Hydrogen is seen as a potential silver bullet to decarbonise hard-to-abate industrial sectors like steel and chemicals, which currently rely on fossil fuels and cannot easily switch to electricity. It is also seen as a long-term solution for shipping, aviation and heavy-duty road transport where electrification is not feasible at the moment.
“Hydrogen is a vital missing piece of the puzzle to help us reach this deeper decarbonisation,” said Kadri Simson, the EU’s energy commissioner who presented the strategy on Wednesday (8 July).
By 2050, the EU executive estimates that clean hydrogen could meet 24% of the world’s energy demand, with annual sales in the range of €630 billion. For Europe, that could translate into 1 million jobs in the hydrogen value chain.
But getting there will take time. Today, 96% of hydrogen today comes from fossil fuels, the Commission points out, saying: “The priority is to develop renewable hydrogen, produced using mainly wind and solar energy”.
That will require further cost reductions in technologies such as electrolysers, which aren’t expected to be fully mature until 2030 at the earliest, the Commission said in a statement.
Therefore, in the meantime, “other forms of low-carbon hydrogen are needed to rapidly reduce emissions and support the development of a viable market,” the Commission added, referring to carbon capture and storage (CCS) as well as hydrogen obtained from gas pyrolysis, which generates carbon in solid form instead of CO2.
The good news is that Europe is at the forefront of all these technologies, the Commission said.
“The new hydrogen economy can be a growth engine to help overcome the economic damage caused by COVID-19,” said Frans Timmermans, the Commission executive vice-president in charge of the Green Deal. “In developing and deploying a clean hydrogen value chain, Europe will become a global frontrunner and retain its leadership in cleantech,” he said.
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