Renewable hydrogen is key to unlocking the complete decarbonisation of European industries

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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With the European Green Deal, the EU has set a clear course for climate neutrality by 2050. To achieve this ambitious target, massive investments in efficient and sustainable solutions are needed. First and foremost, Europe must develop smart electrification strategies.

The decarbonisation of the power sector through greater use of renewable energies, coupled with electrification and energy efficiency, will drive the clean transition. Additionally, renewable hydrogen, produced from wind and solar power, should be Europe’s preferred option for all applications that cannot be directly electrified cost-effectively.

Renewable electricity provides the cheapest and simplest route to decarbonise large parts of total final energy uses in the future. More than 60% of final energy consumption can be covered by direct electrification.

Renewables are cost-competitive and highly scalable, and accelerating their deployment alongside a sound strategy for the modernisation of Europe’s electricity grid will make a decisive contribution to an economic recovery aligned with the European Green Deal.

Direct electrification will be the primary driver for decarbonising heating and road transport. But there are other energy uses that could be too expensive to fully electrify or have other technical challenges.

The so-called “hard-to-abate” sectors, such as chemicals, parts of heavy industry, long-haul road transport, aviation, and shipping. Here, renewable hydrogen can play a key role as the most cost-effective and sustainable solution for a full decarbonisation of all European sectors.

Hydrogen produced via electrolysis powered by 100% renewable electricity has zero greenhouse gas emissions. When made in Europe, it reduces EU’s energy dependence, and when produced by grid-connected renewables, it provides an optimised form of sector coupling between the power sector and other economic sectors.

Furthermore, investment in renewable hydrogen has immense potential in terms of jobs and growth, particularly targeting European regions most affected by the energy transition. This is because Europe will expand the renewable electricity capacity needed for its production and technological development. The COVID-19 health crisis offers an opportunity for systemic change. As European leaders are now setting out stimulus plans to kick-start our economy to safeguard jobs and industries, and to ensure future growth, renewable hydrogen should be on the agenda, as the cleanest and most cost-effective means of decarbonising hard-to-abate sectors.

Every Euro spent on accelerating efficient business models that create the most value for Europe – such as renewable hydrogen and direct electrification – will keep us on track to a more inclusive and job-intensive transition.

By making the right choices now and placing renewables at the core of the EU’s future energy system, Europe can lead the way in the global energy transformation and shape its Green Deal as a true European success story. The initiative “Choose Renewable Hydrogen” stands ready to deliver this vision.

The new initiative “Choose Renewable Hydrogen” is supported by Akuo Energy, BayWa r.e., EDP, Enel, Iberdrola, MHI Vestas, SolarPower Europe, Ørsted, Vestas and WindEurope. Learn more about the campaign at www.choose-renewable-hydrogen.eu and join the conversation on social media using #RenewableHydrogen.

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