Zwei Schiffe im Hafen

13.07.21 Hydrogen networks for a climate-neutral industrial country Author: Dr. Stefan Kaufmann • Reading time: 3 min.

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Germany is to become a hydrogen republic. Why? Because, to us, climate protection and economic strength are connected, and we want to turn Germany into a climate-neutral industrialized nation by 2045. How will we achieve this? With courage to embrace new and renewable energy sources in the form of electricity and hydrogen. We need strong networks to supply all aspects of our lives and economic activity with green energy. For this reason, we must build a hydrogen infrastructure now, rapidly and with a clear focus on our climate targets. Here are four theses for how we can achieve this:

Thesis 1: Plan the construction of hydrogen networks dependably

We need dependability so that the necessary investment in climate-friendly, hydrogen-based applications can be prepared – the ability to depend on hydrogen being available in sufficient quantities where it is needed. At the present stage, when green hydrogen is initially available in manageable, gradually rising volumes, we are creating this dependability by prioritizing. What does this actually mean? As a first step, we should promote hydrogen backbones between central production regions and large-scale consumers in the steel and chemical industries. This is where the leverage for climate protection is greatest. The high demand in those industries will also result in a strong boost for scaling – and thus to cost degression in hydrogen production. We can then build on that to approach the next stages in development appropriately and flexibly.

Thesis 2: Think about hydrogen infrastructure on a European and international scale

Dr. Stefan Kaufmann (member of the German Bundestag), Innovation Commissioner for "Green Hydrogen"

Demand for hydrogen in Germany will also significantly exceed domestic production capabilities in the long term. Therefore, we have to think about the hydrogen infrastructure on a European and international scale from the outset. Within Europe, we have great potential for connecting production sites in southern Europe, for example, by pipeline with industrial regions in central Europe. What we need here is a common, European approach – a hydrogen union. At the same time, we have to prepare for imports from overseas. We need ports where we can land hydrogen, hold it in interim storage, convert it and then transport it further. And, of course, we must first build up supply chains from Africa, Australia, and South America. In addition, absolutely crucial requirements for international trade are technical standards and transparent certification on sustainability and the climate footprint.

Thesis 3: Design energy networks in an integrated way

What will distinguish the climate-neutral future will be a clear linking between sectors, along with direct and indirect electrification of all application sectors. For this reason, we need integrated and dynamic development of energy networks. Through systemic optimization, we can, for example, use the hydrogen network to make up for bottlenecks in the power grid or identify suitable locations for electrolyzers. In addition, we have to make advance plans for switching parts of the natural gas system to hydrogen. In this process, however, we should not think about the energy network of the climate-neutral future solely on the basis of the present infrastructure. Where the existing infrastructure leads to inefficient lock-ins, we have to clear the way for innovations and new approaches.

Thesis 4: Shape the hydrogen infrastructure in a scientifically sound manner and with innovations

Dr. Stefan Kaufmann (member of the German Bundestag), Innovation Commissioner for "Green Hydrogen"

The hydrogen infrastructure of the future will be internationally focused and linked up with other energy networks. However, many details remain open, and a number of challenges have to be overcome. Research and innovation are the solution here. For this reason, the Federal Ministry of Research is making massive investments in hydrogen research. For example, the hydrogen lead project TransHyDE is examining various options for transportation and storage – hydrogen carriers like LOHCs and ammonia, shipping in liquefied form, and distribution through pipelines. Through targeted research and practical testing, the participating partners from industry and research are laying the technological foundations for an efficient hydrogen supply. Our international cooperation projects like “Potenzialatlas Grüner Wasserstoff Afrika ,” or HySupply and HyGate with Australia, are in turn preparing sustainable value and supply chains. In this way, we are laying down innovation milestones for the creation of a hydrogen economy.

More information

Dr. Stefan Kaufmann in front of the German Bundestag

Dr. Stefan Kaufmann (member of the German Bundestag), Innovation Commissioner for "Green Hydrogen"

Dr. Stefan Kaufmann (CDU member of the German Bundestag) has been Innovation Commissioner for Green Hydrogen at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) since June 19, 2020. Prior to this, the fully qualified lawyer was chair of the Study Commission “Vocational Training in the Digital Work Environment” and CDU/CSU spokesperson on the Bundestag’s Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment. Kaufmann has been a member of parliament since 2009 and has also been a regular member of the Research Committee since then.


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