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EU seeks to agree key path towards green industry goals

By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -European Union policymakers began final negotiations on Tuesday on new rules to promote local production of equipment for solar and wind power, fuel cells and other clean technologies and ensure its industry can compete with Chinese and U.S. rivals.

The bloc aims to set a 2030 target of producing 40% of the products it needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These will cover renewable energy, battery storage, heat pumps, electrolysers, biogas, carbon capture and electricity grids.

Europe is increasingly relying on China, which is forecast to have 80% of global manufacturing capacity in solar power for example. It also has concerns that the $369 billion of green subsidies in the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will entice European producers to relocate.

European Parliament lawmakers and Belgium, which holds the six-month rotating EU presidency, began talks on Tuesday morning in a bid to agree the final details of the Net-Zero Industry Act (NZIA).

The NZIA is a centrepiece of the EU’s push to ensure it is not only a global leader in cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but also in manufacturing the clean tech required.

The act, likely to enter force later this year, proposes streamlining the granting of permits for projects that boost EU manufacturing, ensuring they are issued within 18 months.

Public authorities conducting tenders for clean-tech equipment, such as for a solar or wind park, would also have to award contracts based not only on the price, but also on environmental criteria and ensuring that no more than 65% of supply is from a single source.

Hitting the 40% production target will be particularly tough in solar, given domestic manufacturers supply less than 3% of EU panel deployments and are fighting for survival. The EU wind energy sector is far stronger, although Chinese companies are starting to gain a foothold.

Also, while the NZIA will give the EU greater flexibility to support local production and seeks to coordinate various EU funds, it will not have a pot of new money to rival the IRA. A mooted European Sovereignty Fund has failed to materialise.

Tuesday’s talks were expected to focus on how widely to interpret clean tech, such as including nuclear power or all equipment components, whether to shorten the permitting timelines and how non-price criteria should be applied in tenders.

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