Renewable Hydrogen & Electrification
Renewable hydrogen is obtained from applying electricity to water, separating the hydrogen and oxygen, through a process known as electrolysis
Reaching climate-neutrality will require decarbonising a number of sectors that today rely on fossil fuels: the transport sector, which vastly still relies on oil byproducts; the low-temperature heating sector in buildings (in 2021, 39% of European households were still using gas boilers); the high-temperature heating sector in industry which still relies on coal, natural gas or fossil-based hydrogen; or the industrial sector which still relies on fossil-based hydrogen used as a feedstock in chemical processes.
Renewable-based electrification refers to the replacement of fossil fuel technologies with technologies that use renewable electricity as a source of energy. In a large amount of sectors, electrification is the most efficient way is to decarbonise. In the transport sector, electric engines offer high efficiency and are becoming more affordable thanks to the declining price of batteries. In the heating sector, electric heating solutions such as heat pumps are increasingly providing an alternative to conventional oil and gas boilers.
The deployment of these solutions together with renewables, especially distributed renewables, will be critical to ensure the decarbonisation of the sectors along the full value chain and their integration in the grid. SolarPower Europe, along with our partners, advocates for smart and renewable-based electrification, by mobilising the electricity industry in our Electrification Alliance and by joining the Platform for Electromobility.
In some sectors referred to as “hard-to-abate”, electrification is, for the moment, not technically possible or not cost-efficient – such as some maritime or aviation transport. Hydrogen, as well as its by-products called “e-fuels”, could represent an alternative. Yet, the vast majority of hydrogen production is based on fossil energy – coal or natural gas. This is what we refer to as “grey” hydrogen. A number of chemical industries already rely on this “grey” hydrogen for their industrial processes, and therefore need an alternative hydrogen produced in a less polluting way.
Renewable electrolytic hydrogen offers a solution. Electrolytic hydrogen refers to a new production technique using electrolysis, i.e. producing hydrogen from water and electricity. In order for this hydrogen to be called ‘renewable’, the electricity used for this process must come from renewable energy sources.
This is where solar energy comes into play: solar is already the most cost-efficient way to obtain electricity. The work of SolarPower Europe is thus oriented towards promoting vast deployment and commercialisation of renewable hydrogen, translating industries’ needs into policy messages for the EU institutions. This includes supporting the needs of end-users of renewable hydrogen in order to increase demand, and ensuring that clear and sound regulatory frameworks are established in order to allow the sector to develop.
Our work is also focused on ensuring fluent and constant communication with stakeholders and other institutions, which is why SolarPower Europe is involved in several policy initiatives like the Renewable Hydrogen Coalition and the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance. All of these efforts are directed to a successful deployment and commercialisation of renewable hydrogen, for which an ever-growing solar capacity is fundamental.
Electrification has a 30% higher energy efficiency than hydrogen in the passenger transport sector. It is five to six times more efficient in the residential heating sector.
The EU has committed to producing 10Mt of renewable hydrogen by 2030 to decarbonise the hard-to-electrify sectors, starting with sectors already using H2.
The renewable hydrogen sector will be more job-intensive than conventional hydrogen solutions and is estimated to provide 10,300 jobs per billion EUR invested.
REPowerEU establishes new targets for the use of Renewable Fuels of Non-Biological Origin (RFNBOs) by 2030: 75% of all hydrogen used in industry, and 5% of all fuels used in transport.
The Renewable Hydrogen & Electrification workstream
The Renewable Hydrogen workstream
SolarPower Europe’s Renewable Hydrogen & Electrification Workstream guides SolarPower Europe’s work on electrification and renewable hydrogen. It also strives to develop market and business intelligence on solar-to-hydrogen and renewable hydrogen, identifying the most promising business models and the means of accelerating the cost-reduction of electrolysis-based production. In close cooperation with high level industrial actors from across the EU, the workstream develops recommendations from the solar industry, to promote renewable hydrogen in key European policy files.
In addition to this, the Workstream helps to establish SolarPower Europe’s positions in different external Workstreams.
Firstly, SolarPower Europe is a member of key coalitions supporting electrification. The Electrification Alliance gathers leading electricity organisations advocating for regulatory reforms in order to accelerate the advancement of electrification in Europe and maximise the potential of decarbonised electricity. The Platform for Electromobility gathers industrial and civil society organisations committed to a future of electric transport, advocating for enabling transport and energy regulations that can boost electric mobility.
Secondly, SolarPower Europe is one of the three pillars of the Renewable Hydrogen Coalition, which promotes the critical role of renewable hydrogen in delivering the EU’s long-term decarbonisation goals. The Coalition is the voice of a high-level and interdisciplinary network of start-ups, investors, entrepreneurs, innovative companies and industrial off-takers, all dedicated to making Europe the global leader in renewable hydrogen solutions.
Last but not least, the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance, set up by the European Commission in 2020, aims for ambitious deployment of hydrogen technologies by 2030, bringing together renewable and low-carbon hydrogen production, demand in industry, mobility and other sectors, and hydrogen transmission and distribution. Within the Alliance, SolarPower Europe is the Facilitating Organisation of the Roundtable on Hydrogen Production.
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"This workstream has the ambition to raise the voice of the solar industry to deliver on a truly sustainable hydrogen sector development, with hydrogen from electrolysis with renewable electricity as a priority."
Interview with Matteo Moraschi, chair of the Renewable Hydrogen & Electrification Workstream
Hydrogen has been identified by the EU policy makers as a key component for the achievement of net zero by 2050. As a complement to direct electrification, its role will be in the decarbonization of hard-to-abate sectors, such as heavy industry, shipping and aviation. The upscale of renewable hydrogen being the long-term objective for Europe, this workstream has the ambition to raise the voice of the solar industry to deliver on a truly sustainable hydrogen sector development, with hydrogen from electrolysis with renewable electricity as a priority.Read the interview