Hydrogen accounts for less than 2% of Europe’s present energy consumption and is primarily used to produce chemical products, such as plastics and fertilisers. 96% of this hydrogen production is produced through natural gas, emitting significant amounts of CO2 emissions in the process.
However, hydrogen can also be produced from renewable energy. Renewable hydrogen ('green' or 'clean' hydrogen) is crucial to meet our climate neutrality objectives and will play a key role in decarbonising sectors where other alternatives might not be feasible, or might be more expensive. These include heavy-duty transport applications and energy-intensive industrial processes.
Renewable hydrogen can be obtained via electrolysis by using renewable electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Renewable hydrogen can be used to replace fossil-based hydrogen for industrial processes (mostly ammonia production and refinery), in high-temperature industrial processes or to start new industrial products, such as green fertilisers and steel. It can also be used in the transport sector, especially in heavy-duty and long-distance trucks, buses, ships and planes.
Renewable hydrogen produced at times when solar and wind resources are abundantly available will also support our electricity sector, providing long-term and large-scale storage, and adding flexibility to the EU energy system.
Renewable hydrogen can help balance the supply and demand of electricity in isolated or stand-alone EU regions, or for specific and local uses concentrated in a city or other stand-alone areas.
EU hydrogen strategy
Hydrogen is an important part of the overall EU strategy for energy system integration. The dedicated strategy on hydrogen in the EU was adopted in 2020 and put forward a vision for the creation of a European hydrogen ecosystem from research and innovation to scale up production and infrastructure to an international dimension.
The strategy explores how producing and using renewable hydrogen can help decarbonise the EU economy in a cost-effective way, in line with the European Green Deal, and contribute to the post-COVID-19 economic recovery. It listed 20 action points that were all implemented by the second quarter of 2022.
The storage potential of hydrogen is particularly beneficial for power grids as it allows for renewable energy to be kept not only in large quantities, but also for long periods of time. This means that hydrogen can help improve the flexibility of energy systems by balancing out supply and demand when there is either too much or not enough power being generated, helping to boost energy efficiency throughout the EU.
Hydrogen Energy Network (HyENet)
The Hydrogen Energy Network is an informal group of representatives from the energy ministries in EU countries that aims to help national energy authorities build on the opportunities offered by hydrogen as an energy carrier. It acts as an informal platform to share information on good practice, experience and latest developments in hydrogen, and to work jointly on specific issues.
The Hydrogen Energy Network meetings take place twice a year.
European Clean Hydrogen Alliance
The European Clean Hydrogen Alliance was launched alongside the EU hydrogen strategy in 2020 as part of the new industrial strategy for the EU. It brings together industry, national and local authorities, civil society and other stakeholders.
The alliance’s objective is to achieve an ambitious deployment of hydrogen technologies by 2030 by bringing together renewable and low-carbon hydrogen production, demand in industry, transport and other sectors, and hydrogen transmission and distribution.
The EU promotes several research and innovation projects on hydrogen under Horizon Europe, which supports the Clean Hydrogen Partnership, a joint public-private partnership supported by the Commission.
- EnTEC study - The role of renewable H₂ import & storage to scale up the EU deployment of renewable H₂ - Publications Office of the EU (europa.eu) (March 2022)
- Report - Global Hydrogen Trade to Meet the 1.5°C Climate Goal: Technology Review of Hydrogen Carriers (IRENA, 2022)
- Report - Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation: The Hydrogen Factor (IRENA, 2022)
- Report - Assistance to the impact assessment for designing a regulatory framework hydrogen (December 2021)
- Study - METIS study on costs and benefits of a pan-European hydrogen infrastructure (December 2021)
- Report - Global Hydrogen Review 2021 (IEA, October 2021)
- Factsheet - The role of hydrogen in meeting our 2030 climate and energy targets (July 2021)
- Study - Role of hydrogen in National Energy and Climate Plans (by FCH JU, August 2020)
- Study - Hydrogen generation in Europe (July 2020)
- EU strategy on hydrogen COM(2020) 301 final (July 2020)
- Factsheet - EU hydrogen strategy (July 2020)
- Study - Impact of biomethane and hydrogen on trans-European infrastructure (April 2020)
- Hydrogen from renewable power – Technology outlook for the energy transition (December 2018, International Renewable Energy Agency)
- Press release - Decarbonising the gas market, promoting hydrogen, and tackling methane, Gas Markets factsheet (December 2021)
- Article - Hydrogen - driving the green revolution (available in EN | FR | DE | IT | ES | PL, April 2021)
- Press material on the hydrogen strategy (July 2020) - Press release, Q&A and video
- EU hydrogen strategy - roadmap
- EU strategy on energy system integration
- Clean Hydrogen Partnership
- Hydrogen Europe
- Hydrogen and fuel cells
- European Clean Hydrogen Alliance