Central Eastern European countries are urging the European Union to recognise the existence of national and regional differences and therefore allow tailored solutions for the achievement of a climate-neutral EU by 2050.
In a letter to the European Commission, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, underlined the importance of natural gas as a bridge to a sustainable future, as they lack zero-emission technologies.
“The European Green Deal set out by the European Commission underlines the need to mobilise significant investments, allowing the EU to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050,” reads the letter. “In doing so, EU policies should ensure synergies and system flexibility, while not hampering competitiveness, the stability of energy supplies and affordability of energy to industry and households.”
Also, the Commission has to take into account the social and economic aspects of the current situation caused by COVID-19.
“When replacing solid fossil fuels, natural gas and other gaseous fuels such as bio-methane and decarbonised gases can reduce emissions significantly with well-known and proven technologies and costs not hampering the EU competitiveness,” continues the letter.
In fact, natural gas can curtail greenhouse gas emissions (60 per cent less CO2 than coal) but also of dust and other pollutants such as Nitrogen oxide and Sulfur Oxides (up to 99 per cent less than coal). Also, bio-methane has a neutral greenhouse gas emission impact, it provides the fastest and the most affordable intermediate path to a less carbon-intensive economy and an improvement of air quality.
According to the eight countries, the accelerated development of renewable energy requires massive investments not only into the power grids but also in the gas infrastructure including storage to make sure these additional sources of electricity generation will reach the customers in a cost-optimal way. In this context, the natural gas turns out to be a substantial back-up and balancing source for development of renewable energy and electricity system. It enables additional wind and solar generation, replaces existing inefficient generation and can replace coal and oil in the fuels’ structure of respective Member States.
In Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, coal provides roughly half of the electricity, while hard coal and lignite, which produce nearly 80 per cent of Poland’s electricity.
Although all countries recognise the benefits power-to-gas and other innovative technologies, the promising potential for integrating and coupling electricity and gas sector could only be fully realised if there is a clear and stable regulatory framework that will support the modernisation and repurpose of the existing infrastructure. Gas infrastructure should be considered as one of the enablers of sustainable and swift transition towards cleaner heat and electricity generation, transport, industrial processes and residential heating and cooling.