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Budapest Hydrogen Summit: we will have a hydrogen economy if we work together

Top-level policymakers, major industry stakeholders, experts from the CEE region and beyond, discussed all things hydrogen at the first Budapest Hydrogen Summit on 10 March.

The event which encouraged cross-sector dialogue and knowledge-sharing concerning the development of the European hydrogen economy also became a platform where attendees engaged in shaping the hydrogen agenda of the region and finding answers to some of the open questions around the deployment and upscaling of green hydrogen technology.

Commissioner Kadri Simson who featured as one of the keynote speakers of the conference underlined that the production and the use of hydrogen across Europe will be crucial for the decarbonisation of the continent’s energy sector and the economy as a whole.

“There are legislative initiatives which are highly relevant for the development of the hydrogen market in Europe. Renewable liquid and gaseous transport fuels of non-biological origin such as renewable hydrogen are key to decarbonising hard to abate sectors such as aviation, maritime and industry”, she said during her address.

“[…] I am also pleased to see that Hungarian businesses and companies are heavily involved in the development of important projects of common European interest as well as concrete hydrogen projects such as the Aquamarine”, she added.

Hungary’s national energy and climate plan already recognises the role of hydrogen for both the security of supply and the decarbonisation of the country’s economy. It is making moves towards developing its own hydrogen economy and the initial step towards this path is the recently drafted national Hydrogen Strategy.

budapest hydrogen summit
Pál Ságvári. Courtesy of the Budapest Hydrogen Summit.

“Hungary’s hydrogen strategy outlines an ambitious but realistic vision for the future, paving the way for the development of the hydrogen economy, contributing to the decarbonisation targets and creating opportunity for Hungary in becoming an active player in the European hydrogen arena”, Pál Ságvári, the Vice President for International Affairs of the Hungarian Energy and Public Utility Regulatory Authority told attendees.

He also emphasised that while in the long run, the Strategy focuses on green hydrogen, Hungary does not overlook the potential of hydrogen production based on nuclear or all types of low-carbon hydrogen that will be needed in the short and medium-term for rapidly reducing emissions as well as viable market development.

One of the highlights of the conference was the speech of Oleksandr Riepkin, the President of the Ukrainian Hydrogen Council who managed to join the event online.

In his address, he emphasised that even though the future of Ukraine’s hydrogen economy was difficult to foresee in conditions of war, the plan remains that Ukraine will build 10 gigawatts (GW) of electrolyser capacity.

“We want to build our first hydrogen production project by 2024 and our 10 GW green hydrogen capacity will be realised by 2030”, he said adding that “Ukraine has one of the biggest gas transport systems which is suitable for delivering pure hydrogen. We already know routes that can be used for such transportation.”

Mr Riepkin also stressed the transportation potential of the river Danube and the possibility of connecting Ukraine to the Blue Danube green hydrogen project with the aim of shipping hydrogen to Europe from Ukraine.

“We want to connect to Hydrogen Backbone project and become part of the common European hydrogen transport system”, he added.

Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, CEO of Hydrogen Europe unveiled that his organisation is looking into implementing a green hydrogen project at the border of Ukraine, on the territory of Romania. It envisions the use of green hydrogen produced in Ukraine for steel production in the EU.

“[…] This is something that will push the hydrogen economy in Ukraine and in Europe”, he underlined.

He also underscored that now is the moment for the EU to accelerate the deployment of hydrogen technologies, suggesting that the income generated from the EU Emissions Trading System needs to be channelled into the development of clean energy technologies like hydrogen.

“This week the European Commission come up with a plan, the EU Hydrogen accelerator. The number that is mentioned in that paper is 20 million tons of renewable hydrogen production by 2030. This means that we have to quadruple the amount that has been given to us last June”, he said.

Johannes Truby, Managing Director of Economic Advisory at Deloitte concentrated on the feasibility of the EU’s target green hydrogen production suggesting that Europe can produce enough.

“In our database, we have more than 300 hydrogen projects announced for the next three years. If we assume that all of these projects reach FID, that would be the production of over 5 million tons of clean hydrogen by 2030. Today’s consumption of hydrogen in Europe is around 10 million, mostly in the refinery and chemical industry which is grey hydrogen […]. If we look at current project announcements, we have a realistic estimate that pipelined projects could deliver up to 20 million tons of clean hydrogen by 2030 if the good momentum is continued”, he said.

Gniewomir Flis, Associate at Energy Revolution Ventures argued that with green hydrogen, it is not the costs that are a problem but the pattern of thinking which needs a shift.

“We can comfortably achieve 2 euros per kilogram of [green] hydrogen by 2030”, he emphasised if financial institutions approach hydrogen as what are conventional renewables nowadays.

“While 10 years ago financial institutions would need PPAs to be bankable, now they have to take a leap of faith and treat hydrogen as any renewable so as to accelerate hydrogen deployment. There is no need for proof of hydrogen to be bankable because they can use the examples of renewables.”

Budapest Hydrogen summit
Ákos Hegedüs speaking during the panel discussion. Courtesy of the Budapest Hydrogen Summit.

Ákos Hegedüs, Managing Director Linde Gas underlined the importance to tackle hydrogen distribution related challenges, recognising also that hydrogen must be produced locally to avoid transportation costs.

“In the short and medium-term, delivering hydrogen in a gaseous form is quite expensive for short distances while for long distances, up to 4,000 kilometres, liquid hydrogen is to be preferred as the most cost-effective solution”.

Hydrogen holds promising prospects in sustainable mobility applications by powering fuel-cell electric vehicles such as cars, trucks and trains.

Richárd László, Country Director of Toyota Central Europe Hungary underlined that while hydrogen vehicles are already here, the charging infrastructure is not present.

“We understand that charging is not only about the investments but also a lot of regulations. So there is a clear goal that charging stations should be built,” he said.

Gáspár Balázs, Managing Director-CEO of Alstom pointed out that hydrogen trains as commercialised by Alstom, are already proven in commercial operations in several countries and the technology is becoming a viable alternative for non-electrified lines.

For him, hydrogen fuel cell-powered passenger trains have the capacity in the CEE region to decarbonise the railway industry. “In Hungary, more and more decision-makers are turning towards hydrogen technology,” he said. “Thus in 4 years, we will see a full deployment of hydrogen passenger trains in the country.”

Japan, the country which is considered to be one of the frontrunners of the hydrogen economy, was represented by Imazato Kazuyuki, Director General of NEDO’s Representative Office in Europe. Mr Kazuyuki explained that to support research and development activities in the green hydrogen sector, NEDO has launched the Green Innovation Fund Program which will allocate 15 billion euros over the period of 10 years.

Dr Stefan Kaufmann who is the Innovation Commissioner for Green Hydrogen of Germany brought forward the significance of global collaboration and the establishment of global hydrogen chain supplies.

“We have an opportunity to shape a market of future and for this, we need collaboration across sectors, we need in-depth exchanges between technology inventors and investors. We will have a hydrogen economy if we work together”, he highlighted.

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