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Brussels — The European Commission wants the EU to cut its CO2 emissions by at least 55% on 1990 levels by 2030, up from the current 40%, in a move set to accelerate the switch away from fossil fuels, it said on Sept. 16.

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The proposed target would cut the EU's energy import dependency, and meeting it would require huge investment in low-carbon options such as hydrogen, electric vehicle charging points, and green steel, EC President Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament.

The EC plans to propose the new 2030 CO2 target as an amendment to its draft EU climate law proposed in March that seeks to make the EU's goal to be the world's first climate neutral region by 2050 binding. The new target has to be approved by the European Parliament and EU Council of ministers, representing national governments, before it can become binding.

Von der Leyen said the EC would also revise all the EU's energy and climate legislation to align it with the new 55% CO2 cut 2030 target by next summer.

This would include enhancing the EU Emissions Trading System, and increasing efforts to use more renewables.

Von der Leyen called for the EU to use money from the Eur750 billion ($890 billion) NextGenerationEU economic recovery fund to help create European Hydrogen Valleys to modernize EU industry.

She cited a pilot project in Sweden where renewable hydrogen is replacing coal to produce green steel.

EU hydrogen strategy

Von der Leyen's comments follow the EU hydrogen strategy the EC published in July, where it called for the EU to install at least 6 GW of electrolyzer capacity able to produce up to 1 million mt of renewable "green" hydrogen by 2024.

The EC sees renewable hydrogen as making a key contribution to the EU's efforts to become climate neutral by 2050, which means decarbonizing its energy sector and phasing out unabated fossil fuels.

Europe has less than 1 GW/year of electrolyzer capacity installed, and around another 1.5-2.3 GW of planned projects.

That implies the EU would need to at least triple its planned capacity over the next four years to reach the 6 GW goal.

The strategy includes a longer-term goal to have at least 40 GW of electrolyzers installed in the EU by 2030, producing up to 10 million mt of renewable hydrogen.

That could need up to Eur42 billion ($47 billion) of investment in electrolyzers by 2030, the EC said.

It wants EU industry to build bigger electrolyzers -- up to 100 MW -- by 2024, and install them next to existing demand centers in larger refineries, steel plants and chemical complexes, ideally powered by local renewable electricity.

For context, one of the largest industrial electrolyzer projects in the EU today is the 10 MW Refhyne project at Shell's Rheinland refinery in Germany.