Hydrogen is currently one of the European Union’s main concerns on energy and mobility issues. Hydrogen is presented as a lever to meet the climate objectives set by the European Commission. The aim of this article is to give an overview of the initiatives in this field that are on the agenda in Brussels: the Clean Hydrogen Partnership, the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance (ECH2A) and the IPCEI on hydrogen.

Clean Hydrogen partnership

Clean Hydrogen is a Joint Undertaking under the Horizon Europe programme. It is the successor to the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen JU set up in the previous financial framework.

The Clean Hydrogen partnership aims to accelerate the development and deployment of European clean hydrogen technologies for a sustainable and decarbonised energy system. More specifically, particular attention will be given to the production, distribution and storage of hydrogen for the most difficult to decarbonise sectors of activity, such as industry and heavy transport.

Among the themes covered by the partnership, and which will be financed, we find the production of decarbonised hydrogen, based on renewable energies (green hydrogen). In addition, emphasis will also be placed on the integration aspects of energy systems (e.g. linking the electricity and gas sectors, supporting the decarbonisation of industry). The partnership will also focus on any innovative technologies that can enable the safe and cost-effective distribution and storage of hydrogen in the long term and on a large scale. Finally, technologies (including fuel cells) to produce electricity and/or heat for mobile and stationary applications will also be funded.

Within the partnership, different structures are involved: Hydrogen Europe, Hydrogen Europe Reasearch, Member State Representative Group. The industrial and research stakeholders can co-write a strategic R&I agenda with the European Commission and the Member States.

In this perspective, a Multi-Annual Work Plan is being drafted. This document sets out the vision, missions, objectives, and R&I actions of the partnership. The latter should be based on three pillars: Hydrogen Production (1); Hydrogen Storage and Distribution (2); Hydrogen End-Use (3). The document has so far been the subject of two exchanges with the Member States. A third exchange is expected by the end of May. The finalised document should be published in September 2021.

The calls for projects will then be published in the Annual Work Plans. According to our information, the 2021 and 2022 programmes could be published in December 2021 or January 2022, with deadlines staggered over 2022. As a reminder, only members of Hydrogen Europe Research or Hydrogen Europe can participate in the contribution and drafting of the calls. In terms of budget, the EC contribution should be €150 million for the 2021 calls and €150 million for the 2022 calls.

European Clean Hydrogen Alliance (ECH2A)

The ECH2A is an initiative of the European Commission that is part of the Green Deal’s carbon neutrality objective. It aims to create a hydrogen ecosystem at European level and to ensure the development, deployment and scaling up of the sector. The Alliance was launched at the same time as the EU Hydrogen Strategy, which aims to intensify the deployment of clean hydrogen in Europe.

The ECH2A comprises six thematic “roundtables” that cover the entire value chain. These roundtables are intended to define “archetypal” projects to be supported. On this basis, large-scale projects can be built. At this stage, it is not a question of allocating a specific budget to these projects, but only of carrying out an inventory of projects to give rise to meta-projects.

In terms of timetable, the identification of “archetypal” projects was completed on 7 May and a forum for the pre-identification of large-scale projects will take place on 17 and 18 June. The analysis of the proposed projects will continue during the second half of 2021.

IPCEI on hydrogen

An important project of common European interest (IPCEI) on hydrogen is being prepared in Brussels. As a reminder, an IPCEI is a project offering the possibility for a group of Member States to provide subsidies compatible with the internal market on a value chain that has been notified by the European Commission as being of strategic importance.

At the European level, pre-notification will be delayed until June 2021 with notification still expected by the end of 2021. According to our information, at least 16 Member States are concerned to participate in the IPCEI.

With regard to France, a call for proposals was launched in January 2020 and closed in June 2020. At this stage, 18 projects had been pre-selected by the French Directorate-General for Enterprise (DGE). During these last months, there have been close contacts between the DGE and the companies participating in the IPCEI. Despite pending validation of the project by the Commission, an envelope of €1.5 billion is secured in a €7.2 billion plan.