Green hydrogen and e-fuels are indispensable!

Portrait Werner DiwaldOur society is facing great challenges. The climate targets for 2030 (Klimaziele 2030) must be achieved without negatively impacting our mobility and Germany as an economic center. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in addition to new battery electric and fuel cell vehicles, existing vehicles must also be considered. For these, renewable synthetic fuels, so-called e-fuels, must be the only option. Only through their use can a ban on the driving of conventional vehicles, which the federal government is considering in light of Klimaziele 2030 and which would mainly affect lower-income citizens, be prevented.

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Hydrogen Regions series: living lab – hydrogen storage power plant in Schwarze Pumpe

Structural diagram comparing a hydrogen storage power plant with a conventional power plant
comparison hydrogen storage and convential power plant

The production of green hydrogen is reliant upon electrolyzers being fed solar- and wind-generated electricity. Since these energy sources are fluctuating, and therefore not always available, a different approach and control mechanism is required compared with conventional power plants. At the RefLau model power plant in the area of Lusatia, work is underway as part of a grant project to analyze, initially on a small scale, how Germany’s energy supply could be controlled in the future.

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H2 industry must grow faster than PV by 2030

The realization that we need a lot of green hydrogen very quickly, not only in Germany and Europe, but also worldwide, is becoming more and more widespread. Germany has already made the decision to phase out nuclear energy and coal. And after Putin’s attack on Ukraine, natural gas is also under examination. The plan was to make the gas grid greener and greener. Now, there is discussion about a much faster ramp-up of the hydrogen economy. Which scenarios are conceivable for this?

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Policy instruments for market introduction

chart with requirement of green hydrogen in different sectors, © Agora Energiewende
© Agora Energiewende 2021

The think tank Agora Energiewende in a joint study with the consulting firm Guidehouse analyzed the most important policy instruments for introduction of green hydrogen to the market. Along the route to climate neutrality in 2045, Germany needs 60 terawatt-hours of CO2-free hydrogen already by 2030, mainly for the development of a climate-neutral industry and security of electrical supply (Prognos et al. 2021). To promote the expansion of hydrogen production through renewables in an economically prudent way, financial resources should flow primarily to areas where future markets for green hydrogen are indisputably being created. So far, renewable green hydrogen is not yet competitive with hydrogen generated from fossil fuels, which is mostly produced by steam reforming of natural gas.

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Visions for Heligoland

AquaCampus research platform, © AquaVentus Association
© AquaVentus Association

Electrolytic green hydrogen from offshore wind

Heligoland could, in future, become the new focal point for offshore hydrogen from the North Sea. The remote German island occupies a strategic central position in the German Bight and has excellent port infrastructure, making it ideally placed for a proposed hydrogen hub and liquid carrier supply chain. Under the multipart AquaVentus scheme, initiatives will be rolled out that incorporate the entire hydrogen value chain, including transportation to the mainland.

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Digital value creation in a green hydrogen economy

Results of Fraunhofer’s PLATON research project

Hybrid value creation model for the green hydrogen economy
Hybrid value creation model for the green hydrogen economy

Three Fraunhofer institutes in Germany – IAO, IIS and IMW – have been tackling key questions on the nature of digital value creation in relation to green hydrogen. The research comes as part of the PLATON project which has been investigating the platform economy in the hydrogen sector. The results of the project have now been published in a study. The outcome is a hybrid value creation model that helps companies to take a systematic approach to digital value creation.

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Fraunhofer Hydrogen Labs

Test area of the Hydrogen Lab Leuna, © Fraunhofer IMWS / Moritz Kühnel
Test area of the Hydrogen Lab Leuna, © Fraunhofer IMWS / Moritz Kühnel

Test centres for industrial hydrogen technology start operation

The industry needs reliable technologies for the broad application of green hydrogen. In the Hydrogen Labs, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is pooling its expertise in the generation and use of green H2 and creating a unique research infrastructure for practical performance and load tests on an industrial scale in order to decisively advance the development of H2 technologies suitable for mass production and thus the market ramp-up.

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Green hydrogen comes out on top

Trend in hydrogen production in the EU, © Hydrogen4EU
© Hydrogen4EU

Germany plans to overdeliver on EU targets


Climate change has become a hot topic in the runup to the German election, with politicians imbued with a new sense of urgency. In April 2021, Germany’s constitutional court published its ruling on the country’s Climate Change Act, triggering the need for swift action to toughen up emission targets: In just a few days the federal cabinet agreed to a new climate law which then quickly received its blessing from the powers that be. Preparations to implement European RED II legislation have also been progressing at speed. So what does this mean for the hydrogen and fuel cell sector?

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German fuel cell research lags behind

Stefan Kaufmann, © BMBF/Hans-Joachim Rickel

In summer, the German government published its national hydrogen strategy, drafted with input from several federal ministries. An example of this intergovernmental collaboration was education minister Anja Karliczek’s idea for creating the post of Green Hydrogen Innovation Commissioner, to ensure that the strategy’s ambitious aims lead to swift action, her ministry said. H2-international spoke with Stefan Kaufmann, who was appointed to the post, about his new job and his concrete plans for the industry. A lawyer by trade, and a member of the Christian Democrats, he has been in parliament since 2009, representing voters in Stuttgart South.

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Green hydrogen for industry

Industrial scale greend hydrogen and decarbonization

Sandwiched between the North and Baltic seas, Schleswig-Holstein is considered to have great potential for generating clean wind energy. Boasting an installed turbine capacity of around 6.7 gigawatts onshore and 1.8 gigawatts offshore, and a nearly 37 percent renewable energy share in total final consumption (122 percent in gross electricity use), Germany’s northernmost state is well above the national average. Its 2025 aim is to have renewables contribute up to 65 percent to state-wide energy generation. And by 2050, the North Sea and its coastal areas could be home to Europe’s largest clean energy system – ideal prospects for kicking off a real hydrogen economy.

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