France and Germany have reached an agreement on nuclear energy, allowing the European Council to proceed with its energy market reform.
After months of deadlock, EU member states have agreed a position regarding the need to reform the bloc’s electricity market.
The reform aims to make electricity prices less dependent on volatile fossil fuel prices, shield consumers from price spikes, accelerate the deployment of renewable energies and improve consumer protection, the European Commission said.
The need for a reform was prompted by the gas shortages and high energy prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
However, negotiations stalled over the issue of nuclear energy. While France supported a motion to use state-backed investment schemes for clean energy projects, Germany expressed concerns that the French would use the funds to obtain huge profits from its large nuclear fleet, which generate about 70 per cent of its electricity.
Eventually, Germany conceded on the subject, permitting France to use revenues from the contracts for difference (CfDs) to extend the lifespan of its existing power plants. In exchange, it was established that the CfDs should be subject to certain “design rules” that would ensure any redistribution of revenues “does not create undue distortions to competition and trade in the internal market”, the document states.
“Thanks to this agreement, consumers across the EU will benefit from much more stable energy prices, less dependency on the price of fossil fuels and better protection from future crises,” said Spanish vice-president Teresa Ribera, who chaired the meeting as part of Spain’s EU presidency. “We will also accelerate the deployment of renewables, a cheaper and cleaner energy source for our citizens.”
France’s energy minister, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, said that the agreement was “a compromise which sets out a balance” that “allows member states to have room for manoeuvre and take action on the basis of their own energy mix”.
EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson stressed the agreement “will help increase the resilience of the European electricity market to any future price shocks coming from tensions on gas markets, but also to prepare for a decarbonised future”.
Negotiations between the European Commission, EU countries and the European Parliament will continue over the week, in the hope of concluding the reform by the end of the year.
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