The implementation of solid showcase projects on an industrial scale is needed now that Germany is making progress in ramping up the hydrogen economy, according to E.ON’s second ‘H2-Bilanz’ report published on 21 April. The report is based on data from the Institute of Energy Economics at the University of Cologne and notes that many new projects are now being planned, which would significantly increase domestic electrolysis capacity. Moreover, these planned projects are on average significantly larger, and no longer serve only for testing and research purposes, but would also be suitable for the production of hydrogen on an industrial scale.

H2 generation capacity planned for 2030 has increased from 5.6 GW in July 2022 to 8.1 CW in February 2023. This shows that plans to build electrolysis plants to generate hydrogen are picking up speed, making the German government's goal of 10 GW installed capacity by 2030 seem more obtainable. However it is also true that no final investment decision has yet been made for most of the projects.

The increase in electrolysis capacity has also narrowed the expected import gap: while this was still 50.5 TWhours when the H2-Bilanz was first published in November 2022, E.ON now expects a gap of 43.5 TWh by 2030. This calculation is based on a hydrogen demand of 66 TWh by that year, based on the dena lead study ‘Aufbruch Klimaneutralität’.

However, there has been no tangible progress in developing the infrastructure. Although the planned hydrogen lines have increased from 2273 to 2813 km in six months, only 417 km of pure hydrogen lines are currently in operation across Germany.

E.ON board member Patrick Lammers: “It is gratifying that the planned generation capacity for hydrogen in Germany has increased and the expected import gap has narrowed. However, we must not rely on this initially positive development. The planning must be even more ambitious. Otherwise, unrealised projects or construction delays could quickly thwart the achievement of the 10 GW target. In addition, we still lack the infrastructure to transport hydrogen to customers. Germany must therefore now pursue its chosen path even more resolutely and consistently to give the nascent German and European hydrogen economy a real chance on the global market.”

E.ON still sees an urgent need for clarification, for example, in the framework conditions for the operation of hydrogen networks. Protracted discussions are fuelling uncertainty and thus slowing down the development of a hydrogen network. It is now important that a reliable legal framework is created in the short term to ensure that concrete investments can be made.

A first step has been taken. In February, the EU Commission published the long-awaited definition of when hydrogen is considered ‘green’. While this contains very complex requirements that will become even more stringent from 2029, it at least provides investors and industry with a necessary basis for developing a hydrogen market in Europe.