Germany’s government should follow up on its promise to implement a domestic hydrogen strategy quickly, given its key role in the energy transition, but the country will also need to import energy based on power-to-x technologies on a large scale, gas, engineering and municipal utility associations said.

The groups met for a joint parliamentary seminar in Berlin on the role of hydrogen and the gas infrastructure in Germany’s Energiewende – its transition from nuclear and fossil to renewable power.

To make Germany the number 1 country in hydrogen technologies in the world, and use green hydrogen in energy storage, heating or steel production, the government by the end of 2019 will present a hydrogen strategy, economics and energy minister Peter Altmaier had promised in early November. The country’s competitors in the area – China, South Kore and Japan – aren’t sleeping, the minister then warned.

As the hydrogen strategy still hasn’t been launched, industry groups are becoming impatient.

“Green gases such as hydrogen finally need legally established targets and an opening of the market,” said Gerald Linke, chairman of the German gas and water industry association.

“After the government hopefully soon will have presented a hydrogen strategy, it must implement it quickly.”

Matthias Zelinger, climate and energy policy spokesman of Germany's engineering federation VDMA, said Germany’s engineering sector is currently developing hydrogen and power-to-x technologies under pressure, given their indispensability for energy storage and its use in sectors that are difficult to decarbonise.

He said a global market on an industrial scale for hydrogen and power-to-x was needed.

“In the future, we will also import energy based on power-to-x from abroad on a large scale,” Zelinger said, adding that this will open great opportunities for Germany’s industry as exporter of technologies and machinery.

To make green hydrogen competitive compared to conventional fuels, the hydrogen strategy needs to reform Germany’s system of taxes, fees and surcharges, Michael Wübbels, deputy managing director of the federation of municipal utilities (VKU) said.

“Hydrogen can contribute substantially to reach (our) climate targets in all sectors of the economy,” Wübbels said, adding that municipal utilities can provide the necessary energy infrastructure.

The association of Germany’s gas grid operators (FNB Gas), meanwhile, presented a map of a theoretical 5,900km hydrogen grid that would be based to 90% on the existing natural gas pipeline network, and could be used not only to transport hydrogen inside the country, but also has links to the neighbouring Netherlands from where hydrogen imports could come.

“Our aim is to make the existing gas infrastructure usable for the transport of hydrogen,” FNB Gas chairman Ralph Bahke said, adding that politics and government agencies need to create a legal framework for the use of hydrogen quickly.

Germany, the highly industrialised state of North-Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), and the Netherlands, meanwhile, have kicked off a joint research initiative into the creation of transnational value chains for green hydrogen that would range from the Dutch North Sea to NRW.

"The Netherlands and North-Rhine-Westphalia are uniquely positioned to translate a scaling up of green hydrogen into economic opportunities," Dutch economics minister Eric Wiebes said.

"With the expected growth of wind at see and rising demand for green hydrogen in industry, all prerequisites are present in our region to become a pioneer in the transition to a sustainable economy."