The European Ombudsman will investigate and assess the sustainability of priority gas infrastructure projects in the Western Balkans, following a Bankwatch complaint against the European Commission about its impact on the climate and the displacement of renewable energy.
The priority gas infrastructure projects in the region include 12 gas projects, worth at least € 2billion, which are approved by the Projects of Energy Community Interest (PECI).
The complaint against European Commission raises concerns that their oversight of such projects was lacking.
In 2020, the Ombudsman levied criticism against the Commission for approving several projects without ascertaining what their greenhouse gas emission levels would be. Another similar inquiry was then opened against the Commission regarding similar projects in southeast and eastern Europe.
Bankwatch claims that not only does the Ombudsman have grounds, but that the Commission didn’t undertake sound sustainability assessments. They added that the evaluation they underwent was done using deficient methodologies that the Commission was aware of but proceeded with anyway.
They claim that the project assessments assumed that all gas projects would reduce CO2 emissions that that gas could replace coal. They also assumed demand would not increase and therefore CO2 emissions would also not increase. Bankwatch states that this ignores the fact that gas is likely to end up displacing other sources of energy including renewable sources.
With Albania as an example, Bankwatch said that it currently gets all of its power from hydropower. The Commission’s assessment however foresaw a reduction in emissions. This was apparently because they included the Vlora oil-fired power plant into the equation, despite the fact it doesn’t work and isn’t used.
Bankwatch is calling for the removal of gas projects from PECI and PMI lists because they “lack credible data on sustainability”. The add that the adoption of any new lists must be postponed until assessment methodology is suitably updated.
“The Energy Community countries, like the rest of the world, need to decarbonize their energy sectors by 2050 at the latest. Greenlighting gas projects now undermines any efforts…What needs to be prioritized are energy efficiency and sustainable renewable energy projects, not gas.”