European Hydrogen Forum: Europe must work to keep its lead in hydrogen energy

“The world is moving ahead on the need to decarbonise and the need to commit to climate neutrality — so in that context the importance of hydrogen increases on almost a daily basis,” said Frans Timmermans, the European Commission’s Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, at the opening session of the 2020 European Hydrogen Forum, jointly organised by the European Commission and the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), in partnership with Hydrogen Europe and Hydrogen Europe Research. “Hydrogen rocks!” he added, noting that Europe must have the self-confidence to move forward or risk losing momentum in the race to place hydrogen at the forefront of clean energy development.

Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton said: “Clean hydrogen plays a key role in the race to decarbonise numerous sectors of our economy. As a central element of the European Green Deal, renewable and low carbon hydrogen will not only contribute to the green energy transition, but also represent significant business opportunities for EU companies. Member States should use the national recovery funds wisely to help lay the foundation of hydrogen markets and cross-border infrastructure in Europe.”

Over 3 500 delegates from industry, research, academia, the EU, and national and local authorities logged in to the European Hydrogen Forum’s first day of activities with the theme ‘Kick-starting the EU hydrogen industry to achieve the EU climate goals’. They participated in panel discussions, smart talks and hundreds of matchmaking on the deployment of clean hydrogen, building links between EU funding and financing instruments, and driving innovation through dedicated research projects.

Bart Biebuyck, Executive Director, Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), opened the event and welcomed participants: “I am proud to welcome you to this first edition of the European Hydrogen Week. Hydrogen’s momentum has been growing considerably in the last months and it’s great to see industry’s commitment to it in our event of the year. Together with the Clean Hydrogen Alliance, at FCH we look forward to continuing supporting European leadership in hydrogen technologies through all our research projects.”

The event also serves as an annual forum for all the members of the recently launched European Clean Hydrogen Alliance.

The Commission’s Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said: “The Alliance will help build up a robust pipeline of investment and support for scaling up the hydrogen value chain across Europe”. He added: “Since 8 July more than 800 organisations have joined the Alliance – nobody would have dreamed of this success before. The work of the alliance is now entering a crucial phase with six thematic round tables starting very soon.”

In her opening remarks, Kadri Simson, Commissioner for Energy, said: “With hydrogen, I see the very beginning of a revolution and I see Europe leading it. Right now we have a perfect alignment of conditions for a new hydrogen economy in Europe.” She added: “We are finding our way out of the COVID-19 crisis. And with the Recovery Plan for Europe, we have an exceptional opportunity for green investment. Not just to rebuild our economy, but to build back better. When it comes to the hydrogen, Europe is running down the track while other countries are still on the starting block.”

Valerie Bouillon-Delporte, Chair of the FCHJU Governing Board, President of Hydrogen Europe, added: “We are at a cross-road right now — the next three to five years will be a massive period for hydrogen. The real test will be the implementation of concrete projects. Let’s not forget the ongoing need for innovation and research, and it goes without saying that this dramatic and systemic change to our energy system needs permanent readiness to integrate innovative methods.”

Helping Europe recover

Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market chaired Ministerial Round Table, which discussed the role of hydrogen in recovery plans from the COVID pandemic with contributions from Germany, Portugal, Spain and France. Commissioner Breton noted that the EU’s response to the crisis is unprecedented and that the recovery and resilience facility is a massive macro-economic stimulus for the economy. Recovery should be seen as a unique opportunity to speed up Europe’s efforts to make industry greener and more resilient.
Commissioner Breton said: “We have a high ambition for green transition and our plans for a zero carbon future also need a market expansion of clean technologies, including of course clean hydrogen. Clean hydrogen is a perfect example of how investment in the green transition can create opportunities for economic growth and quality employment.”

Jens Geier, MEP, and Rapporteur for “A Hydrogen Strategy for a Climate-neutral Europe”, ITRE Committee noted in a message to delegates that work needs to be done to create security for investors and to develop robust regulations and standards.
“Europe is world market leader in hydrogen and we are convinced that it should stay that way,” said Geier. “Hydrogen can play a very important role when it comes to decarbonisation of the economy and transport, and we want to create the circumstances to make this possible.”

Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, emphasised the need to speed up the transfer of research and innovation results into the wider economy. “This will be done by jointly developing with Member States and stakeholders a common industrial technology roadmap,” said Gabriel.
She added that in the context of proposed Horizon Europe partnerships for clean hydrogen “there is a need to step-up coordination efforts in the European research and innovation landscape, defining high-impact projects across the hydrogen value chain in the context of the European recovery plans”.

Game changer

Kerstin Jorna provided a wrap-up of the first day.  She said: “Hydrogen is the missing link for the deep decarbonisation of our economy, particularly for the hard to abate sectors like steel, chemicals and long-distance mobility.”
Jorna also noted that Europe is leading the hydrogen revolution, not just in terms of technological leadership but in also in strategy. She added: “The Hydrogen Alliance is a game changer — it’s about cooperation across the value chain, across borders, between public and private organisations and civil society. I am really pleased so many organisations have come together. After today I feel all the ingredients are there to make hydrogen a flagship for recovery.”

Read the full press release here.

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