Last week Ammonia Energy published “Europe!”, an article describing the European Commission’s Green Deal and the related appearance of national hydrogen strategies from several European countries. This week’s article describes another consequential European initiative that, while related to the Green Deal, is running on a distinct track: the Clean Hydrogen Alliance. Along the way a clear call to action has been sounded for the ammonia energy community.
On March 10, 2020, the European Commission presented a new strategy that aims “to help Europe’s industry lead the twin transitions towards climate neutrality and digital leadership.” The strategy was prepared in response to the European Council’s March 2019 call “for a comprehensive and long-term EU industrial policy Strategy along with an integrated approach for a deeper and stronger single market.” Among other requirements, the strategy was to reflect “the priorities set out [in] the European Green Deal.”
Picking up on the latter stipulation, the strategy as released includes “comprehensive measures to modernise and decarbonise energy-intensive industries, support sustainable and smart mobility industries, to promote energy efficiency, strengthen current carbon leakage tools and secure a sufficient and constant supply of low-carbon energy at competitive prices.” It also calls for the formation of a “Clean Hydrogen Alliance to accelerate the decarbonisation of industry and maintain industrial leadership.”
The Clean Hydrogen Alliance is apparently intended to complement the existing Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU). According to its Web site, the FCH JU was established in 2008 as a “public-private partnership between the European Commission, European industry and research organisations to accelerate the development and deployment of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies.” It has only three members: “the European Commission, fuel cell and hydrogen industries represented by Hydrogen Europe and the research community represented by Hydrogen Europe Research.” Hydrogen Europe is an industry association whose membership includes more than 160 companies, 78 research organizations and 21 national associations.
The FCH JU also issued a press release on March 10. It highlights the idea of “sector integration,” in which low-carbon energy commodities and infrastructure developed for one economic sector can be advantageously applied in other sectors, and continues:
Clean Hydrogen is a prime example of where [sector integration] can have a real benefit. It is disruptive in nature and requires stronger coordination across the value chain. [Accordingly,] the Alliance will bring investors together with governmental, institutional and industrial partners, building on the successful template of existing industrial alliances, and on the work done within the framework of the FCH JU.Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, The European Commission Announces the Clean Hydrogen Alliance, March 10, 2020
After a suitable period of gestation, Hydrogen Europe responded to the European Commission challenge. In a letter to the Commission dated June 2, the organization stated that, with the mobilization of its industry members, “a big part of the European hydrogen industry is coming together to support the idea of a Clean Hydrogen Alliance.” It goes on, “We are ready to invest massively into the use of hydrogen! With a technological maturity that enables immediate commercial deployments in many fields, we are at a turning point and we are ready to deliver on massive emission reductions, contributing already to 2030 EU climate and energy targets.” The letter was signed by senior executives from 93 member companies.
In an accompanying press release, Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, Secretary General of Hydrogen Europe, said “it’s impressive to see the commitment of so many companies of different sizes and different parts of the value chain of the hydrogen sector coming together to support this alliance. We, at Hydrogen Europe, want to help make this initiative an integral part of the European Green Deal.”
Later in the month, Hydrogen Europe published a list of “Top 10” institutional and policy recommendations for how to move the hydrogen agenda forward within the industrial strategy and Green Deal frameworks. Included are such measures as initiating “hydrogen market stimulation programs,” enabling “a competitive hydrogen economy by clarifying the market design,” and unlocking “hydrogen’s potential by leveraging innovative financial instruments.”
In parallel with the top 10 list, Chatzimarkakis published a column in NewEurope (“the leading EU affairs newspaper”) under the headline “Is clean ammonia the next big thing based on hydrogen?” His answer is yes, for the reasons regularly cited by members of the ammonia energy community. And he explicitly ties the recommended ammonia thrust into the emerging framework for action: “It will be an important task of the Clean Hydrogen Alliance soon to be launched together with the EU’s Hydrogen Strategy to envisage the development of the clean ammonia business as a hydrogen-based process and to include this into its activities.”
It is difficult to interpret Chatzimarkakis’s column as anything other than an invitation for the ammonia energy community to step up to the Clean Hydrogen Alliance table. In this regard, it is worth noting that seven companies – Air Liquide, Engie, ITM Power, John Cockerill, Linde, Nel, and thyssenkrupp – are both signators of the Hydrogen Europe letter and members of the Ammonia Energy Association.