What role will sector coupling and hydrogen play in the future?
Hamburg sets new climate protection rules. On 3 December 2019, the Hamburg Senate adopted a new climate plan and a new climate protection law. The aim of both policy frameworks is to establish concrete and more ambitious climate and energy policy measures for the next ten years. The project partners have been aware of the importance of sector coupling to the success of a comprehensive transformation of the energy system for at least three years. During this time, a large-scale research project, the North German Energy Transition 4.0 (NEW 4.0), has been carrying out practical tests on innovative technologies in Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein. So it’s worth taking a look at Hamburg’s new regulatory system. What’s the situation regarding the promotion of sector coupling?
The climate plan and the climate protection law at a glance
Confusing as it may be and although the two terms are similar, the climate plan and climate protection law do not mean the same thing. There are a variety of ways and means by which policy-makers address socio-economic challenges. The most binding way to do so is to establish laws. Laws are a fixed set of rules that must be observed and followed by everyone. If they are not complied with, perpetrators may be threatened with sanctions and legal proceedings. Once a law comes into force, it is very difficult to change it again. A policy plan, on the other hand, forms a strategic foundation. It involves recording basic ideas for tackling a problem, and listing, discussing and defining instruments and goals. The purpose of the plan is basically to set goals and make the channels for achieving these goals clear to everyone. However, the plan is not binding in nature. It can be easily rewritten and if it is not complied with, the worst that can happen is public dishonour.
So, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg has taken a huge step forward. Not only has the Hamburg Senate updated its climate plan in order to set new, more ambitious goals for Hamburg in view of current climate developments. It has also drafted a climate protection law to embed the reduction targets in the climate plan and the restriction of global warming into the Hamburg state constitution as a binding state objective.
The ultimate goal of the Hamburg climate plan is to reduce CO2 emissions by 55 percent by 2030. This should also enable Hamburg to succeed in becoming fully climate neutral by 2050. To achieve this, the respective CO2 reduction targets must be met in the sectors of transport, private households, commercial trade, services and commerce and industry.
Sector coupling embedded in Hamburg’s climate protection law
The draft bill of the Hamburg Senate’s climate protection law intends to set clear and more ambitious sector targets to turn Hamburg into a climate-neutral city. The primary objective of the law is to protect the climate and contribute to meeting the climate goals of the Paris Agreement.
According to the draft bill, the Senate intends, in particular, to ensure that sector coupling measures are implemented as a priority. It also states that sector coupling is important in this respect as renewable energy generated in North Germany can be used, stored and transported efficiently through an intelligent combination of the energy sources of electricity, heat and gas. At the same time, this would relieve the strain on the electricity grids and reduce the costs caused by power shortages.
What does the new Hamburg climate plan say about sector coupling?
In the first update of the Hamburg climate plan, the Senate further develops the content and methodology of the Hamburg climate plan of December 2015. The fact that sector coupling now plays a more prominent role than before is demonstrated by the fact that it is listed as a separate tool in the programme of measures to reduce CO2 emissions in the economic transformation path. The plan specifically states that the Senate wishes to further support and promote the flexible adjustment of energy consumption and energy production by companies. Hamburg's government expects that this will increase the use of renewable electricity in the supply network and reduce CO2 emissions. There is also huge potential for the flexible use of electricity in production processes in industrial and commercial enterprises.
The climate plan essentially identifies two basic prerequisites for progress in the area of sector coupling in the future. Firstly, the storage of volatile energy (Power-to-X) is only possible by promoting technical innovations, especially with regard to electricity and heat storage or renewable gases such as hydrogen. Secondly, a sufficient supply of wind power.
In order to overcome possible technical obstacles, Hamburg is planning to use the Norddeutsches Reallabor (North German real-world laboratory) project to research how the integrated transformation of the energy system should be designed to find methods for rapid decarbonisation. The findings from the NEW 4.0 project, amongst others, will be used for this purpose. The Senate is also seeking to develop the use of hydrogen.
The City of Hamburg will also endeavour to strengthen the alliances and networks between the relevant regional sectors and continue to apply for national funding programmes. The focus here is on achieving "greater flexibility in the demand for energy and energy production in industry." This could include projects to harness industrial waste heat for use in heating networks or multifunctional networks, or more precisely, in sector coupling applications. The Hamburg climate plan specifically mentions the establishment of a sector coupling demonstration centre at the Energy-Campus in Bergedorf.
None of this would be possible without the support of the German Federal Government
The Hamburg climate plan is not only very precise in terms of describing the specific measures that the city wishes to take into its own hands. It also makes very clear demands on the German Federal Government.
As far as the development of renewable energies is concerned, the Hamburg climate plan states that a time and volume framework must be defined for the period up to 2030. This framework must also take the additional quantities of renewable electricity required for sector coupling into account. Electricity storage facilities require uniform regulations that exempt them from end-consumer charges and put an end to multiple taxation, which would greatly benefit all sector coupling projects. Expansion and reinforcement of the grid must be aligned with the expansion of renewable energy generation.
With regard to the federal promotion of hydrogen production, the Hamburg climate plan points to the necessity to create regulatory framework conditions that help green hydrogen to compete with grey hydrogen. It states that a sufficient supply of green hydrogen must be ensured by the German Federal Government.