H2Congress Shows China Widens Gap

A visibly relaxed Stijn van Els giving one last presentation shortly before his retirement.

Every two years, the H2Congress takes place in North Rhine-Westphalia’s state office in Berlin. And if there is one technology that has grown in popularity throughout past conferences, it was hydrogen. So it seems only fitting that this year’s event, held June 6 and 7, placed the emphasis on electrolysis and power-to-gas, that is, the economic implications of hydrogen use in transportation and energy markets.

Around 200 attendees witnessed an exciting event, which included several thoroughly intriguing presentations. Right at the beginning, representatives for large businesses from the energy-intensive steel and cement and oil industries outlined their strategies for the coming years. Stijn van Els, who had served as the chairman of Shell Deutschland until July, said, “We want to act today to have an impact tomorrow. Our aim is to instigate change in the energy markets.” Reinhold Achatz, the chief operations officer of thyssenkrupp, added that his company had undergone successful restructuring over the past years and increased its standing in the climate protection ranking by the Carbon Disclosure Project, where it jumped from D to A. He likewise pointed to Carbon2Chem®, a project that was launched this fall (see H2-international, October 2017, and CO2 Proves a Valuable Resource). Achatz said thyssenkrupp did not see hydrogen technology confined to a niche market but, on the contrary, sparking a major trend.

China speeds ahead

The presentation that generated the most discussion was the one by Tobias Brunner, a former BMW employee and the current chief executive of Hynergy, a German consulting firm founded in Grasbrunn. He talked about his months-long experience as an adviser to Great Wall Motors, one of China’s biggest carmakers and a partner to Hynergy in 2016. Brunner confirmed what most people in Germany could only read about: that the People’s Republic has been churning out policy after policy to pour massive amounts of cash into advancing renewables and alternative engines. He gave a row of examples to illustrate to which extremes China had gone, so that the national market was developing at a much more rapid pace than many believed.

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