EU Commission thwarts development of the hydrogen value chain

Lines for liquid hydrogen in Leona Chemical Park

Without climate-neutral hydrogen, Europe would not be able to achieve its ambitious goals.

(Photo: dpa)

If you charge your electric car battery at a public charging station, you don’t always know if you’re charging more coal or wind power. But this does not matter, because the legal imagination is clear: electronic cars are carbon dioxide-free, and therefore fuel-powered electricity is considered environmentally friendly. For manufacturers, e-cars are included in the CO2 fleet balance as if they had not generated any harmful climate emissions when driving. The idea behind this is that the share of renewables in power generation is ever-increasing anyway, so electric cars literally grow into climate neutrals. Who wants to be trivial?

Things are very different with green hydrogen. The ideas of the European Union Commission, on which a final decision will be made on June 17, are an example of a deterrent to unrealistic regulation. The EU Commission wants to stipulate that from 2027, only electricity that comes from additional unsubsidized wind turbines or photovoltaic systems can be used in hydrogen electrolysis. In addition, electricity should only be used in the electrolyzer when there is excess electricity that cannot be reasonably incorporated into the power grid.

In the case of e-cars, this means that every e-car buyer is obligated to purchase a wind turbine with their vehicle and charge the vehicle only if that wind turbine is currently producing electricity that currently has no other use.

Yes, there are dry arguments for doing so. For example, overloading of power grids must be prevented.

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But a look at the big picture shows: regulation is absurd and inhibits innovation. It completely ignores the actual goal of building a green hydrogen value chain as quickly as possible.

Climate-neutral hydrogen is needed fast

The Europeans want to send a strong signal. They want Europe to become the first climate-neutral continent on Earth. To this end, they have set goals that present entire industrial sectors to the greatest challenge of the century. Companies in the steel, chemical and cement sectors have to reinvent themselves, they have to invest billions of euros in new plants, while their competitors in many regions of the world continue to produce as before with expendable plants.

Read more: Is e-fuel a clean alternative to cars? No, science says.

An indispensable prerequisite for success is that climate-neutral hydrogen be available in vast quantities within a very short period of time. Carbon can only be removed from the production of steel, cement, or fertilizers by using climate-neutral hydrogen. A large part of the hydrogen will have to be produced in Europe, and a large part will have to be imported from other regions of the world.

Anyone who now wants to regulate in detail how hydrogen electrolysis is conducted in Europe is slowing down the development of the hydrogen value chain before it even begins.

The European Union Commission has also proven onerous in another region. Over a year ago, the then Federal Government submitted several dozen hydrogen projects to the Brussels authorities for funding under IPCEI rules. IPCEI stands for Important Projects of Common European Interest. The generous state aid regulations apply to projects that the Commission has granted IPCEI character. This opens up ample financing opportunities. IPCEI funding could pave the way to usher in the hydrogen era. Many companies are eagerly awaiting the green light from Brussels. But the commission is silent.

The European Union Commission did not recognize the signs of the times. It impedes entry into an era of climate-neutral industrial value creation. This is a scandal. It is surprising that Member States have accepted that.

more: Ambassadors announce hydrogen partnerships with Germany

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