Germany has formally disagreed with the EU’s proposal for how member states should move away from fossil fuels. The country said nuclear energy is “risky and expensive” and that it is “not sustainable”.
“As the federal government, we have once again clearly expressed our rejection of the inclusion of nuclear energy,” stated German vice-chancellor and economy minister Robert Habeck in a letter sent to the EU.
The EU’s proposal for nuclear power and natural gas to be categorised as sustainable was part of their sustainability taxonomy proposal, published on 31 December 2021.
“Short of digging an actual hole, the European Commission couldn’t have tried harder to bury this proposal,” said Henry Eviston, spokesman on sustainable finance at the European Policy Office of WWF.
Germany does intend to transition to using green hydrogen, but deems that a commitment to reduce GHG by 55% by 2030 is unrealistic.
Instead, Germany proposes that the EU allow countries to set their own targets or guidelines for after 2036, which would give them flexibility to find the most feasible way to transition to more sustainable fuels. Germany’s letter to the EU also suggests that the best way to switch from unsustainable fuels is to allow countries to continue to rely on gas.
The EU wants to meet its carbon neutral 2050 target by phasing out all use of gas. Germany wants the EU to consider easing its restrictions on fossil-based gases more, considering them an important transition step for countries wanting to switch to more sustainable fuels.
When the EU first made the sustainable fuel switch proposal on December 31, 2021, it proved to be controversial.
“I can assure you our colleagues would much prefer to have been relaxing on holiday, but they decided to continue their work through the Christmas holidays to make sure this came out before the end of the year,” The EU commission Chief Spokesperson Eric Mamer responded.
While Germany’s letter claims relying on hydrogen fuel is too far away to give up gas just yet, the Netherlands has recently announced a push for sustainable fuels.
The Netherlands’ minister for climate and energy, Rob Jetten, will oversee a €35 billion climate and transition fund, aimed at reducing the Netherlands’ carbon footprint. Construction of two nuclear power plants has just been proposed and the fund is also expected to finance work in e-fuel and hydrogen.
Research by Energy Monitor puts the Netherlands at the forefront of Europe’s hydrogen race with the highest subsidies per gigawatt of electrolyser capacity committed at €1.43 billion. Although the letter published from Germany was somewhat pessimistic about hydrogen fuel, the research puts Germany as the country with the highest ambition in terms of electrolyser capacity seeking to produce 10GW by 2030.