Gases that bring about greenhouse-gas emission savings of at least 70 % will be certified as «low carbon».
No hard deadlines for a natural gas phase-out are included in the plan, but in a previous assessment, the Commission estimated gas consumption should reduce by 32 to 37 percent before 2030.
To reach this goal, it has now banned long-term gas contracts beyond 2049.
The Commission also aims to reduce natural gas usage by promoting hydrogen.
EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson said at a press conference:
- One of the main goals is to establish a hydrogen market
- We want Europe to lead the way for this important source of energy
In addition, it will allow gas companies to blend up to 5% hydrogen into the gas supply.
A new governing body, the European Network of Hydrogen Operators (ENNOH), will be set up to promote hydrogen as a substitute for natural gas.
«Electricity alone cannot deliver all our future energy needs,» Timmermans said, arguing low carbon gases are needed for industries like clean steel production or heavy-duty transport.
It can also serve as a storage facility to stock up excess wind and solar power production.
And - because it repurposes gas infrastructure - it is a cheap way to green the energy system, Timmermans has argued in the past.
But environmental groups have warned that the repurposing of gas infrastructure threatens to lock in fossil-fuel dependency and «reconfirm the central role of gas grid companies in deciding future gas investments.»
Tara Connolly, senior gas campaigner at Global Witness, said:
- It has never been clearer that Europeans need to get off fossil gas
- Instead, the commission has left consumers at the mercy of greedy gas companies, determined to keep investing in expensive gas grids we no longer need
Green MEP Bas Eickhout said:
- After coal, gas is the next fossil fuel to get rid of
- But we should not make the mistake of replacing it one-on-one with hydrogen
- Hydrogen is scarce and inefficient as an energy carrier
- The commission needs to clearly say what we can use hydrogen for and what infrastructure is needed for that