Creation of a European hydrogen ecosystem
The EU strategy for energy system integration outlines a vision to create a smarter, more integrated and optimised energy system, in which all sectors can fully contribute to decarbonisation. Hydrogen is considered to be an important element of that strategy and its key role and its wider scope warrant a specific approach.
In December 2019, the Commission presented the European Green Deal as the new European Growth Strategy setting out a clear agenda to make Europe by 2050 the first climate neutral continent in the world and to enhance the EU's natural capital.
In 2020, the Commission published a Roadmap on the fortcoming initiatives on Hydrogen and on 8 July 2020 a Strategy on hydrogen in Europe (see on the side), in parallel with the strategy on energy system integration (see below). It will bring together different strands of action, from research and innovation over production and infrastructure to the international dimension
The role of hydrogen
The new hydrogen strategy explores the potential of clean hydrogen to help the process of decarbonising the EU economy in a cost-effective way, in line with the 2050 climate-neutrality goal, set out in the European Green Deal. It should also contribute to the recovery from the economic effects of COVID-19.
The strategy launches actions to support the production and use of clean hydrogen, with a particular focus on the integration of renewable hydrogen. More details in the factsheet “A Hydrogen Strategy for a climate neutral Europe”.
Before the strategy was adopted, as mentioned before, goals were presented in a EU Hydrogen Strategy Roadmap, launched on 26 May and open for feedback from stakeholders and the public until 8 June 2020.
To support the hydrogen strategy, the Commission conducted a study on hydrogen generation in Europe. The study collects evidence based on the latest publicly available data for identifying investment opportunities in the hydrogen value chain over the period from 2020 to 2050, and the associated benefits in terms of jobs.
Of course, the resistance of industrial and production systems to the abandonment of the fuels they use today for hydrogen is and will be high and therefore the EU's goals of achieving climate neutrality could be undermined by large energy consumers.
For this reason, the EU seeks to create increasingly favorable conditions for conversion to hydrogen, thanks also to the fact that transformed hydrogen provides high-quality heat that can be used in transport as a fuel, in industries as a material and in agriculture for fertilizers.
For example, the revision of the TEN-E envisages giving priority to electricity interconnection networks. Not only that, the EU is also studying to create a hydrogen distribution network, so that it can reach future consumers.
2021: New legislative proposals
On 15 December 2021, the European Commission adopted a set of legislative proposals to decarbonise the EU gas market by facilitating the uptake of renewable and low carbon gases, including hydrogen, and to ensure energy security for all citizens in Europe.
The Commission is also following up on the EU Methane Strategy and its international commitments with proposals to reduce methane emissions in the energy sector in Europe and in our global supply chain.
The European Union want to decarbonise the energy it consumes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and become climate-neutral by 2050,
The Commission has set up an informal Group of experts, composed of representatives from the ministries in charge of energy policy in EU Member States, called the Hydrogen Energy Network (HyENet). This expert group aims to support national authorities in charge of energy policy to develop on the opportunities offered by hydrogen as an energy carrier.
HyENet will act as an informal platform of exchange for information, sharing of good practices, experiences and latest developments, as well as joint work on specific issues. Here the meeting proceedings.
2022: The EU set-up Hydrogen accelerator
With the publication of the REPowerEU plan in May 2022, the European Commission completes the implementation of the European hydrogen strategy while further increasing the European ambitions for renewable hydrogen as an important energy carrier to move away from Russia fossil fuel imports.
In a Staff Working Document accompanying the REPowerEU plan, the Commission outlines a ‘hydrogen accelerator’ concept to scale up the deployment of renewable hydrogen, which will contribute to accelerating the EU’s energy transition and decarbonising the EU’s energy system. The REPowerEU plan’s ambition is to produce 10 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen in the EU by 2030 – increased from the 5.6 million tonnes foreseen within the revised Renewable Energy Directive, published in July 2021 –, and to import 10 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen from third countries.
2023: EU plans Hydrogen infrastructures
This is still a proposal to accelerate the uptake of renewable hydrogen, ammonia and other derivatives in hard-to-decarbonise sectors, such as transport, and in energy-intensive industrial processes. Scaling up the development of hydrogen infrastructure and supporting hydrogen investments are also identified as key areas to support hydrogen uptake in the EU.
On 13 February 2023, the Commission has proposed detailed rules to define what constitutes renewable hydrogen in the EU, with the adoption of 2 Delegated Acts required under the Renewable Energy Directive. These Acts are part of a broad EU regulatory framework for hydrogen which includes energy infrastructure investments and state aid rules, and legislative targets for renewable hydrogen for the industry and transport sectors.
They will ensure that all renewable fuels of non-biological origin (also known as RFNBOs) are produced from renewable electricity. The two Acts are inter-related and both necessary for the fuels to be counted towards Member States' renewable energy target. They will provide regulatory certainty to investors as the EU aims to reach 10 million tonnes of domestic renewable hydrogen production and 10 million tonnes of imported renewable hydrogen in line with the REPowerEU Plan.
Within the hydrogen accelerator measures, the Commission proposes to establish through a European Hydrogen Bank (EHB) a global European hydrogen facility to create investment security and business opportunities for European and global renewable hydrogen production.
To this end, green hydrogen partnerships will also facilitate the promotion of the import of renewable hydrogen from third countries and contribute to incentivising decarbonisation. Together, the global European hydrogen facility and the green hydrogen partnerships aim at delivering a framework to ensure that partnerships established by the EU countries and the industry provide a level-playing field between EU production and third-country imports.
As the first final investment decisions were only taken last year and the vast majority of projects are still in the planning stage, the EHB will help address the initial financial challenges in order to create an emerging renewable hydrogen market. It will also have an international dimension to facilitate renewable hydrogen imports to the EU
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