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Not Only "Champagne of the Energy Transition" - Hydrogen Finally Becomes Central Pillar of Climate Policy

Important step by the German government toward pragmatism - A smart carbon strategy must follow in fall.

The significance of the Federal Cabinet's decision to update the National Hydrogen Strategy cannot be overestimated. It marks a turn toward pragmatism and openness to innovation. At long last, it could bring about the long-awaited hydrogen ramp-up. It's not too late, but it's long overdue: The new strategy cuts out old habits and puts energy and climate policy on a realistic transformation path. The new strategy is good for Germany:

  • It puts an end to the "All Electric" or "Almost All Electric" strategy that had characterized climate protection policy for a long time. Hydrogen is no longer just the "champagne" of the energy transition, but will become a central component. It was an illusion to believe that an energy system consisting of 80% molecules and 20% electrons could be reversed in a few years by "ordre de mufti" alone.

  • It enables the use of hydrogen for industrial applications, but also for the heat market and transport. Accordingly, the government increases the demand forecast for hydrogen and its derivatives to 95-130 terrawatt hours.

  • It puts an end to the spectre of dismantling the gas networks, which would have created billions in graves. Instead, it relies - wherever possible - on the use of existing gas infrastructure by using it for hydrogen. It supports the construction of long-distance hydrogen networks and a hydrogen import structure by adapting LNG natural gas terminals for the use of hydrogen or derivatives such as ammonia or synthetic methane.

  • It renounces the hydrogen color doctrine, practiced almost exclusively in Germany, which had so far slowed down a rapid ramp-up of the hydrogen market. Green hydrogen produced from renewable energies has priority and is explicitly promoted, but other "colors" are also welcome in Germany. This turnaround has been on the horizon for some time.

  • It is positive that, in addition to the export of hydrogen, domestic production is also being expanded. A clear export and storage strategy should be the next steps.

Alongside renewables, which remain the mainstay of the energy transition, climate-neutral "green gases" are now being recognized as a mainstay of climate policy. The support of companies such as Salzgitter and thyssenkrupp for the production of "green steel" using hydrogen is also evidence of this. However, it must not stop at such "lighthouse projects"; what is important is the predictability of the regulatory framework for industry. Only then will the ramp-up succeed and be sustainable.

If the German government follows up this important step in the fall with an equally smart carbon management strategy - i.e., opening the door to CCS/CCU and the transport of carbon dioxide - it may yet be possible to achieve the climate targets. Hopefully, the government will learn that the success of energy and climate policy does not lie in the proclamation of ambitious targets, but in the painstaking work on complex transformation pathways. This cannot be done via green table computer models, but by engaging the advice of practitioners in the business community and gaining the acceptance of citizens.

The Clean Energy Forum (CEF) is an independent, recognized non-profit think tank. It wants the German, European and global climate goals to be achieved - which can only be done by unleashing all scientific, technical and economic potential. The Clean Energy Forum (CEF) brings more plurality to the climate and energy policy debate in Germany - through the open exchange of scientific and technical findings and the concrete experiences of people in business and society.

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