The future of hydrogen in Germany

The future of hydrogen in Germany

Frontier director, David Bothe, was recently invited to an expert hearing in front of the National Hydrogen Council of Germany, to deliver his thoughts on all things hydrogen.

The National Hydrogen Council was introduced last year, alongside the National Hydrogen Strategy, with their role centred on supporting the implementation of Germany’s hydrogen strategy.

Hydrogen will form a key part of the transition to renewable energy in Germany, but how can Germany ramp up its efforts to ensure the implementation of the hydrogen strategy is a success?

Hydrogen is primarily a platform technology

Hydrogen is going to be a platform technology on which multiple applications will be based and it is clear that if Germany is to move towards 100% renewable energy, the infrastructure underpinning the current energy system must become more interconnected. This concept is also known as ‘Sector coupling’, and can be achieved mostly via Power-to-X technologies, where the ‘X’ is gas, liquids or heat.

Whether or not there is future demand for hydrogen, may be less meaningful a conversation than first thought. Take broadband technology in the telecoms sector as an example. When it was first rolled out, 10-20Mbit was thought to be plenty. Fast-forward a few years, with streaming services being developed based on this platform, and now we talk about Gigabit. It is certainly possible that something similar could occur in the hydrogen sector, as it is hard to full predict the full, future use of hydrogen as a platform right now.

Investment incentives must be put in place

It is not the case that hydrogen is in scare supply, on the contrary, sources are plentiful and there are in fact numerous low-carbon hydrogen sources available.

This diversity of technologies is something the sector can build on and the competition generated between the various different sources of hydrogen, is likely to lead to a drive for innovation and efficacies gains. The ultimate aim would be a ‘colourful’ hydrogen world, where every source could participate and coupled with that investment incentives are needed to drive this innovation forward.

Security of demand and market development

Security of demand is the key component to ensure speedy market development of hydrogen technologies. Therefore, all potential demand sectors need to be activated and on board.

While there are ample sources of hydrogen, infrastructure to harness theses sources, transport and store hydrogen are scarce today and require investment. Long term security of demand is therefore key to build reliable business cases for the investment required.

The current discussion in Germany is based on channelling hydrogen only in certain sectors, for example, manufacturing. From an economic point of view, it is difficult to see how excluding other sectors where there is potential demand could accelerate the creation of a new industry. There are of course, sectors where there will be better and worse business cases for hydrogen but all of the ‘better’ cases should certainly be harnessed rather than only targeting individual sectors.

Frontier regularly advises on energy transition, sector coupling, hydrogen and on alternative fuels and combustibles. 

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