In 2022, hydrogen accounted for less than 2% of Europe’s energy consumption and was primarily used to produce chemical products, such as plastics and fertilisers. 96% of this hydrogen was produced with natural gas, resulting in significant amounts of CO2 emissions.
The priority for the EU is to develop renewable hydrogen and it aims to produce 10 million tonnes and import 10 million tonnes by 2030.
Renewable hydrogen can be obtained via electrolysis using renewable electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen and is referred to as ‘renewable fuels of non-biological origin’. 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 renewable 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
The EU strategy on hydrogen (COM/2020/301) was adopted in 2020 and suggested policy action points in 5 areas: investment support; support production and demand; creating a hydrogen market and infrastructure; research and cooperation and international cooperation
The full list of 20 key actions was implemented by the first quarter of 2022. Hydrogen is also an important part of the EU strategy for energy system integration.
Since, the Fit-for-55 package (July 2021) has put forward a number of legislative proposals that translate the European hydrogen strategy into concrete European hydrogen policy framework. This includes proposals to set targets for the uptake of renewable hydrogen in industry and transport by 2030. It also includes the Hydrogen and decarbonised gas market package (COM/2021/803 final and COM/2021/804 final), which puts forward proposals to support the creation of optimum and dedicated infrastructure for hydrogen, as well as an efficient hydrogen market.
Furthermore, the recovery plan NextGenerationEU has been made available to EU countries to invest in hydrogen projects across the value chain.
Investment support has also been provided through the Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEIs) on hydrogen. The first IPCEI, called "IPCEI Hy2Tech", which includes 41 projects and was approved in July 2022, aims at developing innovative technologies for the hydrogen value chain to decarbonise industrial processes and the mobility sector, with a focus on end-users.
In September 2022, the Commission approved "IPCEI Hy2Use", which complements IPCEI Hy2Tech and which will support the construction of hydrogen-related infrastructure and the development of innovative and more sustainable technologies for the integration of hydrogen into the industrial sector. Finally, the Clean Hydrogen Partnership was established in November 2021 (taking over from FCH 2 JU) to support research and innovation in the hydrogen ecosystem.
The policy framework was completed with 2 delegated acts, formally adopted on 20 June 2023, applicable to renewable hydrogen under the 2018 Renewable Energy Directive. The first one covers renewable fuels of non-biological origin (RFNBOs) and sets the criteria for products that fall under the ‘renewable hydrogen’ category. The other one 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 directive.
With the publication of the REPowerEU plan in May 2022, the Commission complements the implementation of the EU hydrogen strategy to further increase the European ambitions for renewable hydrogen as an important energy carrier to move away from Russia's fossil fuel imports.
In the Staff Working Document (SWD/2022/230) accompanying the plan, the Commission outlines a ‘hydrogen accelerator’ concept to scale up the deployment of renewable hydrogen, which will contribute to accelerating the energy transition and decarbonising the EU’s energy system.
The ambition is to produce 10 million tonnes and import 10 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen in the EU by 2030.
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.
European Hydrogen Bank
Within the hydrogen accelerator measures, the Commission has proposed to establish a global European hydrogen facility to create investment security and business opportunities for European and global renewable hydrogen production. President Von der Leyen announced a European Hydrogen Bank in her State of the Union speech in 2022 and the initiative was included in the Commission work programme for 2023.
The Communication on the European Hydrogen Bank (COM/2023/156), published on 16 March 2023, describes its concept, tasks and structure. The European Hydrogen Bank is a financing instrument run internally by Commission services. It is not designed to be a physical institution. The main objective of the facility is to unlock private investments in hydrogen value chains, both domestically and in third countries, by connecting renewable energy supply to EU demand and addressing the initial investment challenges. It will establish an initial market for renewable hydrogen, offering new growth opportunities and jobs. On 23 November 2023, a pilot auction (competitive bidding) was launched under the Innovation Fund, supporting the production of renewable hydrogen for European consumers. The terms and conditions for the pilot auction were published by the Commission on 30 August, allowing potential bidders to start preparing.
Furthermore, green hydrogen partnerships will facilitate the promotion of the import of renewable hydrogen from third countries and contribute to incentivising decarbonisation. Together, the European Hydrogen Bank 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 practices, experience and the latest developments in hydrogen, and to work jointly on specific issues.
The Hydrogen Energy Network meetings take place twice a year.
EU hydrogen initiatives
The EU has launched and promotes several industrial, funding and research and innovation initiatives on hydrogen.
Clean Hydrogen Partnership
The Clean Hydrogen Partnership (2021-2027) is a joint public-private partnership supported by the Commission, through Horizon Europe. It builds upon the success of its predecessor, the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking and includes also the Hydrogen Valleys Platform, an EU led-initiative under Mission Innovation. On 1 March 2023, the Commission and key stakeholders signed a joint declaration on renewable hydrogen research and innovation, committing to step up and accelerate joint action in research, development, demonstration and deployment of Hydrogen Valleys.
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.
It also hosts 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.
- Hydrogen Public Funding Compass
The Hydrogen Public Funding Compass is an online guide for stakeholders to identify public funding sources for hydrogen projects and it provides information on all the EU programmes and funds (2021-2027) that are relevant for the sector.
- European Hydrogen Bank web news, factsheet ‘Boosting hydrogen through a European Hydrogen Bank’ (16 March 2023)
- Commission sets out rules for renewable hydrogen (13 February 2023)
- Decarbonising the gas market, promoting hydrogen, and tackling methane, Gas Markets factsheet (15 December 2021)
- Commission proposes transformation of the EU economy and society to meet climate ambitions, fact sheet ‘The role of hydrogen in meeting our 2030 climate and energy targets’ (14 July 2021)
- EU hydrogen strategy, Question & Answers, factsheet and video (8 July 2020)
- Hydrogen delegated acts
- Studies on hydrogen 2020-2023
- Commission Communication on the EU Hydrogen Bank (COM(2023) 156)
- Factsheet: Building a European research area for clean hydrogen (DG Research and Innovation - 2022)
- REPowerEU plan (COM/2022/230 final) and Investment needs, hydrogen accelerator and achieving the bio-methane targets (SWD/2022/230 final) - May 2022
- In focus article: Hydrogen - driving the green revolution (available in EN | FR | DE | IT | ES | PL April 2021)
- EU strategy on hydrogen COM(2020) 301 final (July 2020)
- EU strategy on energy system integration COM(2020) 299 final, July 2020)
- Clean Hydrogen Partnership
- Hydrogen and fuel cells (EU Science Hub)
- European Clean Hydrogen Alliance
- Hydrogen Public Funding Compass
- IRENA reports
- Hydrogen Europe Research
- Hydrogen Europe