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Kadri Simson: the hydrogen potential of the CEE region

At the Conference on Hydrogen in the Central and Eastern Europe Region, European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson highlighted that hydrogen is not just a new energy carrier, but the beginning of a revolution in the energy system, where Europe is the leader.

According to the Commissioner, the EU has a perfect alignment of conditions for a new hydrogen market and with the Green Deal, a clear sense of direction. She also reminded that Europe is still finding its way out of the COVID-19 crisis, but with the Recovery Plan and the new Multiannual Financial Framework for Europe, the highest ever EU budget, the EU has a historic opportunity for green investments, not just to rebuild the economy, but to leap forward at a speed that never imagined to be possible.

“When it comes to the clean hydrogen race, Europe is speeding up,” said Commissioner Simson. “Partly because the EU is an industrial leader in electrolyser development. But also because of the demand, we are already seeing hydrogen-based applications in sectors which are difficult to decarbonise. These three aspects are what I mean by a perfect alignment of conditions. We have the political, the financial and the market conditions in alignment to become the global powerhouse of hydrogen. The opportunity is there for the taking.”

The EU Strategy for Hydrogen lays out a vision for quickly scaling up renewable hydrogen production, driving down the cost and boosting demand in hard-to-abate sectors. The vision has a set of ambitious targets as well: 6 gigawatts (GW) of electrolysers installed by 2024 and 40 GW by 2030.

“By pushing to reach these targets and by reaching the hydrogen economy that we imagine, we will benefit our economies,” explained Mrs Simson. “Our analysis shows that every billion of investment in renewable hydrogen will create roughly 10,000 jobs along the supply chain.”

Also, the Commissioner estimated that the CEE region is an area with a lot of potential being home to the third-largest consumer of hydrogen in Europe: Poland. And other countries like Romania, Lithuania, Hungary and the Czech Republic are not far behind. There is a significant fossil-based hydrogen consumption in the region and a starting point could be to replace this with clean hydrogen.

Some countries have already embraced the opportunity: Bulgaria has announced a plan to develop a national roadmap for Hydrogen, Slovakia has established a Centre for Hydrogen Technologies and Croatia is preparing a National Program for Hydrogen Market Development.

“I know how strong the wind can blow,” she continued. “And that high potential for onshore and offshore wind is a unique asset for renewable hydrogen production. Hydrogen can integrate various renewable sources. And it is a symbol for greater flexibility. It can help store renewable energy. That way we can better manage our overall energy system.”

The Commissioner summarised that there are opportunities both for the CEE region and the European Commission which will pave the way for the best policy and regulatory environment. For example, the Commission has already revised the TEN-E regulation and proposed hydrogen pipelines and electrolysers to be included in the TEN-E scope. Further this year, the Fit for 55 Package will be brought forward and it will include a comprehensive certification method and guarantees of origin for renewable and low-carbon hydrogen. Also, proposals to revise the rules to create functioning markets for hydrogen and decarbonised gases is planned for the end of the year.

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