German government invests in green hydrogen

National Hydrogen Strategy
National Hydrogen Strategy, © BMWi / Andreas Mertens

There it is – the national hydrogen strategy. Five federal ministries presented the cabinet-approved final concept in Berlin on June 10. Querulous months of intense cross-ministry wrangling over hydrogen colors, the targeted electrolyzer capacity and committee rosters preceded strategy publication as sector representatives prowled, yearning for news. Ultimately, the governing coalition agreed on a whopping EUR 7 billion package, plus an additional 2 billion for potential hydrogen export countries.

Incredibly brilliant tactics; if the delays were intentional. Dragging out the national hydrogen strategy presentation until mid-June – until Germany takes over the EU Council presidency, until the federal government launches a Covid-19 stimulus program. Bang! Establish a hydrogen economy, that’s the ticket. Made in Germany but for Europe as a whole, of course. Then it’s off to collective negotiations with Council President Ursula von der Leyen for a Green Deal that just might get the German and European economies – and maybe the environment, too – back on their feet. Should this put an end to the current crisis, coupled with a halfway sustainable European energy concept, the Christian Democrats can polish their campaign buttons for the national elections in 2021, aiming for a Green-Black coalition (pure speculation, that bit).

An exhausting discussion

They took their own sweet time, much too long, in fact. The German cabinet should have discussed, resolved and enacted the national hydrogen strategy before Christmas 2019. No dice. Not in early 2020 either and certainly not as the Covid-19 pandemic had us all in its grip. Yet, at the beginning of 2019, as Thomas Bareiß, of the economy ministry, met with his colleague Steffen Bilger from the ministry of transportation along with Klaus Bonhoff, NOW’s former chief executive, the necessity for a national strategy was more than evident.

Russian hydrogen gets Bavaria’s vote

In the wake of many other German states, Bavaria’s economy minister Hubert Aiwanger presented a statewide hydrogen strategy in Nuremburg on May 29. At the same session, Veronika Grimm, who chairs H2.B and advises the government on economic matters, introduced the corresponding position paper. In the ensuing discussion, Aiwanger proposed Russia as a hydrogen import partner, reasoning that the Nord Stream gas pipeline could import unlimited amounts of “affordable green hydrogen” from the east. When H2-international questioned the statement’s foundation, the state ministry responded: “Russia’s potential for onshore wind energy expansion is enormous and quite capable of meeting Germany’s hydrogen demand. The production capacity is realistically estimated at 3.5 million tons of hydrogen. That is 15 percent of the world market share.”

read more in H2-international August 2020

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