Is the German hydrogen dream over?

There was once a plan to build a park of hydrogen power plants in Berlin and bring the country to climate neutrality within a dozen years. But this plan now clashes with a budget crisis that shows no signs of resolving and growing opposition from the energy sector that costs will not be sustainable.

German hydrogen dream

The ruling “traffic light coalition” in Germany (social democrats, liberals and greens) may fail to achieve one of its main goals of achieving climate neutrality by 2035. The government had planned to meet most of its energy demand with electricity through hydrogen production. In parallel with the simultaneous increase in the electricity produced by solar panels and wind turbines in the coming years.

At the beginning of last August, the administration led by Olaf Scholz triumphantly announced that the European Commission had approved the new German energy strategy: 8.8 Gw of electricity from hydrogen, plus 15 Gw from natural gas power plants, to be converted into electricity by 2035. to hydrogen. Result: By 2023, an amount of energy equal to one-third of national demand would have been produced sustainably.

budget problems

But the Chancellor may have declared victory too early. According to the newspaper euractiveIt does not have the money to complete its ambitious energy project. In fact, Germany has been in the grip of a budget crisis (which soon turned into a political crisis) since last November, with a terrible $60 billion “gap” in public finances; this was opened following the decision of the Constitutional Court declaring this use illegitimate. Some federal funds were initially allocated by the government for post-pandemic recovery and redirected by Berlin for the ecological transition.

Among the money that suddenly evaporated from the state coffers was $7 billion to be transferred every year to the German hydrogen project, which is needed to support clean energy production in periods when solar and wind energy are not sufficient. And so there is a risk that the green push desired by the ecological partners of the coalition will not materialize at all.

Risk of return to coal

Bdi Sigfried Russwurm, head of the industry consortium, warned that without replacement hydrogen plants, this gap would probably have to be filled with coal plants: “It would be strange and shameful for Germany, a country with one of the most ambitious decarbonization strategies, to close this gap.” “It will depend on coal power plants continuing to operate,” he said.

Russwurm complained about the lack of clarity in the business models and, above all, in the financing of Scholz’s executive business plan for hydrogen; This increasingly carries the risk of not happening. Berlin’s completion of its nuclear phase-out in 2023 and its cutoff of cheap Russian gas supplies following its invasion of Ukraine dealt another blow to German industry.

The power industry industry association Bdew also called on the government to find a solution as soon as possible and define a clear framework for the operation of power plants to meet the growing demand in the country. The most immediate solution proposed by industrial associations is to scrap hydrogen power plants and focus firmly on natural gas, in order to “significantly reduce complexity and costs,” as a note from Bdew put it.

According to Russwurm, existing plants cannot be operated on “pure” hydrogen without extremely expensive adaptation interventions; These interventions would not be very sustainable if they were aimed only at guaranteeing additional reserve capacity: “If these turbines (modified ones, ed.) will only operate when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing, they will be very expensive,” he said.

In short, everything indicates that Germany’s green targets, which must reduce emissions by 88% by 2040 according to the new climate law, will come to nothing, mainly due to lack of resources. Now it remains to be seen whether Scholz’s government can pull the rabbit out of the hat in time to prevent the return of coal and reduce rather than increase dependence on natural gas.

Source: Today IT