France is spearheading a campaign to have the European Union acknowledge low-carbon hydrogen produced by nuclear power in its renewable energy rules, but some member states are opposed to the notion, fearing it will undermine efforts to quickly scale up wind and solar.
Ministers from France, Poland, the Czech Republic and six other EU countries wrote to the European Commission this week, urging it to open up EU renewable energy targets to include hydrogen produced from nuclear energy.
EU countries and lawmakers have been preparing for negotiations on the rule, which will govern the speed of Europe's renewable energy expansion this decade.
Scaling up emissions-free hydrogen is critical to the EU's ambitions to reduce CO2 emissions in industries such as fertilizer and steel production.
The majority of the hydrogen used by European industries today is derived from CO2-emitting coal and gas. Since hydrogen can also be produced from electricity, the EU intends to set sectoral targets for hydrogen produced from renewable electricity.
The letter signed by nine nations said that the EU should include nuclear energy, which is low-carbon but not renewable.
"We will offer equal incentives for both renewable and low-carbon hydrogen. Renewable-only targets would stymie the expansion of our hydrogen economy,” said the letter, which is also signed by Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Croatia, Slovakia, and Hungary.
Nuclear now produces some 70% of France’s energy. The other signatory countries either already use nuclear power, or plan to build their first reactors.
At least nine EU countries, including Germany, Denmark, Austria, and Luxembourg, oppose the idea.
They suggest the EU targets primarily focus on renewable sources such as wind and solar to incentivize the huge expansion of renewables required to reduce Europe's dependency on fossil fuels.
Negotiators seek to pass the law in the coming months, but they disagree on other topics, such as whether the EU should commit to obtaining 40% or 45% of its total energy from renewable sources by 2030.