As COVID 19 is expected to continue to severly impact family life and economic activties in the coming years , the early Spring weather (and storms!)  in Western Europe and first “wave” of vaccinations have spurred the Global Hydrogen community to communicate new ambitions for the next 10 years. The Hydrogen Council in its most recent McKinsey report of February 2021 indicated that the governments of 30 countries, of the 75 that pledged a zero net carbon ambition by 2050, funded a total of USD 70 billion to support over 200 current H2 projects in the world.

The Hydrogen Council is expecting 300 bln$ new investments (of which 80 bln are currently mature) to reach new capacity targets and sector level regulation to support  hydrogen initiatives by 2030. The EU has announced a 40-gigawatt (GW) electrolyzer capacity target for 2030 (up from less than 0.1 GW today) and projects 30 million zero-emission cars on EU road by 2030 (50 fold increase) in its new Smart ans Sustaianable Mobility publication of December 9, 2020, as well as internal combustion vehicle sales ban by 2035 . “Unfortunately this vision is far removed from today’s reality,” cautioned ACEA Director General, Eric-Mark Huitema, as of the 243 million passenger cars on EU roads last year, less than 615,000 cars were zero-emission vehicles (battery electric cars and fuel-cell electric ones combined (there are 10.500 FCEV worldwide (end 2020) ). That is roughly 0.25% of the whole car fleet. “To meet the Commission’s objective, we would need to see an almost 50-fold increase in zero-emission cars in circulation on our roads in just 10 years,” Huitema explained.

Even bigger challenges are emerging in the inland shipping and seafaring communities in Europe; a joint letter of envrironmental organisations and shipbuilding industry to the EU Comission on March 7, 2021 pointed to a 1,4 trillion € investment to green the maritime industry and the need to start funding now to achieve the EC goal of market ready vessels by 2030 . To put things in perspective on March 10, 2021, the up to now largest public funding contribution of 4 mln of the Dutch government to build Antonie, a hydrogen powered 135m inland waterway vessel was announced on March 10, 2021. The detailed designs of the vessel were handed over to Dutch minister of Infrastructure and Watermanagement Cora van Nieuwenhuizen in Rotterdam by the WEVA project members , led by NPRC, a cooperation of Dutch skippers that is part of the RH2INE initiative, that EHA has been supporting since its start in 2018 and that seeks to integrate hydrogen along the complete calue chain form production to applications along EU’s main transport corridors. RH2INE recently submitted its RH2NE Kickstart IWT ambition supported by three Dutch skippers to the Dutch government of 12 hydrogen inland waterway vessels and four filling facilities by 2024, requiring public EU, national and regional support of €126 mln to cover the extra CAPEX costs.

These ambitions demonstrate that as, even in rough economic and social times, small and medium sized, mostly family owned business, are looking up to facilitate the concrete transition to better times and a livable planet, public authorities will need to change gears as well developing adequate ring-fenced programs to ensure a true recovery and build lasting resilience.

Photo courtesy: Binnevaartkrant, featuring left to right  shipbuilder Harm Lenten (Lenten Scheepvaart) minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, Femke Brenninkmeijer (CEO NPRC), Bertjan Volbeda (fuel cell supplier Nedstack), WEVA-projectleider Kees de Vries en Marcel Galjee (Nouryon)