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Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) Campaigns for Hydrogen

By June 10, 2020 5   min read  (850 words)

June 10, 2020 |

Minister Svenja Schulze DPA Photo

Berlin –Germany should be “climate neutral” by 2050. That sounds like a distant future.

But if factories, cars, and trucks, airplanes and heating systems are to go into production in 30 years without additional greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere, a change that is hard to imagine is necessary – and quickly. 

It is not enough to replace coal power with wind turbines and solar systems or to put e-cars on the road. Experts agree that you can’t do without a technology: hydrogen as an energy source. The Federal Cabinet, therefore, adopted a hydrogen strategy for Germany on Wednesday.

It’s no wonder that this strategy comes more than half a year later than planned: It’s not just about a lot of money, but pretty much every branch of industry wants a piece of the pie. In addition, hydrogen-based energy can advance climate protection – but does not have to. And that Germany cannot go very far on the subject alone. Sequentially.

How hydrogen should save the climate:

If less carbon dioxide (CO2) is to be released into the atmosphere, less coal, oil and natural gas have to be burned. Electricity from wind, sun or biomass cannot always replace fossil fuels as directly as when an electric car runs on electricity instead of fuel. This is where hydrogen comes in. The technical details are more for those interested in chemistry: Hydrogen is generated, for example, by electrolysis of water, which is split into hydrogen and oxygen. This requires electricity.

Hydrogen can operate fuel cells, for example for trucks. Hydrogen can be used to make gaseous and liquid fuels. One often speaks of power-to-x: from electricity, power, something else arises, X. And it stores energy, which is important if the electricity is to come entirely from renewables.

Green, gray, blue: Why not every hydrogen helps the climate:

Depending on what hydrogen is obtained from and where the electricity comes from, there are different names: Green hydrogen is produced from water with renewable energies and is a favorite of climate protectors. Gray hydrogen, on the other hand, is produced from fossil energy, such as natural gas. The production of one ton of hydrogen generates around 10 tons of CO2 – not a good deal for the climate. Blue is called hydrogen if the CO2 is stored, i.e. does not get into the atmosphere. The methods for doing this are controversial. Turquoise hydrogen is obtained from methane.

What the federal government is planning:

The federal government has already invested hundreds of millions of euros in research on hydrogen, and funding programs worth billions are ongoing. In the large stimulus package against the corona crisis, a further 7 billion euros are earmarked for the market launch of hydrogen technologies and 2 billion euros for international partnerships. Because in the long term, so much hydrogen is needed that Germany cannot produce it alone – if only because of the enormous amounts of electricity that are required for it.

By 2030, generation plants with a total output of up to five gigawatts are to be built in Germany, the strategy states, along with the additional green power plants required for this, especially wind turbines at sea. That should cover about a seventh of the expected demand. The rest have to be imported. The SPD, but also the CDU-led Ministry of Research wanted twice as much capacity.

The role of non-green hydrogen should also be controversial. The strategy now states that only green hydrogen is “permanently sustainable” – but that blue and turquoise hydrogen is also traded on the global and European market, which therefore also plays a role in Germany and, if available, is also used temporarily ” will.

In addition to promoting investments, the aim is to create a market for hydrogen so that companies can rely on hydrogen production on a large scale. So far, there has often been talk of a “chicken and egg problem”: there is not enough hydrogen to use it – and there is not enough demand to start production.

One of the topics under discussion is a quota for kerosene, i.e. aircraft fuel, of at least two percent for the year 2030, or a quota for climate-friendly steel. But that is not decided. The production of green hydrogen is also to be promoted through an exemption from the green electricity levy, which citizens pay with the electricity bill.

What the hydrogen should be used for:

It is clear that the steel, chemical and cement industries, for example, need it to reduce CO2 emissions. The government also has “parts of the heating market” in view, as the strategy states. And what about the “climate protection problem child” traffic? “Both in air and maritime transport, climate-neutral synthetic fuels are required for decarbonization,” the strategy says. Nobody doubts that, even fuel cells in buses, trains and trucks are fairly indisputable.

However, the phrase “The use of hydrogen can also be an alternative in certain areas of cars” is rather badly received by environmentalists: They accuse the industry of not wanting to switch to battery-electric vehicles in which electricity is used more efficiently than above Detour hydrogen. (dpa)

Photo and Source DPA

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