Germany’s economics and energy ministry has published a regulation enabling the allocation of areas for production of green hydrogen in Germany’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the North Sea, in what would be a world-first tender for H2.

The rule that entered into force on Friday in practice creates the opportunity to test H2 output from offshore wind power through a pilot scheme.

The ministry said a first tendering round is scheduled for next year. While the regulation is officially technology-neutral, the government thinks that offshore wind is the most advanced technology enabling the direct generation of H2 at sea through electrolysis.

“The production of green hydrogen at sea is a real future issue with high innovation potential,” energy minister Peter Altmaier said.

“Offshore hydrogen production can make an important contribution to the decarbonisation of Germany as a location for industry.”

The rule comes as utility RWE together with oil supermajor Shell and Siemens Energy plan to install two 14MW Siemens Gamesa offshore wind turbines with an integrated electrolyser for H2 production close to the island of Heligoland by 2025.

Areas for offshore hydrogen in the EEZ will be awarded according to qualitative criteria. Successful bidders will first receive the right to apply for a planning procedure in one area. In a subsequent step, they can apply for support.

The government has earmarked €50m ($58m) in grants from its energy and climate packages for the offshore hydrogen test plants.

Germany’s offshore wind sector welcomed the regulation as a first step towards hydrogen production at sea, but said more areas need to be made available for offshore H2.

“The only allocated area in the North Sea so far is just a drop on in the ocean and far from sufficient to decarbonise our industry,” said Stefan Thimm, managing director of the Offshore Wind Foundation (BWO).

“More areas are needed quickly, meaningful grid connection concepts and above all also a regulatory framework for the approval of electrolysers - the time is obviously short.”