December 2020

The road to the hydrogen turbo

Guest contribution by WEKA Industrie Medien


Europe is increasingly focusing on hydrogen mobility. But there are still a number of hurdles to be overcome on the way there. One of these are the completely different conditions and strategies in the individual European countries.

The paper promises great things. By 2050, 24 per cent of Europe's energy requirements should come from hydrogen. And in ten years, five million hydrogen vehicles should drive on Europe's roads. HyLAW is the author of the paper, a project involving a total of eighteen European states and which aims to promote the spread of hydrogen in Europe.  The document identifies industry, the building sector and mobility as the most important fields of action. And it calls for a Europe-wide hydrogen strategy.

For a good reason. Because a widespread introduction of hydrogen as an energy source can only succeed if there is a European balance. Especially if the hydrogen should come from renewable sources. Wind and sun will play a key role in this process- and also those countries which geography and weather characteristics make them particularly suitable. Such as Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway, Great Britain and Iceland, because of the geothermal energy. It is not a fundamental problem that some countries can contribute mor and others less to the hydrogen production, says Jochen Linßen, a specialist for energy systems. "The hydrogen market for the future will be international anyway."

A colourful hydrogen puzzle

Much more difficult than creating such a market, is to forecast how much hydrogen in Europe will be developed in general and how quickly individual countries will enter the technology, says Linßen. The national strategies and conditions are very different, he says.

This is actually impossible to ignore - for example in the standpoint on so-called blue hydrogen, which is not renewable because it is produced from gas. While some countries, such as Germany or Austria, want to keep its share as low as possible, others, such as Norway, are deliberately opting for blue hydrogen in order to promote the expansion or conversion of infrastructure towards hydrogen use.  In comparison to Germany, one of the driving forces in the European hydrogen offensive together with France, Norway has so far acted rather cautiously, although conditions are basically good.

Different usage scenarios

Preferences for use also differ across Europe. While some of the previous hydrogen pioneers, such as the Netherlands, are primarily pushing forward for the industrial use, others, such as Belgium, Sweden, Germany and Austria, are increasingly focusing on the mobility sector.

In the countries of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, the hydrogen strategies are still less advanced. But if they have a strategy, then the primary aim is to improve the industrial use of hydrogen, although this discussion is barely noticed by the wider public. Only Bulgaria has been trying to position itself as a wind and solar country. This could open the way for the future production of green hydrogen. However, the gap is wide: While Germany, Europe's leading country in hydrogen mobility, already has 86 hydrogen filling stations in operation, not a single one exists in Eastern or Southern Europe. However, there are still three stations under construction in the Czech Republic and one in Latvia and Estonia.

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