23 Jun 2021, 13:28
Edgar Meza

Germany should focus entirely on green hydrogen - govt advisors

Clean Energy Wire

As Germany ramps up development of hydrogen technologies, it should focus entirely on the production of green hydrogen using wind and solar energy, the German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU) writes in a new report. While hydrogen can play a significant role in climate protection, it will remain a scarce and precious source of energy, it adds. The SRU also says government leaders should not rely on blue hydrogen, which is produced using fossil fuels, even for a transitional period. It is not suitable as a transitional technology as the new infrastructure required for it would delay the long-term transformation to renewable energy sources. While only green hydrogen can be produced sustainably and free of greenhouse gases, it also requires interventions in the environment and consumes large amounts of renewable electricity, the production of which in turn requires raw materials and land, the SRU points out. In addition, the high water consumption during electrolysis can have serious consequences, especially in dry regions. The SRU therefore calls for a certification system ensuring sustainability criteria in order to keep the environmental impact of hydrogen production as low as possible. Commenting on the report, Manfred Fischedick, scientific managing director of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment, Energy, said: “I fully agree with the SRU that the entry into a hydrogen economy can only make a partial contribution on the way to a sustainable, climate-friendly energy system.” The economy can only be decarbonised if less energy is used overall, he added, stressing that it was vital to focus on energy and material efficiency, including the closure of economic cycles. Dirk Uwe Sauer, professor of electrochemical energy conversion and storage system technology at RWTH Aachen University, said: "The SRU makes it clear that hydrogen and power-to-gas (P2G) follow-up projects are indispensable and that enormous amounts of these are required if the energy system is to be climate-neutral. It also makes it clear, however, that energy expenditure and the associated environmental impacts due to material, energy and water requirements and large-scale expansion of plants for the production of green hydrogen for export can lead to social implications for the exporting countries.”

In the fight against climate change, hydrogen made with renewable electricity 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 presented its National Hydrogen Strategy in 2020 to fulfil these ambitions.

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