The German government will oppose the European Commission’s proposal to include nuclear energy in the list of sustainable energy sources. The so-called taxonomy compiled by the Commission is also considered an approval for state subsidies for certain economic activities and a green light for investors.

German Minister of Ecology Steffi Lemke told ARD public television that Berlin’s position would be “clearly not”, but she added that the chances of a successful blockade of the European Commission’s proposal are small.

She emphasized that the three parties of the German ruling coalition, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens and the Liberal FDP, are united when it comes to nuclear energy.

Taxonomy is a kind of classification of whether an economic activity is sustainable and at the same time an assessment of whether it deserves state subsidies and recommendations to investors. In its proposal, the Commission assessed that the investment in new nuclear power plants, or in the renovation of existing ones, is sustainable under certain conditions and that it is not harmful to the climate.

On the last day of 2021, the European Commission sent its taxonomy proposal to the member states, and they have had time to formulate their position ever since.

Berlin will probably not have enough allies to blockade the EU Council.

“A vote in the Council of Ministers will only take place if a sufficient number of member states object to the proposal,” Lemke explained. “And I have to admit that the chances for that are not great at the moment,” the minister added.

European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton said that the EU should invest around 500 billion euros in a new generation of nuclear power plants by 2050.

“50 billion euros will have to be invested in the existing ones alone by 2030, and the new ones will require 500 billion,” Breton told the Journal di Dimanche on January 9. He also assessed that the intention of the European Commission to classify nuclear energy as green is a key step for attracting those investments.

A similar assessment was made before him by Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson, who estimated investments in extending the life of existing nuclear power plants at 45 to 50 billion euros by 2030. She said that EU members plan to invest around 400 billion euros in new capacities.

The German minister, who is a member of the Greens, said that the goal should be to direct the money to sustainable investments, and for the EC to spoil those plans with its proposal.

“There is now a danger that private and public funds will be directed to problematic development and not, as it should be, to renewable energies and the hydrogen economy,” Lemke said, adding that she did not understand why the commission and its president Ursula von der Layen did.

According to her, the German government refuses to include nuclear energy in the taxonomy for environmental and safety reasons and for consumer protection.

She added that she personally believes that putting natural gas on the list of sustainable activities is wrong. However, the three German ruling parties agreed in the coalition agreement that Germany needs gas as a transitional energy source, and that investments in gas power plants are therefore necessary.

It is envisaged that these new gas-fired power plants will operate in combination with climate-neutral fuels, such as hydrogen.

When it comes to natural gas, the Greens are still lonely in the ruling coalition, as both the Social Democrats and the Liberals welcomed the EC’s decision to include gas in the taxonomy.

Five EU members led by Germany sent a letter to the European Commission last summer, demanding that nuclear energy remain outside the EU taxonomy of green finance, ie that investments in that energy should not be classified as green.

The letter was signed by the ministers of environmental protection or energy of Austria, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg and Spain. They pointed to “shortcomings” in an April report by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center (JRC). The report concludes that nuclear energy is safe.

France is considered to be the main lobbyist for nuclear energy in the EU, and in October, at the initiative of Paris, a meeting of members who think the same about nuclear energy and gas in the context of taxonomy was held. The meeting was attended by representatives of Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The EU currently receives about 26% of its energy from nuclear power plants, and Breton estimated that this share will be reduced to about 15% by 2050.

E2 portal (Euractiv)

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