Fit For 55: ITRE Committee Meeting 21-22/03/2022
by Adeniran Adeboye
LULUCF (Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry Regulation)
Rapporteur for the opinion: Henna Virkkunen (EPP)
Rapporteur ENV: Ville Niinistö (Verts/ALE)
The Rapporteur opened up a vote on the draft resolution for research and development concerning the land use, forestry and agriculture sector. The voting window was open for about two hours. The parliament immediately went on to discuss the next item on the agenda and promised to communicate the vote results in writing to the present members of the parliament.
Public Hearing on the Revision of the Third Energy Package for Gas
Rapporteurs: Mr, Busak (EPP), J. Geier (S&D), Toia Patricia, Marie Toussant (Greens), Z. Krasnodebski (ECR Group)
The session began with Rapporteur C.S. Busoi of EPP declaring a revision of the gas deal packages in light of new geopolitical urgencies and the current Russian aggression in Ukraine. He then introduced five persons to discuss the current situation and to answer questions from other ITRE members. The persons introduced for the public hearing include:
- Mr. J. Chatzimarkakis, CEO Hydrogen Europe
- Mrs. Michaela. Holl, Project lead EU Green Deal, AGORA
- Mrs. Tara Connolly, Greenpeace
- Mr. Piotr Kus, General Manager ENTSOG (European Network of Transmission Systems Operators for Gas)
- Mr. Carreras Narcis, CEO NEDGIA
Presentations by European Energy Industry Representatives
- Mr. J. Chatzimarkakis – Hydrogen Europe
He explained that if the EU really wanted to replace gas with hydrogen, there would be a need for about 40 million tonnes of hydrogen gas capacity, and about 20 million by 2030. He also explained that the capacity to develop hydrogen electrolyzers needs to be scaled up by at least 100% from the current 200 MW position. He laid emphasis on the new REPowerEU project and the possible regulatory challenges ahead including how to ramp up production, transport hydrogen gas using pipelines rather than power grids and the need for storage capacity for this renewable energy source to replace fossil fuels and Russian gas.
- Mrs. M. Holl – AGORA
She explained that when the gas package came up last December, it was not well in tune with the Fit-for-55 Package and the European Green Deal. She also explained that in the case of Russian gas and its new realities, electrification for home heating gives the most value for money. Additionally, the EU ammonia industry is struggling and there is a need for a better framework to revive the industry. She finally explained what AGORA has been doing to boost biogas production, however food-based biogas is also not the solution since it is not remotely scalable.
- Mrs. T. Connolly – Greenpeace
She emphasised how the current situation in Ukraine is causing energy poverty and inflation, hence the need for the EU to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy. She mentioned two reasons why the REPowerEU plan is stalled: firstly, the preselection of hydrogen as the main strategy to decarbonize the gas system and, secondly, the failure to reconcile the different conflicts of interest among EU partners and stakeholders. She proposed more consideration for EU energy self-sufficiency while not neglecting the high prices being paid by people already living in energy poverty.
- Mr. P. Kus -ENTSOG
In his address to the parliament, he focused on two points, security of supply and affordability. He emphasised the role of his organisation in the energy transition and why cooperation and coordination at the EU level is key.
- Mr. N. De Carreras – NEDGIA
In his address, he focused on three points. Security of supply, decarbonization using renewable gases and how DSOs should be allowed, by levelling the playing field, both at policymaking and implementation stages..
Questions and Comments from Members of the ITRE
MEP Jerzy Buzek (EPP) from Poland emphasised the need for constant communication between the parliament and agencies in the gas industry, since the Russian aggression in Ukraine will significantly impact the future of EU energy packages.
S&D Rapporteur Jens Geier from Germany asked where hydrogen is likely to have the biggest effect on CO2 emissions and how production can be sped up with a focus on green hydrogen rather than grey hydrogen.
MEP Toia Patrizia (S&D) from Italy shared the views of other rapporteurs that there is a need to speed up the whole decarbonization process due to the current situation. She asked how the EU can ensure that it gets concrete results within the limited time available.
MEP Claudia Gamon (Renew Europe Group) from Austria had a different view from the other speakers. She emphasised that rather than discuss security of supply, the discussion and action should be focused on independence of supply of Russian gas and how to reduce existing conflict of interest. She also emphasised that all gases under the package should be in line with the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) 
MEP Marie Toussaint (Greens) from France asked how the EU can get rid of gas by 2035 according to the Paris Agreement. She specifically asked Tara Connolly how the Fit for 55 and European Green Deal fit together to achieve greenhouse gas reduction.
MEP Zdzis?aw Krasnodebski (ECR Group) from Poland explained that, since electrolysis and hydrogen technology are still in the research and development stage, it is challenging to base long-term EU decarbonization packages on this kind of systematic uncertainty.
The invited speakers responded to some of the comments from MEPs. Mr. J. Chatzmarkakis of Hydrogen Europe stated that for the decarbonization target to be achieved, more than 90% of the energy has to be from renewable sources. Mrs. T. Connolly also emphasised big pushes for offshore wind projects as it is currently happening in Poland and Ireland. She stated that viable alternatives to gas heating have to be discussed in a democratic way, for example provision of heat pumps and retrofitting houses so people can reduce their demand for gas when heating their houses.
MEP. M. Pieper (EPP) also shared his reservations concerning the hydrogen project. He asked how possible and feasible it is for green hydrogen to be produced in enough quantities.
J. Buzek (EPP): There is a need for constant contact and communication with the representatives of the European industry in issues relating to the need for special legislations and policy frameworks. He also reiterated the need to ensure that using hydrogen for energy means lower energy prices for European citizens. Focus should be on both energy price reduction and more storage capacities.
Shadow rapporteur J. Geier (S&D) also emphasised the need for continuous dialogue and discussion, although he was not too optimistic on the responses from the representatives of the European energy industry.
Renewable Energy Directive (europa.eu)
All EP meetings can be watched at: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/committees/en/meetings/webstreaming