Brussels — The European Commission's upcoming EU hydrogen strategy paper is to look at how to drive demand in a range of sectors, including heavy industry and transport, according to EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson.
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The hope is that hydrogen can help lower emissions in these difficult to decarbonize sectors, as part of the EU's efforts be climate-neutral by 2050, Simson told the European Parliament's energy committee late Tuesday.
The EC's paper is to look at how to use hydrogen in new ways, how to produce it competitively at scale, and how to speed up research and development to give EU industry an edge in global markets.
"Everyone predicts a great future for hydrogen, even if today it represents less than 2% of the energy mix," Simson said. "But this future will not happen unless we deploy a strong policy support, in partnership with the private sector."
Clean low-carbon hydrogen is likely to get support from the EC's coronavirus pandemic recovery plan, expected in the coming days.
EC President Ursula von der Leyen has cited both clean hydrogen and offshore wind as key technologies for the EU to invest in as part of this plan. Offshore wind could be used in electrolysers to produce renewable green hydrogen from water.
The EC favors renewable green hydrogen in the long term, as it creates links with the power sector and can be used for grid management and power storage, as well as feedstock for industry.
This versatility makes it a key part of the EC's plans for an integrated energy system that is planned and operated across all energy carriers and infrastructure.
The pandemic had shown "what the energy system of the future could look like: more reliant on renewable energy, more digitalized, more decentralized and with a strong focus on re-using waste," Simson said.
The EC plans to present the EU hydrogen strategy along with an EU energy system integration strategy on June 24, according to its draft agenda.
The integration strategy aims to optimize energy links between gas, electricity, transport, buildings and industry to use more renewable power and progressively decarbonize the gas sector, the EC said in a roadmap for the strategy available for consultation until June 8.
"As more cost-effective renewable electricity becomes available, we must move forward with electrification of transport, heating or some industrial processes," Simson told the committee.
Where using electricity is not feasible, the strategy is to replace fossil gases and fuels with renewable and decarbonized alternatives.
This is likely to be the case for air transport and some industrial processes, such as making steel.
The EC's integration strategy will look at current market and technical barriers and set out specific legislative and policy actions to address them from 2021, Simson said.
This includes reviewing EU gas market rules to accommodate renewable gases.
The EC also plans to launch on June 24 a Clean Hydrogen Alliance, a public-private initiative intended to kick-start domestic clean hydrogen production and use.
A similar initiative for developing a sustainable European battery sector has mobilized billions of euros of public and private investment since it was set up in 2017.