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Energy system integration strategy and hydrogen strategy

On 8 July 2020, Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, and Kadri Simson, Commissioner for Energy, presented the EU strategy for energy system integration and the EU hydrogen strategy. In principle, it can be said that the hydrogen strategy is part of the EU energy system integration strategy. In general, energy system integration means that the system is planned and operated as a whole, linking different energy sources, infrastructures and consumption sectors. This networked and flexible system should ideally be more efficient and reduce costs for society. The EU strategy provides the framework for energy system transformation. With the current model, in which energy consumption in transport, industry, gas and the building sector takes place in "silos", each with separate value chains, regulations, infrastructure, planning and operation, climate neutrality cannot be achieved in a cost-effective way by 2050.

The strategy for integrating the energy system defines three pillars: (a) a more 'cycle-oriented' energy system; (b) direct electrification of enduse sectors; (c) cleaner fuels e.g. renewable hydrogen, sustainable biofuels and biogas in sectors where electrification is difficult.

The hydrogen strategy is therefore specifically part of the third pillar. Hydrogen can supply energy to sectors that are not suitable for electrification and store energy to balance variable energy flows from renewable energy sources. In an integrated energy system, hydrogen can support the decarbonisation of industry, transport, power generation and buildings across Europe. The EU Hydrogen Strategy looks at how this potential can be realised through investment, regulation, market creation and research and innovation.

Mr Timmermans acknowledged that while 40 gigawatts of renewable hydrogen electrolysers will be installed in Europe by 2030, there will be a transitional period during which the EU will need to continue to support low-carbon hydrogen production on a temporary basis.

The phased approach will mean that from 2020 to 2024 the EU will support the installation of at least six gigawatts of renewable hydrogen electrolysers in the EU and the production of up to one million tons of renewable hydrogen. From 2025 to 2030, hydrogen must become an integral part of the integrated energy system, with at least 40 gigawatts of renewable hydrogen electrolysers installed and up to 10 million tons of renewable hydrogen produced in the EU. From 2030 to 2050, renewable hydrogen technologies should be mature and widely deployed in all sectors that are difficult to decarbonise.

The two strategies should pave the way towards a more efficient and interconnected energy sector. They include a new clean energy investment agenda in line with the Commission's Next Generation EU development package and the European Green Deal.

The significance of hydrogen technologies in the transport sector has also been recognised by industry, which has called for the promotion and concrete development of a hydrogen infrastructure. At the end of last year, for example, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), Hydrogen Europe and the International Road Transport Union (IRU) issued a joint call for the accelerated development of hydrogen refueling infrastructure throughout the EU. Against the background of the general objective of decarbonising transport, the three associations emphasised that fuel cell electric vehicles can make a positive contribution. Similarly, hydrogen technology acts as a bridge between the energy and transport sectors (sectoral integration) and offers solutions for a better integration of surplus renewable energies such as wind and solar ("Power to hydrogen"). The growing demand for renewable and low-carbon hydrogen in many sectors will increase supply and reduce costs. The associations also emphasise that promoting the hydrogen industry would strengthen Europe's competitiveness in the long term and that this would also mean growth and jobs.


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