On July 30, 2019 the EU Commission has published a consultation on the set up of a Clean Hydrogen European Partnership under the new Horizon Europe programme, building on the two past Joint FCH Undertakings running since 2008 until 2020.

The overall objective of the initiative is to create a strong, innovative and competitive European clean hydrogen sector, fully capable of underpinning Europe’s energy transition by accelerating the market entry  of technologies based on ‘near-zero carbon’ hydrogen and delivering a wide range of socio-economic benefits. The new partnership should be able to channel cross-sectoral collaboration and thus capitalise and build on the current momentum of FCH 2, which involves a growing number of entities whose core business is not relatedto hydrogen. It should involve more energy companies (e.g. transmission and distribution system, operators of power plants, utilities), the waterborne and rail transport industry, and more representatives of theindustrial sectors that could benefit from the use of ‘near-zero carbon’ hydrogen (chemical, steel, refineries,etc.) in order to reflect the revised strategic orientation more fully and incentivise further uptake of hydrogen technologies in the broader energy system. Given the need to address the acceptance of  hydrogen technologies, it will also be important to have representatives of civil society and NGOs.

The proposal for Horizon Europe, the future EU’s future research and innovation (R&I) programme for 2021- 2027, outlines the approach (Article 8) and criteria (Annex III) for R&I partnerships under the umbrella term European Partnerships’. According to the political agreement between the Council and European Parliament,“European Partnerships shall be established for addressing European or global challenges only in cases where they will more effectively achieve objectives of Horizon Europe than the Union alone and when compared to other forms of support of the Framework programme”. The overall financial framework for the upcoming partnerships still has to be agreed by the co-legislators. Different forms of partnerships can be implemented depending on needs and criteria. One such form is institutionalised partnerships set up under Article 185 or Article 187 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The draft legislation outlines possible areas in which institutionalised partnerships could be set up, including hydrogen and sustainable energy storage technologies with lower environmental footprint and less energy-intensive production. In thecourse of the strategic planning, the Commission, in close cooperation with the Member States, has identified ‘Clean Hydrogen’ as a candidate for such a partnership. At the end of 2018, the Commission adopted a Communication on A clean planet for all (COM(2018) 773 final), which outlined its strategy for the transition to clean energy. The Communication acknowledges the potential of hydrogen as a clean energy vector (‘[…] the role of hydrogen is likely to become more prominent in a fully decarbonised energy system […]’) and identifies hydrogen and fuel cells as one of the ‘transformational carbon-neutral solutions that EU research should focus on’. This would also emphasise the key strategic value chain around hydrogen, covering many major sectors and providing solutions for tangible progress on several EU policy objectives.

Photo: courtesy EVO bus (in Bolzano) supported by the FCH JU I CHIC project