With more than 30 “hydrogen valleys” now up and running, Europe is learning valuable lessons that can inform global efforts to employ hydrogen as a source of energy, according to a new report.
Having established hydrogen valleys across the continent, Europe is at the forefront of the development of integrated hydrogen technologies and supply chains. Globally, other countries have followed suit, with new projects coming on stream on a regular basis. Furthermore, many more mature projects continue to expand in size and complexity.
These are some of the conclusions from our report Hydrogen Valleys - Insights into the emerging hydrogen economies around the world, which is based on data gathered through the Mission Innovation Hydrogen Valley Platform (H2V.eu), a global information-sharing website hosted by the FCH JU and funded by the European Union.
The FCH JU coined the term ‘hydrogen valleys’ in 2019 to describe the integration of hydrogen technologies, typically in a well-defined geographic area, such as an island, city, region or industrial cluster. We also supported and funded the first hydrogen valley in the North-Netherlands. Extensive use of hydrogen as a source of energy will help to decarbonise local economies and contribute to climate change targets.
The most complete hydrogen valleys cover the entire hydrogen supply chain, from production to final use in local manufacturing, transport and energy-storage sectors.
Factors for success
A key development is the growing private-sector enthusiasm for hydrogen valleys, which is a good indication of their long-term viability. In the past, projects were mostly driven by public authorities or public-private investments. Today, half of the ongoing projects are led by the private sector.
Despite this growth, our study found that barriers remain to building a successful and sustainable hydrogen valley, including funding gaps, which may need to be addressed by public and local funding support.
Clearly, project teams must also find customers for their green hydrogen production, preferably signing them up to long-term off-take contracts to make projects bankable. Ensuring the readiness of all fuel cell and hydrogen technologies is also important to inspire confidence. To that end, the FCH JU is supporting the development of the next generation of technologies/products.
In addition, hydrogen valley projects need efficient legal regulatory support in areas, such as carbon pricing, standardisation and the rapid issuing of permits. This last point is particularly concerning as almost 40% of hydrogen valleys still see securing regulatory provisions as a key challenge.
How we contribute
Going forward, the Mission Innovation Hydrogen Valley Platform will provide support for entrepreneurs and organisations that are developing their own projects. We have set it up as the go-to website delivering the latest information on hydrogen valley project development worldwide.
There is a wealth of information to mine – the platform has 3,500 data points and a range of in-depth best practice profiles. We also hope it acts as a project incubator while enabling collaboration between hydrogen valleys.
In fact, the platform has a matchmaking section that enables participants to get in touch personally with specific hydrogen valleys. In addition, the analysis section provides insights on project development, funding issues and the types of technologies being deployed in hydrogen valleys.
An international, collaborative approach
Hydrogen valleys have certainly become a global phenomenon. Our platform currently has details on 36 such ventures in 19 countries, delivering on combined investments of more than €36 billion. The variety of schemes shows just what can be achieved creatively to promote the clean energy transition.
New projects are being added to the platform all the time. Among four recent additions, the biggest is under development in the south Netherlands region. Dubbed as ‘Europe’s Hydrogen Hub’, it plans to produce over 3,000 tonnes of hydrogen every day for the energy, mobility and chemical sectors from the Port of Rotterdam through its hinterland, and across the neighbouring countries.
Check out the Basque Hydrogen Corridor, too, which will produce more than 50 tonnes of hydrogen every day to power local transport and for use in the local power grid. Hydrogen will also be supplied to local refineries and the steel industries. Meanwhile, a €2 billion project in Oman is producing 300 tonnes of hydrogen every day for export.
The EU is also engaged in developing the global hydrogen economy. The EU commitment is apparent through its participation and co-lead in the Clean Hydrogen Mission, launched on 2 June with 14 countries. Participants are committed to accelerating hydrogen innovation to achieve an affordable and reliable energy supply. This collaboration includes a target of at least 100 large-scale hydrogen valleys in place worldwide by 2030.
Some may wonder if sharing good practice with the rest of the world will weaken Europe’s lead in hydrogen technologies. However, at the FCH JU, we believe that collaborative efforts will serve to strengthen the entire global hydrogen economy, making a stronger more sustainable marketplace for this vital green energy solution.
Article by Bart Biebuyck, executive director of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU)
About the FCH JU
A unique public-private partnership, the FCH JU contributes to the development of sustainable and globally competitive FCH technology in Europe. By bringing together a wide range of industrial and scientific partners, it supports EU approaches on sustainable energy and transport, climate change and industrial competitiveness.