Northern German Hydrogen Industry Network

Heinrich Klingenberg
Heinrich Klingenberg

Hydrogen is an oft-discussed topic in and around Hamburg these days: In summer last year, the city became the birthplace of the Hydrogen Industry Network in Northern Germany. In November 2018, it was where the economy and transportation ministers of the German states on the coastline met for a conference on a joint hydrogen strategy for the region. H2-international talked to Heinrich Klingenberg, the network’s spokesman and chief executive of hySolutions, about the organization’s plans and the future role of the city.

H2-international: In January, the members of the hydrogen industry network already met for the second time in Hamburg. What does the organization do and what is its purpose?

Klingenberg: Actually, it’s not a new partnership, but it continues the years-long efforts undertaken in Hamburg and the rest of northern Germany. The entire region is home to a great many renewable energy systems, while elsewhere, local governments still have to make the necessary investments in wind power. The objective of the network is to use that infrastructure buildup to our advantage and add value along the supply chain. We live by the motto of sharpen your edge, in that we could immediately begin implementing a zero-emission economy in the north of Germany while continuing to make optimal use of available infrastructure, such as wind farms.

This is not only a task for research and the private sector but also politics. The relevant departments in the five coastal states are currently drafting a comprehensive hydrogen strategy to complement the network’s day-to-day operations and back it up politically. It will help us build an even stronger campaign and exchange a wealth of information. The organization is not yet a legal entity but has established the right kind of environment and clear rules for meaningful and effective collaboration between all stakeholders.

read more in H2-international April 2019

The network is an industry cluster initiative that blends the worlds of business, science and politics and actively integrates vital clusters, such as renewable energies, aviation and maritime transportation. Important decisions on technical, strategic and administrative matters are made by its stakeholder board. Its members come from a wide variety of member companies, be they transmission grid operators, manufacturers or other participants in the market.

The person who invited stakeholders to join the meeting was Hamburg’s new senator for the economy, Michael Westhagemann. What do you think was the minister’s reason for putting his commitment to hydrogen storage on full display?

Klingenberg: Senator Westhagemann had already stressed the importance of hydrogen for northern Germany when he chaired the Renewable Energy cluster. However, the idea to establish a hydrogen industry network in the region originated with his predecessor in the senate, Frank Horch. And yet, the current senator is following his lead, continuing to push for progress. The objectives are clear: first, focus on climate-friendly solutions in all relevant markets, such as transportation, manufacturing and heat; second, see to it that local companies direct their attention to new, promising application areas; third, continue with the profitable and economically viable use of available infrastructure, from gas pipelines to wind farms; and fourth, collaborate, as well as coordinate, with other stakeholders across the region and do so successfully and on an equal footing.

There was a time when Hamburg aimed at becoming the hydrogen capital of Europe. What’s left of this goal?

Klingenberg: I believe that the required economies of scale and rule adjustments can only be brought about if all partners in Germany, or Europe, are acting in concert. It makes me happy to hear that each region wants to lead the field and puts a whole lot of effort into achieving that aim.

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