EU bets on hydrogen with directive on market development and increase in funding
The member states of the EU on Monday night agreed with the European Parliament on a directive that establishes common rules for the development of renewable gas and hydrogen markets. It is a provisional agreement, meaning that it still needs to be formally adopted.
The new directive should boost the deployment of the emerging hydrogen sector in Europe, accelerate the transition of the gas sector towards renewable energy, enable consumer protection and strengthen the security of hydrogen supply. “The agreement makes Europe fit for hydrogen,” said chief negotiator Jens Geier.
Meanwhile, the European Commission has published a list of 166 cross-border infrastructure projects to speed up the rollout of a green energy system. For the first time, the list does not include any fossil fuel projects, listing 65 hydrogen projects instead.
In terms of electricity transport, the list includes the submarine electricity cable between Zeebrugge and the UK, called Cronos. Two interconnectors linked to the future Princess Elisabeth energy island off the Belgian coast - Nautilus linked with the UK and Triton with Denmark - are also mentioned.
"The time of Europe funding fossil fuel infrastructure is over"
Hydrogen projects include a pipeline between Norway and Germany, a transmission network between France and Belgium and an import terminal for green ammonia in Antwerp.
The announcements show an increased European focus on hydrogen to replace fossil fuels. "The time of Europe funding fossil fuel infrastructure is over," said Energy commissioner Kadri Simson. "It is time to invest in infrastructure adapted to a more flexible, decentralised and digitalised system, where consumers are also producers and most energy comes from renewable sources."
The aim is to wean Europe off natural gas and encourage more low-carbon energy sources, contributing to the EU's goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
But climate experts are sceptical about the EU's plans, because a large part of it involves "blue hydrogen", which is produced by separating hydrogen from natural gas and capturing the resulting CO2 before it is released into the atmosphere. Studies have shown that carbon capture technology is not very effective, sometimes even emitting more CO2 than it captures.
Instead, researchers say, more funds should go towards the production of "green hydrogen", in which water is split into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable energy sources such as wind or solar power.
© BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM