Some of the world’s biggest power companies joined to urge EU policymakers to ‘Choose Renewable Hydrogen’ as the key to full decarbonisation, in a major lobbying push highlighting a tug-of-war between electricity and fossil fuels over a crucial element of the energy transition.
The campaign by companies and industry bodies urged the European Commission to ensure renewable electricity is centre-stage as Brussels prepares to make critical decisions over its Green Deal plan and Covid-19 recovery strategies.
The initiative is backed by Akuo Energy, BayWa r.e., EDP, Enel, Iberdrola, MHI Vestas, SolarPower Europe, Orsted, Vestas and WindEurope.
The partners – all from the power sector – said direct electrification won’t be enough to decarbonise energy-hungry areas of the economy such as aviation, heavy transport and certain industrial operations, which will continue to need to run on gaseous fuels rather than electricity.
They claim renewable hydrogen produced by linking wind or solar generation to electrolysis – also often known as green hydrogen – is ready to step in as a cost-effective alternative to natural gas.
The respective roles played by green hydrogen and the alternative ‘blue’ variety – produced using natural gas-fired power itself abated by carbon capture and storage (CCS) – is emerging as one of the pivotal areas of contention shaping the energy transition in Europe and beyond.
Some major oil & gas sector players – while in some cases also pursuing green H2 initiatives – have been enthusiastically championing the role of blue hydrogen, arguing that it offers the only viable way to produce the massive amounts of decarbonised hydrogen needed.
The debate has produced often heated claims and counter-claims on both sides, with arguments focusing on issues such as price, timeframes, potential scale and whether using blue hydrogen counts as decarbonisation at all.
The power sector’s latest pitch comes as leaked reports suggest that as part of its Covid recovery plans, the EU intends to spend €5-30bn ($5.5-33bn)) on supporting the build-out of one million tonnes of clean hydrogen production by 2030 — either green of blue with CCS — which would be subsidised through a “carbon contracts for difference” pilot scheme.
Giles Dickson, CEO of WindEurope, said: “Some industrial processes and heavy transport will have to run on gas. And renewable hydrogen is the best gas. It is completely clean. It will be affordable with renewables being so cheap now.
“And it will be energy made in Europe creating jobs and growth in Europe. Hydrogen in the Recovery Package? Yes, but make it renewable hydrogen.”
Aurelie Beauvais, interim CEO of SolarPower Europe, said: “The upcoming energy system integration strategy and clean hydrogen strategy will be pivotal to enshrining the right decarbonisation pathways for Europe.
“They must build on the immense potential of renewable electricity, which will enhance sectoral integration, create millions of jobs and provide the sustainable hydrogen needed to modernise and decarbonise European industries.”