• The EU will announce a major push to promote green hydrogen as a replacement for polluting fuels used for transportation and industry.
  • Hydrogen is an important part of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s commitment to reaching climate-neutrality by 2050.
  • Governments will have to double what they charge polluters, Bloomberg reported, citing a BloombergNEF report. If those costs rise, power plants that run on hydrogen would be able to compete with those burning carbon-based fuels by 2050, the report said.

Hydrogen, the world’s most abundant element, may play a key role in the European Union’s effort to transform Europe into a carbon-neutral continent.

The EU will unveil a “clean hydrogen alliance” on Tuesday, along with a new industrial strategy following the model set by the European Battery Alliance, which received the equivalent of $3.7 billion in funding from Brussels in November and hopes to attract an additional $5.7 billion from the private sector. An EU official said clean hydrogen may become important in energy-intensive sectors such as transportation and heavy industries like steel.

Frans Timmermans and Thierry Breton, the European commissioners who supervise climate and industrial policy, have promoted hydrogen’s virtues during their first months in their roles. On March 4, the European Commission published a proposed Climate Law that would make the EU’s commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 legally binding. 

Hydrogen “will be strategically important for energy independence and the future of Europe,” Breton, the EU single market commissioner, told the Financial Times.

Interest in clean hydrogen as a replacement for fossil fuels is rising globally as governments come under pressure to cut both greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. The adoption of clean hydrogen has been stymied by the lower cost of the gas when its produced using energy-intensive methods. Greener hydrogen would be produced with excess renewable power.

Some of Europe’s biggest companies are investing in the area. Shell has started feasibility work on what would be the world’s biggest green hydrogen project. The plans would see between 3 gigawatts and 4 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity dedicated to manufacturing green energy being built off the Dutch coast in the North Sea by 2030. The project could grow to 10 gigawatts by 2040.

Shell Netherlands, Dutch gas grid operator Gasunie and the port of Groningen are the founding partners of the green hydrogen project, and want to develop a “European Hydrogen Valley.” German and Dutch officials have made proposals to develop a new hydrogen grid.

The Netherlands completed its first test of hydrogen train technology last weekend, as Dutch railways aim to follow their German counterparts and operate an all-hydrogen train. In September 2018, the world’s first purely hydrogen-powered passenger locomotive left a station in Germany and has operated on a line ever since. Hydrogen could be a popular, clean replacement for diesel on branch lines, where installing overhead electrified lines would be prohibitively expensive. 

 (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)