The European path towards a Climate Neutral and Digital Society reveals the need for a radical transformation in the way we produce and consume. In endeavoring to foster a globally competitive industry while reducing greenhouse emissions and enhancing digitalization, the New Industrial Strategy outlines a blueprint to enable Europe to achieve this ambition. The setting up of a Clean Hydrogen Alliance has highlighted Europe’s conviction on the role of hydrogen in this transition.
Hydrogen techologies are expected to accelerate the decarbonization of a wide range of sectors, for example in the energy intensive industries such as steel, cement and chemicals – among the hardest to cut emissions due to high-temperature heat demand – and heavy duty transport and shipping. Additionally, hydrogen (H2) can contribute to making the energy system more flexible and to strengthening energy security through storage.
Currently about 120 million tonnes of hydrogen are produced per year, with 95% deriving from fossil fuels. Nonetheless, despite the growing investments in the field, there is no expressive clean hydrogen production, which could be achieved by means of carbon capture and storage (CCS) (blue H2) technologies or through a renewable-based production (green H2).
Thus, clean hydrogen production opens up an opportunity to create lead markets in clean technologies that are not yet available on a commercial scale. While oil and gas companies have concentrated their efforts on making CCS feasible, several undertakings have sought to make electrolyzers viable. Affordable electrolyzers are one of the key drivers to a low-cost hydrogen production through water electrolysis – the process that uses electricity to dissociate the water molecule into hydrogen and oxygen.
Several European countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Norway have undertaken upscaling efforts to enable the deployment of hydrogen technologies. Many of these were founded by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), which is a public-private partnership formed by the European Commission, fuel cell and hydrogen industries (represented by Hydrogen Europe) and the research community (Hydrogen Europe Research).
The deployment of a hydrogen economy requires a strong coordination across the value chain. Hence, the European Commission has decided on the launch of a Clean Hydrogen Alliance that will bring investors together with governmental, institutional and industrial partners. The Alliance will build on the already thriving pattern of existing alliances and on the work done within the framework of the FCH JU, which does not exclusively promote Clean Hydrogen but also supports research and technological development in fuel cell and all hydrogen energy technologies in Europe.