showdown between France and Germany over gas and nuclear power

showdown between France and Germany over gas and nuclear power
showdown between France and Germany over gas and nuclear power

The European Commission is due to unveil its “green taxonomy” on Tuesday, a classification of “clean energies” which can benefit from funding at lower cost to accelerate the ecological transition of member states. But France and Germany are opposed on the place of nuclear and gas in this “taxonomy”.

Will natural gas and nuclear power be included in the European “taxonomy”? Brussels is due to unveil its ranking of the cleanest energies necessary for the energy transition on Tuesday. Obviously, solar and wind will be part of it, unlike oil. This means that projects based on these energies will be able to more easily find private financing and attract investors.

The fate that will be reserved for nuclear and natural gas, however, remains unknown. However, the place of these two energies in the green taxonomy is a particularly sensitive subject which has revealed important divisions between the Member States. In particular between France and Germany. Because when the first defends nuclear power to ensure its ecological transition, the second relies on gas to accomplish its own. And when the first points to the CO2 emissions linked to the exploitation of gas, the second points out the potential danger of nuclear energy and the difficulties in storing its waste.

The stakes are high. If nuclear power is excluded from the ranking, it is difficult for France to finance up to 50 billion euros for the six new EPR reactors that it plans to build in the coming years. Borrowing to finance such a project will cost him much more than today: investors will flee this energy which could end up being banned from the financial markets, much like tobacco manufacturers are. The same is true for Germany with gas, energy which is however essential to replace its coal-fired power stations.

Towards a compromise?

To win its case, France recalled that nuclear energy does not emit CO2 and that it therefore has its place in the classification of green energies. Above all, Europe will undoubtedly need tricolor nuclear power to meet its climate objectives for 2030 and 2050. A point on which France has also insisted.

On the German side, the gas that emits a lot of CO2 is probably more difficult to defend. But the leading European power can count on four loyal allies, namely Austria, Spain, Luxembourg and Denmark. Which are opposed to the integration of nuclear in the green taxonomy.

Despite everything, it is unlikely that the European Commission will choose between nuclear power and gas. In other words, between France and Germany. So much so that the two countries are discussing a compromise which could consist in classifying nuclear as clean energies because it does not emit CO2. In return, the Germans will ask that gas can also benefit from green financing when it can replace coal.

French gasmen worried

The decision to be made by the Commission on Tuesday could also weaken certain French companies. If the French government’s position in favor of nuclear power is essential to save EDF, other groups that rely on gas (Air Liquide, Engie, Total, etc.) are worried about the results of this European taxonomy, which they fear paying the price for. .

The latter thus argued with the government that nuclear could not be the only energy to promote. And that France therefore had every interest in finding a compromise with Germany to preserve its flagships, whose activity relies on gas.

Matthieu Pechberty with Paul Louis

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