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Hydrogen in the German Energy System (I): The National Hydrogen Strategy

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Simon Göß studied Environmental and Resource Management (B. Sc.) at the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus and Sustainable Energy Technology (M. Sc. Honours) at the Delft University of...

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  • Mar 10, 2021

Originally posted here. 

There are many indications that the use of hydrogen from renewable or non-CO 2 -emitting sources is necessary for increased climate protection efforts. The Federal Government's National Hydrogen Strategy aims to set the framework for hydrogen generation and use for Germany.



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This first of two contributions looks at the question of why hydrogen is becoming more and more important for decarbonization and what role the National Hydrogen Strategy can play in this.

Why is hydrogen becoming more and more important?

Industry, network operators as well as science and research all agree: CO 2 -free hydrogen is necessary in order to achieve the ambitious decarbonisation goals for Germany by the middle of this century. This is also shown by the current studies for the transformation of the German energy system at Forschungszentrum Jülich and the RESCUE study by the Federal Environment Agency.

Hydrogen can be used in many areas. As a raw material, it is already used on a large scale in the chemical industry. Here it forms the basic material for many different secondary products, such as ammonia, methanol or even plastics. Hydrogen is both an energy carrier and energy storage in chemical form.

Hydrogen and sector coupling

Hydrogen can also play an important role in low-emission manufacturing processes in the steel industry (source: Agora Energiewende). Last but not least, hydrogen can be used in applications and sectors that would otherwise be difficult to supply directly with electricity. These include heavy haulage, shipping and air traffic. Figure 1 illustrates the possibility of sector coupling in the industrial sector with the aid of hydrogen using the example of the "West Coast 100" project (source: West Coast 100 )

 green hydrogen and decarbonization on an industrial scale, Energy Brainpool

Figure 1: green hydrogen and decarbonization on an industrial scale (source: Westüste 100)

Politicians are also increasingly realizing how important hydrogen is in order to achieve climate policy goals. However, the use of hydrogen for the purpose of decarbonization only makes sense if it is generated CO 2 -free or at least CO 2 -neutral.

Green versus blue hydrogen

We speak of CO 2 -free or “green hydrogen” when it is produced by electrolysis using electricity from renewable energies. So-called “blue hydrogen” can be CO 2 -neutral. In this case, the H 2 molecules are produced using natural gas in the steam reforming process. Subsequently, the CO 2 produced in the production of hydrogen can be separated and stored (Carbon Capture and Storage, CCS) (source: BMBF ).

The National Hydrogen Strategy: four ministries involved

A German hydrogen strategy was launched in the summer of 2019. The parties involved discussed further ideas for developing a national hydrogen strategy at an event in Berlin in November 2019. The four ministries involved (BMWI, BMVI, BMZ and BMBF) also submitted a contribution to the discussion there (source: BMWI ). This should form the basis for the national hydrogen strategy.

The government wanted to develop this strategy further by the end of 2019 (source: PV Magazine ). Ultimately, the elaborated version went into departmental coordination at the beginning of February 2020.

On compact 32 pages, 37 measures are described
to promote and expand hydrogen production and use in Germany. With political help, German industry is to become the leading international supplier of hydrogen technologies. Economics Minister Altmaier speaks of “great industrial policy opportunities” (source: BMWI ).

The strategy also contains an action program with which the market ramp-up and the foundations for a functioning hydrogen market in Germany are to be initiated by 2023 (source: Energate ). The National Hydrogen Strategy was finally adopted with a delay in June 2020 .

The key points of the National Hydrogen Strategy

The strategy paper speaks of CO 2 -neutral hydrogen, which in particular includes blue hydrogen with CCS technology. In order to enable the export of technologies, the federal government sees a strong home market as important. By 2030, electrolysers with a capacity of 5 GW are to be in Germany, which will generate around 14 TWh of green hydrogen from 20 TWh of electricity and thus provide around 15 percent of the hydrogen consumed in Germany up to that point.

The CO 2 -neutral hydrogen is to be used primarily in industry and in the transport sector. The heating sector is only mentioned as secondary. The state-induced price components, such as the EEG surcharge or network charges, would have to be fair for this purpose (source: Energate ). These components are currently making hydrogen, which is produced using electricity in electrolysers, more expensive.

The industry will receive massive aid to convert its manufacturing processes (EUR 7 billion). At the same time, more than EUR 3 billion in funding should be available by 2026. The purchase of hydrogen vehicles should also be encouraged. The federal government is providing a total of EUR 3.6 billion for this (source: Electrive ). Figure 2 shows some of the hydrogen regions and funding projects in Germany.

Hydrogen regions and funding programs in Germany (source: EMCEL), hydrogen, Energy Brainpool

Figure 2: Hydrogen regions and funding programs in Germany (source: EMCEL)

International cooperation

Another big topic is international cooperation. Since Germany will probably not be able to meet its demand for green hydrogen domestically, imports are necessary. In order to start corresponding projects at an early stage and to build up supply chains, partner countries should be sought intensively and international cooperation should be strengthened.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research sees hydrogen from African countries as an important building block for the energy transition (source: BMBF ). "With green hydrogen, the geographic advantages of renewable energies could become the engine of development for the local societies," said Federal Research Minister Karliczek (source: BMBF ).

A National Hydrogen Council was also set up in the summer. A total of 26 experts: Inside are to give suggestions and recommendations for action for the implementation of the hydrogen strategy. In the EEG 2021, for example, electricity that is used to produce green hydrogen must be exempted from paying the EEG surcharge.

In the second part of this series, we take a closer look at our current studies on the subject of hydrogen in the energy system.

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