The federal German government has finally presented its hydrogen strategy. And that’s good news, because hydrogen will surely play a major role in the next stages of energy transformation. In the long term, only with hydrogen will it be possible to relieve the strain on the power networks, link the energy, heating and transport sectors and thereby assume a major role in the energy system: a storage function that enables energy volumes to be seasonally balanced. In addition, only hydrogen (or synthetic fuels) will be able to decarbonise much of the heavy goods traffic and many industrial processes in the long term. So it is good that the hydrogen strategy is available – but clarity is still required in many areas.
The strategy emphasises that Germany’s entire energy needs cannot be covered by hydrogen from “domestic” production, as supply of green energy will not suffice. This may well be correct in the long run – but it is still a surprise that the strategy states that only 20 TWh of hydrogen will be produced in Germany by 2030, but that 70–90 TWh will be imported from abroad. Why plan to import so much, when the technology still needs to be scaled up? And what will be the ratio of imported green hydrogen from renewable sources to blue hydrogen from natural gas? Another question requiring clarification is which investors are willing to pump billions into electrolysers in the Earth’s sun belt, such as North Africa.
Unfortunately, this reminds me of Desertec, the ground-breaking project a decade ago, in which the giants of the energy world wanted to produce solar power in North Africa in order to transport it to Europe via power lines. None of this has so far been built. Electrolysers, transhipment ports and cargo ships are certainly no easier or cheaper to build than power lines. So the focus of the strategy is surprising, when you consider the small area that is intended for offshore wind parks, in order to produce hydrogen in the German part of the North and Baltic Seas.
It makes sense to first scale up the electrolysis technology in Germany and Europe. This is the only way to ensure that the economic benefits and innovations will enjoy permanent success. This is precisely why as much renewable energy as possible must be produced from the wind and the sun in Germany in future. When we consider the current uncertainty surrounding wind power on land and at sea, however, there is still a lot to do. In this respect, we are pleased that the National Hydrogen Strategy has finally been presented. We must now discuss and specify the priorities it sets out!