EU green strategies pay 'insufficient attention' to nuclear, says Foratom

09 July 2020

Foratom says it "remains concerned" that the European Commission is paying "insufficient attention" to low-carbon, non-fossil fuel sources of hydrogen, such as nuclear. The EU nuclear trade association was responding to two strategies the Commission released on 8 July for energy sector integration and hydrogen. Foratom said it welcomed the addition of a 'low-carbon hydrogen' category but said its usage should not be limited to the short and medium term.

"Transforming our energy system is going to require ALL low-carbon solutions currently available. And EU policy must reflect this," says Foratom Director General Yves Desbazeille (Image: Foratom)

To become climate-neutral by 2050, Europe needs to transform its energy system, which accounts for 75% of the EU's greenhouse gas emissions. The EU strategies for energy system integration and hydrogen aim to pave the way towards a more efficient and interconnected energy sector, driven by the twin goals of a cleaner planet and a stronger economy. EU Strategy for Energy System Integration and EU Hydrogen Strategy present a new clean energy investment agenda, in line with the Commission's Next Generation EU recovery package and the European Green Deal.

Foratom Director General Yves Desbazeille said yesterday: "Nuclear is a very versatile and proven technology, providing low-carbon electricity that can be used for the production of clean hydrogen and heat for industrial processes or district heating. For example, in 2018, around 350 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electrical equivalent heat of district heating and process heat was generated in the EU and Switzerland.

"Given the huge challenge which Europe will face over the next 30 years, it is essential that policymakers do not focus only on variable renewables. Transforming our energy system is going to require ALL low-carbon solutions currently available. And EU policy must reflect this."

Electrification should be the main driver for a future integrated energy system, Foratom says, and a decarbonised power system can help other sectors in achieving the GHG reduction targets. But for some industries electrification will not be enough, it says, and therefore low-carbon hydrogen can provide an ideal solution, as long as it is available when they need it - and at an affordable cost.

"In terms of smart sector integration, low-carbon hydrogen is an important solution for hard to decarbonise sectors, such as industry and transport," Desbazeille said. "But these sectors are going to depend on a significant amount of affordable hydrogen, 24/7. Therefore, it is essential that these EU strategies recognise ALL sources of low-carbon hydrogen, including nuclear."

In order to produce affordable hydrogen, electrolysers will need to run constantly on low-carbon electricity, Foratom says. With nuclear complementing variable renewables (wind and solar) in supplying power for low-carbon hydrogen production, this will ensure a quasi-baseload electrolyser which will trigger decreasing production costs, it says.

"This is why Foratom believes that it is essential for the EU to adopt a technology neutral approach based on the impact of each technology on the CO2 emission reduction targets. We therefore urge the EU to acknowledge the important role that the nuclear energy sector will play alongside renewables," the trade body said.

The Commission says the EU Strategy for Energy System Integration will provide the framework for the green energy transition.

"The current model where energy consumption in transport, industry, gas and buildings is happening in ‘silos' - each with separate value chains, rules, infrastructure, planning and operations - cannot deliver climate neutrality by 2050 in a cost efficient way; the changing costs of innovative solutions have to be integrated in the way we operate our energy system. New links between sectors must be created and technological progress exploited," the Commission said on unveiling the two new strategies.

"Energy system integration means that the system is planned and operated as a whole, linking different energy carriers, infrastructures, and consumption sectors. This connected and flexible system will be more efficient, and reduce costs for society. For example, this means a system where the electricity that fuels Europe's cars could come from the solar panels on our roofs, while our buildings are kept warm with heat from a nearby factory, and the factory is fuelled by clean hydrogen produced from off-shore wind energy," it added.

In an integrated energy system, hydrogen can support the decarbonisation of industry, transport, power generation and buildings across Europe, it says. The EU Hydrogen Strategy addresses "how to transform this potential into reality", through investments, regulation, market creation and research and innovation.

"Hydrogen can power sectors that are not suitable for electrification and provide storage to balance variable renewable energy flows, but this can only be achieved with coordinated action between the public and private sector, at EU level," the Commission said. "The priority is to develop renewable hydrogen, produced using mainly wind and solar energy. However, in the short and medium term other forms of low-carbon hydrogen are needed to rapidly reduce emissions and support the development of a viable market," it added.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News