With gas energy communities, Commission risks opening up energy democratisation to corporate capture
Brussels, 15 December 2021 – Today, the European Commission published proposals to revise the EU’s existing internal gas market legislation. Dubbed as the ‘hydrogen and decarbonised gas market’ package, these revisions are intended to help the EU achieve a 55 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. With its seemingly obsessive focus on hydrogen, the legislative proposals look like an early Christmas gift to the gas industry. But it is the Commission’s proposal to introduce citizen energy communities in the Gas Directive that has the energy community sector and civil society particularly concerned.
Specifically, the Gas Directive proposes to ‘mirror’ citizen energy communities from the Electricity Directive, which was part of the Clean Energy for All Europeans legislative package. Similar to the Electricity Directive, the proposal includes a specific article to elaborate rights and an enabling framework for gas energy communities. The objective is to jump-start the market for bio-methane, which is considered a renewable energy.
However, support for bio-methane and energy communities is already covered under the Renewable Energy Directive. In addition, Member States are still writing new EU rules on energy communities into national law, and the addition of a third concept could increase confusion among decision makers. Most concerning is that gas energy communities would be open to any market actor, meaning that larger gas companies could participate, creating a significant risk of abuse or citizen washing. This risk is heightened by the fact that there is no requirement for citizen energy communities to be autonomous from gas companies that might participate. It is for these reasons that the Community Power Coalition recently wrote to Executive-Vice President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, and the Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, urging them not to include a new concept of energy communities in their legislative proposal.
Dirk Vansintjan, President of REScoop.eu, the European Federation of Citizen Energy Cooperatives, had to say: “We are deeply appreciative for the Commission’s ongoing support of communities taking ownership of the energy transition, but it goes too far by proposing gas energy communities.” Continuing, Vansintjan says “Even though the Clean Energy Package is not perfect, why risk the wins achieved there by overcomplicating the energy community concept and lending it to abuse by large, self-interested gas companies?”
Now that the Commission has proposed this legislation, it will enter the co-decision process, whereby the European Parliament and the Council will negotiate in parallel but separate processes on their own revisions to the texts.
*** end ***
For media inquiries, please contact Óscar Güell (email@example.com - 0032 488478586).