Hydrogen in Europe: a solution for carbon neutrality and greater energy autonomy

16 March, 2023

Renewable hydrogen is becoming a key part of the energy puzzle in Europe, a region whose future goals include achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

Europe wants to deploy this energy vector to decarbonise its economy and lead innovation in an emerging market that will be of great importance. But hydrogen will also play a key role in making the EU more energy self-sufficient, as it can be produced within the continent’s borders, making it more independent from the outside world and guaranteeing energy supply.

In addition to the European guidelines that consider hydrogen as an energy vector of the future – among which the European Green Deal or REPowerEU should be highlighted – in recent years some initiatives have been added that seek, from the public-private sphere, to speed up its implementation.

Europe has a clear vision for a carbon-neutral energy future and greater energy autonomy

This is the case of the European Hydrogen Backbone, one of the initiatives that promote the creation of a basic network of hydrogen infrastructures in Europe. This network, consisting of five hydrogen corridors, will link production centres with consumption centres. This is essential for the hydrogen economy to take hold on the continent.

In the field of innovation, it is worth mentioning the public-private initiative Clean Hydrogen Partnership, co-financed by the European Commission. Its goal is to contribute to the development of a “strong, innovative and competitive” clean hydrogen sector to drive the energy transition, by funding research and innovation activities on hydrogen technologies in Europe.

Growing interest across the continent

Europe’s commitment to hydrogen is strong in terms of vision and objectives. In addition, many countries are showing a strong interest in renewable hydrogen with the development of their own national strategies, such as France (2018), the Netherlands (2020), Italy (2020) and Poland (2021), without losing sight of the common goal and the necessary cross-border collaboration.

Collaboration is essential to create economies of scale, reduce costs, foster innovation, increase security of supply and diversify production resources. Similarly, other non-EU countries such as Norway (2020) and the UK (2021) have followed suit by setting targets for hydrogen deployment over the next decades.

The initiatives underway and the commitment to innovation are a reflection of the growing interest in renewable hydrogen throughout the country

In Europe, there is not only talk of future plans but also of major projects on which progress is already being made. From the first renewable hydrogen corridor in the European Union between Portugal, Spain and France (H2Med), to various pilot projects such as Westküste100 (Germany) for the production of hydrogen from offshore wind energy, or Power To Green Hydrogen Mallorca to boost the hydrogen economy in island territories.

Moreover, this commitment to hydrogen also holds a strong innovative character, as is shown by the data: our continent leads the world ranking for hydrogen patents according to a study carried out jointly by the European Patent Office (EPO) and the International Energy Agency (IEA). Thus, 28% of hydrogen patents are concentrated in Europe, ahead of the likes of Japan and the United States with 24% and 20% respectively.

If we limit it exclusively to renewable hydrogen patents, Spain has a lot to say here. Spanish patents for the production of this new energy vector have been outstripping patents for the production of hydrogen from fossil fuels for over a decade.

The various projects, initiatives underway and commitment to innovation are a reflection of the growing interest in renewable hydrogen throughout the territory. Europe has a clear vision of a carbon-neutral energy future and greater energy autonomy, and is already taking steps to make hydrogen a reality.