As the US begins to craft a hydrogen strategy, Europe’s experience could offer valuable lessons

July 9, 2021

As a new administration in Washington, D.C., drives a renewed interest in green hydrogen, and states like California research and invest in enabling technologies, experts say that Europe’s experience could offer valuable lessons.

Experts see multiple ways in which green hydrogen — produced by powering an electrolyzer with renewable energy — could help drive the clean energy transition. It could use up excess renewables that would otherwise be curtailed, provide carbon-free electricity using fuel cells and decarbonize hard-to-electrify sectors. Hydrogen can also be stored for long periods of time, meaning it could serve as a form of seasonal energy storage.

In Europe, Germany began thinking through the multi-sectoral capabilities of hydrogen, and how to make it from renewable sources, years ago, according to Janice Lin, founder and president of the Green Hydrogen Coalition (GHC).

That work and other experiences from the E.U. could help inform the U.S. strategy to build out the green hydrogen sector, although domestic hydrogen development won’t necessarily mimic that in Europe.

“There could be different motives, different drivers, different priority applications, different feedstocks and relative strengths,” Lin added. “That flexibility to customize the solution for the needs and desires of the local population is essential.”

‘There’s an objective underpinning’

At the moment, most U.S. hydrogen deployments are in the industrial sector, said Glenn McGrath, leader of the electricity statistics, uranium statistics and product innovation team at the U.S. Energy Information Administration. While the agency is seeing announcements of combined-cycle plants that say they can or will be able to burn hydrogen, “none of them have yet declared to us that hydrogen is a fuel for them,” he explained.

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