Hydrogen is a key element for the decarbonisation of industry, if low-emission production and logistics follow. However, so far there has been a deplorable lack of binding EU-wide sustainability criteria that cover the entire value chain.
The EU’s 2020 Hydrogen Strategy describes actions to create a clean hydrogen economy. In the long term, the strategy relies predominantly on green hydrogen produced with electricity from renewable sources (P2H2). The EU plans to install electrolysers with a capacity of at least 6 GW by 2024, which could produce up to one million tonnes of green hydrogen.
But what sustainability criteria must hydrogen fulfil to be marketed as green hydrogen?
How can producers and traders provide their customers with proof of the emission reductions achieved throughout the hydrogen value chain? So far, there is no harmonised and internationally valid definition for green hydrogen and its marketing. In addition to the electricity used for electrolysis, further factors need to be evaluated for their carbon footprint, such as water and wastewater treatment as well as the transport of the hydrogen. Since only a few regions in Europe have dedicated hydrogen pipelines, up to now hydrogen has been mostly transported by truck.
Currently, only partial areas of application of green hydrogen are regulated by the EU. The transport sector, for example, is governed by the rules of the Renewable Energy Directive 2018/2001/EU (RED II), but it will be developed further by the EU to extend the application of clear requirements to the energy, steel, and chemical industries in the future. These developments are thus relevant for all economic operators engaged in hydrogen production, distribution, and use.
Nevertheless, distributors and manufacturers should not wait for the EU to pass its rules and standards. Voluntary certification schemes already enable economic operators to provide clear proof of the carbon footprint of their hydrogen.
Until the EU finalises its own harmonised rules and standards, voluntary certification schemes offer transparency and advantages for sales. With certificate, manufacturers raise their brand profile and prove that their hydrogen reduces emissions along the entire value chain. They are thus well prepared for future EU requirements and regulations.