The 2021 edition of the European Hydrogen Week took place last week – from November 29 to December 3. Co-organized by the Fuel Cells Hydrogen JU and the European Commission, this major industry event was an opportunity for stakeholders (policy makers, industry, civil society, research community) to set out a number of strategic priorities. It was also an opportunity for the EU’s key political players to mark the event with their announcements.
A keynote speech on the climate challenge
In her opening speech at the European Hydrogen Week 2021, European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen reaffirmed the central role that clean hydrogen will play in the climate-neutral economy of the future. She put this hydrogen event in perspective with the discussions held in Glasgow in early November (COP26).
Three key points emerged from the Commission President’s remarks:
1- To meet climate goals, we need to accelerate the European hydrogen economy. The Commission has therefore set the ambitious target of increasing Europe’s annual production of green hydrogen to 10 million tons by 2030.
2 – Europe as a pioneer in building a global hydrogen market. In this sense, the Commission has committed, with other countries, to create 100 hydrogen valleys in the world. Clean hydrogen is a global issue that must involve all the EU’s global partners, including in Africa.
3 – Cooperation is the key word for the European hydrogen program. It will have to be done both with third countries and with private stakeholders in Europe. This is the meaning of the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance, which has 1,500 members to date, and whose role is to collect viable investment projects in clean hydrogen. This is also the sense of the Clean Hydrogen JU, which brings together the European Commission, the hydrogen industry, researchers and innovators, and policy makers from the Member States, with the aim of developing a sustainable and competitive strategic agenda for clean hydrogen research and innovation.
Strategic priorities for hydrogen
The European Hydrogen Week 2021 was an opportunity for the industry to present its strategic priorities for the hydrogen economy. All stakeholders, including the scientific community, were able to discuss these priorities.
The overall priorities focus on bridging the gaps between market-ready technologies and widespread adoption, while continuing efforts to improve and diversify technology options.
Specifically, there is a focus on the importance of building expertise, creating a hydrogen knowledge center, and how the EU can scale up the cost-effective production, distribution, storage, and consumption of renewable hydrogen.
Focus on the mobility sector
The strategic priorities for hydrogen cover a number of sectors. While production remains the focus of stakeholders to date, the topic of mobility as a use remains widely discussed.
In line with the EU’s goal of being climate neutral by 2050, the transport sector is under pressure to reduce its emissions. The EU’s Smart and Sustainable Mobility Strategy (SSMS) sets out the way forward to achieve this goal and identifies clean hydrogen as a key element in its implementation.
To achieve this, European Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean has identified two priorities: strengthening both production and distribution channels. For road transport, the Commissioner is announcing binding targets for hydrogen refueling stations in the proposed new Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR).
The goal is to create a sufficiently dense network of hydrogen refueling stations to ensure cross-border connectivity and to have 60,000 hydrogen-powered trucks operating in Europe by 2030.
Hydrogen is seen by EU policy makers as a lever to increase the decarbonization process of mobility. The awareness work done by the mobility sector is successful. It remains to be seen whether this will translate into ambitious collaborations between public and private actors, in order to accelerate the deployment of hydrogen on a large scale, and “make this potential a reality”.