A speech delivered by the European Commission’s executive VP for the European Green Deal reiterated the EU executive’s belief natural gas will play a part in the energy transition, 24 hours before a member of an advisory panel hit out at plans to deem gas and nuclear sustainable energy sources.

European commissioner for climate action Frans Timmermans told a high-level dialogue on climate and energy held between the EU and Africa, the commission sees natural gas as part of the energy transition.

With the European Commission on New Year’s Day having raised the hackles of the renewables lobby by proposing fossil fuel gas and divisive energy source nuclear be defined by the EU as “sustainable,” a speech delivered to high-level African representatives indicated the EU executive sees gas as part of the shift to renewable energy.

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Timmermans, in a speech published on the European Commission website on Thursday, said: “You asked about the role of gas as a transitional fuel. And I want to be very clear: The EU considers gas as a bridge to climate neutrality but only if it makes sense. When is that the case? If there is no other option. If it replaces coal, and if the investments made are hydrogen-ready, because clean gases are the real answer for our future energy needs. Sure, in some places in Africa gas will be part of the energy mix and that is also part of the transition.”

The executive VP for the European Green Deal did immediately go on to stress the potentially more attractive business case offered by solar and wind plants, whose costs have fallen remarkably in the last decade, even if solar panel prices started to move back up again last year, thanks to shortages of raw material polysilicon and much-publicized supply chain and shipping bottlenecks.

The draft of the speech was published the day before Sandrine Dixson-Declève, a member of commission advisory body the Platform on Sustainable Finance, described the notion of defining gas – and nuclear – as sustainable energy sources as “completely inappropriate.”

Maia Godemer, research associate at analyst BloombergNEF will look back on the 2021 sustainable debt market in the February edition of pv magazine. Concerning the EU sustainability taxonomy, she writes: “In its current state, the proposed greenhouse gas thresholds for natural gas could derail EU climate targets and weaken the bloc’s green investment offering, according to BloombergNEF. The inclusion of nuclear raises eyebrows due to safety and waste management issues, which could prevent the technology [satisfying] the “do no significant harm” criteria outlined in the taxonomy.”