Time is of the essence - we have around five years to be fully onboard with utilising green hydrogen whereas wind and solar energy had around 20 years of funding to make them viable sources of renewable power. The clock is now ticking to make green hydrogen an affordable and scalable energy solution for Europe and the rest of the world.
From the benefits of ammonia to the clean tech scale-up coalition, here are my takeaways on the initiatives that will be core to speedy adoption across the region.
European Hydrogen Week Conference
The race to implement hydrogen as a renewable energy source picked up pace as industry experts flocked to the European Hydrogen Week conference in October, to collectively unpack the requirements for utilising green hydrogen.
However, despite being such a hot topic of discussion, green hydrogen as a power source is still in its infancy.
The European Commission’s 2030 Climate Target Plan outlines the EU’s ambition in reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by half to ensure Europe is on the right pathway for reaching the ultimate climate-neutral goal by 2050, and heads are turning towards hydrogen for a better future away from fossil fuels.
But is there too much hyperbole - and not enough urgent action - surrounding the expectations and environmental attributes of hydrogen? And will the development of hydrogen accelerate the much-needed transition within the energy market?
Decarbonisation & Independence
My key takeaway from attending the Brussels conference is the notion that collaboration and thinking outside of the box are the crucial components to successfully decarbonise the energy system and strengthen Europe’s independence from Russia.
Rather than focusing on profits, delegates were highly motivated during discussions, and it was clear, moving forward, that creative minds must continue to join forces to overcome the challenges surrounding green hydrogen, from the impact of the Russian war to incomplete infrastructure and tardy investment decisions.
The conference was represented by companies spanning different sectors, which showcased the multiple ways hydrogen can be utilised, and there was a feeling of unity and support among the cohort while they brainstormed to speed up the repowering of Europe.
I left the conference feeling positive about the future of this renewable energy source and what it could achieve when scaled up, however, innovative solutions aren’t without obstacles. Producing vast amounts of green hydrogen requires larger electricity generation capacities from renewable energies and it must be economically competitive.
There was much talk about the part ammonia can play to combat hydrogen storage challenges, by acting as a liquid carrier for the gas.
Its properties ease the transportation and storage issues hydrogen faces, with the ammonia molecule rated as a good alternative to electricity storage, meaning hydrogen could be transported as ammonia and then converted back to hydrogen.
Currently Germany and the Netherlands are considered powerhouses for building energy and in the future Norway and perhaps the Balkan states will fall into the same category as their governments are more agile when setting up new industries.
Collaboration is vital when determining how green hydrogen can be stored and utilised, with the conference highlighting key examples of how organisations are raising the bar. It includes the formation of coalitions to look at ways of successfully driving scalability and innovation in this space.
The European Clean Hydrogen Alliance focuses on electrolysers and their supply chains. The Alliance comprises 45 members, including 20 electrolyser manufacturers, and is committed to increasing annual electrolyser manufacturing capacity in Europe 10-fold to 17.5GW by 2025. It has established the Electrolyser Partnership to help drive forward the hydrogen electrolyser manufacturing capacity.
In addition, industrial electrolyser firm Sunfire, has formed a Cleantech Scale-up Coalition with seven other leading European cleantech companies that scale clean tech.
The firm, based in Germany and Switzerland, hopes the coalition will introduce new climate and industrial leadership for Europe. Europe has developed most of the technologies it needs to reach net zero but still needs to scale and industrialize them to strengthen the region’s resilience.
Nils Aldag, CEO of Sunfire, said: “The widespread interest in cleantech is good, but impactful action is better. Industry and politics in Europe need to act quickly so as not to be left behind in green technologies such as electrolysers for the production of green hydrogen.
“Other countries are forging ahead: the recently passed US Inflation Reduction Act has once again increased the pressure on Europe. Fast and pragmatic decisions are needed instead of long debates and bureaucracy – otherwise Europe will lose its lead."
I would be interested to hear your vision of green hydrogen’s future and how you think it can overcome its current challenges to replace fossil fuels and decarbonise sectors.
Nancy Schurig is Principal Consultant for Acre Europe where she supports leading renewable developers and clean technology innovators to secure innovative technology and commercial leadership in the region.
Acre is a 20-year-old dedicated sustainability recruitment group with a strong global footprint across carbon solutions, renewable development, and climate technology recruitment.