Last summer, Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) announced that Germany wanted to become a global leader in hydrogen technologies.
This week, he finally circulated the first draft national hydrogen strategy.
Under the draft, circulated among several ministries and seen by EURACTIV, at least 20% of Germany’s hydrogen is to be produced from renewable energies by 2030 – so-called Green Hydrogen. Three to five gigawatts of electrolysers are to be built for this purpose.
Altmaier’s draft strategy provides for the massive promotion of hydrogen in a whole range of sectors – including transport, a decision which runs counter to the will of Germany’s environment ministry.
EU renewable targets for transport will therefore be implemented and even exceeded: By 2030, the mandatory share of renewable fuels in transport, including hydrogen, will be increased to 20% instead of 14%.
At the same time, the necessary petrol station infrastructure is to be promoted with €3.4 billion. Funding for so-called “real laboratories” selected last year, in which the production and application of hydrogen are to be tested on an industrial scale, will also be increased. In addition to the €400 million already provided, €650 million are planned for over four years.
Yet, plans to create a pure hydrogen network are also underway. “We are working at full speed on concrete technical and network planning solutions to ensure that the integration can succeed,” said Ralph Bahke, the chairman of gas transmission system operators association.
On Tuesday, the association first presented a vision for a 5,900 km hydrogen network, which is to consist for 90% on pipelines and storage tanks already in existence today.
Hydrogen: A priority for Germany’s EU presidency
Since the establishment of a hydrogen market is a “joint European project”, this will be one of the priorities of Germany’s upcoming EU Council presidency, according to the hydrogen strategy.
The European Commission is currently working on a gas package for the EU, in which hydrogen is expected to play a key role. The package should be presented in 2021, on the heels of Germany’s EU Presidency.
Germany will use its EU presidency to promote so-called “sector coupling” between gas and electricity networks, as well as the development of an EU internal market for hydrogen. Initiatives will also possibly include a list of EU-funded Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) specifically for hydrogen, similar to existing plans launched recently for battery research.
The EU’s draft industrial strategy also mentions public-private partnerships to promote decarbonisation technologies, for example in the steel sector, where hydrogen could replace gas as a clean energy alternative.
At present, the industry still uses so-called “Grey Hydrogen” produced from natural gas. Green hydrogen from purely renewable electricity is more expensive and extremely energy-intensive, with energy losses reaching up to three-fourths.
Importing hydrogen from abroad
In order to provide sufficient renewable electricity for electrolysis, the strategy foresees using electricity from offshore wind farms in the North Sea.
This also means cooperation with neighbouring EU member states will have to be stepped up. The first project of this kind is to start in the Belgian port city of Ostend in 2022. With the help of a hydrogen plant, surplus wind energy will be fed into the district heating network.