The time to transform the gas networks is now

Gerald Linke, © DVGW, Tatiana Back Kurda
© DVGW, Tatiana Back Kurda

Interview with Gerald Linke, DVGW chairman

The German gas and water industries association DVGW has for some time been increasing its efforts in relation to hydrogen. In early 2018, it entered into initial negotiations with the German Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association, DWV, with the aim of intensifying the cooperation between the two organizations. At the end of 2020, DWV members voted overwhelmingly in favor of the partnership proposed by the board. What unites these two associations and what could the gas industry look like in the future? Gerald Linke, DVGW chairman, shared his views with H2-international.

H2-international: Mr. Linke, the DVGW has for decades been synonymous with natural gas. Could you please tell me in your own words why it now also represents hydrogen.

Linke: One doesn’t exclude the other. Natural gas is currently essential for the energy transition following the departure from nuclear power and coal. We need natural gas to partner renewable energy. It stabilizes our energy supply, for example, whenever wind or solar energy is not available. That’s to say nothing of the existing gas infrastructure, which we need in any case for storing and conveying climate-neutral gases. Therefore if we want to create a reliable energy supply for the future – and the scientific expertise of the DVGW with its high-level research skills has an essential role to play in this process – there is no way of getting around gas. Hydrogen is quite clearly part of this, for the reason that gas as an energy carrier will become less and less carbon dioxide-intensive overall during the next phase as we move toward climate neutrality. Changing the gas content results in an increasing number of climate-neutral gases such as biomethane, hydrogen and synthetic methane shoring up our energy supply.

H2-international: How long has the DVGW been involved with hydrogen?

We started researching hydrogen very early on. Our first study in 2005 entitled “Hydrogen in the natural gas system” was a strategic analysis, that is an overview that included hydrogen production pathways along with costs, technology screening, scaling potential and much more. In short: An overarching assessment of hydrogen in the natural gas system in which blending was already cited as a strategic option. From 2010 onward, we then intensified strategic research into hydrogen in the form of a special research program – the “Gas innovation initiative.” Since 2013 we have been sketching out a power-to-gas map, for example in the Portal Green guide, and drawing up guidelines for the approvals process. So you see that the DVGW has already been focusing a great deal of scientific effort on the development of this groundbreaking energy carrier and its enormous potential at a time when hardly anyone in Germany, aside from experts, was talking about it. These days, this topic is on everyone’s lips and is discussed widely in the political arena. The DVGW has played a pioneering role in Germany in the way that it has addressed the subject of hydrogen.

I can remember in the 2000s there were only a few isolated voices in your association that spoke out in favor of hydrogen. When did the change come about for you personally or at board level?

The 2000s can’t be compared with the situation today. Since then, key political decisions have been taken on the energy supply in our country and at a European level. It’s possible one could say that we were poorly positioned, adhering to the status quo and not taking account of fundamental developments in our decision-making. In other matters, we at the DVGW turned our attention toward hydrogen much earlier than others did; we carried out research and training and adjusted our policies. And this was all at a time when this was still not a popular subject, before it was filling newspaper pages and social media channels on a daily basis.

… Read more in the latest H2-International e-Journal, May 2021

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