The European Commission (EC) on 19 May presented the REPowerEU Plan, “its response to the hardships and global energy market disruption caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine” which seeks to end the European Union’s (EU’s) dependence on Russian fossil fuels. “By acting as a Union, Europe can phase out its dependency on Russian fossil fuels faster,” the press release said.
“The green transformation will strengthen economic growth, security, and climate action for Europe and our partners. The Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) is at the heart of the REPowerEU Plan, supporting coordinated planning and financing of cross-border and national infrastructure as well as energy projects and reforms.”
The lengthy press release makes no mention at all of nuclear. It focuses on “energy savings” as “the quickest and cheapest way to address the current energy crisis, and reduce bills”. The Commission proposes to enhance long-term energy efficiency measures with a publication detailing short-term behavioural changes which could cut gas and oil demand by 5% and encourages member states to use fiscal measures to encourage energy savings.
Another priority is to diversify supplies of gas and “enable joint purchasing of renewable hydrogen”. It says, “in the Mediterranean and North Sea, major hydrogen corridors will be developed”. The EU “will support Ukraine, Moldova, the Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership countries, as well as our most vulnerable partners”. The EU will work with Ukraine “to ensure security of supply and a functioning energy sector, while paving the way for future electricity and renewable hydrogen trade”.
The EU will also accelerate the rollout of renewables increasing the 2030 target for renewables from 40% to 45%; set a target of 10 million tonnes of domestic renewable hydrogen production and 10 million tonnes of imports by 2030, to replace natural gas, coal and oil in hard-to-decarbonise industries and transport sectors.
Another key action will be to reducing fossil fuel consumption in industry and transport. “The Commission will roll out carbon contracts for difference to support the uptake of green hydrogen by industry and specific financing for REPowerEU under the Innovation Fund, using emission trading revenues to further support the switch away from Russian fossil fuel dependencies.”
Smart Investment is also emphasised. “Delivering the REPowerEU objectives requires an additional investment of €210 billion between now and 2027. This is a down-payment on our independence and security. Cutting Russian fossil fuel imports can also save us almost €100 billion per year. These investments must be met by the private and public sector, and at the national, cross-border and EU level.”
Outlining the background to the new plan, the press release says: “On 8 March 2022, the Commission proposed the outline of a plan to make Europe independent from Russian fossil fuels well before 2030, in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. At the European Council on 24-25 March, EU leaders agreed on this objective and asked the Commission to present the detailed REPowerEU Plan which has been adopted today.”
As to the plan itself, in 11,800 words (some 20 pages) it mentions nuclear only three times. It says: As a result of shifting away from Russian fossil fuels “some of the existing coal capacities might also be used longer than initially expected, with a role for nuclear power and domestic gas resources too”. It notes: “Diversification options are also important for member states currently dependent on Russia for nuclear fuel…. This requires working within the EU and with international partners to secure alternative sources of uranium and boosting the conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication capacities available in Europe or in EU’s global partners.” And with respect to green hydrogen it mentions that “other forms of fossil-free hydrogen, notably nuclear-based, also play a role in substituting natural gas”.