#Press release: Hydrogen Horizon, the charting of the EU market development

September 20, 2023

Brussels, September 19th, 2023

Business & Science Poland is pleased to announce the conclusion of the conference titled „Hydrogen Horizon, the charting of the EU market development ” held on September 19th 2023, at our office in Brussels, rue Belliard 40.

The event brought together a diverse group of experts, policymakers, and industry leaders to explore the role of hydrogen in achieving the EU’s climate neutrality goals by 2050. As the European Union seeks to transition away from Russian fossil-fuel imports, hydrogen has emerged as a beacon of hope, offering the potential to decarbonize the transport and energy-intensive sectors.

Key discussions during the conference centred on the EU’s Hydrogen Strategy, alongside associated initiatives such as the European Hydrogen Bank. These programs were identified as effective instruments for increasing domestic renewable hydrogen production while also bolstering hydrogen imports.

Panellists had agreed that hydrogen is an important piece of the transition puzzle, but that there are still technical, infrastructural, and regulatory obstacles that need to be overcome, both in order to meet goals stated in the Fit for 55 package and associated legislation, but also to retain the competitiveness of hydrogen producers and meet the projected demand figures.

In an introductory speech, Director of the BSP branch in Brussels Katarzyna Lachowicz, highlighted 3 main issues that BSP identifies as of crucial concern for the development of hydrogen markets.

“In the regulatory area, we consider that technological neutrality should be ensured regarding the renewable and low-carbon hydrogen production.” She said, further adding that “in order to create a level playing field with international competitors, European production of the cost-effective H2 should be secured not only through clear regulatory environment, but also availability and affordability of low-carbon and renewable electricity.”

Director Lachowicz reminded participants that the barriers in achieving REPowerEU targets – such as affordability and availability of electricity from renewable sources, as well as limited access to funding, should all be taken into consideration when comparing with the H2 imports from more cost- competitive countries.

She concluded the keynote with underlining that clean H2 production means big CAPEX investments, and so it of paramount importance that there is an appropriate stream of incentives and funding support.

The following discussion was moderated by Claudia Patricolo of CEENERGYNEWS, and featured Rudd Kempener – Member of Cabinet of Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson, Kamila Wacięga – Director in Energy & Infrastructure Policy at Hydrogen Europe, Michał Grzybowski – Project Manager in Economic and Business Analyses and Hydrogen Project Settlements at Team ORLEN S.A., and Rheanna Johnston – Policy Advisor for EU energy transition on Climate Neutral Energy systems at E3G.

Mr Rudd Kempener highlighted the multifaceted nature of the European Hydrogen Strategy and stated that hydrogen is one of the key enablers in the energy transition. He pointed out that while there is considerable diversity in energy mixes and industries in 27 European states, the level of their integration and convergence is already a remarkable achievement and something to be proud of. He further said that it will be the investment decisions of today that will shape the outlook for 2050, and that the European Commission is committed to establishing regulatory certainty and putting necessary policy in place, in an effort to ramp up financing for the sector but also to remove any lagging regulatory obstacles that are stopping markets from further coordination and also to enable the emerging markets to transform.

When asked about whether the EU was on track to meeting goals associated with hydrogen deployment, Kamila Wacięga of Hydrogen Europe stressed the necessity of targeting investment into hydrogen production and distribution infrastructure, which is still severely lacking. She also pointed out the necessity of creating legislation that would take the technicalities of the infrastructural process into account. Highlighting the importance of linking existing hydrogen valleys in an organized mesh of nodes of hydrogen production, she reminded her interlocutors that EU policy cannot forgo energy storage, given its potential as a solution to the curtailing of energy production due to electricity grid incapacity standing at the junction of different sectors.

Offering a glance at the problem from the point of view of energy producers, Michał Grzybowski raised an important point about the limitations of transition capacity that different regions of the EU are burdened with – both developmentally and otherwise. He stated that this diversity should be taken into consideration in policymaking and added that an effective deployment of hydrogen technology needs to consider a selection of hydrogen types, so that there is a wider portfolio of fuels on the market. Underlining the need for a transparent regulatory framework that could give a clear path on the hydrogen production front.

Rheanna Johnston, responding to question of the importance of hydrogen, constated that hydrogen should serve reaching our climate goals. She reminded participants how easy it is to get lost in technicalities, and stated the importance of remembering that hydrogen, while an important piece of the puzzle of energy transition, is still complementary to other renewable sources of energy. She concluded that renewable hydrogen should be prioritized over low-carbon hydrogen, as the process of decarbonization should be of paramount importance.

The debate was therefore useful in articulating the concrete challenges that persist on the path to making hydrogen a vital contributor to climate neutrality. It also has showed that experts were not unanimous on the role of hydrogen in the energy transition. The hydrogen sector faces legal complexities, high production costs, and questions surrounding electricity grid capacity that require careful consideration. The insights provided by panellists of the BSP debate can hopefully serve as a basis for untangling the discrepancies and creating conditions for optimal hydrogen technology dissemination.

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