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 through natural gas, resulting in significant amounts of CO2 emissions.
Renewable hydrogen can be obtained via electrolysis using renewable electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. It will play a key role in decarbonising sectors where other alternatives might be unfeasible or more expensive. It can be used to replace fossil-based hydrogen for transport and industrial processes, and to start new industrial products, such as green fertilisers and steel.
When produced at times when solar and wind energy resources are abundantly available, renewable hydrogen can also support the EU’s electricity sector, providing long-term and large-scale storage. 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.
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 explored 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 implemented by the second quarter of 2022.
With the publication of the REPowerEU plan in May 2022, the European Commission completes the implementation of the European hydrogen strategy while further increasing the European ambitions for renewable hydrogen as an important energy carrier to move away from Russia fossil fuel imports.
In a Staff Working Document accompanying the REPowerEU plan, the Commission outlines a ‘hydrogen accelerator’ concept to scale up the deployment of renewable hydrogen, which will contribute to accelerating the EU’s energy transition and decarbonising the EU’s energy system. The REPowerEU plan’s ambition is to produce 10 million tonnes and import 10 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen in the EU by 2030 – a substantial increase from the 5.6 million tonnes foreseen within the revised Renewable Energy Directive, published in July 2021.
The focus of these actions is to accelerate the uptake of renewable hydrogen, ammonia and other derivatives in hard-to-decarbonise sectors, such as transport, and in energy-intensive industrial processes. Scaling up the development of hydrogen infrastructure and supporting hydrogen investments are also identified as key areas to support hydrogen uptake in the EU.
In May 2022, the Commission launched two consultations on two delegated acts clarifying EU rules applicable to renewable hydrogen under the 2018 Renewable Energy Directive. The first proposal covers renewable fuels of non-biological origin and sets the criteria for products that fall under the ‘renewable hydrogen’ category. The second proposal puts forward a detailed scheme to calculate the life-cycle emissions of renewable hydrogen and recycled carbon fuels to meet the greenhouse gas emission reduction threshold set in the Renewable Energy Directive.
The REPowerEU plan also commits to complete the first Important Project of Common European Interest on hydrogen, the so-called IPCEI Hy2Tech, which aims at developing innovative technologies for the hydrogen value chain to decarbonise industrial processes and mobility. The 41 hydrogen projects under the IPCEI Hy2Tech were approved in July 2022.
Within the hydrogen accelerator measures, the Commission proposes to establish a global European hydrogen facility to create investment security and business opportunities for European and global renewable hydrogen production. To this end, green hydrogen partnerships will also facilitate the promotion of the import of renewable hydrogen from third countries and contribute to incentivising decarbonisation. Together, the global European hydrogen facility and the green hydrogen partnerships aim at delivering a framework to ensure that partnerships established by the EU countries and the industry provide a level-playing field between EU production and third-country imports.
Hydrogen Energy Network
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 European Clean Hydrogen Alliance will also host the 'Electrolyser Partnership' to bring together electrolyser manufacturers and suppliers of components and materials to achieve a combined annual electrolyser manufacturing capacity of 17.5 GW by 2025 in Europe.
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.
- Staff Working Document – Investment needs, hydrogen accelerator and achieving the bio-methane targets (SWD/2022/230 final)
- 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: Green Hydrogen Cost and Potential (IRENA, May 2022)
- Report - Global Hydrogen Trade to Meet the 1.5°C Climate Goal: Technology Review of Hydrogen Carriers (IRENA, April 2022)
- Report - Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation: The Hydrogen Factor (IRENA, January 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)
- Communication - REPowerEU plan (COM/2022/230 final)
- 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
- Key actions of the EU Hydrogen Strategy
- EU hydrogen strategy - roadmap
- EU strategy on energy system integration
- Clean Hydrogen Partnership
- Hydrogen Europe
- Hydrogen and fuel cells
- European Clean Hydrogen Alliance
- Hydrogen Public Funding Compass