London — The European Parliament's energy committee on Wednesday voted to reject an objection to the EU's recently published Projects of Common Interest list, which has been criticized for including 32 gas-related infrastructure projects.
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An objection to the fourth PCI list -- which identifies the highest priority energy infrastructure projects to be built in Europe -- was put forward by Green MEP Marie Toussaint and called for a rejection of the entire PCI list.
But the committee rejected the objection by 54 votes to 17, with two abstentions.
A motion to reject the list is nonetheless expected to be put to the whole Parliament for plenary votes in February.
PCI project developers can apply for funding from the Eur5.35 billion ($6.2 billion) Connecting Europe Facility, which runs until the end of 2020.
The PCI list includes high-profile planned gas projects, including five LNG import terminals, five gas storage sites and significant pipeline projects such as the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB), the TAP gas pipeline from Greece to Italy and the EastMed gas pipeline to link Israel and Cyprus to Greece (see table for full list).
Environmentalist groups Friends of the Earth Europe and Food & Water Europe slammed the committee vote, saying it would put the climate neutrality goals of the European Green Deal in jeopardy.
"There can be no truly Green Deal with more fossil gas," climate justice coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe, Colin Roche, said.
"It's now up to all MEPs to reject this vast list of mega-pipelines and other new fossil fuel projects -- they are not compatible with the climate emergency and tarnish the credibility of any European Green Deal," Roche said.
At the time of the list's publication in October last year, the European Commission's vice president for energy union, Maros Sefcovic, said the list would help the EU build "strong and well-connected networks across Europe in order to enhance security of supply."
However, gas is coming under increasing pressure across Europe, with attitudes turning negative more quickly than many in the industry had thought.
The European Investment Bank at the end of 2019 said it had committed to stop approving unabated fossil fuel projects from the end of 2021 and that there were increasing calls for efforts to be focused on renewable electricity to decarbonize the EU economy by 2050.
Consultancy Artelys said in a damning report published this month that the majority of the 32 gas infrastructure projects on the fourth PCI list were effectively redundant.
"Most of the 32 gas infrastructure projects on the fourth PCI list are unnecessary from a security of supply point of view, and represent a potential overinvestment of tens of billions of euros, supported by European public funds," Artelys said.
"The report concludes that the existing EU gas infrastructure is sufficiently capable of meeting a variety of future gas demand scenarios in the EU28, even in the event of extreme supply disruption cases," Artelys said.
Gas projects included in the four PCI list are at risk of becoming stranded assets, it said, even in scenarios with higher gas demand.
"Most of the projects are shown to be superfluous from an economic point of view," the consultancy said.
32 gas-related infrastructure projects on PCI list
LNG import terminals
Source: European Commission