Green hydrogen can act as a backbone for European energy security


Renewable energy and green hydrogen can serve as the backbone for a decarbonised and more secure European energy supply, according to Siemens Gamesa.

Launching a paper on 7 June, Siemens laid out how clean, affordable and domestically produced renewable energy and green hydrogen will be of “pivotal importance” in guaranteeing Europe’s energy security. With Europe having grown increasingly dependent on imported fossil fuels, its economies and societies have become increasingly susceptible to political uncertainty, as evidenced now in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A shift to a secure regional energy supply based on renewables will leave Europe less vulnerable to supply and pricing fluctuations; unlock the full potential of a green socio-economic shift as renewable production scales up, including 160,000 new green jobs in the EU construction industry alone by 2030; realign its international energy partnerships by sharing its expertise with nations building up their own renewable sector; and create new market forces to encourage economies based on producing and exporting fossil fuels to accelerate their own transition to net zero through adopting renewable energy.

It will also help to achieve Europe’s industrial ambitions in a net zero compatible way with greater access to renewable energy at scale for the production of green hydrogen to power hard-to-electrify sectors.

Indeed, green hydrogen was highlighted as being the only viable option to reduce emissions from industries such as fertilisers, cement, iron and steel. There is also a potential energy storage role for green hydrogen too, considering stored natural gas nowadays is used to balance grids powered by renewables. In the medium-term, this can be switched for green hydrogen, serving the same purpose, albeit in a cleaner, more competitive way.

When green hydrogen scales, the end users are expected to be the same heavy industries that are responsible for large volumes of today’s emissions. There are also potential new markets for green hydrogen-based fuels in heavy transportation, shipping and aviation. Ammonia, for example, is mainly used as fertiliser today, but can be a fuel for heavy transportation in future, making a key contribution in food production and logistics.

Then there’s the steel industry, which accounts for around 8% of total emissions and is unlikely to see a fall in demand, given its importance for wind turbines, nacelles, cars, large appliances, buildings and more. Therefore, replacing fossil fuels with green hydrogen as its energy source for production would secure supply and help avoid disruptions to the wider supply chain.

It stressed that as with renewables and wind, the EU can lead the green hydrogen revolution on a global scale by sharing the experience, knowledge, best practice and proof points in partnership with other regions. However, action is needed to realise the benefits of a secure energy supply based on renewables and green hydrogen, with the paper setting out a series of recommendations, including speeding up the permitting process, especially for gigawatt-scale wind power plants, as a means of increasing the volume of renewable energy produced in Europe.

It also called for existing hydrogen infrastructure to be improved, making it compatible with not only regionally produced green hydrogen, but also imported green hydrogen to support demand; to innovate storage solutions and technologies to optimise how renewable energy is stored in order to guarantee continuity of supply; to introduce legislative and regulatory tools to create a market in which EU-generated green hydrogen and its by-products are guaranteed to be cost comparable with fossil fuel based imports, while fostering the open and fair trade of global renewable energy supply chains. It also made the case for collaboration across industries to scale up the production of electrolysers, supported by investments in research and development to improve reliability, output and distribution.