Energy technology giant Siemens Energy officially inaugurated its new 1GW PEM electrolyser factory in Berlin, in the presence of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck.
The plant — part of a 75:25 joint venture with French industrial gases giant Air Liquide — is expected to be ramped up to “at least 3GW by 2025 with potential for more”, the German company said in a press release.
Scholz at the ceremony Wednesday called the transformation at the premises from a steam turbine plant in 1904 to a gas turbine facility later, which now has an added electrolyser factory an "industrial fairy tale".
"The gas turbines built here can already be operated with 50% hydrogen. 100% should be possible by 2030," Scholz said.
"In order to produce this hydrogen, Siemens Energy decides not only to build turbines, but also electrolysers, not individually manufactured, but industrially, on a multi-gigawatt scale, supplied with 100% electricity from renewable energies."
Scholz added the company had full order books for electrolysers, turbines and other products, and that this "positive outlook has convinced the federal government that Siemens Energy has excellent growth prospects.
In that context, the Chancellor said he was “confident” that current talks with the government and banks about state aid in the form of guarantees for Siemens Energy – the parent of loss-making wind turbine OEM Siemens Gamesa – will very soon come to a “good conclusion”.
One of the first recipients of the new proton-exchange membrane electrolysers will be Air Liquide’s 200MW Normand’Hy project, near Port-Jérôme, northern France, which will supply green and “low carbon” hydrogen to TotalEnergies’ nearby oil refinery.
“With the new factory, Siemens Energy is making electrolysers a mass product, laying the foundation for the ramp-up of the hydrogen economy,” Siemens Energy said. “For hydrogen to become the game changer for a climate-neutral future, it must be available in large quantities and at competitive prices. This requires serial production of cost-effective and scalable electrolysers.”
Siemens Energy CEO Christian Bruch added: “Now we need to agree on a viable business model with a balanced risk and reward profile to turn the smallest molecule into a big success story.”
Company board member Anne-Laure de Chammard told journalists at the event that Siemens Energy is expecting more than €1bn ($1.1bn) in revenues from its electrolyser manufacturing business over the “medium term”, without providing more details.
She added that it had been challenging to get banks to finance green hydrogen projects.
“This is why we need help from the governments to be able to fund or to finance or even to provide state guarantees for these projects,” she explained.
Bruch and Air Liquide CEO Francois Jackow pushed the button to begin series production of the electrolyser stacks on Wednesday morning.
“These stacks are based on proton exchange membrane (PEM) technology that is particularly good at following intermittent renewable energy supply,” said the press release.
“Compared to other hydrogen technologies, PEM electrolysers enable gigawatt capacities to be brought to market with lower material, manpower and space requirements, making them the ideal enablers of a fast ramp-up. Once produced, the assembly of the stacks to be implemented in electrolyser projects will be carried closer to the project sites, contributing further to the cost-effectiveness of the solution.”
It did not mention that PEM electrolysers are more expensive to produce than alkaline equivalents.
Jackow added: “The mass production of industrial-scale electrolysers is essential to making competitive renewable hydrogen a reality. Our joint venture with Siemens Energy brings the best of our respective expertises together and allows us to offer the most-suited products to the market.”
Samuel Alt, senior director of energy policy and Siemens Energy, expanded on Bruch’s call for a “viable business model” in a LinkedIn post this morning.
“Technology is not the issue. What we need is a robust framework by policymakers,” he wrote, before calling for increased “political enablement”; more incentives such as quotas and Carbon Contracts for Difference; improved financial support; the construction of H2 infrastructure such as pipelines, ports and ships, and the establishment of clean H2 certification schemes.
This is an updated version of a story originally published in Recharge sister publication Hydrogen Insight