• EC has revealed its hydrogen strategy under which European Clean Hydrogen Alliance has been set up
  • The alliance will identify and build a pipeline of viable investment renewable hydrogen projects
  • Between 2020 to 2030, the commission sees at least 46 GW of renewable energy powered hydrogen capacity coming online and beyond 2030 it will be deployed at a large scale across hard-to-decarbonize sectors

The European Commission (EC) has detailed its hydrogen strategy and appointed the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance to implement it. The alliance was announced in March 2020 as part of the commission’s new industrial strategy for Europe. Clean hydrogen can be used as a feedstock, a fuel or an energy carrier and storage.

The new hydrogen economy can be a growth engine to help overcome the economic damage caused by COVID-19. In developing and deploying a clean hydrogen value chain, Europe will become a global frontrunner and retain its leadership in clean tech,” said Executive Vice-President for the Green Deal, Frans Timmermans.   

What’s also significant is that the commission has defined renewable hydrogen or clean hydrogen as one that’s produced electrolyser technology powered by renewable energy sources. That means, it resisted the gas industry’s lobby to include natural gas combined with carbon capture and storage as clean hydrogen sources. A group of several energy players and renewable lobby organizations, including SolarPower Europe and Wind Europe, had exactly asked for this in a letter on July 3: “The upcoming EU Hydrogen Strategy must build on our flourishing renewables industry to develop a robust and competitive EU electrolyser industry. Together, the renewables, storage and electrolyser industries can be the bedrock of Europe’s energy sector employing millions of Europeans by 2050. But investors need clear guidance and visibility. The EU renewable hydrogen success story can only be achieved by enacting a clear commitment towards renewable hydrogen as the only ‘Clean hydrogen'”.

Implementation of the goals set out in this strategy could lead to up to 120 GW of solar and wind energy production capacity in the region to power electrolysers. The main features of this strategy are:

  • Between 2020 to 2024, it will support installation of a minimum of 6 GW renewable hydrogen electrolysers in the European Union (EU) and the production of up to 1 million tons of renewable hydrogen.
  • Between 2025 to 2030, at least 40 GW of renewable hydrogen powered electrolysers should produce up to 10 million tons of renewable hydrogen
  • From 2030 onward, renewable hydrogen will be deployed at a large scale across all hard-to-decarbonize sectors through an investment of €24 billion to €42 billion in electrolysers with 80 GW to 120 GW of solar and wind power capacity worth €220 billion to €340 billion.
  • The European Clean Energy Alliance is tasked with identifying and building up a clean pipeline of viable investment projects increasing these from 1.5 GW to 2.3 GW of new renewable hydrogen production projects that are currently either under construction or announced and an additional 22 GW of electrolyser projects are envisaged.
  • Use of renewable hydrogen will be encouraged for end users, mainly for 2 lead markets of industrial applications (ammonia, methanol production and partially for steel making) and mobility (local transport, aviation, heavy-duty road vehicles, maritime, inland waterways and short-sea shipping, hydrogen fuel-cell trains).
  • To encourage demand for renewable hydrogen, the commission suggests favorable policies as fixing a minimum quota of renewable hydrogen or its derivatives in specific end-use sectors, ‘allowing demand to be driven in a targeted way’.

Currently, the commission counts 280 companies active in the production and supply chain of electrolysers with more than 1 GW of such projects in the pipeline. To reach 40 GW electrolyser capacity by 2030, it calls for a coordinated effort with the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance, member states and front-runner regions.

While the alliance includes the key players of the gas industry, the European Commission said it is open to all public and private entities that are into renewable or low-carbon hydrogen.

The detailed Hydrogen Strategy as released by the commission can be accessed on its website.

The European Green Deal aims for the continent to becoce carbon neutral by 2050 and the hydrogen strategy is considered an important part to ensure a decarbonized integrated energy system. However, the European Commission has not ruled out fossil fuel based hydrogen production and is actually relying on CCS, an unproven and very costly technology, for which several EU demonstration projects failed to get off the ground in the last decade. Aurelie Beauvais, Policy Director of SolarPower Europe said, “Renewables are already the most efficient and cost-effective power generation sources in Europe, with leading technologies and applications developed and implemented across the continent. Now, it is important to complement the efficiency of renewables in directly electrifying final energy uses with renewable-based hydrogen, that provides the missing piece to facilitate the complete decarbonisation of Europe’s energy consumption.” SolarPower Europe and Wind Europe together with Akuo Energy, BayWa r.e., EDP, Enel, Iberdrola, MHI Vestas, SolarPower Europe, Ørsted, Vestas had lobbied in a Choose Renewable Hydrogen campaign to push for the only and truly green option to produce hydrogen.

However, solar industry players in the region see a massive opportunity in renewable hydrogen and have been exploring the area big time. In October 2019, Hydrogenics, Meyer Burger, Ecosolifer and European Energy proposed solar PV module manufacturing with 2 GW annual capacity to produce 100% renewable hydrogen. Iberdrola is also planning a 100 MW bifacial solar power plant with 20 MWh battery storage to produce green hydrogen in Spain.