Hydrogen strategy criticised for relying on fossil fuel gas

Sallie Anderson

The European Commission revealed on Wednesday (8 July) its strategy to high end eco-friendly hydrogen production and introduced the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance to supervise its application.

“Hydrogen is a vital missing piece of the puzzle to help us reach this deeper decarbonisation,” stated EU commissioner for energy, Kadri Simson.

The proposition develops a three-phase technique which intends to increase “green” hydrogen production created from eco-friendly electrical energy throughout all energy-intensive markets sectors, such as steel, chemicals and transportation.

From 2020 to 2024, a minimum of 6 gigawatts of eco-friendly hydrogen electrolysers will be set up in the EU to produce as much as one million tonnes of green hydrogen.

In a second stage, from 2025 to 2030, the commission intends to produce as much as 10 million tonnes of eco-friendly hydrogen.

On the other hand, the bloc’s executive approximates that financial investments in eco-friendly hydrogen might reach in between EUR180 bn and EUR470 bn by 2050.

Double-edged sword

While the strategy focuses on green hydrogen, the commission acknowledges the need for a progressive technique investing in the so-called “blue” hydrogen – which is made from fossil fuels and relies on questionable technologies that can store and catch carbon emissions (CCS).

Civil society organisations criticised the commission for relying on early-stage technologies that need the continued usage of fossil fuels, weakening the EU’s 2050 climate-neutrality target embeded in the Green Offer.

“The Commission has fallen for the fossil fuel industry’s hydrogen hype,” stated Tara Connolly from Brussels based NGO Pals of the Earth Europe.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) alerted about a capacity “double-edged sword”, calling on the European Parliament and member states to ask for a timeline to stop purchasing fossil fuels.

According to Barbara Mariani, EEB’s senior policy officer for environment and energy, member states need to phase-out of fossil gas by 2035 to restrict global temperature levels to 1.5 degrees.

“This is not going to happen if we invest in false solutions such as fossil-based hydrogen and carbon capture technology,” she added, wringing about producing stranded properties.

Dispute of interest?

On the other hand, the commission likewise introduced on Wednesday the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance, which was suggested to unite scientists, market agents and civil society organisations to supervise the application of the strategy.

Nevertheless, NGOs grievance about the supremacy of oil and gas business in the alliance.

“There is a risk of conflict of interest and fossil gas lock-in if we look at the proposed composition,” stated the organizer at NGO Environment Action Network Esther Bollendorff, who declared that civil society organisation need to be much better represented.

“This is key to ensure external scrutiny over investment decisions strictly in line with climate neutrality,” she stated.

According to the NGO WWF Europe, just 2 ecological civil society organisations were welcomed to sign up with the Tidy Hydrogen Alliance launch – with 24 hours notification.

Previously this month, oil and gas business such as Italy’s ENI and United States’s ExxonMobil lobbied to thin down the focus on renewables hydrogen of the strategy.

‘ Not a silver bullet’

In addition, Bollendorff alerted that hydrogen “is only one single element of a bigger puzzle and not a silver bullet,” including that the EU’s future energy system requires to be based mostly on energy effectiveness and renewables.

The commission approximates that the share of renewable resource in the EU’s energy mix will be 84 percent by 2050 – presuming that fossil fuels will still belong to the EU’s energy mix.

Nevertheless, information suggest that energy effectiveness stays quite a ‘pending’ job for the bloc.

In 2018, energy intake in the EU was 5 percent above the effectiveness target set for 2020 (and 22 percent except the 2030 target), according to data released by Eurostat.

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