Authors: Bruce Murphy and Hannah Daly*
On 28 April 2018 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India had achieved its goal, ahead of schedule, of providing electricity to every village in India. This is one of the greatest achievements in the history of energy.
Since 2000 around half a billion people have gained access to electricity in India, with political effort over the last five years significantly accelerating progress. In addition, the country was already on track to achieving universal household electricity access by the early 2020s, yet Prime Minister Modi has now moved up this target to the end of 2018. This will improve the lives of over 230 million people.
While this next “last mile” challenge will be not be easy to meet, particularly in a country as large and geographically diverse as India, the social and economic benefits are significant.
For a start, electric lighting makes the use of candles, kerosene and other polluting fuels for lighting redundant, not only saving money (and providing more light) but also seriously improving health. Electricity can increase productive hours in a household leading to positive outcomes on education and economic well being. It can also spur innovation and lead to entrepreneurial micro businesses ventures, and in time lead to greater agricultural yields. Benefits also flow to the likes of schools, banking and medical services.
India is clearly a success story, and was highlighted as a bright spot for energy access in IEA’s Energy Access Outlook 2017. But in other regions of the world, huge challenges remain, with over 670 million people across the world projected to be without electricity access in 2030 on the basis of current progress. 90% of these people are concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa. How can the lessons learned from India’s electrification story be translated to accelerate progress towards universal access?
There are two key lessons to highlight. First, there is a need for committed political leadership, backed by institutions with the capacity and mandate to deliver electrification.
Universal household electricity access was a central political commitment in India’s 2014 national elections and the government placed a high priority on following through. This commitment started from the top with Prime Minister Modi but was enthusiastically pursued by former Power Minister, Mr Piyush Goyal, and then current Power Minister Mr RK Singh. The effort ultimately involved the tireless efforts of numerous officials and operators in the Indian bureaucracy.
The Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana scheme is a prime example of coordinated government action. This scheme focused on strengthening distribution networks and increasing village and household connections by co-funding network upgrades and extensions. Over 99% of people who have gained access in India since 2000 have done so as a result of grid extension – the focus of government measures. The government has more recently been targeting mini-grid and stand-alone solar home systems to deliver access to some of the hardest-to-reach homes.
The second lesson is the importance of transparent monitoring and tracking against targets – you can’t manage what you can’t measure. India has placed a strong emphasis on this principle, including through the creation of an online dashboard where real-time information is made available on the progress of village and household electrification. Data is also broken down to the state level to encourage internal competition across jurisdictions.
India is also taking these lessons on board as it tackles a related problem: access to clean cooking facilities. Globally, nearly three billion people are forced to cook with wood and other fuels that produce smoke, resulting in 2.8 million premature deaths each year. This is more than twice the number of deaths related to malaria and AIDS combined. Despite these staggering figures, clean cooking rarely features on the agendas of policy-makers, and as a consequence the number of people cooking with unhealthy fuels has not changed since 2000.
While an estimated 780 million people in India rely on biomass for cooking, progress is emerging, as India is one of the few countries in the world targeting this “blind spot” of energy policy. Almost 36 million LPG connections have been made since Prime Minister Modi and Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Mr Dharmendra Pradhan, launched a scheme in May 2016 to provide free connections to families living below the poverty line. This will seriously improve many lives, particularly for women and children in rural India who will be able to avoid indoor air pollution and save months of labor each year currently dedicated to collecting biomass.
As India builds upon its success and massive efforts, the IEA is committed to supporting this agenda with comprehensive data, unbiased analysis, and policy support. This will help translate lessons learned between countries and move the world towards delivering the goal of universal electricity and clean cooking access by 2030. These are attainable challenges, and the benefits far outweigh the cost.
With our new Sustainable Development Scenario, the IEA has mapped an integrated path to meeting this major challenge while also mitigating climate change and reducing air pollution, to deliver a cleaner, more sustainable and equitable energy future.
The solutions include greater levels of renewable energy, more electrification, replacing biomass for cooking with more natural gas and LPG, and deploying more energy efficient cars, airplanes and appliances.
Addressing these issues would cost 380 billion a year to 2030, or 0.3% of global GDP, but the benefits would be immeasurable:
– 1.6 million lives would be saved every year by reducing air pollution;
– two months of work would be saved each year per household, mainly by women, by providing access to clean cooking leading to a huge boost in productivity;
– and we would avoid the worst effects of climate change, a benefit for the entire planet.
Hannah Daly, WEO analyst
Nord Stream 2 undermines NATO unity
The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is quickly turning into major irritant souring relations between the United States and its European allies. For the first time in the recent history of Euro-Atlantic integration, Germany has made it perfectly clear at the highest level that it could introduce sanctions against Washington and could even persuade its EU and NATO partners to act as a united front against the US. The reason for this is the stubborn desire by the US Congress to slap punitive sanctions on the European participants in the Nord Stream 2 project, including both private companies and government agencies in Germany and other countries.
The US news agency Bloomberg recently reported, citing two German officials that Germany is preparing to strike back if the US introduces additional sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
According to the agency, the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel is mulling the possibility of calling for coordinated actions by the European Union if Washington goes through with sanctions against the participants in the Nord Stream 2 project. Referring to a statement by the German Ministry of Economics, Bloomberg also emphasized that new US sanctions would hit German and European companies, banks, and government agencies.
Although seemingly calm on the outside, Angela Merkel has clearly toughened her rhetoric nonetheless. In her July 2 address to parliament, she said that Berlin looks at the Nord Stream 2 project in terms of its economic benefits and considers it necessary to complete it. She added that in spite of the threatened US sanctions, Germany will support the completion of the gas pipeline running under the Baltic Sea. She argued that the new extended sanctions being discussed on Capitol Hill in Washington are extraterritorial, and “are not consistent with my understanding of the law.”
“We still believe that it’s right to get the project done,” Merkel emphasized.
A few hours before the Chancellor’s speech in the Bundestag, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office Niels Annen told a meeting of the parliamentary committee on economics and energy that Washington’s new sanctions on Nord Stream 2 are unacceptable: “The fact that the US Congress acts as a regulator in European affairs is absurd. Just imagine, if we adopted a resolution on US energy security in the Bundestag,” Annen stressed. According to him, imposing sanctions is not the way to go because what this particular case is all about is more than just relations between Germany and the US, it is about European sovereignty. Niels Annen also welcomed the committee’s stated desire to explain to the US lawmakers its position on Nord Stream 2.
However, Angela Merkel still views US-German relations in a wider context of European and global security. In an interview published recently in several European media, she admitted the possibility of a new geopolitical reality where the United States would not have a leading role: “We grew up in the certain knowledge that the United States wanted to be a world power. Should the US now wish to withdraw from that role of its own free will, we would have to reflect on that very deeply.”
Objectively speaking, the positions of Germany and its partners (including Austria) regarding the implementation of the Nord Stream 2 project can be strengthened by differences existing on this issue in the United States itself. Congress is currently considering two options for sanctions, with the most recent one being the mildest of the two. Both bills envision additional restrictions on the use of ships, including for preparing the sites the pipeline will run along, and may also prohibit foreign companies from providing insurance risk assessment services to the Nord Stream 2 project. The main disagreement is about US sanctions against foreign organizations that conduct testing and certification of the pipeline. In a nutshell, it comes down to the fact that a gas pipeline cannot be launched without a final certificate of compliance with all required international standards.
According to available information, in view of the upcoming presidential elections and the worsening domestic situation, most US senators are now gravitating towards a milder resolution in order to avoid aggravating contradictions already existing between the United States and Germany, as well as within NATO as a whole, and also in order not to play up to President Donald Trump, who has recently toughened his stance on Berlin. At the same time, in late June, a group of US senators, including Ted Cruise, Jeanne Shaheen, John Barrasso, Ron Johnson and Tom Cotton, proposed including sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 project in the US defense budget for fiscal year 2020-2021. The authors of the initiative believe that it would fast-track the possible introduction of sanctions, because, unlike a regular bill that can be subject to lengthy discussion, the defense budget is invariably approved each fall.
President Trump has recently been pressing for new sanctions against Nord Stream 2, while simultaneously ratcheting up his criticism of Germany. According to his former National Security Adviser John Bolton, whose book of memoirs came out right amid the current aggravation of the political situation in the US, two years ago, Trump openly threatened to withdraw the United States from NATO because Germany and its allies were implementing the Nord Stream 2 project. According to Donald Trump’s logic, since the US pays Europeans for their safety, Europeans, in return, must buy American liquefied natural gas, even at a higher price.
What happens next will depend on the position of Germany and other European countries wishing to maintain their energy-related cooperation with Russia. Stanislav Mitrakhovich, a senior expert at the Russian National Energy Security Fund and the Financial University, believes that new US sanctions can slow down the project, but without resistance from Europe Washington may go even further.
“If the United States feels that Germany is ready to back off and dance to Washington’s tune, it can still go ahead and introduce tough measures, including against German businesses. If so, the construction might be put on ice simply because the pipes are in Germany.”
Meanwhile, in Germany itself the media has so far refrained from overdramatizing the situation around the completion of the Nord Stream 2 project. Thus, the newspaper Die Welt believes that the project operator has a chance to complete the construction of the pipeline without fearing US sanctions simply by changing the ownership of the Akademik Chersky pipe-laying ship, which has been commissioned to finish the job. The Gazprom Fleet Company could re-register the Akademik Chgersky, which is its only pipe-laying vessel, to the Samara Thermal Energy Property Fund (STIF), which is not subject to possible sanctions. According to the newspaper, the only impediment to the pipeline’s construction could be a ban on most types of work in the Baltic Sea in July-August for reasons of conservation of local fish stocks (protection of cod spawning).
The whole situation warrants a further toughening of rhetoric on both sides of the Atlantic. In a statement, carried by the business newspaper Handelsblatt, two Bundestag deputies – Timon Gremmels (SPD faction’s speaker on gas policy) and Markus Töns (SPD faction’s speaker on trade policy) slammed the US sanctions as “an encroachment on the principle of legality and protection of investments in Europe.” They emphasized that “the threat of tougher extraterritorial sanctions has consolidated the ranks of the German Bundestag. Even the parliamentary factions generally critical of the gas pipeline project see the proposed restrictions as a violation of international law and an attempt to undermine the sovereignty of Europe.”
“We are convinced that the time of diplomatic restraint is now over. To protect European interests, the German government and the European Union should introduce countermeasures and consider the use of retaliatory sanctions, for example, against US shale gas. The real threat of serious retaliatory sanctions is the only way we can possibly resolve the conflict. This is the only language Donald Trump understands,” the MPs stressed.
For Russia, this is creating opportunities for closer trade, economic and political cooperation with Germany and other European countries. Considering the scope of German business involvement in the Nord Stream 2 project and the personal position of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the chances are high that the gas pipeline will be completed and Moscow will be able to benefit from the growing contradictions between the US and Europe.
From our partner International Affairs
Promoting Indonesia’s Renewable Energy for a Better Future
Indonesia has a large target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by around 29% from business as usual (BAU) emissions by 2030. Indonesia also has a renewable energy target of 23% by 2025 in the energy mix. Promoting the use of bio-energy which is currently in the Biodiesel 30 (B30) process and which will be increased to B50 or more in the coming years is a real effort to reduce dependence on fossil energy. Of course everything requires a consistent process, or not sudden and necessarily. It takes persistent efforts, as well as being adaptive to existing socio-economic conditions.
In other words, the transition to non-fossil energy must be done in stages and adjusted to the conditions of each country. Because there are still many countries whose source of income rests on fossil energy. This is mainly because the price and technology are currently more competitive, cheaper, and available abundantly as local natural resources. Forcing a drastic shift to new energy will cripple and impoverish many countries in the world. As a result, it can bring up new forms of injustice. Meanwhile, on the other hand the world has agreed that one of the vision of sustainable development goals is that no country should be left behind (no one country left behind).
Indonesia to this day continues to strive to increase the energy mix of renewable energy sector, such as solar power, hydropower, geothermal energy, wind power and bio mass. Indonesia’s natural conditions are mostly cloudy and rainy, winds which are unstable, and most especially in the East that are islands and far from energy sources, are still an obstacle. In this context, the use of fossil-based energy such as gas is still a mainstay that has commercial advantages, uninterrupted supply, and more practical.
That is, power plants are still dominated by fossil primary energy. In 2017, power generation capacity uses 85% of fossil energy, mainly coal. Several new plants under construction, such as the Indramayu # 2 Coal Power Plant project, received financial support from Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA). In 2025 primary electricity is projected at 102.6 MTOE, the largest portion is coal, 59%, followed by 27% renewable energy and 14.1% gas. The portion of coal in 2050 is projected to decrease to 52%.
In fact, domestic oil refineries (including expansion and construction of new refineries), still require a supply of crude oil, either through domestic production or import. Likewise, the wheels of the economy and state finances, including the fiscal stability of revenue-sharing funds that support regional budgets, are also still significantly dependent on fossil energy. So it is not easy to make radical adjustments, but efforts are still needed in that direction, so that in the future Indonesia will not be left behind from other countries and not be trapped in a state of energy scarcity when everything we have drained from nature then running low, even depleted .
Amid the constellation above, several strategies need to be undertaken by the government. For example, the Government of Indonesia together with other countries that have the same problem, conduct an effective joint diplomacy instrument for developed countries in the OECD so that it objectively considers conditions in each country. Then, collaborate systematically and sustainably with developed countries to improve technology for the use and utilization of primary energy that is efficient, clean, and affordable.
Finally, in structured, patterned and integrated strategies, Indonesia should be transforming the primary energy paradigm as a source of income. Energy must be used as development capital, increasing the added value of fossil energy by encouraging further processing and downstreaming. This should be a mindset in the general policy of preparing the state budget. Thus, Indonesia continues to take on its role and responsibility to safeguard the climate, while strengthening the structure of the country’s economy based on the added value of primary energy downstreaming.
Meanwhile, in terms of electricity and the use of coal, several programs and regulations are really needed that lead to the strategic plan above. First, synchronize and reorient the target of the electricity energy mix in Indonesia. This is related to Indonesia’s electricity energy mix plan in the National Electricity General Plan and the dynamic target of the electricity mix business plan for supplying electricity. Second, the certainty of regulations related to renewable energy. In Indonesia, regulations regarding renewable energy changed twice in 2017 with Ministry Regulation No. 12/2017 and No. 50/2017.
The built own operate transfer (BOOT) regulation for water and geothermal power plants poses a new risk to project viability. Changes in regulations, it is said, will make it difficult for renewable energy industry players to make long-term projections. Especially related to the issue of ownership prices and risk majors for extraordinary circumstances (force majeure). Therefore, clear regulatory certainty cannot but is an urgent need in a long-term strategic plan
Third, State Owned Enterprises of Electricity of Indonesia (PLN). PLN’s heavy losses and negative cash flow continue to make these state-owned companies have problems meeting operational obligations. Renewable energy tariffs are considered high. In order to encourage competitive renewable-based electricity generation rates, inevitably, the government needs to make green prices more attractive, especially for investment in the energy sector. Ideally, at least until the economic price of renewable energy falls below the price of fossil fuel economy.
Another important economic issue is the guarantee of price certainty in the power purchase agreement (PPA) for renewable plants. If the tariff changes are significant enough, it is estimated, it can affect investment decisions because investors need a long enough time from the business preparation period to get PPA. Given that areas that need electricity are many in areas with high population density, while renewable potential in sparsely populated areas, however, investment in interconnection networks is needed as a risk. Hopefully in the future the government will be more sensitive to this renewable energy and be more consistent in realizing it in the coming years
A Hydrogen Strategy for a climate neutral Europe
Hydrogen can be used as a feedstock, a fuel or an energy carrier and storage, and has many possible applications across industry, transport, power and buildings sectors. Most importantly, it does not emit CO2 and does not pollute the air when used. It is therefore an important part of the solution to meet the 2050 climate neutrality goal of the European Green Deal.
It can help to decarbonise industrial processes and economic sectors where reducing carbon emissions is both urgent and hard to achieve. Today, the amount of hydrogen used in the EU remains limited, and it is largely produced from fossil fuels. The aim of the strategy is to decarbonise hydrogen production – made possible by the rapid decline in the cost of renewable energy and acceleration of technology developments – and to expand its use in sectors where it can replace fossil fuels.
How is hydrogen produced and what is its impact on the climate?
Hydrogen may be produced through a variety of processes. These production pathways are associated with a wide range of emissions, depending on the technology and energy source used and have different costs implications and material requirements. In this Communication:
- ‘Electricity-based hydrogen’ refers to hydrogen produced through the electrolysis of water (in an electrolyser, powered by electricity), regardless of the electricity source. The full life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of the production of electricity-based hydrogen depends on how the electricity is produced.
- ‘Renewable hydrogen’ is hydrogen produced through the electrolysis of water (in an electrolyser, powered by electricity), and with the electricity stemming from renewable sources. The full life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of the production of renewable hydrogen are close to zero. Renewable hydrogen may also be produced through the reforming of biogas (instead of natural gas) or biochemical conversion of biomass, if in compliance with sustainability requirements.
- Clean hydrogen refers to renewable hydrogen
- ‘Fossil-based hydrogen’ refers to hydrogen produced through a variety of processes using fossil fuels as feedstock, mainly the reforming of natural gas or the gasification of coal. This represents the bulk of hydrogen produced today. The life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of the production of fossil-based hydrogen are high.
- ‘Fossil-based hydrogen with carbon capture’ is a subpart of fossil-based hydrogen, but where greenhouse gases emitted as part of the hydrogen production process are captured. The greenhouse gas emissions of the production of fossil-based hydrogen with carbon capture or pyrolysis are lower than for fossil-fuel based hydrogen, but the variable effectiveness of greenhouse gas capture (maximum 90%) needs to be taken into account.
- ‘Low-carbon hydrogen’ encompasses fossil-based hydrogen with carbon capture and electricity-based hydrogen, with significantly reduced full life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions compared to existing hydrogen production.
- Hydrogen-derived synthetic fuels refer to a variety of gaseous and liquid fuels on the basis of hydrogen and carbon. For synthetic fuels to be considered renewable, the hydrogen part of the syngas should be renewable. Synthetic fuels include for instance synthetic kerosene in aviation, synthetic diesel for cars, and various molecules used in the production of chemicals and fertilisers. Synthetic fuels can be associated with very different levels of greenhouse gas emissions depending on the feedstock and process used. In terms of air pollution, burning synthetic fuels produces similar levels of air pollutant emissions than fossil fuels.
What kind of hydrogen will the strategy support?
Renewable hydrogen is the focus of the strategy, as it has the biggest decarbonisation potential and is therefore the most compatible option with the EU’s climate neutrality goal.
The strategy also recognises the role of other low-carbon hydrogen production processes in a transition phase, for example through the use of carbon capture and storage or other forms of low-carbon electricity, to clean existing hydrogen production, reduce emissions in the short term and scale up the market.
The differentiation between types of hydrogen will allow to tailor supportive policy frameworks in function of the carbon emissions reduction benefits of hydrogen based on benchmarks and certification.
How quickly can we roll out this promising technology?
The strategy foresees a gradual trajectory, with three phases of development of the clean hydrogen economy, at different speed across different industry sectors:
- In In the first phase (2020-24) the objective is to decarbonise existing hydrogen production for current uses such as the chemical sector, and promote it for new applications. This phase relies on the installation of at least 6 Gigawatt of renewable hydrogen electrolysers in the EU by 2024 and aims at producing up to one million tonne of renewable hydrogen. In comparison to the current situation, approximately 1 Gigawatt of electrolysers are installed in the EU today.
- In the second phase (2024-30) hydrogen needs to become an intrinsic part of an integrated energy system with a strategic objective to install at least 40 Gigawatt of renewable hydrogen electrolysers by 2030 and the production of up to ten million tonnes of renewable hydrogen in the EU. Hydrogen use will gradually be expanded to new sectors including steel-making, trucks, rail and some maritime transport applications. It will still mainly be produced close to the user or close the renewable energy sources, in local ecosystems.
- In a third phase, from 2030 onwards and towards 2050, renewable hydrogen technologies should reach maturity and be deployed at large scale to reach all hard-to-decarbonise sectors where other alternatives might not be feasible or have higher costs.
How does hydrogen support the European Green Deal?
Alongside renewable electrification and a more efficient and circular use of resources – as set out in the Energy Sector Integration Strategy – large-scale deployment of clean hydrogen at a fast pace is key for the EU to achieve its high climate ambitions. It is the missing part in the puzzle to a fully decarbonised economy.
Hydrogen can support the transition towards an energy system relying on renewable energy by balancing variable renewable energy. It offers a solution to decarbonise heavily-emitting industry sectors relying on fossil fuels, where conversion to electricity is not an option. And it emits no CO2 and almost no air pollution.
How can hydrogen support the recovery, growth and jobs?
Investment in hydrogen will be a growth engine which will be critical in the context of recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. The Commission’s recovery plan highlights the need to unlock investment in key clean technologies and value chains, to foster sustainable growth and jobs. It stresses clean hydrogen as one of the essential areas to address in the context of the energy transition, and mentions a number of possible avenues to support it.
Moreover, Europe is highly competitive in clean hydrogen technologies manufacturing and is well positioned to benefit from a global development of clean hydrogen as an energy carrier. Cumulative investments in renewable hydrogen in Europe could be up to €180-470 billion by 2050, and in the range of €3-18 billion for low-carbon fossil-based hydrogen. Combined with EU’s leadership in renewables technologies, the emergence of a hydrogen value chain serving a multitude of industrial sectors and other end uses could employ up to 1 million people, directly and indirectly. Analysts estimate that clean hydrogen could meet 24% of world energy demand by 2050, with annual sales in the range of €630 billion.
Is renewable hydrogen cost-competitive?
Today, neither renewable hydrogen nor fossil-based hydrogen with carbon capture are cost-competitive against fossil-based hydrogen. Current estimated costs for fossil-based hydrogen are around 1.5 €/kg for the EU, highly dependent on natural gas prices, and disregarding the cost of CO2. Estimated costs for fossil-based hydrogen with carbon capture and storage are around 2 €/kg, and renewable hydrogen 2.5-5.5 €/kg.
That said, costs for renewable hydrogen are going down quickly. Electrolyser costs have already been reduced by 60% in the last ten years, and are expected to halve in 2030 compared to today with economies of scale. In regions where renewable electricity is cheap, electrolysers are expected to be able to compete with fossil-based hydrogen in 2030. These elements will be key drivers of the progressive development of hydrogen across the EU economy.
How will the strategy support investments in the hydrogen economy?
The strategy outlines a comprehensive investment agenda, including investments for electrolysers, but also for the renewable power production capacity required to produce the clean hydrogen, transport and storage, retrofitting of existing gas infrastructure, and carbon capture and storage.
To support these investments and the emergence of a whole hydrogen eco-system, the Commission launches the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance – as announced in the Commission’s New Industrial Strategy. The Alliance will play a crucial role in delivering on this Strategy and supporting investments to scale up production and demand. It will bring together the industry, national, regional and local public authorities and the civil society. Through interlinked, sector-based CEO round tables and a policy-makers’ platform, the Alliance will provide a broad forum to coordinate investment by all stakeholders and engage civil society. The key deliverable of the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance will be to identify and build up a clear pipeline of viable investment projects.
What EU financial instruments can be used for investing in hydrogen?
The Commission will also follow up on the recommendations identified in a report by the Strategic Forum for Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI) to promote well-coordinated or joint investments and actions across several Member States aimed at supporting a hydrogen supply chain.
Additionally, as part of the new recovery instrument Next Generation EU, the InvestEU programme will see its capacities more than doubled. It will support the deployment of hydrogen by incentivising private investment, with a strong leverage effect.
A number of Member States have identified renewable and low-carbon hydrogen as a strategic element of their National Energy and Climate Plans. These plans will have to be taken into account when designing the national recovery and resilience plans in the context of new Recovery and Resilience Facility.
Furthermore, the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund, which will benefit from a top-up in the context of the new initiative REACT-EU, will continue to be available to support the green transition. The possibilities offered to carbon intensive regions under the Just Transition Mechanism should also be fully explored.
Synergies between the Connecting Europe Facility for Energy and the Connecting Europe Facility for Transport will be harnessed to fund dedicated infrastructure for hydrogen, repurposing of gas networks, carbon capture projects, and hydrogen refuelling stations.
In addition, the EU ETS ETS Innovation Fund, which will pool together around €10 billion to support low-carbon technologies over the period 2020-2030, has the potential to facilitate first-of-a-kind demonstration of innovative hydrogen-based technologies. A first call for proposals under the Fund was launched on 3 July 2020.
The Commission will also provide targeted support to build the necessary capacity for preparation of financially sound and viable hydrogen projects, where this is identified as a priority in the relevant national and regional programmes, through dedicated instruments (e.g. InnovFin Energy Demonstration Projects, InvestEU) possibly in combination with advisory and technical assistance from the Cohesion Policy, from the European Investment Bank Advisory Hubs or under Horizon Europe.
Can the EU be a global leader in clean hydrogen technologies?
The international dimension is an integral part of the EU approach. Clean hydrogen offers new opportunities for re-designing Europe’s energy partnerships with both neighbouring countries and regions and its international, regional and bilateral partners, advancing supply diversification and helping design stable and secure supply chains.
The EU has supported research and innovation on hydrogen for many years, giving it a head start on the development of technologies and high profile projects, and establishing EU leadership for technologies such as electrolysers, hydrogen refuelling stations and large fuel cells. The strategy aims to consolidate EU leadership by ensuring a full supply chain that serves the European economy, but also by developing its international hydrogen agenda.
This includes in particular working closely with partners in the Eastern and Southern Neighbourhood. In this context, the EU should actively promote new opportunities for cooperation on clean hydrogen with neighbouring countries and regions, as a way to contribute to their clean energy transition and foster sustainable growth and development.
The interest in clean hydrogen is growing globally with several other countries developing dedicated research programmes and an international hydrogen market is likely to develop. The EU will globally promote sound common standards and methodologies to ensure that a global hydrogen market contributes to sustainability and achievement of climate goals.
What uses does the Commission foresee for hydrogen?
Hydrogen is a key solution to cut greenhouse gas emissions in sectors that are hard to decarbonise and where electrification is difficult or impossible. This is the case of industrial sectors such as steel production, or heavy-duty transport for example. As a carbon-free energy carrier, hydrogen would also allow for transport of renewable energy over long distances and for storage of large energy volumes.
An immediate application in industry is to reduce and replace the use of carbon-intensive hydrogen in refineries, the production of ammonia, and for new forms of methanol production, or to partially replace fossil fuels in steel making. Hydrogen holds the potential to form the basis for zero-carbon steel making processes in the EU, envisioned under the Commission’s New Industrial Strategy.
In transport, hydrogen is also a promising option where electrification is more difficult. For example in local city buses, commercial fleets or specific parts of the rail network. Heavy-duty vehicles including coaches, special purpose vehicles, and long-haul road freight could also be decarbonised by using hydrogen as a fuel. Hydrogen fuel-cell trains could be extended and hydrogen could be used as a fuel for maritime transport on inland waterways and short-sea shipping.
In the long term, hydrogen can also become an option to decarbonise the aviation and maritime sector, through the production of liquid synthetic kerosene or other synthetic fuels.
Is hydrogen safe?
Hydrogen is a highly flammable gas and care must be taken that hydrogen is produced, stored, transported and utilised in a safe manner. Standards are already in place, and the European industry has built up significant experience with already more than 1500 km of dedicated hydrogen pipelines in place.
With hydrogen consumption expanding to other markets and end-use applications, the strategy points out that the need for safety standards from production, transport and storage to use is critical, include a system to monitor and verify.
What does the strategy foresee in terms of infrastructure development?
Appropriate infrastructure is a condition for the EU-wide development of hydrogen, but the specific infrastructure needs will depend on the patterns of development both in terms of production and use.
Hydrogen demand will largely be met by localised production in an initial phase, for example in industrial clusters or for hydrogen production for refuelling stations. However, local networks and more extensive transport options will be required for further development. Different options will have to be considered, including the repurposing of existing gas infrastructure.
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