With the war in Ukraine creating an unprecedented energy crisis in Europe, this was a long-awaited speech. During her State of the European Union address to MEPs meeting in Strasbourg on Wednesday 14 September, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced in particular that the European Union (EU) would create a public bank dedicated to development of hydrogen energy, capable of investing 3,000 million euros “to build the future market” of this energy.
“We need to move from the niche market to the mass market. (…) We want to produce ten million tons of renewable hydrogen in the EU every year by 2030.” she argued. This requires “fill the investment gap”added m.me Von der Leyen, assuring that this public bank would also contribute to “guarantee the purchase of hydrogen”.
Strategic sector for the decarbonization of the economy
The President of the European Commission thus devoted a large part of her speech to the subject, also assuring that the EU was going to commit “deep reform” of the European electricity market to cope with rising energy prices.
In an attempt to deal with this crisis, the institution already presented, in May, its plan “RePower EU” foreseeing an acceleration of renewable energy within the EU to free itself as quickly as possible from Russian gas imports, in direct reaction to the invasion of Ukraine.
In July, the European executive approved a research and development project in favor of hydrogen, a strategic sector for the decarbonisation of the economy, by federating 41 initiatives involving 35 companies (large groups, SMEs or start-ups), supported by 15 Member States, including Germany, Spain, France, Italy, and Poland.
In this context, Brussels has authorized public financing of up to 5.4 billion euros, estimating that this state aid should make it possible to mobilize 8.8 billion additional private investments and create 20,000 jobs throughout Europe.
Hydrogen should play a central role in allowing industry to produce steel, cement or chemical and pharmaceutical products without emitting COtwo. To do this, it must itself be green, that is, resulting from an electrolysis of the water molecule (HtwoEITHER).
Thus, it could replace coal in industry and enable the storage of intermittent renewable energies, solar or wind, through fuel cells. Heavy transportation (trains, ships, highway utility vehicles, etc.) could also use hydrogen to replace their fossil fuels.
“Unbreakable solidarity” with Ukraine
During her speech, Ursula von der Leyen also reiterated the EU’s unwavering support for Ukraine. “Europe’s solidarity with Ukraine will remain unwavering”repeated the president of the Commission in the eighth month of conflict, insisting that the EU sanctions against Russia were not going to be lifted.
Dressed in the colors of Ukraine as a sign of European solidarity with Ukraine, Ursula von der Leyen paid tribute to the wife of the Ukrainian president, Olena Zelenska, guest of honor at this speech and who was applauded by MEPs.
“Dear Olena, it took immense courage to stand up to Putin’s cruelty. You found that courage”launched the leader, announcing that she would leave for Kyiv at the end of the parliamentary debate after her speech to discuss ” in detail “ of continued European aid to President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“I am here in front of you with the conviction that, thanks to our courage and our solidarity, Putin will fail and Europe will win”added the President of the European Commission, who intervened successively in English, French and German.
Limit superprofits of energy companies
Ursula von der Leyen also proposed a cap on one-time revenues – called “super-profits” – of electricity producers based on renewable and nuclear energy that would allow to increase “more than 140 billion euros” for EU states, in order to redistribute them to vulnerable households and businesses. The twenty-seven European energy ministers must, for their part, meet again on September 30 to decide on the emergency plan proposed by the European Commission.
During his speech, Mr.me Von der Leyen has also promised that the EU will constitute “strategic reserves” to avoid interruptions in the supply of raw materials “criticism” for your industry (lithium, rare earths). Finally, he assured that the EU will double its firefighting capabilities next year with the purchase of ten light amphibious aircraft and three additional helicopters.
The speech on the state of the Union must allow the Commission – not elected but with initiative of European laws – to report on its results and present its projects to the European parliamentarians.
It was the third time that Ursula von der Leyen had dedicated herself to this exercise inspired by US politics, in a context very different from that of 2021, where she was further strengthened by the united management of the health crisis. A two-hour debate with MEPs was scheduled after her speech.
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