A new alliance

S. Geitmann

Like other industries, the energy sector has seen events being postponed or cancelled, making it difficult if not impossible to unveil new products, attend discussion panels and meet new people. But the partial lockdown has also opened up some new opportunities. Thanks to greater digitalization, online product presentations can still reach a global audience, face-to-face meetings are being replaced with webinars and video conferences, and phone calls have become an even more important means to stay in touch. Additionally, fewer commutes and business trips leave more time for other things and help reduce environmentally harmful emissions.

Nevertheless, the question remains what to do when an event like Hannover Messe is postponed even though you were planning to attend it to unveil your latest product in front of a throng of journalists?

It may still take a few weeks or months until we know whether shows and conferences will merely be pushed back to a later date. As it looks now, it seems extremely doubtful that those planned for summer or fall can be held. More likely, they will not take place this year at all. It will be interesting to see if and how successfully online solutions, including state-of-the-art communication channels, can replace them for the time being.

Whatever happens, Covid-19 will not be able to severely impede or stop the advance of hydrogen and fuel cells. Growth in the market will slow down somewhat, true, also considering the German cabinet has again postponed the debate on a national hydrogen strategy. We will simply have to be patient. As of this writing, it was not clear when the strategy would be put back on the agenda.

And yet, it is safe to say that the current trend is irreversible. The public discussion on how to transform the energy sector in Germany and the changes we see happening in the market have demonstrated to politicians and the population that there will be no way around hydrogen. A national hydrogen strategy will come. The only question is what it will look like.

However, Germany is not the only EU member that is waking up to the potential of hydrogen and fuel cells. Countries across the continent have realized what key contribution the technology could make to decarburizing the economy. As a result, the European Commission is currently preparing a white paper on how to create a cleaner industrial strategy specifically by using hydrogen.

In early March, the Brussels-based agency announced it wanted to launch a Clean Hydrogen Alliance in collaboration with governments and businesses from across the Union. In order to provide a foundation for this kind of partnership, it has already approved funding based on the IPCEI (Important Projects of Common European Interest) platform. This means we could see an alliance being forged as early as this summer.

Overall, we are moving forward at a decent pace. Considering recent announcements, it seems people are expecting hydrogen to take on a bigger role in the future, albeit some could be setting the bar a bit too high. There is already talk of hydrogen replacing an energy source such as brown coal, a suggestion that is being floated by a top-level executive who works for a large coal power company, no less. Others are saying Germany could eventually become the number one market for hydrogen around the globe, like the United States was for oil and gas for over 50 years. That is quite the comparison.

All of these predictions may seem a bit far-fetched today. Nevertheless, they show what we can achieve by continuing to go down this road. And even though the Summer Olympics that were supposed to take place in Tokyo have been cancelled and Japan will no longer be able to broadcast to the whole world what fuel cell vehicles can do, the trend in the market will continue.

In short, we could use this unexpected break from normal life to prepare ourselves for a clean future.

Let me end this editorial by saying that I hope you have enjoyed reading the H2-international journal over the past five years and that we can continue to be your trusted source for news and in-depth reports on the hydrogen and fuel cell sector for a long time to come.

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