Over the last months all CEO’s following hydrogen are feverishly trying to get aligned with the so called “European” Hydrogen IPCEI, Important Project of Common European Interest, as outlined in the EU H2 Strategy. This strategy seeks in the first phase, from 2020 up to 2024, to install at least 6 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolysers to produce up to 1 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen “to decarbonise existing hydrogen production, e.g. in the chemical sector and in heavy-duty transport like hydrogen fuel-cell buses and at a later stage trucks. Electrolysers will thus also be needed to locally supply an increasing number of hydrogen refuelling stations.”

In the second phase, from 2025 to 2030, “hydrogen needs to become an intrinsic part of an integrated energy system with a strategic objective to install at least 40 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolysers by 2030 and the production of up to 10 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen in the EU. In this phase, renewable hydrogen is expected to gradually become cost-competitive with other forms of hydrogen production, but dedicated demand side policies will be needed for industrial demand to gradually include new applications, including steel-making, trucks, rail and some maritime transport applications, and other transport modes.”

For this purpose Germany has proposed to coordinate the development of a “European IPCEI”, as indicated in the response of Statsserkretar Mr. Andreas Feicht of the German Ministry of Economic Affairs  and Energy to questions in the Bundestag on September 7, 2020 on this IPCEI.  He mentioned that indeed Siemens, Thyssenkrupp, BASF, Bosch, BMW, Saar-Stahl, Salzgitter Stahl are already engaged in the “elaboration” of IPCEI projects. Germany for this purpose is actively contacting other Member States to offer other complementary ideas to give it a European joint “feel”. On September 11, 2020 a visit of the French minister of Economic Affairs Bruno Le Maire to his German counterpart Peter Altmeier confirmed French interest to join the German efforts as he stated:  “I hope that we will manage to find a joint Franco-German and then European project for hydrogen”. Outlines of  a “ €3 bln gigafactory” for hydrogen, ( €1.5 billion  each) have emerged that would apply to the EU for the status of “Project of Common European Interest” (IPCEI) to receive state subsidies. This would look like the joint gigafactory for batteries for electric vehicles both countries supported with around €1.3 billion under the European Battery Alliance, which will be based in Nersac and Kaiserslautern starting from mid-2021, should reach one million by 2030.

On October 5, 2020, as part of the Germany EU presidency Peter Altmaier chaired a High-Level Conference on  “Hydrogen in the energy industry: time for an internal and global market”, attended by EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson in which het referred to the success of the  German-French Battery Alliance:  “Green hydrogen is a key energy source for the future, and we need it on the road to climate neutrality. We therefore need to take the decisions in the EU now so that we can have a European market with common rules. And we need to press ahead in Europe and with our international partners to make progress on the production of carbon-neutral hydrogen. I shall be doing my utmost to push the issue of hydrogen during Germany’s Council Presidency.”

On October 27, 2020 Hydrogen Europe, as the newly appointed secretariat of the Clean Hydrogen Alliance, organized an IPCEI event for Member States only, in which it became clear that not all EU countries had yet completed their national IPCEI survey and that next steps to come to a European IPCEI are not yet clearly defined. The Dutch delegation indicated on November 4, 2020 that suitable Dutch contributions will be invited to join so called “match making” events in which they need to clearly indicate:

  • Date of Investment Decision
  • Total  financing gap (CAPEX en OPEX);
  • Their position in the H2 value chain (production, distribution, demand, etc)
  • Details on their plans
  • Potential to align with other initiaitive in the EU.

In the Netherlands alone 83 ideas were collected until September 22, 2020 of possible activities, 18 did not make the final cut. Additional criterai to the above in the Dutch survey included:

  • Develop techncial solutions and advatages of scale
  • Define Business models
  • Build large scale infrastructure
  • Set up an imprtant component of a European green hydrogen network.

The EHA supported the submission to the Dutch IPCEI survey of the RH2INE initiative to kick-start the deployment of a cross border,  comprehensive hydrogen supply and demand network for all transport modalities, along the main European trade corridors, in close cooperation with the ports and other transport and logistics hubs. The RH2INE intiative has demonstrated the urgent need, complementary to a European IPCEI, for so-called “IPS-ME’s”, Important Projects for Small and Medium sized Enterprises, that for the most part sustain the daily transport of goods over inland waterways and truck our daily needs deep into cities and rural communities. These companies urgently need to convert their fleets to clean alternatives to comply with EU , national and local emissions requirements. Sufficient funding to develop the first zero emission fleets of vessels and trucks, as well as buses and urban delivery vans, has still not find its way into concrete EU and national deployment programs. Let’s keep walking the line of these day-to-day realities of “emission reduction” as well, and not get too tipcei from a one and only EU IPCEI…

Photo: courtesy BP, Lingen refinery in Germany, location of a planned 500 MW electrolyser, expected to be powered by an Ørsted North Sea offshore wind farm.