MEPs authorize gas and coal in the production of “green” hydrogen

MEPs authorize gas and coal in the production of "green" hydrogen

Extensive operation of greenwashing or necessary boost to the sector? On Wednesday, MEPs significantly eased the rules for hydrogen certification ” green “, this energy vector considered crucial for decarbonizing industry and mobility. Dn the framework of a recast of the directive on renewable energies, cthey have indeed adopted, by three votes, a controversial amendment tabled by the German Markus Pieper (CDU).

But the new text could increase the production of electricity generated from coal or fossil gas, rather than allowing Europe to get rid of hydrocarbons. ” Parliament has gone a little too far in opening the floodgates and removing the safeguards “, we even slip at France Hydrogène, which brings together the players in the French sector.

Cannibalisation of electricity production

Indeed, the amendment in question will make it possible to affix the “renewable” (or “green”) label to hydrogen even if it is produced from electricity from coal or gas in an electrolyser (which divides water into hydrogen via an electric current). The condition: to guarantee that an equivalent quantity of electrons of renewable origin has been purchased ” in the same country or in a neighboring country over the past three months. In other words, until at least 2030, electrolysis operators will no longer have to worry about the supply/demand balance at time T, nor about the physical intermittency of wind or solar energy, or the actual state of the interconnections, and will be able to draw the kilowatt-hours they need from the network without interruption.

“Let’s imagine that we are at the end of November, during peak electricity consumption. If I draw electricity produced from gas or coal [puisque les sources renouvelables ne suffisent pas à satisfaire la demande cette période, Ndlr] in order to create hydrogen, so I can affirm that it is “green” since I will have bought somewhere in Andalusia, for example, an equivalent production carried out in September, on a sunny day, when consumption is low and renewables are running at full capacity, ”explains a stakeholder to La Tribune.

However, this process promises to inflate demand a little more, to which supply must constantly adjust: new means of production should therefore be called on the network, that is to say, during peak periods. , gas or coal-fired power stations that would not have operated without this additional stress. What, moreover, pull prices up and aggravate the risk of cuts in times of supply crisis.

At the same time, the hydrogen generated will be labeled “green”, and will be able to satisfy the mandatory quotas also voted on Wednesday by MEPs: by 2030, 50% of the hydrogen consumed in industry must be renewable, then 70% in 2035.

Industry lobbying

Until then, however, the conditions laid down were strict. According to a delegated act of the European Commission, hydrogen should only be classified as “sustainable” if it could be shown that it had been “balanced” by renewable sources produced in exactly the same hour, and in the same tender area as the electrolyser.

Otherwise, the smelters had to prove that they were getting their electricity from renewable installations not subsidized by the state. The goal: that they only call on the grid when electricity is abundant and prices low, so that no electrons needed for other applications are withdrawn from the electricity market. The rest of the time, these operators therefore had to rely on their own production tool, i.e. new solar or wind farms directly connected to the electrolyser – even when these produce nothing because of the weather situation.

But here it is: since the production of hydrogen turns out to be less expensive when the electricity supply is continuous, the industry has put itself in battle order to break these locks. For three years, the delegated act has been repeatedly pushed back under pressure from the industry. Faced with these obstacles, the Commission has also proposed to lighten it, by admitting that the equivalent quantity of renewable energy could have been produced in the same month, before going on time in 2030 “, we explain at France Hydrogène.

However, this was not enough. A few days ago, the Director General of Hydrogen Europe, Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, sent a letter to the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in order to denounce rules ” disproportionate “.

[Celles-ci] will make European renewable hydrogen insufficient for the needs of industry and uncompetitive vis-à-vis [son homologue] non european “, he writes in particular.

Before warning about the risks of leaks to the American market, while the United States has decided to grant a historic tax credit of 3 dollars per kg to hydrogen, whether it is renewable origin or not.

Start of trialogues

Hydrogen Europe will therefore have won its case in Parliament. ” It’s a historic day […] The creation of a simpler framework are strong signals from EU institutions to ensure the scaling up of a hydrogen economy “, reacted in the wake of Jorgo Chatzimarkakis.

Nevertheless, the text has not yet been finalized: the trilogue phase now begins, during which the Commission, the Council and the Parliament will have to meet to negotiate the version which will indeed be approved by some months. A balance will have to be found between the delegated act and the amendment adopted by MEPs. In other words, do not put too many constraints on the project leaders, but also do not leave the door open to anything with regard to the source of the electricity. “, argues Philippe Boucly, president of France Hydrogène.

It remains to be seen whether the Brussels executive and the member states will demand the return of stricter rules, despite the pressing demands of the sector.

Parliament scraps rules on imported hydrogen, despite risk of unfair competition

The text voted on Wednesday by the European Parliament leads to a major inconsistency: even though they have eclipsed the strict rules defined by the Commission on renewable hydrogen, MEPs have not been able to agree on the requirements to be met. subject to imports of the famous molecule.

Indeed, the subject has been dealt with through two different amendments: No. 13, tabled by Markus Pieper, which defines a more flexible framework for domestic hydrogen, and No. 14, which lays down this same framework but for imports of hydrogen. ” The left voted against both and the right for both. But finally, the n°13 was adopted and the n°14 rejected with a few votes. “, specifies Maxime Sagot, responsible for institutional relations at France Hydrogène.

Therefore, while the rules have been relaxed for hydrogen production in Europe, they have simply disappeared for imports! ” The paradoxical and absurd result is that a conservative majority has relaxed production rules in the EU, and a progressive majority has removed these new rules for imports. », explains Maxime Sagot. Germany has reason to rejoice, as its hopes are pinned on the future import of low-cost hydrogen… The fact remains that the Commission and the Council should correct the situation during the trilogues. ” We will be absolutely intransigent on having equal conditions for all », Warns for his part the president of France Hydrogène, Philippe Boucly.