“We want to become the world number 1 in hydrogen technology. This is the first sentence of the press release by German Minister Peter Altmaier (energy and economic affairs), which says a lot about Germany’s hydrogen ambitions. Berlin desperately wants to avoid missing the boat on this key technology “and therefore allocates 8 billion euros to support 62 hydrogen projects.
At the press conference, he held up a nice card with all the projects marked on it. What emerges from the outset is that there are relatively many projects in the former coal regions along the Dutch border and in the east of the country. Northern Germany is also well connected. This is due to the fact that there are many offshore wind projects nearby that would provide the electricity needed for the production of hydrogen.
Altmaier is hoping that government subsidies will have some kind of fly-in effect, where every billion euros from government should lead the private sector to invest four times that amount. This means that the total amount of the investment could reach around 33 billion euros in the coming years.
Subscribe to IO on Telegram!
It is a form of industrial policy which, according to Altmaier, is unique in its scope. And very much in the interests of all Europeans. “With this we are taking a big step towards a climate neutral industry,” he said. All the projects were therefore baptized IPCEI (Important project of common European interest).
Meanwhile, there are a lot of doubts in the scientific community as to the importance of the role that hydrogen will actually play. It is true that it is considered a proven technology for temporarily storing green energy for later use. However, it is also an expensive technique and not particularly efficient, as a lot of energy is wasted in converting green electricity to hydrogen and vice versa.
However, the German government expects technological innovations to overcome many of the drawbacks of hydrogen. In addition, hydrogen – as almost all experts agree – is essential for a CO2 neutral heavy industry and logistics sector.
Steel, chemicals and cars
This is also reflected in the projects supported. For example, almost all steel companies participate, including Arcelor Mittal, Stahl Holding Saar, Salzgitter and Thyssenkrupp. The same goes for the chemical sector and other energy consumers like BASF and Siemens.
On the North Sea coast, the Dutch company Shell is involved in a project with Vattenfall, Mitsubishi and Wärme Hamburg. The Bavarian manufacturer BMW is getting to work to set up a national infrastructure of petrol stations. Of course, a lot of money is also going to tech companies like Bosch that will focus on improving fuel cells and hydrogen engines, for example.
The funds come not only from the Ministry of Economy and Energy, but also from the Ministry of Transport and the various German Länder. The contribution is respectively 4.4 billion, 1.4 billion and 2.2 billion euros.
A full overview of the projects can be found here and other hydrogen-themed articles here.