Pivotal in reaching a broad mandate on the trans-European networks in energy (TEN-E) revision was the cross-group belief that the climate cannot wait, explains Erik Bergkvist

TEN-E negotiations were tough, but S&D Group shadow rapporteur says ITRE committee delivered a balanced approach to ending fossil fuel funding
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By Erik Bergkvist

Erik Bergkvist (SE, S&D) is S&D Group shadow rapporteur on the Guidelines for Trans-European energy infrastructure report

14 Oct 2021

Fossil fuel projects, such as natural gas pipelines, will now no longer be eligible for EU funding. Following tough, prolonged negotiations in the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee on the question of funding for fossil gas, governance issues and energy efficiency, we will begin trialogue negotiations next week on the revised legislation.

There was a surprisingly broad mandate across the Parliament’s political Groups, and I am looking forward to entering into trialogues on trans-European networks in energy (TEN-E) with the Council and Commission armed with a strong and progressive mandate from the European Parliament. 

“We ensured that all renewable energy sources, including offshore wind power, can connect to the common infrastructure”

As the S&D group’s shadow rapporteur on the file, I am happy that the result aligns with science and our ambitious climate goals. My mandate from the group - and main goal throughout the negotiations - was to end EU funding support for fossil fuels in the TEN-E. The negotiations were tough, but I believe we managed to deliver a balanced approach on the role gas will have in the future TEN-E.

With this revision, and the nine compromise texts, we are phasing out fossil fuels. And we are focusing on new and modern energy sources and on improving their access to EU funding. We ensured that all renewable energy sources, including offshore wind power, can connect to the common infrastructure.

Another important question was energy efficiency; only the most efficient infrastructure projects should receive EU funding. We also managed to revise the governance framework to ensure more science-based criteria for granting Project of Common Interest (PCI) status. 

A compromise is never one person’s opinion; at best it’s a win-win for all participating parties and still sharp enough to deliver its goals. I think we achieved that, and at the same secured a revision that is in line with scientific evidence. No new fossil fuel projects will be granted EU funding, and the low-carbon solutions that are needed in the transition towards more renewable sources - such as blending natural gas with hydrogen - now have a funding expiration date of end of 2029. 

“A compromise is never one person’s opinion; at best it’s a win-win for all participating parties and still sharp enough to deliver its goals. I think we achieved that”

We not only succeeded in delivering a progressive and fossil free position, but also secured a broad mandate and a strong position for the forthcoming trialogue negotiations. I think the key to reaching a broad mandate, one supported by the S&D, EPP, Renew, Greens and ECR groups, was that we all realised that the climate cannot wait. If we want to meet our goal of being climate neutral by 2050, then we have no choice but to decarbonise our electricity supply and substantially accelerate our deployment of renewable energy. 

With this in mind, when entering the negotiations, we were all keen to reach a result that would make a real difference. From the start, there was constructive and open dialogue, paving the way for several compromises. We were all open to new ideas and everyone had a good understanding of this often quite technical file. 

Having to negotiate online is a difficult task, but during the last round of discussions almost all of us were present in Strasbourg, which made it possible to finalise the process. I imagine it would have been much harder if we had been sitting in front of our screens at three o’clock in the morning. Despite our differences I believe we found a good balance, and I am happy to continue the teamwork in the upcoming negotiations with the Council and Commission.

We have now set the standard for the next PCI list, and although much work remains, this was an important step on the way. Now we will use our progressive position in negotiations with the Council and European Commission. I am thankful for the excellent dialogue between all our political groups and the concrete result we delivered. 

Let’s keep moving forward towards more renewable energy across the European Union. 

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Energy & Climate
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