The parliamentary evening organized each year by the German Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (DWV) was held at the British embassy in Berlin in mid-November of 2015. More members of parliament than ever showed up to the event dedicated to Green Hydrogen for an Efficient Energy Transformation.
The focus of the evening was on the DWV’s call for an integrated energy concept. But what this meant exactly was only clear to those who already possessed in-depth knowledge of the issue, as the concept thought up by the association’s president, Werner Diwald, consists of numerous individual measures, some of them of a highly bureaucratic nature. For example, the association called for “the incorporation of the Power-to-Fuel process into Annex 1 of the EU Directive pursuant to Article 7a FQD passed at the end of 2014.”
Essentially, however, Diwald and his association wanted merely to pave the way for parliamentary acceptance of “green hydrogen,” which is created by renewable energies and could mark an important step forward as a medium for the transformation of the energy industry, in the power and heat market as well as in the transportation sector.
But, of course, there are plenty of debates about how to achieve such a long-term target. Diwald favors his bundle of measures, which among other things plans to “credit green hydrogen use in refineries toward the GHG reduction quota” as well as “to reduce the renewable heating law charge in case of electrolysis.” Overall, the DWV presented eight measures that would have to be implemented based on a roadmap. As the association’s president shouted out to the politicians: “It is not enough to just say: The market will deal with it. One must act!”
What kind of actions should be taken, that’s where opinions differed: Ove Petersen, CEO of GP Joule, called for higher taxes on CO2 emissions during his speech. Bernd Westphal, member of the Bundestag and spokesperson of the work group Economic Affairs & Energy of the Social Democrats’ Bundestag faction, countered: “Emission trading doesn’t work right now, I already know that.” But Westphal also voiced his hopes for a possible price increase of CO2 certificates in the future. A reform of the existing certificate system, however, is planned for not earlier than 2018. From 2021 on, some CO2 could be taken off the market based on current planning, so that the shortage in certificates will raise both demand and prices.
On the other hand, Norbert Barthle, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, held on to the path chosen and affirmed his convictions by saying: “NIP 2.0 has been set on course. […] We want to ensure continuity.” His statement may indicate that even at ministry level, there is consensus about wanting to continue NOW for the next eight or ten years. And because NOW will be less than useful without a relevant subsidy program, more details about NIP 2.0 may be revealed soon – at the latest before the next general election in fall of 2017, it seems. At least Barthle provided a stark contrast to the preceding fulsome praise with the first clear words of the evening, saying that the “federal government would like to see the German car manufacturers pledging to throw their weight behind fuel-cell technology” and that the “the market presence of German manufacturers would be laudable.”
Here, Professor Robert Steinberger-Wilckens, Chairman of the Centre for Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Research at the University of Birmingham, stressed that a reference to the proverbial chicken-and-egg would no longer apply: “First, you have to invest five years in the establishment of an infrastructure without generating any earnings. It just is like that!” Steffen Bilger, who represented the Christian Democrats’ interests on the podium, showed understanding for the car manufacturers’ situation. He had already stated prior to the event that the automotive industry would have an interest in selling as many electric cars as possible, since they have to adhere to the EU-wide CO2 limits despite their large share in the premium segment. What he neglected to mention, however, was that in the interest of the German automotive industry, the federal government had used their significant influence to keep the threshold values within the European Union higher than they could be and may have been sensible, which means that the electrification of the transport sector could have been realized much faster.