The Association of Municipal Companies (VKU) in Germany has raised concerns over the feasibility of the government’s plans to switch to hydrogen gas networks in 2024. VKU Managing Director Ingbert Liebing has warned that the “rigid specifications” in the current draft of the Building Energy Act (GEG) could lead to a failure of the heat transition plans of the Federal Government. Liebing criticized the “rigid requirements” for around 500 municipal utilities with regard to gas and district heating, which he believes are counterproductive and have the opposite effect.
The VKU has called for more flexibility and the elimination of excessive compensation obligations, to avoid financial risks for utilities and to ensure a successful transition to climate neutrality.
The goal of transitioning to hydrogen gas networks is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to achieve the government’s climate targets. Hydrogen gas can be produced from renewable energy sources and used as a clean energy carrier for heating and transportation. However, the VKU has expressed concerns that only a few suppliers would be able to open their gas networks for alternatives such as hydrogen due to the rigid requirements and tight deadlines in the current draft of the GEG. According to the draft, utilities must offer 30 per cent C02-free gases such as hydrogen by 2035 and 65 per cent by 2050, and convert the gas infrastructure to 100 per cent hydrogen by 2035.
Liebing believes that these requirements ignore the reality that most utilities would not be able to meet them anytime soon. He has called for more flexibility in implementation and the elimination of excessive compensation obligations, as financial risks could discourage suppliers from opening up their gas networks to alternatives. The VKU’s concerns could be a significant challenge for the government’s heat transition plans, as the transition to hydrogen gas networks is a key part of Germany’s strategy to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.
The controversy surrounding the use of hydrogen gas networks is not unique to Germany. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, are also exploring the use of hydrogen gas networks as a clean energy carrier. However, the implementation of these plans has faced challenges due to the high costs of infrastructure upgrades and the need for regulatory frameworks that support the transition.
In conclusion, while the transition to hydrogen gas networks offers a promising solution for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the VKU’s concerns highlight the challenges that could arise in implementing these plans. The government will need to balance the need for ambitious climate targets with the realities of the energy industry and work towards a regulatory framework that supports a successful transition to hydrogen gas networks.