Fully invest in hydrogen, with an investment of 2.5 billion. 38 energy companies, network operators, environmental organizations and scientists are asking the new cabinet on Thursday. The money is needed for storage and production, and for cleaning up the industry. But hydrogen is also necessary in order not to miss the boat economically, says Professor Ad van Wijk of TU Delft.
Van Wijk is one of the signatories of the ‘hydrogen pact’, a short and clear plan with which the new cabinet should get the hydrogen economy up and running. The coalition includes energy companies and grid operators such as Eneco, Essent, Vattenfall, Engie, TenneT, Stedin, Alliander and Gasunie, as well as a large number of smaller energy companies.
Greenpeace and Natuur & Milieu also support the plan, which should primarily guarantee the development of ‘green’ hydrogen. Hydrogen is currently still made from natural gas, but in the future it would have to be produced from green electricity from, for example, the sun or wind.
What do we need hydrogen (among other things) for?
- Clean alternative to coal in the steel industry
- Alternative raw material for ‘plastic’, synthetic kerosene
- Freight transport, shipping and other mobility
- Dealing with peaks and troughs in green electricity
- Natural gas-free heating in old buildings / cities
In fact, the point now is to get the development of green hydrogen, hydrogen transport and use going smoothly at the same time, Van Wijk tells NU.nl. This requires much more green electricity, among other things.
Spain and Portugal want to export (green) hydrogen
Major investments will cause the price of green hydrogen to drop sharply, but it will become an international market. “For example, Spain and Portugal are already investing billions in order to be able to export hydrogen in the future, because those countries are big with wind energy and have a high efficiency with solar energy. And that return is of course even higher in the Sahara.”
In the Netherlands, according to Van Wijk, we should continue in the coming years with solar panels on roofs for our own power consumption. But much more important in the Dutch climate is the development of wind farms in the North Sea. That should be smoother and faster, says Van Wijk.
“It is much more efficient for large companies to set up several wind farms at the same time. We will then have the required green electricity faster, also for hydrogen production, and they can realize a faster price reduction.”
Hydrogen for electricity storage and ‘green steel’
The development of hydrogen must be followed at the same pace, according to Van Wijk. “We can produce green hydrogen using electrolysis from electricity from wind turbines at sea. In nine years’ time we should be able to produce 3 or 4 gigawatts of green hydrogen. We can easily store that in empty salt domes.”
“And at times when the power demand exceeds the supply, we receive power from a hydrogen power plant again. No CO2 or other pollution is released.”
But according to Van Wijk, that is just one example of an important and urgent application of hydrogen. Hydrogen is also essential for making heavy industry, such as the steel industry, more sustainable. The major steel industries in Japan, South Korea, Germany, Austria and Sweden are all working on the switch to hydrogen.
“For the blast furnaces in IJmuiden, we are now focusing on coal, with some CO2 storage in the long term. But that is much more expensive and much less clean. For the same money, you can build a completely new steel plant on hydrogen, and book much more CO2. profit. “
“You do this not only for the climate, but also to keep your economy running. If other countries do produce green steel, they will have a competitive advantage. If we go along with the development, we can also produce green steel ourselves in IJmuiden. for wind turbines, for example.“
Hydrogen heating can be beneficial choice
Finally, Van Wijk sees a future for hydrogen in the heating of houses, especially in old cities. “We have a perfect network of gas pipelines. If we simply reuse that, we will have to make the electricity grid less heavy. In many places, that can become a cheaper solution for using natural gas, which also fits into a climate-neutral future.”
Germany is already investing 9 billion in the hydrogen economy, and France 7 billion. The Netherlands is therefore not in the lead here, but rather must ensure that it does not miss the boat, says Van Wijk.