A striking number of European countries suddenly seem to be seeing bread in nuclear energy again. They are eagerly awaiting proposals from Brussels that should soon label nuclear fission as a ‘clean’ (in the sense of: CO2-free) source. That would open the door wide for banks, insurers and other asset managers to invest freely in nuclear energy.
The suddenly increased interest in nuclear energy was revealed this morning at an intercalated meeting of the 27 EU energy ministers on the current energy crisis and how to tackle it. Member States continue to decide for themselves about their energy mix, but the stamp that Brussels gives to a source does determine the financing. For French President Macron it was a foregone conclusion at the end of last week that a climate-friendly Europe needs many more nuclear power plants, but Commission President von der Leyen also said that nuclear energy, and gas for the transition period to more sun and wind, belong in ‘the energy mix. of the future’.
Sven Giegold, compatriot and Green German MEP, promptly started a petition today against what he calls ‘green washing of gas and nuclear energy’. On behalf of the Netherlands, outgoing Minister of Economic Affairs Stef Blok also said he was looking forward to the Commission’s position. His Austrian colleague rejected nuclear energy as ‘too expensive and dangerous’, the Luxembourger Claude Turmes agreed. According to him, nuclear power stations are not an alternative because of the long construction time.
Investing in energy savings
Ministers of the 27 member states quickly agreed this morning that Europe should in any case seize the energy crisis to invest more and faster in energy saving and sustainable sources such as solar and wind. Central gas purchasing and storage are decisions for later, the energy market may under no circumstances be broken open. By December at the latest – when there will be a new summit of heads of state and government – they must set up a new European energy policy for the medium and long term. The high gas and electricity prices that vulnerable households and SMEs are now hanging like a millstone around their necks fall outside the scope. That problem – almost three quarters is already fully engaged in it – must be solved by the Member States themselves, with, among other things, income allowances, a lower energy tax and business support within the European competition rules. They can partly draw money for this from the proceeds of emission rights.
We must not flee in ad hoc solutions
The Netherlands and eight other Member States immediately closed the discussion by excluding in advance any intervention in the gas and electricity market in a joint letter to the Slovenian presidency, thereby excluding the decoupling of electricity and gas prices advocated by France and Spain. “We should not flee into ad hoc solutions,” said Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson. Energy saving and greening are better, because in addition to being climate-friendly, they also reduce dependence on a dubious major gas supplier such as Russia.
Simson: ,,The paradox is that we have wanted to be less dependent for years, and we are becoming more and more dependent. 90 percent of our gas comes from abroad, compared to 66 percent in 2019. We import 97 percent of our oil.” She called on local, regional and national governments to speed up permits for wind turbines and wind farms. ,,That often takes six or seven years now and that is far too long. That should be possible in two years.” Spain’s problems can partly be solved by a better connection to the European electricity network.
Incidentally, today’s European figures showed that the advance of sustainable energy is already well underway: last year for the first time, more electricity was generated sustainably (38 percent) than with fossil fuels (37 percent).
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