Is Germany pulling ahead in the clean hydrogen race?

Hydrogen Sector 31.05.22
Written by: HYCAP

England may have earned a rare victory over Germany at football last year, but it doesn’t seem to have crushed the spirits of our most industrious neighbours.

Germany is going big in clean hydrogen, and there is a risk it could leave the rest of the continent behind as it has done in so many other industries over the past 50 years.

Every day appears to bring reports of a new clean hydrogen initiative from the German government. The past two weeks alone have seen the announcement of €290 million investment in the Innovation and Technology Center for Hydrogen (ITZ H2); an initiative to secure imports of clean hydrogen from Australia; and a €135 billion pact with Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands to cooperate on offshore wind and hydrogen production.

Of course, Germany has some unique issues to navigate. Of all Western European nations, it is the most dependent on Russian natural gas, giving it a huge impetus to find alternatives as the EU prepares to wean itself off Putin’s hydrocarbons as quickly as possible.

Of all Western European nations, Germany is the most dependent on Russian natural gas.

Yet, if the UK wants to become a global centre of clean hydrogen, it could do worse than take a leaf or two out of Germany’s playbook.

The ITZ H2 intends to support companies in the transport sector, offering testing and certification services that are not yet available on the market. It also plans to help set international standards for hydrogen-powered transport.

The UK’s private sector has been leading the country’s hydrogen economy and it was a consortium of JCB and Ryze Hydrogen that last year entered discussions with Australia’s Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) to take 10% of the company’s clean hydrogen production for transport and distribution in the UK.

Germany sent its Minister for Education and Research Bettina Stark-Watzinger to Australia last week as it seeks to create a renewable energy-based supply chain between the two countries amid efforts to accelerate production of clean hydrogen. Germany wants Australia’s hydrogen, while Australia wants access to electrolysers.

Last year, the two countries said they planned to spend $90 million funding hydrogen demonstration projects, while the Germany’s EON in March signed an MOU with FFI to explore shipping hydrogen to Europe.

The deal between Germany, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands seeks to speed up the permitting process and is targeting 65 GW of offshore wind by 2030 and 150 GW by 2050. While also looking to increase cooperation in the production of clean hydrogen, the four countries did not put a figure on how much of that they expect to be dedicated to hydrogen production.

A deal between Germany, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands seeks to speed up the permitting process and is targeting 65 GW of offshore wind by 2030 and 150 GW by 2050.

In February, Germany, Austria and Denmark signed a deal with Phillips 66 and H2 Energy to supply them with 250 new hydrogen refuelling stations by 2026. Germany already had 101 of the continent’s 228 hydrogen stations.

The UK is not sitting on its hands. Earlier in May, it announced 28 winners of £60 million in funding for innovation in the production and storage of hydrogen. The money was part of the country’s £240 million Net Zero Hydrogen Fund. In April, the UK became the first country in the world to implement a subsidy scheme for clean hydrogen with the announcement of £100 million for the Hydrogen Business Model.

The more countries invest in clean hydrogen infrastructure, the better it is for everyone as we create a global hydrogen economy. The greater the UK’s hydrogen investment today, the bigger role it will play in the hydrogen economy of tomorrow, and the greater the rewards for everyone.

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