On 8 July the European Commission (EC) hosted a launch event for the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance. It outlined the role it will play in facilitating a hydrogen economy across Europe through supporting scaling up production and demand for renewable and low-carbon hydrogen, coordinate action, and provide a broad forum to engage civil society. There were also presentations from invited ministers and speakers from European countries and parts of the hydrogen value chain to comment on how the transition to hydrogen can occur.
The event was opened by Frans Timmermans, European Commission (EC) Executive Vice President. He outlined the role of the Clean Hydrogen Alliance as a means of bringing together all stakeholders in the hydrogen transition to encourage and accelerate high-potential hydrogen projects. He highlighted the need for hydrogen to reach emissions targets and climate neutrality, with electrification alone being unfeasible. Thierry Breton, EC Commissioner for Industry, reinforced these points, making reference to hydrogen’s unique attributes for targeting hard-to-decarbonise sectors such as in industry and residential applications.
Kadri Simson, EC Commissioner for Energy, outlined three phases for the transition to hydrogen. The first is to scale up the supply and demand for hydrogen. The importance of electrolysers on the supply side was highlighted as an urgent requirement. On the demand side, Simson raised the need for common standards and programmes to encourage uptake of hydrogen in energy intensive sectors. The second phase outlined was the need for development of hydrogen markets and infrastructure through adoption of open-border policies and repurposing of natural gas infrastructure. The third phase is working collaboratively across Europe to ensure the continent can become world-leading in hydrogen production through electrolysis. In order to progress these three phases, future funding for pipeline projects was announced and will be facilitated by the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance.
Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, Hydrogen Europe Secretary General, identified the opportunity for Europe to utilise its growing solar and wind resources through creation of a hydrogen ‘backbone’ of pipeline infrastructure across borders (Figure 1). He highlighted the need for Europe to produce 1Mt and 10Mt of renewable hydrogen by 2024 and 2030 respectively. This could lead to around 5% of the EU’s 2030 target for carbon abatement being met by the end of the decade. He further highlighted a process of fast decision making to create a pipeline of hydrogen projects, kick start the hydrogen economy and build industry trust.
International perspectives were given by a number of member states including Germany, Portugal, the Czech Republic, France and the Netherlands. An outline of these countries focuses and associated support was given, and is detailed below.
Peter Altmaier, German Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, outlined Germany’s view on hydrogen being the missing link and essential for achieving a green revolution and meeting climate targets. Altmaier outlined the need for clear guidance to be given and priorities to be identified in addition to the introduction of market facilitating instruments to accelerate a hydrogen transition.
João Galamba, Deputy Minister for Energy Environment and Climate Action, gave an overview of the commitment already being shown in Portugal through large-scale industrial and manufacturing projects. Galamba highlighted Portugal’s detailed projects thus far such as its Sines port conversion to hydrogen transport use and production, as well as its current production line of hydrogen buses. Portugal is committed to producing large amounts of competitive hydrogen and is launching a regulatory framework before the end of August 2020. It has also promised to replicate its investment in hydrogen every year to 2040. The introduction of more unified policy across Europe is expected to mobilise investment and accelerate the transition to hydrogen from a Portuguese perspective.
The Czech Republican Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade, Silvana Jirotková highlighted the big opportunity in the Czech Republic for hydrogen development and production and outlined its support for the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance in facilitating this.
Bruno Le Maire, France Minister of Economy and Finance, gave an update on France’s position on hydrogen, outlining that it was currently in the process of finalising its hydrogen strategy. This is expected to form a part of its ‘National Recovery Plan’ from COVID-19, which is due to be announced by the end of July. France sees opportunity for hydrogen especially in heavy industry and transport with significant potential for industrial job creation.
Nienke Homan, Netherlands Regional Minister for the Province of Groningen, referenced the Netherlands achievement at establishing Europe’s “first recognised hydrogen valley” through its EU-funded HEAVENN project. The project will create the entire hydrogen value chain from production and transport to storage and distribution. Homan also set out the Netherland’s ambition to establish an integrated hydrogen system with offshore wind through its North H2 project. He referenced the need for involvement of regions and cities in order to establish successful and bespoke hydrogen projects across Europe.
Organisations from production, transmission and distribution, mobility, industry and domestic heating were also invited to speak on the roles each sector can play in the hydrogen transition.
Verbund, an organisation involved in hydrogen production, expects that €120bn of investment will be required to scale up hydrogen production.
Snam, Europe’s largest transporter of natural gas, outlined that 70% of Europe’s pipelines are now ready to transport and distribute hydrogen, with the remaining 30% capable of taking blends of up to 10%. It outlined that it is now only installing hydrogen-ready infrastructure.
In terms of transport, Michelin outlined industry ambitions for hydrogen to be close to the cost of diesel with an essential requirement to educate citizens on the environmental, economic and safety benefits of hydrogen.
PKN Orlen highlighted the view that hydrogen was seen as the main, and often only, solution for total industry decarbonisation.
The launch of the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance is excellent news for the progress of hydrogen across Europe and is very timely given the issue of the European hydrogen and increased focus across a range of markets and jurisdictions.