Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.
A very warm welcome to the European Hydrogen Forum, and to the very first European Hydrogen Week!
With hydrogen, I see the beginnings of a revolution. And I see Europe leading it.
Right now, we have a perfect alignment of conditions for a new hydrogen economy in Europe. We have immediate opportunities on our hands. Some by design, some by circumstance.
First, we are just one year on from the announcement of the Green Deal - this Commissions’ guiding light and number one priority. Our eyes are firmly set on targets for transforming our energy system in Europe.
- One decade to reach a 55% reduction in emissions by 2030.
- One generation to reach a carbon neutral Europe by 2050.
Second, we are finding our way out of the COVID-19 crisis. And with the Recovery Plan for Europe, we have an exceptional opportunity for green investment. Not just to rebuild our economy, but to build back better.
And third, our position. When it comes to the hydrogen race, Europe is running down the track while other countries are still on the starting block. Partly because the EU is an industrial leader in electrolyser development. But also because of the demand we are already seeing for hydrogen-based applications. The announcement of Airbus to develop new zero-emission hydrogen-based airplanes is a prime example of our commitment to industrial leadership. And we are seeing opportunities in maritime transport as well like the Italian ship builder Fincantieri. They have started work on their first Zero Emission Ultimate Ship, or ZEUS. It will be an experimental fuel-cell powered marine vessel expected to land next year.
And in the German city of Meckenheim they have introduced a bus fleet of 35 fuel cell hybrid buses and two hydrogen refuelling stations. That is Europe’s largest fuel cell bus fleet and the first hydrogen infrastructure we are seeing for public transport.
These three aspects are what I mean by a perfect alignment of stars. We have the political, the financial and the market conditions in Europe to become the global powerhouse of hydrogen. The opportunity is there for the taking.
The question is are we ready to take it?
Let’s begin by looking at what we have done to date.
As I said, this is a European opportunity. So we have adopted a European approach by launching the EU Strategy for Hydrogen in July and with it the Clean Hydrogen Alliance.
The Strategy lays out our vision for quickly scaling up renewable hydrogen production, driving down the costs and boosting demand in hard-to-abate sectors.
And that vision comes with a set of ambitious targets:
6 GW of electrolysers installed by 2024, and 40 GW by 2030.
But, vision without action is just like daydreaming.
That’s why now - just four months after we launched our strategy - we are already ticking off the boxes on common rules and framework for our EU hydrogen market to emerge. Let me give you just a few examples.
First, we have started on infrastructure planning. Infrastructure is like the arteries and veins in a body. Only in this case, our body is Europe. And our lifeblood will be hydrogen, being transported around the body to where it is needed. We need to make sure that the infrastructure is in place to do that quickly and efficiently.
So right now we are finalising our proposal to revise the framework for trans-European energy network infrastructure to ensure we can plan, support and develop the hydrogen grids of the future in the EU.
Second, we are working on the certification of hydrogen. This will come with the Fit for 55 package planned for June 2021.
Third, we are reviewing the broader gas market rules. This is how we can facilitate the uptake of renewable and low-carbon gases already by the end of next year.
Beyond our actions at EU level, we are already seeing Member States embracing the challenge. Since we have launched our strategy, Spain and France have published their own hydrogen strategies, with Spain also including the development of green hydrogen in their recovery and resilience plan and several other Member States considering the same. Poland, Italy and Austria will follow in their footsteps with their own hydrogen strategies in the near future.
Portugal and the Netherlands are working together to develop a strategic export-important value chain for the production and transport of green hydrogen. And I know that Germany and France are planning to come together and jointly develop large-scale hydrogen projects across the full value chain. And my colleague Commissioner Breton will explore this further in the ministerial panel.
A cross-border collaborative approach will be key to developing our European hydrogen economy. And it is excellent to see countries around Europe are already embracing this way of working.
Hydrogen is also an opportunity for Europe beyond its borders. Developing hydrogen in isolation will not deliver the impact we need to reach our goals.
Europe is just one region in a global arena of growing interest in hydrogen. International cooperation will be key.
Developing a hydrogen economy will reshape our relationships with international partners. Until now, the EU has been a leading oil and gas importer. But as we pivot our energy trade relations towards cleaner fuels, we open up a new chance to stretch out our hand towards neighbouring countries and regions.
Many of our neighbours have excellent green hydrogen potential. Especially to the south.
By scaling up massively, our demand will soon far outweigh our domestic production levels in Europe. Luckily, we are well positioned to partner with those neighbours with endless sunshine and strong winds and the opportunity to derive cheap energy from both. Connecting our hydrogen economies means we can advance supply diversification and help design stable and secure supply chains.
I know that some Member States already plan to import hydrogen to meet that demand.
International cooperation is not just about our supply. It’s about optimising global playing field for all. What we are proposing is a global rules-based market for hydrogen. And at the heart of that market are harmonised safety and environmental standards.
It’s for all of these reasons that we intend to place hydrogen high on the agenda of the structured energy dialogues with other countries in all positions of the energy trade: exporters like the gulf region, importers like Korea and Japan, and those countries with one foot on each side. We are also strengthening our engagement in multilateral initiatives related to hydrogen, such as the International Partnership for Hydrogen in the Economy, the Hydrogen initiative of the Clean Energy Ministerial and the Mission Innovation on Clean Hydrogen.
Finally, we see great potential for the role of the euro as a reference currency in the international trade of sustainable energy. Now, we have the opportunity to develop the EU hydrogen economy into a reference market and establish a reliable benchmark for euro denominated transactions.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are talking about revolutionising our way of working, our emissions, our energy relations. Now we are in the eye of the perfect storm of conditions to make it happen.
But, this moment and these conditions will not last forever.
So I would encourage each and every one of you to make the most of this week, discussing, debating and coming up with the best ideas so we can develop a strong new hydrogen economy in Europe.
Thank you very much for your attention.