German government advisors urge decision on use of fossil fuel hydrogen
Toyota hydrogen fuel cell. Author: Joseph Brent.
Germany's hydrogen council has said the country must urgently make up its mind whether to use hydrogen made with fossil fuels in its market ramp-up of the technology deemed key to reach climate targets.
In a hydrogen action plan, the council said the government should decide this year or next year at the latest if hydrogen made on the basis of natural gas using carbon capture and storage (CCS) should be included for a transitional period. "This decision will have a decisive influence on possible quantities to be imported and the associated potential for CO2 savings," the report said.
In the fight against climate change, hydrogen is increasingly seen as a silver bullet for sectors with particularly stubborn emissions, such as heavy industry and aviation. Germany has set out to become a global leader in the associated hydrogen technologies, and the government has penned a National Hydrogen Strategy to fulfil these ambitions. The council advises the government on the implementation of this strategy, and is composed of representatives from business, science, and civil society. Council head Katherina Reiche called the action plan "a blueprint for a government programme on hydrogen after the September elections" whose implementation was indispensable to reach the country's climate targets, which have been tightened recently to reach climate neutrality by 2045, and cut emissions by 65 percent by 2030.
The issue of fossil fuel hydrogen was also controversial within the council. In a dissenting opinion included in the report, environmental NGOs argued fossil hydrogen should not be considered an option at all. They point to the country's hydrogen strategy, which said only "green" hydrogen made with renewable power is sustainable in the long term. "The introduction of new, so-called bridge technologies, which are operated without a fixed time limit, hinders and slows down the transformation process" towards climate neutrality, they argue. Only last month, the German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU) also called for a pure focus on green hydrogen in the market ramp up. The advisors said the government should not rely on blue hydrogen even for a transitional period, because the required infrastructure would delay the long-term transformation to renewable energy sources.
In the action plan, the hydrogen council also called for changes in the regulatory framework to get a hydrogen economy off the ground, with a particular emphasis on price incentives. "Firstly, CO2 pricing must be strengthened in all sectors, secondly, the price of electricity must be exempted from the renewables levy and thirdly, the electricity tax must be significantly reduced," explained Katherina Reiche.