EU classifies some nuclear-derived hydrogen as green

16 February 2023

The European Commission (EC) has published new rules that could allow some hydrogen produced in nuclear-based energy systems to count towards European Union (EU) renewable energy goals. The question of what the EU will consider "renewable" has been a matter of contention for several months between France and countries such as Germany that want nuclear-based fuels excluded.

After a months of delay and lobbying, The EC, in a long and exceedingly complex document, has now defined three types of hydrogen that could count towards the renewable targets.

These include hydrogen from production facilities directly connected to a new renewable electricity generator, and those that take grid power if the local electricity zone has had more than an average share of renewable power of more than 90% in the previous year.

Hydrogen facilities can also use grid power in regions that meet a low CO2 emissions limit – potentially based on nuclear – provided that the producer also signs a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) with a renewable electricity supplier in their region. However, rather than being labelled as “renewable”, hydrogen made using nuclear electricity will be termed “low-carbon”.

The new rules are part of two delegated acts that the EC has implemented, after a year’s delay. European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson said the measures will allow for greater confidence in the emerging hydrogen market. “Clear rules and a reliable certification system are key for this emerging market to develop and establish itself in Europe. These delegated acts provide much-needed legal certainty to investors and will further boost the EU’s industrial leadership in this green sector,” she said.

Hydrogen Europe CEO Jorgo Chatzimarkakis said the new rules are key to determining compliance with the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive targets, but could end up making things more expensive.

“A far-from-perfect regulation is better than no regulation at all,” he noted. “At last, there is clarity for industry and investors and Europe can kick-start the renewable hydrogen market.” EU countries and lawmakers have two months to object to the rules, before they enter into force.

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