#COP26: Hydrogen as a missing piece of the energy transition puzzle

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Hydrogen is an energy carrier with great potential and can be a powerful driver for a green and competitive energy transition. However, Europe must keep pushing hydrogen technology beyond current performance and costs.

This was the theme of a recent COP26 side event organised by the European Union.

The discussion, organised by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) and moderated by Luca Polizzi, Policy Officer – Research and Innovation Policy on Hydrogen, European Union, delved into the pilot projects being deployed across Europe to develop the hydrogen economy and what more needs to be done to scale efforts and results.

Bart Biebuyck

Bart Biebuyck, Executive Director, FCH JU opened the discussion by highlighting recent successes in the development of the hydrogen sector.

These successes include:

  • In terms of electrolyzers, Europe has moved from 150kW to 100MW of electrolyzers.
  • In transport hydrogen buses have become commercially viable and will soon replace diesel busses. The cost has decreased to about 500 000 euros ($580 000).
  • In terms of regulation, Europe is making progress on certifying the hydrogen through various pathways. “EU is in the process of finalising definitions and Guarentees of Origin, which should be final by end of year. “Certification is an important step forward. It’s important to ensure the customer knows what kind of hydrogen he buys, [whether] low carbon or renewable hydrogen,” said Biebuyck.

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Speakers agreed that these successes can be built upon through the increased deployment of pilot projects, as well as through regional collaboration and cooperation.

To speak more on this, Nienke Homan, Regional Minister, Provincie Groningen (Northeast Netherlands) expounded on a pilot case implemented in the northern part of the Netherlands.

Nienke Homan

Said Homan: “We started implementing the hydrogen economy actually because we had a crisis. We had a crisis due to the earthquakes caused by natural gas extraction, so we were really in a hurry to create a new perspective. Worldwide, we are also in a crisis, and it’s up to us as regions to really deliver the solutions”.

Homan explained that the Netherlands began to see hydrogen as an important element, especially to ensure a just transition.

“In our region we had to transform from natural gas to a new hydrogen sector, leaving no one behind. Natural gas brought us jobs and welfare, but we had to transform to green gas. That is why we applied for the FCH JU and we got a grant and started a pilot throughout the entire value chain, from production, transport, storage and uses in industry and mobility. We really needed to scale up to ensure it’s cost-competitive.”

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According to Homan, the best way to scale up is to connect the different hydrogen valleys across the regions. This requires the various regions to cooperate in developing the hydrogen economy.

“We need greater cooperation to accelerate the energy transition. The recent IPCC report encourages us to accelerate action. Now in Europe, we can only reach our emissions targets if we collaborate and encourage partnerships.”

Thanks to the various pilot projects in the Netherlands, the country has one of the first recognised hydrogen valleys in Europe and is developing the necessary scale across the entire value chain.

A storage pilot is now underway and the country has the largest hydrogen bus fleet in operation. Added Homan, “We are really working on different building blocks that are easy to copy, creating a blueprint for other regions in creating and connecting hydrogen valleys and scaling it up.”

Homan emphasised that in order to succeed in developing a hydrogen economy, the sectors must connect and collaborate and developments must be visible. Visibility will generate the perspective needed to ensure buy-in from the industry.

Visit the European Union Side Events website for more on this session and for access to other side events taking place during COP26.

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