EU leaders agree to fast-tracked deal on power reforms

BRUSSELS – European Union country leaders agreed on Thursday to fast-track reforms to the bloc’s electricity market meant to tame severe price spikes such as those experienced last year after Russia cut gas supplies to Europe.

Helped by mild weather and a raft of emergency measures to save energy and store gas, the EU is emerging from winter with a better energy security situation than had been feared after Russia slashed gas deliveries following its invasion of Ukraine.

Last week, EU executive European Commission proposed changes to Europe’s electricity market, focusing on expanding use of long-term, fixed-price contracts to make consumers’ bills less tied to volatile fossil fuel prices.

On Thursday, a summit of EU leaders in Brussels agreed the bloc’s electricity market reforms should be adopted “by the end of 2023,” according to their joint decision.

Leaders also discussed how to support the EU’s plans to rapidly scale up green energy and technologies to hit climate change goals.

Speaking at a news conference after the summit, president of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, outlined limits to how far nuclear energy can benefit from special EU support meant to help the bloc reduce CO2 emissions and boost renewable energy.

“Nuclear can play a role in our decarbonisation efforts,” she said, adding that the bloc’s strategy to reach net zero emissions by 2050 makes “cutting-edge nuclear” eligible for some simplified rules and incentives.

“But only the net zero technologies that we deem strategic for the future – like solar panels, batteries and elektrolizers – have access to the full advantages and benefits. So the cutting-edge nuclear is in for specific fields but not for all.”

France is leading a push to have fuels based on nuclear energy counted towards the EU’s renewable targets, a move Paris says will support the contribution CO2-free nuclear energy is making towards climate change goals.

Countries such as Denmark, Germany and Spain are opposed, saying integrating nuclear energy into the law would undermine efforts to expand renewable sources like wind and solar. – Reuters