Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Germany has affirmed its climate leadership by announcing a plan to embrace a hydrogen powered future. But nobody can explain where they will get all the hydrogen.
Germany plans to spend billions funding green hydrogen
Up to 2030, Germany’s federal government wants to establish 5 GW in electrolysis capacity, only to be doubled again in the subsequent five years. The country acknowledges that it will also need outside help to achieve the goal.
BY MAZ PLECHINGER Published: 10.06.20 at 13:54
“As the first step in accelerating the market for hydrogen technologies, a strong, sustainable production and consumption – a ‘home market’ – is crucial. A robust national market will also create a signal effect for the use of hydrogen technologies internationally,” the federal government writes in the strategy.
Mainly in its steel and chemical sectors, Germany already uses significant volumes of industrial hydrogen, although the resource is currently derived from natural gas rather than renewable power and water.
Doesn’t cover requirement
Precisely how Germany will build the bridge to economic viability is not revealed in the plan, which does, however, mention that Berlin is considering a tax exemption for electricity used for hydrogen production – not least giving a tax pass to green H2 from the Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz (EEG) fee that’s used to finance the green energy transition and which had EUR 11 billion earmarked in connection with the economic recovery plan as an aid ceiling.
Another top limit is how much green hydrogen Germany will be able to produce itself. When the offshore wind build-out target for 2030 was recently raised by 5 GW to 15 GW, and the 52 GW solar cap was scrapped, green hydrogen production was one factor given consideration.
But even though 5 GW of electrolysis in the hydrogen strategy multiplies current domestic capacity 200 fold, the government says this is grossly inadequate to cover demand. According to the strategy, 5 GW of electrolysis is enough to produce 14 TWh made from 20 TWh of renewable energy – while the requirement for the resource is estimated to be 90-110 TWh.
…Read more: https://energywatch.eu/EnergyNews/Policy___Trading/article12209986.ece
The renewable energy powered hydrogen economy takes expensive renewable electricity, and discards 60% of the energy in the form of conversion losses. Ignoring compression, storage and transport losses;
40% efficiency end to end hydrogen conversion makes hydrogen at least 2.5x more expensive than the original renewable energy used to produce the hydrogen (1 / 0.4 = 2.5).
There are lots of wild claims these days that renewables are incredibly cheap – but renewables still seem to require a lot of government life support, either directly through subsidies or by forcing distributors to purchase a fixed quota of renewable energy.
No doubt adding the expense of converting the electricity to hydrogen and back to electricity will make it all better.
“But despite being a promising energy carrier in a low-carbon energy system, green hydrogen is still facing significant technical and commercial challenges. Its disadvantages like weak energy efficiency and huge infrastructure requirements could be overwhelming outside a few core uses.“