Hydrogen must not be code for gas

Posted on 07 July 2020

Funding must only go to renewable hydrogen
What’s happening?
On 8 July the European Commission will publish the EU’s first hydrogen strategy. The strategy is part of the plan to decarbonise industry - one of the aims of the EU Green Deal. The European Commission published its overarching industrial strategy in March, but this did not yet do enough to define how fully clean hydrogen would be produced and used, in WWF’s view.
Why does it matter?
The climate emergency, and the EU commitment to climate neutrality, mean industry must decarbonise. However for some energy intensive sectors, like basic chemicals, steel and paper, high energy density is required for production, meaning electrification is not the solution. This is where hydrogen can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, provided it is produced through sustainable wind and solar energy. 
What is WWF calling for?
  • A clear definition of ‘clean hydrogen’, which means no fossil fuels, including gas, or nuclear. 
  • Funding to go to renewable hydrogen projects and infrastructure only
  • Priority to electrification and energy efficiency over hydrogen to decarbonise all sectors by 2040
  • Renewable hydrogen to be used only by sectors which cannot achieve decarbonisation otherwise, eg steel, basic chemicals, aviation, shipping, heavy good vehicles
  • Define clear sustainability criteria and processes for import-export which account for the carbon and environmental footprint of traded hydrogen as well as its environmental impact (water, land use)
  • Clarify governance of future hydrogen infrastructure and set in law
Camille Maury, Industrial Decarbonisation Policy Officer at WWF European Policy Office said:
“Hydrogen is not a one-size-fits-all solution for decarbonisation, but it can be a useful piece in the jigsaw if done right. This means using only zero carbon hydrogen - produced by excess renewable electricity - and using it only in sectors where it is really needed, like energy intensive industries, but always prioritising electrification and energy savings.” 
Erika Bellmann, climate and energy policy adviser at WWF Germany said: 
“The German National Hydrogen Strategy makes the mistake of planning for small amounts of hydrogen - the envisioned 5 GW in electrolysis in 2030 is only a fraction of the hydrogen needed to decarbonize energy intensive industries, especially basic chemicals and steel. The EU commission must work with national governments to ensure sufficient hydrogen is available to decarbonise European industry by 2040 at the latest”
The strategy will also set up a ‘hydrogen alliance’, probably made up of companies, researchers, NGOs and governments, to help push forward the use of hydrogen. WWF considers that the alliance must be put together in a transparent way and include civil society from the start. 
“Citizens overwhelmingly want a sustainable and clean future. And creating a credible alliance of stakeholders is key for the hydrogen strategy to be successful. This also means involving civil society in the hydrogen alliance is critical to ensure it helps, not hinders, our path to climate neutrality”, said Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate & Energy at WWF European Policy Office. 
Camille Maury
Policy Officer, Decarbonisation of Industry
+32 495 42 00 49
Sarah Azau
Media manager
+32 473 57313
Snowy owl and gas pipeline
© Chris Linder / WWF-US