18 Sep 2023, 13:44
Benjamin Wehrmann

Technical hurdles to hydrogen imports into Germany spur calls for increased domestic production

Clean Energy Wire

Domestic production of green hydrogen should play a much bigger role in Germany’s plans to scale-up the hydrogen economy, which is currently based on a more often inefficient and costly importation process, the German Renewable Energy Federation (BEE) said. Investing heavily in import infrastructure risked “oversizing” and “flawed investments” that could instead be focused on “no-regret measures” to expand the national capacity for low-carbon, renewables-based hydrogen production, said the lobby group’s leader, Simone Peter. While the government’s revised national hydrogen strategy already doubled domestic production targets from 5 gigawatts (GW) to 10 GW, it is far off the full potential for domestic production and storage of the fuel, Peter said. “If electrolysers run at the right time with lots of renewable power, they can help alleviate grid problems and reduce grid expansion costs,” she argued, calling for a better definition of “system-conducive” hydrogen applications.

Together with bioenergy, homemade hydrogen could play a central role in transforming the energy system, Peter added. She ruled out any large-scale use of the fuel in the heating or private transport sector, as Germany’s industry will likely need as much as possible of the climate-friendly fuel, leaving little room for sectors that could be otherwise decarbonised. Given the technical challenges of green hydrogen importation, especially by ship, there is a strong case for the need for more domestic production, which according to BEE figures could compete economically with imports. “We’d be mad to once again outsource substantial parts of industrial value creation in energy production to other countries, apart from all the technical problems regarding imports that have not been resolved yet,” she added.

A recent report by think tank Agora Energiewende and Hamburg University of Technology found that Germany faces high costs and technical hurdles when importing hydrogen-based fuels via ships. Germany has decided that import infrastructure for liquefied natural gas (LNG), which companies have been installing in reaction to the end of pipeline gas supplies from Russia, should be "hydrogen-ready". Projects like that of Tree Energy Solutions (TES) are betting on synthetic methane flowing through its pipes at some point, because it means that Germany could continue to use the current natural gas infrastructure.

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