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These proposals are presented in the position paper 'HySpeedInnovation' in which a number of leading European Research and Technology Organisations describe the upscaling challenges that lie ahead and how the knowledge institutions can to come together to tackle these challenges in order to make Europe a leader in the field of electrolysis. TNO is joined by the German RTOs Fraunhofer (IFAM and ISE) and Forschungszentrum Jülich (IEK14), the Norwegian SINTEF and France's CEA. The RTOs also recommend a supporting role for the European Commission and national authorities. Meanwhile, other knowledge institutions from EU Member States have also embraced the call, as has the network Hydrogen Europe Research, which represents several hundred companies and organisations in the field of hydrogen.
An enormous challenge lies ahead in upscaling currently available technologies to GW-scale factories required to drive forward the energy transition. For Europe, this challenge is reflected in the European Green Deal, which puts renewable hydrogen produced by electrolysis high on the political agenda. The European Hydrogen Strategy sets a target for 6 GW installed electrolyser capacity by 2024, and 2x40 GW by 2030 (40 GW in Europe and 40 GW in neighbouring countries) producing respectively 1 and 10 million tonnes of hydrogen annually. Tens of billions of euros are promised as a stimulus for this development. Several hydrogen strategies from European member states also have quantified targets for electrolysers according to their National Hydrogen Strategies looking at 2030 horizon, e.g. 6.5 GW in France, 5 GW in Germany, 3-4 GW in the Netherlands 1 GW in Portugal and 4 GW in Spain.
The researchers describe the advantages and disadvantages of the main technologies on which current electrolysers are based and where improvements are needed. This involves a good balance between cost, performance and sustainability. For example, a serious alternative has to be found for the scarce raw materials and rare metals currently used in electrolysers. The production method, still largely manual, can and must also become much more efficient and cheaper.
The most important obstacle to overcome is not so much technical: the chain of manufacturers, their suppliers and the knowledge institutions themselves is fragmented across Europe, thus slowing down the innovations needed to develop a new generation of electrolysers. There is also a lack of sufficient demand for green hydrogen, partly because the costs are still too high. This makes the business case for large-scale application dependent on government incentives.
To support and accelerate the required developments, the European RTOs propose to work together more intensively and in a more coordinated way. For this purpose, three sets of opportunities have been identified. These opportunities are: (i) Connecting Hydrogen labs; (ii) Setting clear performance standards; and (iii) Monitoring performance of subsidized pilots. For each opportunity, actions have been identified that fall within the responsibilities of Europe's RTOs.
To achieve these objectives, European RTOs call for support from national governments and EU policy makers on the following topics:
However, for each opportunity, some requirements will have to be met that lie outside of direct RTO influence. It is here that the responsibility of policy makers on the national and EU levels is required to facilitate the proposed effort.
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.