LEAK: France wins recognition for nuclear in EU’s green hydrogen rules

The European Commission has tabled long-awaited rules defining the circumstances under which hydrogen can be labelled as coming from “renewable” energy sources. Last minute, Paris also won recognition for low-carbon hydrogen produced from nuclear electricity.

* Updated on 12 Feb. to clarify derogation from additionality rule.

As Europe turns to hydrogen, there are fears that electrolysers producing the gaseous fuel will drive up demand for power and cannibalise renewable electricity intended for other uses.

To prevent this, the European Commission has been working on a set of rules to ensure green hydrogen uses only “additional” sources of renewable electricity.

After more than a year of delay due to intense lobbying from Paris and Berlin, the EU executive finally adopted those rules on Friday evening (10 February), according to documents obtained by EURACTIV.

To ensure green hydrogen is made only from “additional” renewable power, the Commission sought to correlate its production in time and space. According to this principle, a Spanish hydrogen producer, for instance, would be unable to claim hydrogen as renewable if the electricity used came from Sweden.

How closely the two would have to be correlated – hourly or quarterly, 50 kilometres apart or from a neighbouring country – have since been subject of intense debate, with industry pushing for looser rules and green campaigners insisting on a close correlation to avoid cannibalisation. 

After months of hesitation, the Commission finally took a decision and set out two important criteria:

  • By 2030, hydrogen production must be matched to renewable energy production on an hourly basis. Until then, the correlation is set on a monthly basis.
  • By 2028, hydrogen producers must prove that their electrolysers are connected to renewable energy installations no older than 36 months.

With those criteria, Europe’s hydrogen industry is now relieved. 

“It is of paramount importance that legal certainty can now at last be ensured so that investments can begin,” said Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, CEO of Hydrogen Europe, a lobby group. 

Until now, hydrogen investors were “chomping at the bit” to make final investment decisions in Europe, he told EURACTIV.

Hydrogen Europe had earlier warned against an exodus of hydrogen firms across the Atlantic following the adoption of the Inflation Reduction Act in the US.



cover : French energy minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher has lobbied intensively to win recognition for the French nuclear industry in the EU's green hydrogen rules. [Copyright: European Union]