Department of the Environment puts the ramp-up of a hydrogen economy in danger

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Hydrogen and e-fuels are an important contribution to the climate protection strategy - Draft law for the national implementation of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) is not ambitious enough and needs to be revised.

Germany should build a globally leading hydrogen industry in which hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels play a decisive role. However, this goal is seriously threatened by a current legislative plan of the German Federal Department for the Environment (BMU). According to four major industry associations, the draft bill for the national implementation of the European Renewable Energy Directive (RED II), in which the EU defines the minimum quantities of renewable energies for the transport sector, leads in the wrong direction and should therefore be stopped.

Against the background of a hearing on hydrogen in the German Parliament, the four associations emphasized in a joint letter: "We demand that the draft be completely revised with a view to the future, taking into account all possible options and a recognition of the climate targets for 2030, and that it be submitted again to the associations' hearing and departmental coordination.“

The proposed legislation neither creates the framework conditions for a market ramp-up of a German hydrogen economy nor does it lead to additional CO2 savings in transport. Thus the draft effectively ignores the National Hydrogen Strategy, in which the German government sets ambitious targets for the implementation of RED II, the German Hydrogen and Fuel ­Cell Association (DWV), the Petroleum Industry­ Association (MWV), the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) and the Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA) jointly emphasize.

Only with an ambitious implementation of the Renewable Energies Directive and the use of synthetic fuels is it possible to achieve a turnaround and reach the EU climate targets by 2030. And for the existing fleet of vehicles with combustion engines, a rapidly effective reduction in CO2 emissions can only be achieved by using so-called e-fuels. According to a recent study commissioned by the MWV and others, vehicles with combustion engines powered by climate-neutral fuels based on green electricity have a similarly good overall energy balance as battery-powered vehicles (https://www.mwv.de/frontier-studie).

The associations also fear that the Department of the Environment with its draft endangers hundreds of thousands of jobs as well as the planned establishment of a hydrogen economy. They emphasize that any revision of the draft would therefore have to take into account not only the climate goals but also the requirements of the participating industries and the sustainable development of the German economy. The letter from the associations was sent to the Federal Chancellery, numerous federal and state ministries, members of parliament and members of the National Hydrogen Council.

"The mechanical and plant engineering industry supports the climate targets - our industry offers the technologies that are necessary to be able to cope with this mammoth task overall."

Werner Diwald, Chief Executive Officer of DWV: "Renewable electricity-based fuels (e-fuels) offer the possibility to directly reduce emissions in vehicles with combustion engines. Their use will be necessary in the transition phase until the widespread large-scale market introduction of zero-emission vehicles in order to achieve the climate targets. E-fuels also offer the advantage that domestic renewable capacities can be supplemented by importing fuels from sunny countries. Therefore, during the transition phase, the production of e-fuels and the direct use of hydrogen in fuel cell vehicles must be given equal regulatory incentives. The chances of a future hydrogen economy and industry must now be secured by regulatory means.“

Christian Küchen, Chief Executive Officer of MWV: "Climate protection in transport can only be successful if regulation at European and national level includes all options for CO2 reduction. This absolutely requires to consider the existing vehicle fleet as well when it comes to climate protection. Taking an overall efficiency view with an international perspective, electricity-based fuels are comparably efficient to electromobility. It is now important to provide the necessary investment security for the ramp-up of green hydrogen and renewable fuel production. This is not yet guaranteed with the present draft bill."

Hildegard Müller, President of VDA: "The German automotive industry wants to achieve the EU's climate protection targets and the CO2 fleet targets. We are ready and want to move forward with the necessary decisions. Customers can already choose from 70 e-vehicles from German manufacturers. By 2023 there will be more than 150, which is a rapid development and has high priority. At the same time we are working on making e-fuels and hydrogen ready for the market. The modern combustion engine also has a future. We need e-fuels and hydrogen from sustainable energy sources if we are to achieve the climate targets for the millions of passenger cars on the road. And there will also be new, fuel-efficient cars and trucks with internal combustion engines. Research and development into climate-friendly drive systems using synthetic fuels and hydrogen is therefore also essential. If we want to achieve the climate targets, there is no alternative to this dual strategy."

Karl Haeusgen, President of VDMA: "The mechanical and plant engineering industry supports the climate targets - our industry offers the technologies that are necessary to be able to cope with this mammoth task overall. With Power-to-X technology, we can produce hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels, an opportunity not only for the climate but for industry as well - and even for less developed countries, for example in North Africa, when you consider that the conditions for cheap green electricity are often better outside Germany than here.“