The European Commission on Monday proposed regulations that could allow some hydrogen produced in nuclear-based energy systems to contribute toward EU renewable energy objectives, signaling a victory for pro-nuclear France.
Hydrogen is key to Europe's ambitions to decarbonize heavy industry, and the laws aim to incentivize investors and enterprises to switch from hydrogen produced from fossil fuels to hydrogen produced alternatively from renewable electricity.
The topic of what the European Union considers "renewable" has fueled a debate in recent months between France and countries such as Germany, which argue that nuclear-based energies should not be included.
After months of delay amid capital lobbying, Brussels has specified three types of hydrogen that will count toward the renewable targets.
These include hydrogen from production facilities directly connected to a new renewable energy generator, as well as those that use grid power if the local electricity zone had an average renewable power share of 90% in the previous year.
Facilities can also use grid power in regions with low CO2 emissions limits, potentially based on nuclear, if the producer additionally signs a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) with a renewable electricity provider in their region.
Requiring producers to either directly use newly installed renewable power or sign a PPA to support new local renewable energy projects is intended to prevent hydrogen producers from sucking up existing renewable electricity capacity, which could lead to increased generation of fossil fuels to meet overall energy demand.
The EU countries and legislators have two months to oppose to the rules, or they will come into effect.
The dispute over nuclear-based hydrogen has already pushed back negotiations on the EU's new renewable energy targets, which are scheduled to resume on Tuesday.