The rapid price plunge in solar power in recent years could be an example for currently still rather expensive green hydrogen (produced from renewables), which is essential to reach climate neutrality, Frank Mastiaux, the chief executive of German utility EnBW told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

“But that still requires further great technological developments, among them a completely new and complex infrastructure,” Mastiaux said.

He added EnBW is working on developing the technology and infrastructure to make hydrogen from renewables affordable in order to be able to use the green gas in the scale needed to significantly contribute to climate protection.

“That it is possible we can see with solar energy, where we have achieved something similar. Fifteen years ago we had costs [in solar] that were ten times as high as today.”

Norwegian electrolyser maker Nel recently said its machines could produce hydrogen for as little as $1.50 per kilogramme by 2025 if using renewable power generated at $20 per megawatt hour. That is, however, a cost of energy only reached by wind or solar projects in extremely good locations today.

EnBW is part of the AquaVentus initiative that aims at producing green hydrogen from up to 10GW of offshore wind farms near the German North Sea island of Heligoland.

The utility while looking at hydrogen as an alternative, currently is massively expanding its electric vehicle charging grid as EV’s are rapidly expanding their share in the German car market.

To make sure the power supply is secure also amid a rising electricity demand due to the electric mobility boom, it is key that the expansion of Germany’s power grid with high-voltage direct current (HVDC) lines will be completed in time, Mastiaux said.

He added the sluggish onshore wind power expansion in the country must speed up again, from 1.4GW last year to some 4 to 5GW per year if Europe’s largest economy want to reach its climate targets.

“The biggest impediment for the expansion of wind power are far too long permitting procedures, which today take more than 70 months on average,” Mastiaux said.

“That is double the time they took five years ago.”