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A new push for the development of the European hydrogen economy

22 EU Member States signed the Manifesto for the development of a European Hydrogen Technologies and Systems value chain through the Important project of common European interest or IPCEI initiative on hydrogen. Countries from Central and Eastern Europe are also on board, however, five Member States (Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain) abstained from signing the document and issued a joint letter calling on the EU to clearly prioritise renewable energies under an EU-led project aiming to accelerate hydrogen deployment, research and infrastructure.

This joint declaration on IPCEI Hydrogen follows the publication of the European Hydrogen Strategy and the launch of the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance in July.

“The new hydrogen economy can be a growth engine to help overcome the economic damage caused by COVID-19,” Executive Vice-President for the Green Deal Frans Timmermans said when the Commission presented its Hydrogen Strategy.

The strategy set out that the priority is to develop renewable hydrogen, produced using mainly wind and solar energy. However, it also stated that in the short and medium-term other forms of low-carbon hydrogen are needed to rapidly reduce emissions and support the development of a viable market.

The so-called Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI) would allow Member States to subsidise large-scale innovation projects across borders which could otherwise not be funded because of market failure. Hydrogen is one of the industries expected to benefit from the status.

The manifesto signed by 22 Member States and Norway stipulates that join projects shall include sectors along the whole hydrogen value chain from production of hydrogen to storage, transmission and distribution.

The text underlines the safe and sustainable low-carbon production of hydrogen, where the emphasis should be given to hydrogen from renewable sources, and its derivatives. However, according to five Member States (Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain), the text is not clear and the projects within an IPCEI must respect the principle of the phasing out of environmentally harmful subsidies. Therefore, the five countries suggest that IPCEI projects on hydrogen must only be eligible when produced from renewable sources.

There is already a schedule for a first wave of IPCEI on Hydrogen. Match-making workshops start in the beginning of next year, project selection by the end of 2021 and the project implementation will start in 2022.

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