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Hydrogen: A good game changer for industry?

Hydrogen is one of the most talked about technologies in the energy transition, with the potential to decarbonise hard-to-abate sectors. In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the European Commission has significantly increased its hydrogen production and import targets, yet currently 95% of the gas is produced from fossil fuels.  

In light of this opportunity and challenge hydrogen can be a divisive topic, so Day 1 of the Power Summit brought together industry experts for a discussion how hydrogen can best live up to its game changing potential.  

The Power Talk began with Uniper COO, David Bryson, delivering a keynote on the scale of Europe’s hydrogen goals and the regulation needed to support this massive development. In other words, “hydrogen will play a pivotal role, this next decade will be focused on production, storage and trading.”  In light of the desired ramp up of production Bryson argued that the more hydrogen we produce the better and that any framework should be as pragmatic and open as possible. Our focus in on CO2 reduction and in the short term all colours of hydrogen can help, while in the long term of course we will switch to green hydrogen.  

Charles Hertoghe, of ENGIE, reiterated this preference for green hydrogen via electrolysis while also supporting this open line of thought. In his words, such restrictive definitions risk slowing the roll out of the infrastructure needed to support our future hydrogen needs.  

The panel agreed that in many decarbonisation cases cheaper alternatives to hydrogen exist, but this still leaves important niche cases. Here AFRY’s Gaia Stigliani dug deeper into industrial best-use cases, claiming that we need to prioritise investment in key hard-to-abate sectors and build infrastructure and policy frameworks based on their needs. 

Representing the Commission as DG GROW’s Deputy Head of Unit for energy intensive industries, Henning Herenstein gave more details on their hydrogen targets, explaining that they aim to strike a balance between flexible regulation that supports the ramp up and the impact this might have on the future energy and electricity system. He concluded by underlining that the Additionality Delegated Act “isn’t necessarily the final version. The consultation is lasts until Friday and the Commission will take feedback into account before releasing the final version.” 

The audience was also given an opportunity to share their thoughts on the where they thought hydrogen would be used by 2030, and what the EU’s priorities should be to produce more clean hydrogen. The results should a clear expectation of its use in industry, above all steel production, and the belief that setting the right policy framework should be prioritised.