The stipulation of the coalition agreement is clear: “The hydrogen strategy will be updated in 2022,” it says. The fact that nothing happened last year was partly due to the Ukrainian war and its aftermath. Secure power supply had priority. But there is another reason: the positions of the ministries involved are far apart, so it could take until March before the cabinet can approve a new version of the hydrogen strategy.

For this reason, many companies eagerly await the new edition. “It is crucial that we move quickly with the development of the hydrogen value chain,” said Katherina Reiche, a former government-appointed prime minister. National Hydrogen Council (NWR) and in his main job CEO of Westenergie AG, Handelsblatt.

Reich is convinced that the new strategy must also contain a response to the Americans Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The IRA, the US anti-inflation law, provides for billions in investments in climate protection.

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Reiche refers to the announcements of the President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen and the President of the Council of the EU, Charles Michel, who recently made it clear that they want a pragmatic and fast-acting solution similar to that of the Americans to move forward with investments in green technology. “The fascination of the IRA lies in its connectivity. Businesses and authorities can use the tools immediately. That streamlines the processes,” he said. EU state aid law urgently needs to be adjusted. “The corresponding considerations must be reflected in the update of the National Hydrogen Strategy,” Reiche demanded.

Habeck focuses on the steel industry

But at the moment there is nothing to suggest that the ministries can find a quick solution. Rather, they are arguing over the question of whether hydrogen should be reserved for certain application areas or whether it should be available for all applications, regardless of technology.

The Federal Ministry of Economics, led by Robert Habeck (Greens), wants to focus on the use of hydrogen where there are no alternatives.
>> Read also here: The hydrogen market is booming in the US.

The house is the center initially to the steel industry. come second backup power plants, which will always be used in the future when renewables are not supplying enough electricity. In a few years, enough hydrogen instead of natural gas should be available for these power plants. All other possible uses have no priority from the point of view of the economic department.

The Federal Ministry for the Environment, headed by the green politician Steffi Lemke, supports the course of the Ministry of Economics. Lemke’s house, for example, is locked has long opposed counting the use of climate-neutral hydrogen in the refinery process against the greenhouse gas reduction quota for fuels. In keeping with the hydrogen economy, the house is systematically trying to avoid using hydrogen through quotas and credit factors.

The Liberal-led Transport and Research Ministries, on the other hand, have a broader focus. As recently as Monday, the Federal Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) said with regard to synthetic fuels that are produced on the basis of hydrogen and are called e-fuels in technical jargon: “Here, too, we need openness to technology. We claim to be carbon neutral, but engineers are developing the plan and e-fuels are a way to save CO2 and be carbon neutral. That’s why we have to be brave and adapt the regulations.”

FDP bets on e-fuels and wider use of hydrogen

Stark-Watzinger wants to use e-fuels to reduce the CO2 emissions of the around 45 million vehicles with internal combustion engines in Germany. Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) also believes in the future of hydrogen as a source of energy for mobility and is particularly committed to fuel cells, which use hydrogen to operate. The house has been promoting research and application since the 1990s and, with NOW GmbH, maintains a company for the national innovation program for hydrogen and fuel cell technology.

Meanwhile, a national network of service stations has sprung up and Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) recently opened a service station that the federal government funded with €1.3 million.

>> Read also here: Car Summit: Combustion off ensures new Zoff

In this regard, transportation department officials were unpleasantly surprised when they read something about “prioritization” in the most recent draft of the hydrogen strategy. The economy department wrote in the draft that hydrogen should only be used in areas “that cannot be decarbonised in any other way”.

This refers to industrial sectors such as steel or cement, which have no other alternative than to use hydrogen for decarbonization. In the last round of voting at the secretary of state level, the transportation department protested.

Gas boiler that can run on hydrogen

There is debate within the federal government about the possible uses of hydrogen.

(Photo: obs)

Now the technically responsible Ministry of Economic Affairs has to revise the new version of the strategy again. In the economics department, it is said that departmental coordination is still in progress, the hydrogen strategy must be “quickly presented”. However, an exact date cannot yet be given.

A leadership conflict is latent between the ministries

Behind the problems is a fundamental dispute that has simmered for years. While the Greens consider hydrogen a rare commodity and therefore want to limit its use to a few fields, the FDP is betting that within a few years a liquid global market developed.

To support this development, the liberals want to send a clear signal: The industrial nation of Germany wants to buy climate-neutrally produced hydrogen, also in the automotive sector. The sign is intended to motivate other countries, for example in Africa, to invest in hydrogen production. Then a market arises in which only the price decides the use, not the state.

>> Read also here: How historian Adam Tooze thinks about Germany’s economic model

The option to run not only trucks but also cars on hydrogen in the future should remain an option. It also represents a possible solution for certain heat generation applications, for example in metal processing, in the zinc, glass, ceramics or food industry.

NWR boss Reiche therefore advocates a broad approach: “Take a holistic view of all sectors: industry, mobility, heat and power. Above all, openness to technology is the key,” Reiche said. “In the transport sector, it is like the thermal transition: the space for solutions must be exploited to the maximum,” he added.All production and energy processes that require gas in any form must be thought through and adjusted in terms of regulation. .

In the transport sector, hydrogen is often being tested as an energy of the future, even if it has a significantly worse energy balance than the electricity used directly, for example, in electric cars: be it in shipping, aviation, heavy commercial vehicles or trains. “Different technologies will be used for the various application areas: local, regional and long-distance transport,” says Dirk Engelhardt, CEO of the German Road Transport, Logistics and Disposal Association (BGL). “For shorter distances, it will be the electric truck. In long-distance transport, we tend to see an advantage in hydrogen trucks, if only because of the high weight of the battery.”

Manufacturers also do not want to do without hydrogen. “To achieve climate neutrality in traffic, we have to exploit the potential of all available technologies,” warns Hildegard Müller, President of the Association of Automobile Manufacturers. “Especially for emission-free heavy goods traffic, the fuel cell drive is increasingly becoming a tipping point.” Therefore, it is “a serious mistake to politically exclude a technology in advance”.
More: The energy transition is well below the objectives

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