The enormous potential of ultra-sustainable advanced renewable hydrogen
- Oct 24, 2022 4:12 pm GMT
As the ongoing war in
In the light of the urgent need to secure Europe’s energy supply, the imperatives of the Green Deal and our transition to cleaner and renewable fuels, it is disappointing to see some viable opportunities missed and, worse, certain specific national interests undermining the ambitious emissions targets that they have themselves set.
This is particularly true with regard to a key piece in the puzzle of Europe’s energy transition to a green economy - hydrogen.
Hydrogen as an energy carrier is an excellent substitute for fossil fuels used for transportation, in the production of ammonia and for other industrial applications. This gas, which can itself be produced using renewable power, provides high-grade heat, enabling it to meet a range of energy needs that would be difficult to address through electricity alone. Furthermore, it is the only renewable energy that can be efficiently stored and does not suffer from the inherent weaknesses of wind and solar power (intermittency, inefficient transport and difficulty of storage).
A free and fair debate about hydrogen’s role in the EU energy mix is particularly apt in the light of two delegated acts published this summer by the
The Revision of the Renewable Energy Directive is currently in “trilogue” between the three main EU institutions. Just last month, the
Separately, the Commission has tabled its REPowerEU plan, which, essentially, represents the EU’s hopes of realising the green transition sooner.
This is all good; indeed it creates extremely ambitious targets for renewable hydrogen. So why have the EU institutions prioritised hydrogen from wind and solar (aka
In particular, this applies to renewable hydrogen made from biomethane. Not only does biomethane-based renewable hydrogen tick all the boxes when it comes to its uses in the modern energy market, but its environmental credentials are impeccable too. When made from the most sustainable feedstocks such as waste straw and to the most stringent “net-zero” greenhouse gas targets, as a small number of companies across the world are currently doing, it offers an opportunity to:
- Deliver a sustainability profile that is at least as good and potentially better than that of RFNBOs;
- produce large volumes of sustainable zero-emission hydrogen that will help meet the EU’s overall objectives for hydrogen; and
- ensure that the Repower EU objective of producing 35 bcm of biomethane is implemented in the most sustainable and carbon-efficient manner possible.
Unfortunately, advanced renewable hydrogen was left out of the energy package recently approved by MEPs. An oversight? Or a deliberate, political, significant omission which should be reconsidered?
Two factors appear to be driving this aversion to advanced renewable hydrogen. Firstly, the massive investment and subsidies backing RFNBOs have resulted in intense pressure to distort policy-making towards picking winners in the market place.
Secondly, many in
But there are highly sustainable options available for making large volumes of biomethane from ultra-sustainable feedstocks, such as waste straw. In the recent “Gas for Climate” report for Guidehouse, three experts,
The report goes on, “Additionally, biomethane increases European energy security by reducing the dependency on Russian natural gas and can alleviate part of the energy cost pressure on households and companies.” It also finds that there are enough sustainable feedstocks available in the EU-27 to meet the REPowerEU 2030 target.
Having studied the biomethane potential per technology and country, the authors state that “a potential of 38 bcm is estimated for anaerobic digestion in 2030 for EU-27 increasing to 91 bcm in 2050.”
Their overarching conclusion is that the incorporation of highly sustainable advanced biofuels could (and should) be one of the major growth sectors, perhaps even the principal one, for
The current energy crisis is actually a great opportunity to relook at the foundation for achieving Europe’s hydrogen “vision”. One key part should be advanced renewable hydrogen made from sustainable biomethane.
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