Batteries and clean hydrogen at the core of a new European industrial policy. The experts speak

We asked a group of experts to share with us their insights on European industrial policy and how batteries and clean hydrogen will play a key role for a sustainable recovery.

«Excellent tools that Spain should integrate into a strategy for a sustainable economic recovery»

Alejandro Nuñez-Jiménez , Research Associate at ETH Zürich

Spain has been one of the hardest-hit countries by the Covid-19 pandemic in Europe. The courage that has gotten Spain through the darkest hours of the disease should evolve into a determination to a sustainable economic recovery. The European Commission’s push for the development of two new industries within the Union, through the European Battery Alliance and the Clean Hydrogen Alliance, that offer two pillars to set the foundations of that strategy.

The European Battery Alliance can ease the transition towards the production of electric vehicles in Spain. The shift away from traditional diesel and gas vehicles puts hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk. Actively participating in the European Battery Alliance contributes to protecting those jobs by ensuring that Spain does not fall behind its peers and remains an attractive location for car manufacturers. 

The Clean Hydrogen Alliance offers a chance for domestic economic recovery and increased regional geopolitical importance for Spain. Using renewable electricity to produce hydrogen is a promising path towards large-scale, clean hydrogen. It requires, however, vast amounts of wind and solar energy as well as the infrastructure necessary to transport it. A recent report published by researchers at Harvard points to the renewable energy resources and water endowment as well as the infrastructure potential of Spain to classify it as a potential regional leader for renewable hydrogen. To realize such potential, however, significant investments not only in hydrogen facilities but also in renewable energy projects are needed early on, for which the Clean Hydrogen Alliance could be an unrivalled catalyzer.[

Crises like the created by the Covid-19 pandemic, as tragic as they are, offer opportunities to accelerate change. The European Battery and the Clean Hydrogen alliances are excellent tools that Spain should integrate into a strategy for a sustainable economic recovery.

«Green hydrogen is a key energy vector to achieve carbon neutrality»

María Sicilia , Director of Strategy at Enagás

European industry fully supports the Clean Hydrogen Alliance in scaling up green hydrogen production and reducing its cost, thus contributing to Europe’s industrial leadership, the decarbonisation of the economy and to its economic recovery. It also represents a great opportunity for Spain, taking advantage of its great wind and solar potential, and the existing gas infrastructures for connecting production and consumption centres.

Green hydrogen is a key energy vector to achieve carbon neutrality, as it allows:

  • Meeting the demand for clean energy in hard-to-electrify sectors (e.g. the petrochemical industry, fertilizers, heavy duty transport, bunkering, etc.).
  •  Storing and managing large quantities of energy over long periods of time.
  • Injected and mixed in the gas network, reducing the carbon footprint of current uses of natural gas.

Enagás participates in the development of hydrogen as the «closing vector» of the energy system, with almost unlimited potential, capable of contributing to a zero carbon supply of all energy sectors. In this sense, it has recently presented the Green Crane project to the European Commission, together with Snam, the Italian TSO, which contemplates the definition of green hydrogen corridors from two of the Southern European countries most affected by the pandemic, towards the large consumption centres of Central and Northern Europe.

In Spain, the project integrates 5 hubs (defined as local and distributed economic clusters) in those regions where the energy transition may have the greatest impact, as is the case in Asturias, Castilla y León, the Basque Country and Aragon, or that due to their isolated character, they confront specific challenges to decarbonisation as is the case of the Balearic Islands.

The project convers developments throughout the entire value chain, from the production of hydrogen from renewable generation to final consumption in all possible sectors: transport, industry, residential&commercial and injection into the gas network.

«It is necessary to incorporate an inclusive perspective and to take women’s input into account»

Lina Gálvez , Member of the European Parliament

One of the most important elements included in the Recovery Plan presented by the European Commission on May 27 is the commitment to unlock investment in clean technologies for the sustainable energy transition. In particular, it identifies renewable energies and clean hydrogen as essential elements to achieve the decarbonisation of the economy.

While it is true that it is a step in the right direction towards the recovery of the industry, the creation of high-quality jobs and the European leadership in green technologies and sustainability, these are traditionally masculinized fields, as women only represent 32% of the workforce in the renewable energy sector. Therefore, it is necessary to incorporate, since it is not, an inclusive perspective and to take women’s input into account to ensure that the energy systems of the future address the needs of modern societies and the energy transition achieves a greater inclusion and equality.

A strong stimulus is needed to accelerate the energy transition, to achieve an ambitious climate target by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050. In order to carry out this ambitious plan, it is of outmost importance to accelerate research and innovation to develop renewable energy storage technologies, reduce clean hydrogen costs, to enhance performance of hydrogen technologies and fuel cells, one of the main obstacles for hydrogen’s large scale use and to maintain technological leadership in the face of strong international competition.

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In the Commission Plan, it is proposed to duplicate the support for the public-private partnership on clean hydrogen, Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, allocating 1.3€ billion of the EU budget, and to strengthen the collaboration with other partnership in Horizon Europe, the next EU framework program for research and innovation. Another measure included is to provide 10 billion euros in the next ten years, which implies co-financing, to reduce risks of large and complex projects such as hydrogen ones. 

In addition, the Commission announced the intention to launch the Clean Hydrogen Alliance, already included in the Industrial Strategy presented by the Commission in March 2020 and based on the existing European Battery Alliance, which would bring together investors with government, institutional and industrial partners.

Investing in science and innovation to develop clean technologies will be key for the recovery of the economy, to make it more resilient and sustainable, to mitigate job losses and create high-quality jobs and to achieve a green, inclusive and digital future for Europe.

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