“Europe is going green and hydrogen will lead the way.”

That’s the message from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) as it this week released its study Hydrogen Roadmap Europe: A sustainable pathway for the European Energy Transition.

The 28 member states of the European Union (EU) signed and ratified the Conference of the Parties (COP21) Paris Agreement to keep global warming “well below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperatures increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius”.

The FCH JU believes hydrogen will play a major and irreplaceable role in making both the committed and additional efforts succeed. In the report, the organisation says hydrogen is required based on three fundamental arguments:

  • Hydrogen is the best (or only choice) for at-scale decarbonisation of selected segments in transport, industry and buildings.
  • Hydrogen will play a systemic role in the transition to renewable energy sources by providing a mechanism to flexibly transfer energy across sectors, time and place.
  • The transition to hydrogen is aligned with customer preferences and convenience. This is key since low carbon alternatives that do not meet customer preferences will likely face adoption difficulties.

future road

Ramping up

The report describes an ambitious scenario for hydrogen deployment in the EU to achieve the 2-degree target. The scenario is based on the perspective of global coalition the Hydrogen Council with input from Hydrogen Europe and data from 17 member companies active in hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

Across sectors, FCH JU says it sees the potential for generating approximately 2,250 terawatt hours (TWh) of hydrogen in Europe in 2050, representing roughly a quarter of the EU’s total energy demand.

This amount would fuel roughly 42 million large cars, 1.7 million trucks, approximately a quarter of a million buses and more than 5,500 trains.

It would heat more than the equivalent of 52 million households (about 465 TWh) and provide as much as 10% of building power demand.

In industry, approximately 160 TWh of hydrogen would produce high-grade heat and another 140 TWh would replace coal in steelmaking processes in the form of direct reduced iron (DRI). 120 TWh of hydrogen combined with captured carbon or carbon from biomass would also produce synthetic feedstock for 40 Mt of chemicals in 2050.

Achieving this vision puts the EU on a path to reducing about 560 Mt of CO2 emissions by 2050 – as much as half of the required abatements needed to achieve the 2-degree scenario.

The projected deployment of hydrogen would create an estimated €130bn industry for the fuel and associated equipment for EU companies by 2030, reaching €820bn by 2050.

It would create a local market for EU industry to use as a springboard for competing globally in the new hydrogen economy. The export potential in 2030 should reach an estimated €70bn, with net exports of €50bn.

Altogether, the EU hydrogen industry could provide employment for about one million highly-skilled workers by 2030, reaching 5.4 million by 2050.

“Realising this ambition will require a significant step-up of activities along the whole value chain. The ramp-up should start now as hydrogen and fuel cell technologies are technically ready for most segments and the EU industry must scale up to reduce costs and gain a leading position in the global energy transition economy,” the report says.