Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have voted to include 17 technologies in the EU’s Net-Zero Industry Act (NZIA), including nuclear energy. The MEPs led by the conservative European People’s Party (EPP), the liberal Renew group, and the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) voted 376 in favour, 139 against with 116 abstentions. EU member states will now discuss the issue in the Council of Ministers before it is finalised in December. They are expected to reduce the list.

German MEP Christian Ehler, who is Parliament’s lead speaker on the issue for the EPP group, welcomed the vote. “This is good news for the climate and the European economy, and it is a very clear response to the Americans and their IRA [Inflation Reduction Act],” he said.

When the NZIA was initially presented to the European Commission (EC) in March it included 10 technologies with two separate priority lists – one considered “strategic” and the other secondary. The Parliament’s industry committee on 25 October adopted a single list reinstating nuclear power and including future technologies such as small modular reactors SMRs as well as traditional reactors, both of which were initially excluded.

The 17 technologies included in the Parliament’s text include renewable energy (wind and solar), nuclear energy (fission, fusion, fuel cycle), energy storage; capture, transport, injection, storage and use of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide; hydrogen (transport, electrolysers, fuel cells, propulsion and production and refuelling infrastructures); alternative fuels; bio-methane, electric vehicle recharging; heat pumps; energy efficiency; thermal energy distribution & electricity networks; thermonuclear fusion; electrification & high-efficiency industrial processes for energy & carbon-intensive industries; production of biomaterials; and recycling.

Pascal Canfin (Renew), Chairman of the Parliament’s Environment Committee told reporters that “It’s become a bit like a shopping list or a Christmas wish list.” Christophe Grudler, who spoke on the issue for the Renew group, explained that the aim was to permit every EU country to develop the technologies that suited their national needs and capacities.

The first negotiations between the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission – referred to as “trilogues” – are expected in December. “However, we need to be done by January at the latest,” Grudler noted. “The time factor concerns me because if we are unable to vote in the trilogue before the April plenary, we will not be able to vote again until September-October next year” because of the European elections in June 2024.

Grudler also is concerned that the EU ministers in the Council will seek to reduce the number of technologies in the list, noting that Parliament and the Council “do not see eye to eye” on the matter and “some technologies could be up for debate”. However, for both Grudler and Canfin nuclear power is a red line that should not be questioned.

In Parliament, the scope of the NZIA was extended to ensure a broad majority during the plenary vote, Canfin explains. However, he expects heated discussions to reduce the list during negotiations – in the Council. He believes the nuclear debate could be revisited during negotiations with EU member states to finalise the law. Environmental groups also want to limit the list, excluding nuclear and technologies such as carbon capture and storage

“The nuclear issue will inevitably come up again,” Canfin added, anticipating heated discussions in the Council between France and Germany. “I won’t prejudge the final outcome, but I hope that collectively we will be wise enough not to repeat the battle we’ve had already with the renewables directive and the reform of the electricity market,” he said.

Image: The EU Parliament building in Strasbourg (courtesy of Pixabay)