Since Germany’s National Hydrogen Strategy (NHS) was presented in June, there has been a lot of discussion around it – mainly online – but what has been happening on the ground? How has the coronavirus affected developments in the country’s fledgling H2 economy? And what are the market opportunities for foreign partners in 2021 and beyond? These are just some of the burning questions that Werner Diwald, chairman of the German Hydrogen and Fuel-Cell Association (DWV), addresses in an exclusive interview conducted by The German Energy Solutions Initiative.
While the last six months have been taken up with regulatory issues, removing the barriers to widespread adoption of H2 in the domestic market and the allocation of support funds, the next phase will be about “implementation in the form of orders and real energy deliveries”, says the DWV boss. “We have to act now if Germany is to become or remain a global technology market leader.”
It is hard to overstate how central Germany’s H2 strategy is not only to Energiewende but also for achieving, what Diwald describes as “the possibility of a new German economic miracle.” Hydrogen produced from renewables is viewed as a silver bullet for sectors with heavy carbon emissions such as industry and transport, and the federal government has set out its intention to become a global leader in H2 technologies.
According to Diwald, Germany’s competence in systems solutions gives it the leading edge. “We are not just talking about electrolysis, but about a system of renewable energies, electrolysis and Fischer-Tropsch synthesis to produce e-fuels or feed hydrogen into gas pipelines… We have expertise in renewable energies and now electrolysis is being added,” he says.
The challenge now for the sector is “to scale up the process to serial production on an industrial scale with consistent quality.” Interestingly, he thinks the global pandemic has actually put German companies in a “good position” and hopes that they will be able “to turn concrete orders into reality in the summer of next year”.
Aside from exports, the DWV chairman also points to the huge opportunity for foreign producers of hydrogen to sell to Germany. The federal government anticipates a domestic demand for H2 of between 90–110 TerraWatt-hours (TWh) up to 2030. Germany’s ability to produce its own H2 is limited, however, and it will have to become a major importer. As such, it is actively pursuing international supply partnerships, for example, in southern and eastern Europe, North and West Africa and the Ukraine.