Are the days numbered for electricity produced by natural gas? Judging by an inspection of the European Union’s Transparency Register, that is certainly the fear of the gas industry across Europe. This Register provides details of the number of formal meetings between EU officials and lobbyists of all kinds each month.
And it seems that the number of meetings with those from the gas industry has more than doubled over recent months. From an average of 9.5 meetings per month back in 2018, up to an average of 19 per month over the past year. All this despite Covid restrictions. Meanwhile, the number of EU-registered lobbyists operating on behalf of the gas industry has risen to 776 between January 2020 and May 2021, from 759 in the prior period.
Why this frenzy of activity? I suspect that the reason may well be to do with the impending finalisation of the EU’s taxonomy categories.
Back in 2016, it was agreed that in response to many fears regarding false greenwashing claims, the EU would produce a detailed list regarding precisely which activities and which technologies would be deemed to be climate friendly. The definition is intended to be “doing no significant harm” to the environment.
Subsequently a group of expert advisers to the EU has concluded that gas-fired power can only be included if it meets stringent emissions rules. These are rules with which no gas plant in Europe currently complies. Whilst excluding gas from the coveted label would not prevent gas producers from raising money via debt or equity, some companies fear it would make the option of gas-fired electricity far more expensive.
Some Governments, noticeably in eastern Europe, still see gas as a necessary bridging fuel as they move from coal to renewables. The European Commission has repeatedly delayed making a final decision, but that decision is now due this autumn. All of which is concentrating the minds of those in the natural gas industry very, very hard.