Europe is in danger of “missing the boat” over green hydrogen expansion, warned one of the continent’s most senior renewable energy executives as he pointed to “massive” policy action in the US.

Sven Utermöhlen, chair of industry body WindEurope and offshore wind chief executive for RWE Renewables, said the US’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) had raised the bar for stimulating growth in the fledgling green H2 sector.

“Look at the US. At the moment there is a massive, massive political programme [to] support the build-out of renewables and green hydrogen,” Utermöhlen told a panel at the WindEnergy Hamburg industry event.

“That’s where I think Europe needs to look and say ‘we have to be careful we don’t miss the boat here’.

“If we want to build a European green hydrogen industry, we can’t just sit idle and believe it happens by itself.”

August’s passage of the IRA was hailed as a historic moment for the green hydrogen industry thanks to its generous tax credits of up to $3/kg for production, as well as cementing support for renewables such as wind and solar.

The European Commission has also unveiled major hydrogen ambitions of its own but has faced criticism from some in its domestic H2 industry of moving too slowly compared to American policymakers.

Ben Backwell, CEO of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) told WindEnergy Hamburg that the incentives of the IRA “are a blunt instrument that is so much simpler than what we have in Europe in many ways”.

“All that will provide incredible stability and growth for the US renewables industry for the next 10 years.”

“If we want to incentivise green hydrogen, just incentivise it,” said Backwell, who estimated that the IRA was probably worth an extra 80GW to the US wind pipeline.

Francois Paquet, impact director at the Brussels-based Renewable Hydrogen Coalition, told the panel that while Europe enjoyed strong positions in electrolyser technology and key complementary renewables sectors such as offshore wind, the “next big step is to really work on support schemes. We’ve got to make sure in Europe we have affordable renewable hydrogen to meet the demand coming up.”