Germany will “acknowledge and not oppose” plans to recognise the contribution nuclear energy is making to the EU’s decarbonisation objective, a special advisor to the German Chancellor said on Thursday (9 March).
Jörg Kukies, financial market and European policy advisor to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, told a Parisian crowd at a Jacques Delors Institute panel that Germany would “acknowledge and not oppose” the contribution nuclear energy is making to the EU’s decarbonisation objectives.
He went on to explain that Germany would import French hydrogen made out of nuclear energy.
“We will not erect barriers or create rules that prohibit or discriminate against hydrogen made from nuclear power,” Kukies stressed.
Hydrogen can be produced through electrolysing water, creating a gas that does not emit CO2 when burned in industrial processes. France’s nuclear power plants are considered a viable source of cheaply-produced hydrogen.
Germany and France have always been at loggerheads over nuclear. While France is going full out on nuclear after years of hesitancy and underfunding, Germany is instead pushing through an ambitious renewable energy agenda, aiming to receive 100% of the country’s electricity through renewables by 2035.
This will be backed up by gas power plants for emergencies, which the government said will burn hydrogen. “I think that’s us being radical and aggressive,” Kukies told the panel.
Divesting from nuclear domestically while importing nuclear-induced hydrogen from France was a “very convincing dichotomy”, the public official added, as it encourages the EU to diversify its energy mix, rather than depend on one single source.
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, meanwhile, said last week that she has “questions” over Germany’s energy strategy, as the country sets out to close their last nuclear plants in April 2023.
France spearheading pro-nuclear EU push
France has long battled to have nuclear-produced hydrogen deemed ‘green’ under new European rules, and thus qualify for public funding as the EU divests from Russian energy sources.
France has also been a leader in nuclear development and has recently pushed for the recognition of nuclear as a low-carbon energy source in the EU.
EURACTIV revealed in late February that France would spearhead a new ‘EU nuclear alliance’ with 10 other member states to “cooperate more closely” across the entire nuclear supply chain and promote relevant “strategic projects” – an alliance Germany is not a member of.
While Kukies seems to suggest that nuclear-produced hydrogen may not be discriminated against, he also made clear that nuclear can only go so far in supporting the EU’s green transition. Low-carbon nuclear energy is not renewable and ought not to be found “equivalent” to renewable energies under the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, he added.
A revision of the Renewable Energy Directive, which is currently under negotiations, would look to impose a target of 45% of all EU’s energy to come from renewables by 2030.