A solid foundation to support development of trans-European energy infrastructure

The European Parliament's Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE) has adopted a report by ECR MEP Prof Zdzisław Krasnodębski on the new guidelines for trans-European energy infrastructure (TEN-E).

The draft regulation defines the process and criteria for selecting Projects of Common Interest (PCI) – energy infrastructure of the Union relevance, such as high-voltage transmission lines, pipelines, energy storage or so-called smart grids, the list of which is updated every two years by the European Commission.

It also clarifies the scope of fast-track treatment by national administrations and streamlined permission procedures benefitting the projects with the PCI label. Moreover, it defines the requirement for eligibility of these projects for Union financial assistance. According to the guidelines proposed by the Commission, the selected projects must contribute to the energy transition, moving away from the use of fossil fuels and towards a greater energy consumption of more renewable sources, which aims to make the development of cross-border energy infrastructure more sustainable, in line with the Green Deal’s objectives.

According to Krasnodębski, “the Committee’s decision to adopt the report sufficiently takes into account EU energy security and sustainability as well as affordability for EU citizens, representing a solid foundation for the European Council to deliberate over.

The draft report was adopted in committee by 50 votes in favour, to 13 votes against and 12 abstentions.

Commenting after the report’s adoption, Prof Krasnodębski said:

The mandate obtained today to negotiate an agreement with the Council provides a good basis for further talks. The compromises negotiated over six months have been supported by most political groups. Let us wait for the reaction of the entire Parliament following the announcement of the negotiating mandate in plenary next week. All institutions should aim to finalize the tripartite agreement as soon as possible in the so-called trilogue, so that the next edition of the list of priority projects can be prepared according to the new regulation.

For some Member States it is important that the support for certain electricity projects like connecting offshore wind farms to the onshore transmission system is maintained.

It should be borne in mind, however, that the priorities of the Energy Union remain valid and should continue to be reflected in the rules governing support for major energy infrastructure projects. In addition to the general sustainability criteria, projects must continue to be assessed in terms of their contribution to energy security, market integration and affordability for end users, where relevant.”

New opportunities are opened up for new categories of projects, such as hydrogen infrastructure, including electrolysers, cross-border networks to transport captured carbon, and even highly efficient district heating and cooling. The text proposes making possible the retrofitting of existing natural gas infrastructure for the transportation or storage of hydrogen. The rapporteurs agreed that for a transitional period, under strictly defined conditions, the dedicated gas assets, including repurposed ones, can be used to transport or store a blend of hydrogen and natural gas.

At the same time, projects based solely on natural gas will no longer be able to apply for funding within the CEF framework. “However, a compromise amendment was agreed on, that establishes a temporary derogation for a strictly defined period allowing certain natural gas projects to maintain eligibility for selection and to benefit from fast-tracked administrative procedures, such as in the issuing of permits”, emphasizes rapporteur Krasnodębski.

The document also stresses that eligible projects must comply with the ‘energy efficiency first’ principle, which states that saving energy is the easiest way to save money for consumers and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to sustainability.

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