The German hydrogen strategy towards 2030

31 October, 2023

Last July, the German Ministry of Economy and Development published the update of its National Hydrogen Strategy, with measures that reflect the country’s firm commitment to this energy vector.

The initial German hydrogen strategy, which was presented in 2020, is still valid for Germany, but this update is more ambitious to meet new challenges and market conditions.

The previous strategy was developed in a setting where the hydrogen economy was at a very embryonic stage. Since then, interest has been growing in various parts of the world, with national strategies and plans aimed at harnessing the benefits of this energy carrier.

At this time, when there is still a need for a boost from public administrations and companies, the alternatives offered by renewable hydrogen for the production, storage and transport of clean energy, as well as for reindustrialisation and economic growth, are very tempting.

The alternatives offered by renewable hydrogen for the production, storage and transport of clean energy are very tempting

For this reason, Germany assumes its economic and energy leadership in a Europe that seeks to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. And renewable hydrogen is one of the key players in the upcoming transformations.

The update of the German National Strategy presents a series of actions aimed at securing availability, expanding infrastructure and establishing specific hydrogen applications in three time horizons: short term (until 2024), medium term (between 2024 and 2026) and long term (between 2026 and 2030).

Hydrogen Production

Among the main changes in this update of the 2020 National Strategy is the increase in the target for installed electrolysis capacity for green hydrogen production from 5 GW initially planned to 10 GW by 2030.

Germany assumes economic and energy leadership in a Europe aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050

To achieve this, various state aid and investment incentives will be approved this year to increase installed capacity, as well as an offshore wind energy law that aims to tender 500 MW of electrolysis per year until 2028.

This increase in production responds to demand estimates of  95-130 TWh, of which 50-70% would be covered by imports of hydrogen and its derivatives.

Maritime Import

Germany envisages import by sea, using converted LNG carriers for hydrogen transport. Agreements are already being concluded with different exporting countries that meet sustainability standards, through platforms such as H2Global (a platform for international trade in green hydrogen and its derivatives, later open to all EU members).

The aim is to strengthen cooperation with other neighbouring countries to exploit the full potential of renewable hydrogen generation

In the coming years, the aim is to strengthen cooperation with other neighbouring countries in order to exploit the full potential of renewable hydrogen generation. Some regions of the continent, such as the North Sea or countries in southern Europe present very interesting conditions for the production of a renewable gas that could flow throughout Europe through different import modalities.

The federal government supports the construction of hydrogen pipelines and the conversion of gas pipelines to transport hydrogen within the framework of the so-called European backbone. These corridors across Europe will be developed in the medium term with a strong cross-border cooperative character, in dialogue with other Member States, partners of the European Economic Area such as Norway or neighbouring countries such as Ukraine, Morocco or the United Kingdom.

H2Med, in which Germany participates with Spain, France and Portugal, is a good example of this type of collaboration

The H2Med renewable hydrogen corridor, in which Germany participates with Spain, France and Portugal, is a good example of this type of collaboration. This infrastructure will connect supply on the Iberian Peninsula with demand centres in Germany, and will have a capacity to transport 10 % of the expected consumption in Europe. The project is being promoted by Enagás on the Spanish side together with the Transmission System Operators (TSO) of the other countries.

The import of renewable hydrogen depends on other types of infrastructures, which are also the focus of this National Strategy. Measures to be taken in this regard include, for example, a requirement that Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals to be built can be subsequently converted for use in imports of hydrogen and its derivatives.

Changes in Germany’s Hydrogen Strategy in Transportation

Another goal of Germany’s National Hydrogen Strategy is to have more than 1,800 km of hydrogen transport network in place by 2028. This will make it possible to connect the main demand areas with import nodes and production centres. To achieve this, a large part of these hydro-products will be realised through the conversion of pipelines currently used to transport natural gas.

Hydrogen production and imports will be key to fulfilling Germany’s vision for its sustainable energy future. But the storage and transport of this renewable gas will also play a very important role.

Administrative activity

Another key point in making the renewable hydrogen strategy a reality is on the administrative side. The streamlining of procedures, the development of certification systems, R&D&I work, financing mechanisms and specialised professional training are seen as fundamental measures to lay the foundations for the successful deployment of the hydrogen economy.

Germany is determined to harness the full potential of renewable hydrogen

Among the measures envisaged in the coming years are the development of approval procedures for installing hydrogen plants, the establishment of quotas in different sectors for the use of hydrogen, the development of certification systems and the elaboration of product specifications, as well as the development of a technological and innovation roadmap for hydrogen.

Priority Uses of Hydrogen for Germany

Germany is determined to exploit the full potential of renewable hydrogen. The update of its National Strategy identifies some priority uses, in particular in some of the most difficult sectors to decarbonise:

  • Chemical and iron and steel industry, which will have several funding programmes and a system to create demand (labels, standards, public procurement quotas, etc.).
  • Transport, with a plan to promote the production and use of hydrogen-based fuels, mainly in aviation and maritime transport. To this end, the Strategy plans to promote international standards for storage, use and transport, as well as financing programmes, infrastructure development (such as networks of service stations or port facilities) and demonstration projects.
  • Electricity, where tenders are envisaged for the construction of hydrogen-ready gas plants or refinancing of controllable and climate-neutral capacities.

In addition, although the widespread use of hydrogen for heating is not foreseen, the conversion of gas networks will lead to the regulation and technological development of decentralised hydrogen boilers. Germany’s National Hydrogen Strategy is imminently considering the evaluation of the potential for utilising waste heat from electrolysers.

Although the EU’s main economy’s most prominent commitment is to green hydrogen, according to its Strategy, the country also plans to use other colours such as blue (generated from natural gas and CO2 capture) until there is a sufficient supply of renewable hydrogen. In short, this update of its strategy presents a clear vision for the short, medium and long term, aware of the need to promote changes that may be complex, but which are decisive for a sustainable future.