Europe unveils gas market proposals key to low-carbon future

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The European Union proposed a set of measures designed to ensure the use of green energy sources and boost natural gas supply security in the bloc’s shift away from fossil fuels.

The Commission unveiled Wednesday the planned revision of its gas market law to ensure the integration of renewable and low-carbon gases, such as biomethane and hydrogen. The package is a key step in implementing the European Green Deal, a sweeping strategy to accelerate pollution cuts by 2030 and eliminate net greenhouse-gas emissions by the middle of the century.

“Europe needs to turn the page on fossil fuels and move to cleaner energy sources,” said EU climate chief Frans Timmermans. “This includes replacing fossil gas with renewable and low-carbon gases, like hydrogen. Today, we are proposing the rules to enable this transition and build the necessary markets, networks and infrastructure.”

The package comes at a time of an unprecedented energy crunch, with soaring fuel prices putting the focus on the EU’s reliance on countries like Russia for natural gas. For its part, the Commission says it highlights the need to end its dependence on fossil fuels.

The new rules will include measures such as removing tariffs for cross-border low-carbon gas flows and a certification system. To encourage the phaseout of fossil fuels, the commission also wants to ban the extension of long-term supply contracts beyond 2049.

The EU executive also proposed a more strategic approach to gas storage, including steps to ensure a high filling level at the beginning of the heating season. Member states will have to identify and resolve potential risks in their own gas storage levels. The plan also allows voluntary joint procurement of gas reserves by grid operators.

Building Better

The Commission is also seeking to make both new and existing buildings more energy efficient. The lowest rated non-residential buildings will have to be upgraded by 2027, with those in the residential sector following by 2030, according to the proposal. Gas boilers will no longer be available for public support later in the decade. 

Combating Methane

The bloc also wants to step up the monitoring and repair of methane leaks, one of the most potent greenhouse gases. Companies will have to conduct regular surveys to identify and fix stray emissions, and routine venting and flaring of the gas will largely be banned. 

A key part of the legislation though will be a first attempt to address the EU’s imported methane emissions. Importers will have to provide information on how they are measuring and mitigating emissions. The bloc will review the rules on imports by 2025.

Carbon Removal

The Commission also outlined ways to scale up carbon farming and technological solutions to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, a step needed to reach the 2050 net-zero emissions goal. It put the annual removal target at five million tons of carbon and said it planned to propose a regulation on accounting and certification next year.

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