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Europe needs to make the biggest leap in hydrogen

Strengthening the competitiveness of clean energy transition is essential to enable a longterm green recovery and to make credible progress towards the commitments of the European Green Deal. However, Europe must identify the priority areas and technologies which will drive the transition towards a low-carbon economy.

The Commission has already made it clear that hydrogen will be a central element of plans to decarbonise the European energy systems.

“We have to consider, that by 2050 the European power system will be based more than 80 per cent on renewables,” started European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson (pictured above) in a panel discussion organised in the framework of this years’ EU Sustainable Energy Week.

“Hydrogen has a potential to reach 13 per cent in the energy mix by 2050, however, today we are still very far from that as we do not have neither the infrastructure nor the market,” Ms Simson pointed out.

Fatih Birol, Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) also agreed that hydrogen technology should be a cornerstone of Europe’s clean energy future.

“Europe has to keep its eyes on the ball, which in terms of innovation is hydrogen electrolysers and batteries,” explained the Director of IEA, highlighting that these technologies are now as the solar energy was ten years ago.

Green hydrogen solutions could help to achieve the last mile of Europe’s decarbonisation. However, there is still much to do as today only 4 per cent of the total global hydrogen production is based on electrolysis, while the rest is produced from fossil fuels with a substantial carbon footprint.

According to Mechthild Wörsdörfer Director of Sustainability, Technology & Outlooks at IEA, hydrogen is a truly global issue, with many countries pushing their strategies to facilitate hydrogen deployment.

“However, for the time being, producing hydrogen from renewables is still very costly,” said Ms Wörsdörfer. “Hence, now is an excellent chance to put government support in green hydrogen production under the framework of green recovery.”

The European Union aims to establish leadership in green hydrogen through boosting capabilities across the entire value chain. The Commission is due to publish officially its dedicated hydrogen strategy by 8 July but the leaked draft version of the document shows that the plan has clear ambitions foreseeing cumulative investments in renewable hydrogen reaching 180 billion euros by 2050.

Renewable hydrogen is the most compatible option with the EU’s long-term climate neutrality goal building on Europe’s industrial strength in electrolyser production. However, in the short and medium-term low-carbon fossil-based hydrogen will also play a role. As the Executive Vice President for the EU Green Deal Frans Timmermans said earlier, repurposing existing gas networks could help reduce transition costs.

“It is important that we look at existing natural gas and LNG infrastructure to see to what extent it is already usable for hydrogen or can be adapted to the use of hydrogen,” underlined Mr Timmermans.

Delivering on the goals of the Europan hydrogen strategy will require a strong investment agenda and the Commission is making sure that the support for hydrogen technologies is integrated into its existing and new policy instruments.

The Clean Hydrogen Alliance set to kick-start this summer will facilitate coordinated investment and policy along the hydrogen value chain. As part of the Commission’s new recovery instrument, InvestEU saw its capacities doubled to support private investment in clean hydrogen technologies. The Innovation Fund will pool together 10 billion euros with the first call expected to come in July.

According to Commissioner Kadri Simson, the combined financial firepower dedicated to scaling up hydrogen in Europe will cover all stages of the innovation lifecycle.

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