Offshore Wind and Hydrogen Get Political Boost as EU Reaches Agreement on Revised TEN-E Rules

“Now is the time to invest in the energy infrastructure of the future. The revised TEN-E rules will allow clean technologies to be plugged in to our energy system – including offshore wind and hydrogen. We need to update and upgrade now to achieve the Green Deal’s goal of climate neutrality by 2050”, Executive Vice-President for the EU Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said on 15 December 2020 as revised rules of the Trans-European network for Energy (TEN-E) Regulation were introduced. Now, one year later, the EU reached a political agreement on the new rules.

On 14 December, the European Union’s Council, Parliament, and Commission agreed in principle on new EU rules for cross-border energy infrastructure and future Projects of Common Interest (PCIs) under the TEN-E framework, after the European Commission tabled a proposal for renewing the regulation last year with an aim to modernise the existing regulation and to fully align it with the Green Deal objectives.

As the Commission’s proposal also includes removing the eligibility of oil and natural gas infrastructure for support, the EU has also made a step forward on this matter, agreeing to stop funding some projects but leaving room for transitioning until a full halt in 2030.

Key elements of the political agreement include a strengthened framework for the cross-border cooperation to accelerate the implementation of offshore grids as key element of the energy transition, a strengthened focus on infrastructure categories such as smart electricity grids, a widened scope to include hydrogen networks as well as a mandatory sustainability assessment for all eligible projects.

Furthermore, the revised rules bring new provisions on support for projects connecting the EU with third countries, Projects of Mutual Interest ( PMIs), that contribute to the EU’s energy and climate objectives in terms of security of supply and decarbonisation.

While the political agreement accepts the general principle that the regulation should no longer provide support for fossil fuel infrastructure, as proposed by the Commission, the co-legislators agreed to allow for blending projects during a transitional period that will end in 2029, the EU Commission said.

The new rules also foresee a revised governance framework to enhance the infrastructure planning process and ensure it is aligned with the EU’s climate goals and energy system integration principles, through increased stakeholder involvement throughout the process, a reinforced role of the EU Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) and improved oversight by the Commission.

Furthermore, measures aim to simplify administrative procedures, accelerating project implementation, shortening permitting procedures for PCIs to avoid delays in projects that facilitate the energy transition, and strengthening transparency and participation in consultations. 

The framework for long-term offshore grid planning under the revised TEN-E Regulation was announced in November 2020 when the European Commission presented the EU Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy which set a target for 300 GW of offshore wind by 2050.

Related Article

The Commission last year said it would encourage cross-border cooperation between its member states on long-term planning and deployment of offshore renewables, which would require integrating offshore renewable energy development objectives in the states’ National Maritime Spatial Plans.

Following the political agreement on the new TEN-E rules, the text now must be approved by the European Council and the European Parliament before it is formally adopted.

The new framework will be the first piece of new energy legislation agreed under the Von der Leyen Commission. These will therefore be the rules that apply when it comes to the Commission drawing up the 6th PCI list, due for publication in autumn 2023, the EU Commission states.

Photo: Frans Timmermans; Photo: Jennifer Jacquemart / European Commission