Natural “Green” Gas?

Hello and Happy New Year!

There was news recently that the EU is going to label natural gas and nuclear power as sources of green energy which is controversial. This is draft text but is fully expected to be approved with only Germany speaking out against it so far.

It comes with caveats, Nuclear energy will be “green” if the country can dispose of waste in a way that causes ” no significant harm” which is very vague to say the least.

Gas will be green if it emits less than 270g of CO2 per kWh. This is slightly harder to understand but equally very poor.

Typically if you burn a kWh of natural gas (methane) it gives out 0.185kg of CO2. However all gas systems have leaks and losses meaning in the UK on average the figure is 0.203kg CO2 per kWh. In other words, the UK could switch to entirely gas having already met the target (I know we are not EU!). This does not include the other steps and damage like deep sea drilling, fracking etc.

The EU is arguing this is a transition fuel. The gas numbers are better than coal so we move from coal to gas, then move from gas to renewables. The problem is that not many will build a powerplant for a short term to then change or demolish it later. Those that do are putting a deadline on it’s usage or will lobby against energy measures to keep it.

On average, across the world the figure is 0.425g CO2 per kWh using all fuels combined. If a country was heavily coal reliant then moving to gas would result in a lowering of emissions. If India switched from coal to gas overnight their footprint would drop by about 60%.

However if we know renewables work, then is the transition necessary? In some cases it may be better to go via gas but most of the EU could go directly to renewables. Also most of the EU gas comes from Russia which is politically difficult as Russia can alter our fuel prices. There is definitely politics in this decision.

 As I type this the German energy grid is operating at 159g CO2 per kWh indicating it is ok. In comparison though Scotland is at 10g CO2 per kWh which is very low as we have loads of renewables. These figures are just to demonstrate that the EU figure of 270g is not a low target and switching to renewables would be far more advantageous and practical.

Fundamentally labelling burning methane as “green” is surely wrong?

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