

Greek MEP Anna-Michelle Assimakopoulou, also from the EPP, told New Europe in an interview that gas is an important energy transition fuel. “And then there is the geopolitics and it has a lot to do with strategy you have for the region and also security frankly and European sustainability when it comes to energy efficiency. So, all of those are in the direction that should go forward,” she said, explaining her support for the 4th PCI list.

She reminded that the projects would boost Europe’s energy security and help avoid another gas crisis similar to the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute that disrupted gas supplies to Europe. “The idea is to have self-sufficiency and to have Europe being able to support itself when it comes to energy needs,” she said.

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