EU puts cheap green hydrogen at heart of climate plans

European Commission president says clean version of fuel is already competing in market

A Hyundai car is refuelled at a hydrogen station, taking on a fuel that produces only water as waste. Reuters
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The EU plans to slash the price of clean hydrogen as it positions itself as a frontrunner in a field seen as critical to the fight against climate change.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said the aim was for green hydrogen, as it is known when produced from renewable sources, to cost €1.80 ($2.03) per kilogram by 2030.

Current prices can be as high as €6, which is typically more expensive than blue or grey hydrogen – the types produced from fossil fuels.

But high gas prices in Europe mean that green hydrogen can sometimes prevail in the market even today, Ms von der Leyen said.

Hydrogen produces only water when it is used as a fuel, making it attractive to polluters trying to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. It can be stored as a gas or liquid, although the latter requires extreme low temperatures.

Speaking at the start of a week-long EU forum dedicated to the fuel, Ms von der Leyen predicted that hydrogen planes could be flying in Europe’s skies in the next decade. Cities are already gearing up to use hydrogen taxis and buses.

“The evidence is growing: clean hydrogen will have a central place in the climate-neutral economy of the future. I’m very proud of Europe’s role as the world’s clean hydrogen trailblazer,” she said.

“Clean hydrogen is already contributing to decarbonising our economy, and even better… it is beginning to be competitive.

“We have to scale up clean hydrogen production, expand its applications and create a virtuous cycle where demand and supply feed each other and bring the prices down.”

The EU was a leading advocate for swift emissions cuts at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, which produced a number of hydrogen-related announcements.

Leaders hope the fuel will help them reach net zero carbon emissions and put the world on track to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke about the EU's hydrogen plans on Monday. AFP

EU leaders launched a clean hydrogen partnership on Monday which they said would bring together researchers, industry figures and government officials.

Part of their plan is to invest in hydrogen production in Africa, where it is hoped the fuel could power sustainable development.

Concerns for developing countries were a key dividing line at Cop26, with the final agreement acknowledging the need for sustainable growth.

A partnership between the EU and Africa “could bring clean energy to Europe and sustainable development to the African continent”, Ms von der Leyen said.

In Europe, the bloc hopes to increase production of green hydrogen to 10 million tonnes by 2030.

At Cop26, it announced a partnership with US billionaire Bill Gates to invest in green technologies, including clean hydrogen.

Projects in Europe include a hydrogen-powered steel factory in Austria and a so-called hydrogen valley in the Netherlands, a name alluding to the Silicon Valley hub of the technology sector.

It is hoped that the Dutch project, which relies on offshore wind turbines in the North Sea, could create more than 20,000 jobs in the region.

Ms von der Leyen said she wanted more hydrogen valleys to spring up in Europe, including on the Adriatic coast and the Spanish island of Mallorca.

“Clean hydrogen is the energy of the next generation,” she said. “So let us speed up the transition together, to reach climate neutrality by 2050 – it is a big goal – and to propel our economy already today.”

Updated: November 29, 2021, 11:38 AM