EU should not rely on uncertain imports to meet hydrogen targets, study says

According to a Ricardo study, commissioned by Transport & Environment (T&E), a European clean transport campaign group, the European Union (EU) should be cautious about relying on uncertain imports to meet its hydrogen targets.

The study, made to assess the EU’s needs for hydrogen imports and evaluate their potential risks and benefits through six case studies of exporting countries Chile, Egypt, Morocco, Namibia, Norway and Oman, showed that despite the big hype around hydrogen, just 1% of the planned green hydrogen production in those countries has received financing, T&E said, noting that Europe should focus on developing its own supply.

Geert Decock, Electricity & Energy Manager at T&E, stated: “With European politicians flying across the world to secure hydrogen deals, this is a much-needed reality check. Most of the countries Europe is relying on for imports are not at all ready to scale up production.”

T&E pointed out that according to the study estimates, the mentioned countries combined would only be able to deliver just a quarter of the 10 million tons of imports targeted by RePower EU.

“Analysis of the national strategies of the six countries indicates that the EU is seen as a key market for hydrogen exports. Oman, for example, expects to export more than two-thirds of its hydrogen production to the EU in 2030. But a major challenge is that these export countries – many heavily reliant on fossil fuels and water scarce – face major obstacles to scaling up production,” T&E said.

The countries assessed will require huge investments in clean electricity generation to export green hydrogen as well as to decarbonize their own grids, T&E claimed, adding that hydrogen also requires significant amounts of water, and all the countries looked at, except Norway, will face significant water scarcity in the decades to come.

Furthermore, as per T&E, there is currently no infrastructure to transport hydrogen over long distances, and the only viable way to import hydrogen currently is in the form of e-fuels such as e-ammonia, e-methanol and e-kerosene which can be moved around by ships.

The solution, as mentioned above, might be for Europe to produce its own supply. T&E alleged that Europe could produce between 6 and 7.5 million tons of renewable hydrogen by 2030 domestically, which would be enough to provide for the continent’s needs if it limits hydrogen and e-fuels supplies to sectors that have few other alternatives like shipping, aviation and fertilizers.

To note, according to the study, the EU’s hydrogen objectives are around five times what will actually be needed to hit the bloc’s 2030 green goals.

Decock concluded: “The top priority right now is to develop a real market for renewable hydrogen and electrolysers in Europe. That’s a big enough challenge and will require a laser-sharp focus on those sectors that need hydrogen most, in particular aviation and shipping. In the longer run, hydrogen imports will need to play a bigger role, but there are a number of important conditions that need to be met for imports to be sustainable.”

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