Dr Felix Christian Matthes, Research Co-ordinator from the Institute for Applied Ecology in Berlin, said there is a “blind spot” in terms of timings at the moment.

He told hy-fcell delegates that the debate on hydrogen was not the first of its kind, although the current ‘third wave’ has a fundamentally new quality since it is accompanied by the renewable energy boom and climate neutrality targets. Consequently the transition in the next three decades will involve a broad range of implementation strategies and mechanisms.

“The hydrogen ramp up is certainly the most complex new strategy because of the need to build complete new value chains and its significant international dimension,” he said, adding that hydrogen is a platform rather than a simple commodity.

“For the next 10 to 15 years, for the levels of hydrogen demand and derivates, the studies converge, but in the long term there are huge uncertainties on value chains and fundamental questions on distribution. Cost will be decisive – there are new options for green power but there are other factors.”

Climate-neutral hydrogen is the fourth pillar in the energy transition alongside electrification, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

He highlighted a ‘four plus three’ schedule of action that needs to be undertaken:

standards, certification and tracking
infrastructure roll out
creating sufficient incentives on the demand side
safeguarding the ramp up of value chains
driving technology innovation throughout the value chain
safeguarding the roll out of power generation from renewables
building a robust framework for international co-operation and trade

And he left delegates with no doubt about which one was the most important.

“My personal view is the main show stopper to climate neutrality isn’t technology, costs or regulations – it’s infrastructure, it needs to be so much higher on the agenda.”

The availability of infrastructure will emerge as a crucial factor for the spatial pattern of industrial development, and needs to go beyond the ‘no regret’ approaches and traditional regulatory thinking, he said.

While the first steps have been completed, the road ahead is complex, he added.

Alongside the overarching requirement for low carbon hydrogen in the EU, he highlighted the need for certification of renewable fuels of non-biological origin and greater international co-operation and convergence.

A pentagon illustrated the urgent need for an economic framework, built around making large amounts of cheap green electricity available; investment support; product support; obligation of use; and carbon pricing.

Electrolyser costs also need to come down considerably – by 75% – and green electricity, which accounts for the majority of green hydrogen costs, fall below €40Mwh at plant sites, he added, which will make production more competitive.

“Even if we meet all the benchmarks, we will need to have an effective price on carbon dioxide (CO2) of more than €100 per tonne to make this new commodity competitive,” he said.

“I’m one of the last analysts in this country who thinks that blue hydrogen is needed for the transitional phase, because in the first stage of the hydrogen economy, the demand from the steel industry alone will be enormous, and supply will be limited.”