Green hydrogen & renewables: the EU should take the lead now!

An opinion by Henrike Hahn and Damien Carême, Greens/EFA MEPs and co-chairs of Greens/EFA’s Green Industrial Policy Campaign.

On Wednesday 8 July 2020, the European Commission presented its so-called “Hydrogen Strategy”. A perfect opportunity for the Greens to recall that hydrogen will definitely be a key energy source to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040, but not any type of hydrogen: green hydrogen only! This is a great opportunity for Europe to be a leader on this new market and to achieve the energy transition as soon as possible. 

Green hydrogen is key to 100% renewable energy mix in Europe

While energy efficiency must be the priority, as well as electrification based on additional renewable energy, green hydrogen remains key to achieve the transition towards a 100% renewable energy mix in Europe: Hydrogen can be used to store energy. It is therefore a new energy vector providing us with the flexibility we need in a highly energy efficient renewables based system. It enables us relying exclusively on renewable energy sources. Therefore, a Clean Hydrogen Alliance composed of players from the hydrogen industry is not sufficient. We need an overarching alliance of solar, wind and hydrogen actors, as well as independent experts, in order to create a common framework, bringing together the different players of a same transition. 

Moreover, renewable energies enable us to produce and distribute energy on a local scale, which is essential to guarantee energy security and the sovereignty of all territories and citizen, who fully participate in the energy transition. Above all, the renewable energy market offers a huge opportunity for the creation of 9 million jobs worldwide over the next three years, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA/IMF report 18/06/20). 

Green hydrogen is also the key technology for European industry to become climate neutral, allowing the decarbonisation of hard-to-abate sectors. It should therefore be deployed in those industries that cannot be made more efficient or electrified – in heavy industries such as cement and steelmaking as well as non-electrifiable transport. Additionally, global market leadership on hydrogen-based technologies, such as electric furnaces, electrolysers, and processes that are ever more efficient puts our industry in a good position to lead in the transition. The EU needs to develop a robust industrial policy for renewables – encompassing both supply-side and demand-side policies as well as ensure their adequate representation in the upcoming EU Industrial Forum.

A chance for people, economy and planet

These are solid arguments to move forward to a greener future. We can achieve our climate targets while creating a great number of new jobs in Europe and invest in our technological leadership for the coming decades. This offers opportunities for better lives of our citizen; strengthen the economy, but also to halt runaway climate change. However, for this we need the EU to find both the courage and confidence to take the right decisions now, when we invest in crisis recovery. The time for the EU to lead on renewable energy and green hydrogen is now!

In order to break the current fossil fuel-based system’s dependency and to make the transition to renewable energies possible, no Euro from public funds should be spent on fossil fuels, including blue hydrogen generation and carbon storage technologies (CCS). Our carbon-intensive industrial model is becoming increasingly expensive, especially considering the negative externalities of CO2 emissions. We cannot afford sunk investments in stranded assets, such as CO2 and gas pipeline infrastructure redundant in a 2040 climate neutral economy. The cost of developing green hydrogen and renewables is cost-effective.  

A carbon-neutral EU by 2040

Finally, we want to emphasize the importance for all stakeholders to have their say in the development of green hydrogen: Industry, SMEs, NGOs, consumer associations, researchers and others. It is only through a democratic, comprehensive and inclusive approach in the development of green Hydrogen, as well as through prioritising energy efficiency and renewable energy expansion that the EU can become the first carbon neutral continent as early as 2040!

About the authors

Damien Carême and Henrike Hahn are MEPs with the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament. They are co-chairs of Group’s Green Industrial Policy Campaign.

Damien Carême and Henrike Hahn
Damien Carême and Henrike Hahn