The European Green Deal, published in December 2019 by the European Commission, strengthened the previously announced objectives in terms of sustainability, renewable energy deployment and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. It sets unprecedented objectives for the decarbonization of the European Union, with a target of net-zero emissions by 2050 and an intermediary 55% reduction of emissions in 2030, compared to 1990.
Achieving net-zero emissions in the next thirty years represents a formidable challenge for the entire continent, and especially for its energy sector, which accounts for around three quarters of European greenhouse gas emissions today. Under these climate ambitions, even the hardest-to-abate sectors are now confronted with the challenge of reducing their emissions to near net-zero. The transition towards a decarbonized European energy system needs to mobilize a wide range of solutions to ensure that energy supply remains secure and affordable for all European consumers. While renewables, electrification and energy efficiency are obvious and well-known contributors to a successful decarbonization, it is uncertain whether they are sufficient.
Promising technologies are renewable and low-carbon hydrogen; versatile and clean fuels that could be used across the energy supply chain: as energy carrier and as feedstock for other synthetic fuels and industry processes. Renewable hydrogen is produced from biomass or via electrolysis (powered by electricity from renewable sources), while low-carbon hydrogen is based on fossil fuels with low-emissions technologies like carbon capture and permanent storage (reformers with CCS) or pyrolysis. The potential and adaptability of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen have gained the interest of policy-makers and industrials. Not only can hydrogen help decarbonize the energy uses but it can also – together with electrification and renewables – foster energy system integration.
Few studies have addressed the potential of hydrogen in decarbonizing the European energy system in a holistic and detailed manner. The Hydrogen for Europe research project fills this gap. It is a scientific study based on a joint modelling effort from research centers IFPEN and SINTEF, led by Deloitte. The study delivers a comprehensive analysis regarding the dynamics of the European energy transition and the contribution of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen to the European climate objectives. It seeks to inform industrial players and policy-makers in fostering an optimal pathway to energy transition, that leverages the full potential of low-carbon and renewable technologies and allows to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 at the least cost.