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Booth at the Hannover Messe: Hope for green hydrogen

Photo: Julian Stratenschulte / dpa

Both industry and the German government have great ambitions when it comes to climate-friendly hydrogen. But it is questionable how the technology will get up and running. The energy company RWE considers investments in green hydrogen technology to be justifiable only if the government also provides subsidies for them.

Sopna Sury, the board member responsible for the hydrogen business, told the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" that the Essen-based group could not initiate climate-friendly hydrogen projects at the moment without state aid, "because we will not release any project that does not pay off".

It simply doesn't work without subsidies, it's like in the early years of wind and solar power, said Sury, Chief Operating Officer Hydrogen at the Group's subsidiary RWE Generation: "It took us ten or 15 years to push costs down to a competitive level so that subsidies are no longer needed. We've only been involved with green hydrogen for two and a half years now."

In the future, climate-friendly – so-called green – hydrogen will replace natural gas, coal and oil in chemical plants or steel mills, power plants or ship propulsion systems.

Three weeks ago, the German government published an updated and more ambitious National Hydrogen Strategy. According to this, production plants for green hydrogen – so-called electrolysers – with a capacity of ten gigawatts are to be up and running in Germany by 2030.

According to Sury, RWE plans to operate electrolysers with a combined capacity of two gigawatts in Germany, the Netherlands and Great Britain by 2030. "So we're aiming for a substantial market share," the manager told the paper.

Manager sees opportunity for Germany

Skeptics fear that green hydrogen could be too expensive in Germany, causing industrial sectors to migrate to countries where the energy source is cheaper. Sury, on the other hand, expects that costs would also fall far enough in Germany: "That will happen, just as it happened with wind and solar power."

In the long term, the expansion of renewable energies will reduce the electricity costs of electrolysers, while at the same time the production costs for these plants will fall. But the producers of the electrolysers would only invest if there were enough orders, Sury said. "That's why funding for hydrogen projects is so important."