Green and low-carbon hydrogen guarantees of origin (GOs) are set to play an important role in fulfilling the EU's ambitious climate targets, but the slow start-up of renewable hydrogen production and uptake on the demand side is holding up the implementation of a European-wide certification system, Antti Kuronen, project manager of the CertifHy registry and issuing body, told S&P Global Platts.
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A GO is an electronic document providing proof that a given quantity of hydrogen is produced by a registered production device with a specific quality and method of production.
CertifHy has developed a central database that will manage the GOs' life cycle for every account holder in the CertifHy registry system, providing a framework for guaranteeing transparent information about the origin and environmental attributes of hydrogen.
The development of hydrogen GO certificates is aimed at increasing liquidity and transparency in the European market by facilitating cross-border trading of hydrogen within the EU regardless of the production.
Kuronen told Platts that the CertifHy project was started in 2014 with the aim of supporting the energy transition by creating a certification scheme for green and low-carbon hydrogen.
He said the initial idea was to avoid the complication of having multiple, non-compatible certification schemes for electricity and gas markets by creating a consistent, centralized certification system ahead of green hydrogen being widely available in the market.
"Ideally this EU-wide certification scheme would have been set-up with one issuing body and one registry covering the whole EU market for maximized harmonization and efficiency," he said.
Although CertifHy established an EU-wide operational scheme with an issuing body and registry, the advent of RED II extending GOs to hydrogen slightly changed the project path with many countries adopting national registry systems.
"CertifHy plans to hand operations over to the emerging member states nominated-issuing bodies. Although some EU countries wish to have their own systems, we encourage them to nominate CertifHy as their Issuing Body," Kuronen said.
"Since RED II, the project objective has been slightly adjusted towards supporting member states' nominated-issuing bodies implementing hydrogen certification schemes as harmonized as possible within Europe," he added.
When asked about the project challenges, he said: "The inclusion of hydrogen as one of the energy carriers certified by GOs in the RED II is a double-edged sword from the implementation point of view. From one side, the implementation of certification systems by all member states will give credibility and push for hydrogen GOs, but on the other side, as each member state sets responsible people working on the subject -- both on the regulation and implementation levels -- there are plenty of cooks in the kitchen and as such there will be many variations of the soup. Nevertheless, it is important that hydrogen GOs are covered with EU legislation."
Further complexity came with RED II specified Renewable Fuels of Non-Biological Origins (RFNBOs) for fuel obligations, which included hydrogen.
"With wide industry stakeholder request for it, CertifHy is also working on the RFNBO certification (sustainability certification)," Kuronen said.
In the other hand, the main factor holding up the rollout of hydrogen GOs is a lack of renewable hydrogen demand rather than the slowness of the implementation phase by member states, he added.
Even though hurdles remain to achieving a unified certification system, CertifHy created a stakeholder platform that since March 2019 has attracted more than 800 organizations interested in renewable and low-carbon hydrogen GOs in Europe.
"The first parties CertifHy is working with are Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria, but there are developments in a few other countries as well," Kuronen noted.
"There is continuous development of the scheme through the CertifHy Stakeholder Platform. However, the next major update is expected after the completion of the CEN-EN 16 325 standard and possibly after the European Commission delegated act on sustainability criteria for RFNBOs."
The development of EU-wide cross-border trading of hydrogen GOs has yet to take off, but "traders and brokers are already doing first trades," he said. "Regarding the timeline and the volumes those are hard to forecast. However, with all the insight we have, we are expecting the market to take significant steps forward in the coming year or two."
CertifHy has been initiated at the request of the EC and is financed by the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking. The CertifHy Consortium is led by sustainable energy consultant Hinicio and composed of registry provider Grexel, consultant Ludwig Bölkow Systemtechnik (LBST), the Association of Issuing Bodies (AIB), the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), and TÜV SÜD, which tests, inspects and certifies technical systems. The project is compliant with AIB's European Energy Certificate System (EECS) scheme and therefore in line with the entire EU hydrogen GO market.