This Policy Brief analyses the challenges of the European gas package, currently under discussion in the European Parliament, in the dual context of supply and price crises and decarbonization strategies. Beyond the challenge of reducing natural gas consumption, this reform must support essential transformations for the energy transition including changes in gas uses and the emergence of other so-called “low-carbon” gases. The European Commission’s proposal identifies these key issues, but must be strengthened, particularly with regard to hydrogen, through provisions that guarantee network governance adapted to climate objectives.
- The main issue of the “gas package” is unchanged following the invasion of Ukraine: it concerns implementing the decrease of natural gas in the European energy system to achieve the climate objectives. In an emission-neutral energy system, other so-called “low-carbon” gases can be mobilized, but they would play a different role to that of natural gas today, which requires to rethink our current gas uses and infrastructure.
- To ensure the alignment of short-term crisis recovery with climate objectives, the gas package must provide a framework for infrastructure governance that relies not only on the technical expertise of network operators, but also on stakeholder consultation and scientific expertise. From the perspective of optimizing systems for transition, the planning of electricity, natural gas and hydrogen networks should be integrated.
- The changing role of gases in the system requires to reconsider the wat the network is organized and financed, including the option to decommission in response to lower consumption, particularly on the distribution side. Beyond the gas package, this aspect must be included in the energy-climate planning of Member States, for example via the national energy-climate plans, in the same way as for the other possible transformations in the residential sector.
- While hydrogen can play an important role in the decarbonization of certain industrial and heavy transport sectors, it cannot replace natural gas in the current system. The option of blending hydrogen into the natural gas network is therefore of limited value, as the move from natural gas to hydrogen is not an obvious step in the transition and its climate benefits are low.