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03 Feb 2020, 13:44
Julian Wettengel

German econ min’s draft strategy criticised for including ‘blue hydrogen’

Clean Energy Wire / Handelsblatt

Think tanks and opposition parliamentarians have criticised the German economy ministry’s draft National Hydrogen Strategy for including the use of the controversial carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology to produce CO₂ emission-free hydrogen. “This is especially problematic, as CCS is only available to a limited extent and is urgently needed in other areas, such as industry,” wrote Felix Heilmann of climate think tank E3G in a message on Twitter. “Clear prioritisation is needed here; CCS cannot be the 'wild card' for every sector.” Ingrid Nestle, energy industry spokesperson for the Green Party parliamentary group, welcomed the government’s realisation that only green hydrogen was sustainable. “Too bad, however, that it has deprived itself of this option by blocking renewables expansion, and now has to put blue and therefore fossil hydrogen at the centre of its strategy for the next few years,” Nestle said in an e-mailed statement. 
The draft hydrogen strategy, seen by Clean Energy Wire, stipulates that while only “green” hydrogen produced with renewables (using electrolysers) “is sustainable in the long term”, “blue” hydrogen “will have to play a role for economic reasons to quickly establish the technology in the market to decarbonise various areas of application.” The strategy sees CO₂-free hydrogen as “crucial to complete the energy transition” and Germany would need to import large amounts as domestic renewables capacity is limited. By 2030, about 20 percent of hydrogen consumed in Germany should be CO₂-free, according to the draft. The government aims to make CO₂-free hydrogen a focus of the German EU Council presidency in the second half of 2020, it adds.
Meanwhile, European Commission executive vice-president Frans Timmermans told German business daily Handelsblatt that the EU should “massively invest” in hydrogen. “If we do this, hydrogen could really become a crucial element to solve our energy transition,” he said, and named heavy transport and storage of fluctuating renewables as possible examples. “Europe can become a world leader with a hydrogen-based economy because our infrastructure is better than in other parts of the world.”

Stressing hydrogen technology’s importance for a successful energy transition, effective climate action and the future of German industry, the government has called for the country to secure a global leadership role in the sector. Germany aims to be climate-neutral by 2050 and will have to replace natural gas in its energy mix with hydrogen, which could eventually become carbon-free if made with renewable power using electrolysis. Germany's steel and chemical industries are also betting heavily on the use of green hydrogen in their long-term decarbonisation plans.

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