The European Commission (EC) set out plans to transform the energy system using clean hydrogen to become climate-neutral by 2050, an EC statement said.
The Commission's Hydrogen Strategy and Energy System Integration Strategy presents a new clean energy investment agenda to improve the current energy system, which accounts for 75% of the European Union's (EU) greenhouse gas emissions.
"The strategies adopted today will bolster the European Green Deal and the green recovery, and put us firmly on the path of decarbonizing our economy by 2050," Executive Vice-President for the Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said on the announcement of the strategy.
The EU urgently needs a structural change in its energy system to support the Green Deal in reaching net-zero, Lisa Fischer, a senior policy advisor at independent climate change think-tank E3G, said after the EC announcement.
"The strategies announced were the opportunity to do just that - yet the Energy System Integration strategy falls short of the needed changes," she noted.
She explained that based on the current model, the EU Strategy for Energy System Integration plans to provide the framework for the green transition where energy consumption in transport, industry, gas and buildings, with separate value chains, rules, infrastructure, planning and operation, can not deliver climate neutrality by 2050 in a cost-efficient way.
Under the new strategy, the EU aims to integrate the changing costs of innovative solutions in the system and to create new links between sectors to exploit technological progress.
"Energy system integration means that the system is planned and operated as a whole, linking different energy carriers, infrastructures, and consumption sectors. This connected and flexible system will be more efficient, and reduce costs for society," the Commission said in its statement.
The strategy includes three main pillars to create a more circular energy system with energy efficiency at its core, a greater direct electrification of end-use sectors and a new classification and certification system for renewable and low-carbon fuels.
In that regard, the strategy sets out 38 actions to create a more integrated system.
- Strategies miss mark
The Hydrogen Strategy aims to support the decarbonization of industry, transport, power generation and buildings across Europe by addressing how to transform this potential into reality, through investments, regulation, market creation and research, the Commission's statement said.
"Hydrogen can power sectors that are not suitable for electrification and provide storage to balance variable renewable energy flows, but this can only be achieved with coordinated action between the public and private sector, at EU level," the statement read.
The EU has a gradual transition approach in its hydrogen strategy by supporting the installation of at least 6 gigawatts of renewable hydrogen electrolyzers in the EU and the production of up to 1 million tons of renewable hydrogen from 2020 to 2024.
Timmermans said the new hydrogen economy could be a growth engine to help overcome the economic damage caused by COVID-19.
"In developing and deploying a clean hydrogen value chain, Europe will become a global frontrunner and retain its leadership in clean tech," he said.
"From 2025 to 2030, hydrogen needs to become an intrinsic part of our integrated energy system, with at least 40 gigawatts of renewable hydrogen electrolyzers and the production of up to ten million tonnes of renewable hydrogen in the EU," the statement said.
However, Fischer argued that the Hydrogen Strategy leaves the door wide open for hydrogen made from fossil gas with carbon capture and storage without measurable milestones to track the phase-out of unabated fossil gas.
The Commission also launched European Clean Hydrogen Alliance with industry leaders, civil society, national and regional ministers, and the European Investment Bank to build up an investment pipeline for scaled-up production to support demand for clean hydrogen in the EU.
"Governance is the elephant in the room for both strategies. The new Clean Hydrogen Alliance is launching predominantly under the governance of CEOs without a climate neutrality mandate, unaccountable to future generations on climate," Fischer also noted.
She explained that the Energy System Integration Strategy is only tentative on the one change that would enhance the chances of success for climate neutrality, which is an independent, science-based governance to inform all energy decisions.
By Nuran Erkul Kaya