The current European energy crisis and meeting the ambitious targets set out in the REPowerEU Plan clearly present challenges, making the accelerated rollout of renewable gases ever-more crucial. Record-breaking temperatures all over Europe during the summer of 2022 were a reminder of the urgent need to move away from Europe’s reliance on fossil fuels. The market for hydrogen is quickly developing and establishing a suitable regulatory framework is now a priority. Hydrogen, in particular, has been put forward as a possible solution to enable a quicker and more robust energy transition in Europe.
It is evident that policymakers have an important role to play in this context. As part of the REPowerEU Plan, the European Commission established a Hydrogen Accelerator, an initiative with the target of 10 million tonnes of imported renewable hydrogen and 10 million tonnes of domestically (EU) produced renewable hydrogen by 2030. In September 2022, the Commission approved €5.2 billion in EU public funding for hydrogen projects, through the IPCEI Hy2Use initiative.
Furthermore, in its conclusions at the 36th European Gas Regulatory Forum in May 2022, Commission, along with other energy industry stakeholders, agreed “…a joint action to be undertaken by gas infrastructure industry (ENTSOG, EHB, GIE, CEDEC, Eurogas, GEODE, GD4S) to visualize all hydrogen infrastructure projects collected under different existing processes in a form of a map”. In other words, transparency of progress is key for energy market stakeholders, and this includes the presentation of the hydrogen project data along the whole value chain.
Taking this mandate on board, the aforementioned energy industry stakeholders began their work to visualize the ongoing hydrogen infrastructure projects and future needs, in the form of an interactive map. Those involved are gas transmission system operators (TSOs), distribution system operators (DSOs), storage system operators (SSOs) and LNG system operators (LSOs), as well as third-party promoters developing projects in consortia along the whole value-chain, liaising with production and off-takers. The hydrogen infrastructure projects include transmission pipelines, distribution pipelines, storage sites, terminals and ports, and some demand and production projects. To complete this picture, the map will be updated regularly to provide an up-to-date picture of the hydrogen economy.
The interactive, user-friendly and publicly accessible map provides a comprehensive overview of hydrogen infrastructure projects for stakeholders and policymakers alike. The task commenced with a bottom-up collection of data for all relevant infrastructure projects for producing, storing, importing and transporting hydrogen, presenting the anticipated status in 2030, 2040 and 2050. This could be easily done for projects that are already commissioned or soon-to-be commissioned. Regarding inclusion of projects that are envisaged for the future — visions of a hydrogen future — TSOs have a long-standing planning and infrastructure development experience, including work for the gas Ten-Year Network Development Plan (TYNDP) projects. At the same time, DSOs are very well placed to contribute to planning due to their capacity to connect residential, commercial and industrial gas end-users. DSOs have in-depth knowledge of their grids and, importantly, understanding of the local potential for production of renewable and low-carbon gases. Furthermore, hydrogen storage is an essential enabling technology required for the emergence of a hydrogen ecosystem, as it provides an essential bridge between variable electricity supply options (dedicated RES and grid withdrawals) and the dynamics of hydrogen demand. Terminals will further enable the import of hydrogen and its derivatives.
The collaborative efforts of these stakeholders, supported in its development by Guidehouse, resulted in the publication of the Hydrogen Infrastructure map on a dedicated website. In total, the map includes over 220 hydrogen projects, with more than 120 TSO and DSO projects, 40 storage and 10 for terminals and ports. The projects include newly built infrastructure, as well as those for retrofitting and repurposing of existing infrastructure.
As the map demonstrates, the repurposed existing infrastructure is key to connecting the hydrogen supply-and-demand clusters to create a pan-EU ‘Hydrogen Backbone’. It also highlights the need for hydrogen storage as an essential technology and the role of terminals and ports to facilitate imports of hydrogen and its derivatives. In addition, the connection of hydrogen to the distribution system provides an immediate opportunity to create synergies among sectors at a local level. The number of projects collected also confirms that infrastructure is not a bottleneck, rather an enabler in developing the hydrogen economy. The integrated network of projects, developed by consortia of stakeholders, shows that this hydrogen economy can only develop by collaboration along the whole value-chain.
Despite the various energy challenges we face as European citizens, there is no doubt that we have the tools and the tenacity to innovate and change for the better. The Hydrogen Infrastructure map clearly shows the concerted efforts of TSOs, DSOs, SSOs and LSOs to achieve EC’s REPowerEU climate and energy security goals. It is an example of the progress already made in the short and longer terms, setting a foundation that will last for the years and decades to come.
Additional note: An online session to provide an overview of the purpose and functionality of the interactive map will take place at the ENTSOG conference at 16:00 on December 14 2022, with additional comments being provided by the industry stakeholders involved in developing the map. A dedicated webinar is also planned for January 2023. These will be occasions to take on board feedback from stakeholders and use that for the next map iterations. The map should be considered as ‘live’ undergoing regular updates as new project information becomes available.