The European Commission (EC) recently announced REPowerEU, its plan to make Europe independent of Russian fossil fuels well before 2030, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As well as diversifying gas supplies, the initiative seeks to accelerate the roll-out of renewable gases, such as hydrogen.
This is a timely move by the EC, as the projected peak in demand for fossil fuels continues to advance, with the demand for oil now expected to reach its height in the next five years.
Switching to renewable hydrogen
Announcing REPowerEU, EC President Ursula von der Leyen made the opportunity for hydrogen explicit when she said: “The quicker we switch to renewables and hydrogen, combined with more energy efficiency, the quicker we will be truly independent and master our energy system.”
The Commission’s announcement also pointed to the need for “larger volumes of… renewable hydrogen production and imports”.
One of the EC’s ideas for achieving this is to create large-scale flagship hydrogen projects, or hydrogen valleys. These are geographical areas where hydrogen serves more than one end sector or application in mobility, industry and energy.
They typically comprise a multi-million euro investment and cover all the necessary steps in the hydrogen value chain, from production (and often even dedicated renewable electricity production) to subsequent storage, and transport and distribution to various end users.
There are 23 hydrogen valleys planned for Europe and two of these will be in the UK, one in the north-west of England and the other in the Orkney Islands.
Further hydrogen valleys could be created at logistical hubs, industrial hubs, airports, ports and in cities. These would represent a great opportunity for hydrogen infrastructure providers to use their expertise to help establish and support these valleys.
Rollout of refuelling infrastructure
The European transport sector’s existing projects will support the REPowerEU plan. Last year, the EC’s ‘Fit for 55’ legislative package of proposals included the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Regulation’s (AFIR) request for a hydrogen refuelling station to be installed every 150 km on the Trans-European Transport Network and other comprehensive networks by 2030 for both heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and light commercial vehicles (LCVs).
Switzerland has ordered 1,600 hydrogen HGVs from Hyundai and the first deliveries have been received. Partnering with local companies, Hyundai aims to build a value chain including the production of green hydrogen from hydropower, hydrogen refuelling stations, and the service and maintenance of the vehicles.
EC’s Hydrogen Strategy
The EC’s three-phase Hydrogen Strategy, which was launched in July 2020, aims to create a climate-neutral Europe by developing renewable hydrogen, mostly produced from wind and solar energy. By 2030, €65 billion of investment will be needed for hydrogen transport, distribution and storage, as well as hydrogen refuelling stations. The EC’s blueprint estimates that investments into clean hydrogen technology will reach €430 billion by the same date.
Phase 1 (2020-2024) will mainly be dedicated to infrastructure planning, the installation of at least 6 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolysers in the EU and the production of up to 1 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen. This phase will seek to decarbonise existing hydrogen production and facilitate an increase in hydrogen consumption in applications such as industrial processes and heavy-duty transport. In addition, hydrogen refuelling stations will be required to support the development of hydrogen fuel-cell buses and trucks.
Phase 2 (2025-2030) will focus on the creation of hydrogen valleys and cross-border logistical infrastructure. In this phase, the renewable hydrogen production target will be raised to up to 10 million tonnes and dedicated hydrogen infrastructure will serve industrial and transport applications, as well as providing heat for residential and commercial buildings. During this period, a pan-European transportation grid will need to be planned, while a network of hydrogen refuelling stations is established.
Phase 3 (2031-2050) will witness the creation of an EU-wide infrastructure network as renewable hydrogen technologies reach maturity and are deployed to reach all hard-to-decarbonise sectors.
The Hydrogen Strategy also states that the Connecting Europe Facility Energy and the Connecting Europe Facility Transport will offer funding for dedicated hydrogen infrastructure, including hydrogen refuelling stations.
As Europe transitions away from its reliance on Russian fossil fuels, it’s becoming clear that there will be an increasing number of opportunities for the hydrogen sector to stake its claim as an alternative source of energy and mobility.
Contact us to discuss your upcoming hydrogen mobility project in Europe.
Jake Martin, Hydrogen Business Development Manager – Europe