Europe’s wind and solar industries warned governments against using Covid recovery packages to fund “so-called transition technologies” such as blue hydrogen from fossil fuels as they joined for a new alliance to lobby for green H2.
WindEurope and SolarPower Europe claimed their industries can help the continent take a global leadership role in competitively-priced hydrogen produced from renewable-powered electrolysis, by combining huge deployment in sectors such as offshore wind with falling costs of electrolysers and massive demand from energy-intensive industries.
Launching the Renewable Hydrogen Coalition, SolarPower Europe CEO Walburga Hemetsberger, said it would make the case to Brussels and national governments to back green hydrogen when allocating stimulus packages to aid economic recovery from the Covid pandemic.
“What we do not need, [where] money should not go is to is so-called transition technologies such as blue hydrogen.
“That’s one of the reasons why we want to establish a voice here with the coalition for renewable hydrogen.”
The tension between green and blue hydrogen – the latter produced using abated fossil fuels – has become one of the defining debates of the energy transition.
Green hydrogen’s advocates claim that the blue variety is a blind alley championed by fossil fuel giants to ensure a continuing role for natural gas in the energy mix, while blue’s supporters claim its early capacity for larger volumes makes it the pragmatic choice to kick-start a large-scale H2 economy.
Carbon-capture and storage schemes seen as enablers of blue hydrogen have been championed by several national governments, including Norway and the UK.
The complexities of the issue were reflected in a White Paper published to accompany the launch of the Renewable Hydrogen Coalition, which says: “We acknowledge that blue hydrogen could also play an important role in a first phase of the hydrogen transition where demand for green hydrogen might outweigh supply.”
The White Paper goes on to argue that green hydrogen can achieve its cost reduction targets from €4-5 per kg ($4.7-5.9), to around €1.5–2 per kg and achieve “mainstream” status sooner than expected by engaging closely with key industries in so-called “value chain collaborations”.
The paper by claimed 540TWh of potential 'hidden demand' exists for power to produce green hydrogen in the near-term and 1,200-1400TWh in the medium-term.
WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson claimed Europe’s heavy industries such as steel and chemicals – widely seen as among the most challenging to decarbonise because of their vast energy needs – are now fully on board with working with renewable sectors to find solutions, either through direct electrification or through green hydrogen as an alternative to burning fossil fuels.
Energy-intensive industries used not to like renewables.
“Energy-intensive industries used not to like renewables,” said Dickson. “They thought we were expensive. They thought we were messing up the energy system with our ‘intermittency’.
“Today they are knocking on our door saying we want to decarbonise.”
The Renewable Hydrogen Coalition will sign up supportive companies, and big names from the power sector such as EDPR, RWE and Nordex lent their support to the launch.
Iberdrola CEO Ignacio Galan said: “The European Green Deal and the recovery package will be key for a robust and green recovery and, at the same time, for reaching our climate goals. In the path of the decarbonisation of our economies, renewable hydrogen will become a strategic energy vector where direct electrification is not viable.”