The European Parliament and the Council of the EU have reached a political agreement to harmonise rules for the future hydrogen and low-carbon gas market, with which the European Union seeks to gradually replace a fossil hydrocarbon like natural gas.

“It is a great achievement as it will boost the deployment of the emerging hydrogen sector, the transition of the gas sector towards renewable energies and also establishes rules for consumer protection and strengthens security of supply,” the third vice-president of the Spanish government, Teresa Ribera, said in a statement on behalf of the Spanish presidency of the Council.

The political agreement on the directive in question, which builds on a European Commission proposal from December 2021 and will have to be validated by the Council and the full European Parliament, should make it easier for the EU to reach its goal of becoming climate neutral by 2050.

A framework for hydrogen

To this end, it creates “a regulatory framework for dedicated hydrogen infrastructure and markets and integrated network planning”.

“It also establishes rules for consumer protection and strengthens security of supply,” the Council, which represents member states in the EU legislative process, said in a statement, adding that the remaining part of the package, a directly applicable regulation, will be “agreed later by the Council and the Parliament”.

The pact, in particular, provides for a split between transmission system operators (TSOs) and distribution system operators (DSOs) for hydrogen, which in principle cannot be part of the same company, although capitals may grant exemptions “on the basis of a publicly available cost-benefit analysis”.

It also sets out the conditions under which customers may be disconnected, with the aim of protecting them “from future decommissioning of the gas network or conversion to hydrogen” and includes provisions for sufficient advance notice.

Towards decarbonisation

It also addresses the “specific needs” of vulnerable consumers, although it will be up to member states to decide how to protect and support them.

The interim agreement also provides for greater coordination between hydrogen, electricity and natural gas network development plans, under the premise of promoting energy efficiency and prioritising the use of hydrogen in sectors that are difficult to electrify.

“We have ensured that sectors that are difficult to decarbonise, such as the steel and chemical industries, are placed at the heart of the development of a European hydrogen market,” said Parliament’s chief negotiator Jens Geier in a statement.

Source: El periódico de la energía