Industry calls for more planning certainty for hydrogen


In Baden-Württemberg, Germany, industry is pleading with the state government to act more quickly and clearly on the climate-relevant problem of hydrogen.

The critical factor is that the required hydrogen is also available, according to Jan Stefan Roell, spokesman for the Baden-Württemberg Association of Chambers of Industry and Commerce’s (BWIHK) Hydrogen Task Force. “Businesses require assurance that it will be available in sufficient amount when required.” He stated that supply must arrive ahead of demand. However, there have been little figures on this subject thus far.

When questioned, the Environment and Energy Ministry referred to an unpublished research that estimated Baden-industrial Württemberg’s hydrogen consumption in 2020 to reach 3.1 terawatt hours. “If this demand is compared to the current generation capacities in Baden-Württemberg through electrolysis, the latter are significantly lower,” a spokeswoman said. When complete, the study will incorporate forecasts for the year 2035.

Hydrogen is critical to the energy shift because it can be used to make fuels. It is predicted to eventually supplant coal, oil, and natural gas in industries such as manufacturing and transportation. At the end of 2020, the state government adopted a “hydrogen plan” that anticipates the creation of around 16,000 new employment in the southwest and the generation of nine billion euros in sales by 2030. Hydrogen is called “green” if it is generated through electrolysis using renewable energy sources.

Green, according to Roell, should take a back seat for the time being. “At first, you must embrace alternate colors in order to stimulate market activity.” The vice president of the BWIHK is persuaded that businesses have progressed further than politicians believe. They recognize, he argues, that transitioning away from carbon-intensive energy sources and toward sustainable alternatives is an opportunity for growth: “As an environmental pig, you will lose clients.”

Along with availability, Roell stressed the need of hydrogen’s pricing remaining competitive with fossil fuel alternatives. Additionally, he stated, regulatory barriers must be reduced and approval processes quickened dramatically. “We cannot be late; we must be present, or even better, lead the way.” However, he asserted that the current practices are incompatible. “Approval of a wind turbine just takes longer than the duration of a parliamentary session.” Thus, individuals responsible today would, in all likelihood, be out of government by the time the project was completed. The federal and state governments have made it clear that they intend to accelerate this process.

For instance, when it came to establishing a demonstration plant for alternative fuels on the site of the Oberrhein mineral oil refinery, the Ministry of Transport complained that the many years spent waiting for subsidies from the EU and the federal government were excessive. The Environment Ministry, for its part, is now advocating for simpler clearance procedures for so-called low-power electrolysers. “Additionally, we maintain frequent contact with regional councils, which serve as the approving authorities,” the spokeswoman stated. This should allow for rapid identification of problems and facilitation of smooth procedures.

According to the BWIHK, this is insufficient: “The state government has the ability to expedite matters by enacting legislation for critical issues,” Roell explained. “Citizen participation should be channeled in the right areas, and parliament’s role should be bolstered.”

He added that it is also critical to sign agreements with countries in the European Union, such as Italy and Spain, that will enable the production of green hydrogen. Due to the meteorological circumstances, Germany will need to import it. In principle, Roell sees no issue with this: “If you buy gas and oil now, you can likewise buy hydrogen tomorrow.” Particularly because it benefits Europe’s partner countries as well if money flows to them rather than to Russia. However, the requisite infrastructure would need to be constructed as well: “There is currently nothing there.”

Nedim Husomanovic

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