Germany: Federal Cabinet Passes the National Hydrogen Strategy

By June 10, 2020 8   min read  (1672 words)

June 10, 2020 |

Fuel Cells Works, German Government Pledges Ongoing Support for Hydrogen Build-Up

The Federal Cabinet passed the National Hydrogen Strategy today. Hydrogen is crucial for the decarbonization of important German core sectors such as the steel and chemical industry, but also in part in the transport sector. 

At the same time, hydrogen technologies can develop into a central business area of ​​the German export industry.

A flexible and results-oriented governance structure is created for the consistent implementation and further development of the strategy. The focus is on the establishment of a National Hydrogen Council, the members of which have been appointed by the Federal Cabinet today.

The Federal Minister of Education and Research, Anja Karliczek, explains: “An innovation country also includes formulating ambitious goals for an internationally competitive hydrogen economy. We succeeded with the National Hydrogen Strategy. The long negotiations have led to a good result. Green hydrogen is the energy source of the future. We want to be at the forefront of the world with this future technology. The sooner and more courageously we start, the greater our chance that the development of a hydrogen economy will become a new job engine in Germany. With the adoption of the strategy, the starting signal is given for an equally ambitious implementation. We need a sustainable energy supply from renewable energies if we want to be climate neutral by 2050. We will further intensify the funding of research and innovation on green hydrogen: from generation, storage, transport and distribution to use. We will make an additional 310 million euros available for this by 2023. That will give us a tailwind so that Germany can successfully compete for the world title in green hydrogen. ”

The Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier: “With a hydrogen strategy, we are setting the course for Germany to become number 1 in the world in hydrogen technologies. The time for hydrogen and the technologies required for it is ripe. We must therefore now tap and use the potential for value creation, employment, and climate protection. Because hydrogen will be a key raw material for a successful energy transition. As the energy source of the future, it will make an important contribution to achieving the climate goals both in Germany and worldwide. Germany will play a pioneering role here, as we did 20 years ago with the promotion of renewable energies. ”

The Federal Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, Andreas Scheuer: “We also need hydrogen in the transport sector! With our hydrogen strategy, we are now giving companies a clear framework and making investment decisions predictable. My ministry has been involved in hydrogen technology for more than a decade and has invested over 700 million primarily in research and development. Now we need economic projects on the market. People have to experience hydrogen. This is exactly where the strategy comes in and looks at the entire value chain – technology, generation, storage, infrastructure and application in vehicles. With the HyLand projects, we are already there to build up hydrogen technology in individual regions from generation to use on-site. The next step is to do this nationwide. In addition, we will support and build up a hydrogen application and technology center for the supply industry as well as our own fuel cell production in Germany. This offers a future perspective for the German vehicle industry and secures many jobs. ”

Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze: “The National Hydrogen Strategy will give Germany a double boost – for climate protection and for the sustainable recovery of our economy after the Corona crisis. Green hydrogen offers us the opportunity to advance climate protection in areas where we have not yet had any solutions, for example in the steel industry or in aviation. This works because the strategy is primarily aimed at promoting ‘green hydrogen’. I campaigned for this because only hydrogen from 100 percent renewable energies is good for the climate in the long term. It is therefore also clear that those who say yes to hydrogen must also say yes to wind energy. For green hydrogen, we need additional green electricity. That is why we must and will consistently expand renewable energies.

The Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Dr. Gerd Müller: “With the National Hydrogen Strategy we want to usher in a new energy era: ‘Green’ hydrogen and its secondary products can revolutionize global energy generation and become the clean oil of tomorrow. ‘Green’ hydrogen also offers sustainable opportunities for the partner countries of our development cooperation who have enormous potential for renewable energies to produce ‘green’ hydrogen. We want to raise these together because with ‘green’ hydrogen we can only all win! ”

Hydrogen: key element for the energy transition

For the long-term success of the energy transition and for climate protection, we need alternatives to fossil fuels. Hydrogen will play a key role as a versatile energy source. Because it makes it possible to significantly reduce CO2 emissions, especially in industry and transport , with the help of renewable energies .

In addition to the climate policy aspects, hydrogen technologies are also about many future-proof jobs, new value creation potential and a global billion dollar market. German companies are already very well positioned in this area, for example in electrolysis and fuel cells. The goal is for Germany to take a leading position in hydrogen technologies. The Federal Government has therefore presented a hydrogen strategy with an action plan.

The strategy has the following main objectives:

  • Establish hydrogen technologies and, based on them, CO2- free energy sources as core elements of the energy turnaround, in order to decarbonise industrial production processes with the help of renewable energies.
  • To create the regulatory prerequisites for a ramp-up of hydrogen technologies, that is, to enable domestic markets for the production and use of hydrogen. The focus is on areas that are already close to profitability or that – according to the current state of the art – cannot be decarbonized in any other way, such as certain industrial and transport areas (air, ship, long-distance traffic).
  • With these measures, reduce the costs of implementing hydrogen technologies to create global markets for hydrogen.
  • Strengthen German companies and their competitiveness by promoting research and development and technology export related to innovative hydrogen technologies.
  • Secure and shape the future national supply of CO2- free hydrogen and its secondary products. That means finding reliable international partners – with a focus on the EU – in addition to domestic generation potential for the production and transport of hydrogen or establishing appropriate cooperations and import structures. This also offers the opportunity to expand the EU energy market and to cooperate with sunny and windy developing countries that have a high potential for renewable energies – Germany could import so-called “green hydrogen” from them.

Conference “Hydrogen and Energy Transition”

The stakeholder conference “Hydrogen and Energy Transition” on November 5, 2019 in Berlin, to which Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier had invited, showed how great the interest in hydrogen technology is. More than 700 participants from business, science, politics, various associations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) discussed the future role of hydrogen in the energy transition and for climate protection as well as the associated industrial policy potential in Germany and in other countries. If Germany establishes hydrogen technologies on a larger scale, there is also a large technological export potential.

Peter Altmaier, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Comments:

“Today we have to set the course for Germany to become number 1 in the world in hydrogen technologies. With the National Hydrogen Strategy, the Federal Government is creating a reliable framework that strengthens innovations and investments and thus supports growth and jobs in a sustainable energy and economic system.”


Of green, blue and gray hydrogen

In order to advance the energy transition, innovative technologies are required – hydrogen technology is an important building block. The great advantages of hydrogen are that it can be used to store and transport energy easily. This enables significantly greater flexibility in energy supply.

Hydrogen is a gas and abundant on Earth, but almost exclusively in chemical compounds (water, acids, hydrocarbons, etc.). Hydrogen is obtained by splitting water (H2O) into oxygen (O) and hydrogen (H2). However, it takes a lot of energy to split off the H2 molecule. If this is done with the help of electric current, one speaks of electrolysis.

Electrolysis with electricity from renewables

Electricity from renewable energies such as wind and sun can be used to produce hydrogen using electrolysis. Then one speaks of “green” hydrogen. The process is also known as power-to-gas – it is one of the power-to-X technologies (PtX technologies) in which electricity is used to generate gases (power-to-gas), heat (power -to-heat) or liquid energy sources (power-to-liquid). PtX technologies are considered an important solution to meet climate goals and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But the “blue” hydrogen produced by carbon capture and storage (so-called carbon capture and storage, CCS ) can also make an important contribution to CO2 reduction for at least a transitional period . The blue hydrogen is considered to be CO2 -free if no CO2 escapes into the atmosphere during production . “Gray” hydrogen, on the other hand, is not CO2 neutral: In any case, CO2 is produced during production because it is obtained from fossil energy sources such as natural gas or is generated in industry.

Sector coupling brings great advantages

An important element in the hydrogen strategy is the so-called sector coupling. It serves the closer interlinking or networking of electricity and heat, transport sector and industry. Sector coupling has several major advantages. They can also indirectly use electricity from renewable energies in many areas of industry that are difficult to electrify. In this way, it makes it possible for all sectors to reduce their CO2 emissions using renewable energies .

Another advantage is that the overall energy consumption can be reduced through efficiency gains. All of this leads to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and thus serves climate protection. In addition, the demand for electrical energy can be made significantly more flexible, thus compensating for fluctuations in the supply of renewable energies (wind, sun, biomass).

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