Dear state-minister, representatives of Shell, people from the Joint Undertaking (Bart),
It is my pleasure to be here at the construction site of the world’s largest PEM hydrogen electrolysis plant. I think it is symbolic, that we managed to come here just a few days after the start of the German Presidency at the Council of the EU and only two days before the European Commission is going to adopt the strategies for Energy System Integration and Hydrogen.
As you all know, the project at hand is a great example of partnership between the European Commission and European industry and researchers. It is this kind of co-operation, which will help us in our quest towards greener and cleaner energy systems. If we want a better, more sustainable future, we need new exciting solutions such as clean hydrogen.
Never before in Europe have we seen such a level of interest about hydrogen as we have today. The reason is twofold: we need hydrogen to achieve climate-neutrality and we should use this opportunity to invest in the clean energy technologies, to restart the economy and promote innovation after the devastating economic effects of the COVID crisis.
Hydrogen can be used as a feedstock, a fuel or an energy carrier and storage, and it has many possible applications across industry, transport, power and buildings sectors. Most importantly, it does not emit CO2 and gives out almost no air pollution when used. It thus offers a solution to decarbonise the industry and economic sectors where reducing carbon emissions is both urgent and hard to achieve. All this makes hydrogen essential in my eyes to support EU’s commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
You know better than anyone that clean hydrogen has massive potential. Yet, today, hydrogen represents a modest fraction of the global and EU energy mix, and is still largely produced from fossil fuels – from natural gas or from coal. For hydrogen to contribute to climate neutrality, it needs to achieve a far larger scale and its production must become fully decarbonised. It needs our full attention!
Our focus is renewable hydrogen, because it brings the biggest added value: it is fully emission-free, it helps manage our electricity system and EU industry has global leadership in the production of electrolysers. In order to upscale demand for green hydrogen, we need to take industry on board and they need security of supply. Here, other types of low-carbon hydrogen can play a role, to contribute to the transition and to the development of a hydrogen economy.
There is a lot to be learned from the corona crisis that hit us and that has held the world at its grasp for the past months. For one, we can be proud that the EU’s energy sector was well prepared for the crisis and weathered even the worst moments without any disruptions of supply.
At the same time, it is clear that we need to do more, to be ready for the demands of the future. Our energy system needs to be greener, smarter, more effective and less wasteful. With projects like RefHyne and initiatives like the ones the European Commission presents on this Wednesday, we will reach the future we are striving for.