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Crucial challenges are threatening Europe's green hydrogen plans due to uncertain dependence on imports

Europe faces significant obstacles in its ambitious plans to integrate green hydrogen into its energy mix, according to a recent report by Transport & Environment (T&E). The report reveals that most of the countries Europe plans to rely on for green hydrogen imports are not ready to scale up production, calling into question the feasibility of the targets set by the European Union (EU).

Despite the growing attention on hydrogen as a clean energy source, only 1% of planned green hydrogen production in the countries assessed has received funding. This raises doubts about Europe's ability to meet its production targets of 20 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen by 2030, with half coming from imports, according to the RepowerEU plan.

The analysis focused on six countries with significant plans to export hydrogen to the EU: Norway, Chile, Egypt, Morocco, Namibia and Oman. However, it is estimated that these countries combined would only be able to deliver a quarter of the 10 million tonnes of imports envisaged by RepowerEU.


 Source: Transport & Environment 


A key challenge identified in the report is the limited capacity of these countries to increase hydrogen production. Most of them rely heavily on fossil fuels and lack the infrastructure to export large quantities of hydrogen to Europe. Moreover, the lack of clean energy generation capacity and water scarcity raise additional concerns.

The report highlights that, apart from Norway, the other five countries lack significant renewable energy capacity. Namibia, in particular, is in an extreme situation, needing more than ten times the projected electricity demand by 2030 to meet its planned hydrogen exports to the EU.


 Source: Transport & Environment 


Another crucial challenge is the need for large quantities of water to produce hydrogen, and most of the countries analysed will face significant water scarcity in the coming decades.


 Source: Transport & Environment 


In terms of infrastructure, there is currently no established network for transporting hydrogen over long distances. Hydrogen pipelines could take years to build, highlighting the need to consider alternatives such as e-fuels for transport.

The report suggests that Europe could produce between 6 and 7.5 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen by 2030 domestically, which would be enough to meet the continent's needs if supply is limited to sectors with few alternatives, such as shipping, aviation and fertilisers.

Geert Decock, electricity and energy manager at T&E, emphasised the need for Europe to develop its own supply before relying on uncertain imports. In the longer term, hydrogen imports could play a more important role, but crucial conditions must be met to ensure the sustainability of these imports.

The report also highlights the potential to create 2 million jobs in hydrogen supply chains in the EU by 2030, based on investments already announced.


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