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EU notebook: von der Leyen says green hydrogen prices to fall by half by end of decade
Plus, coalition wants EU to slash carbon footprint of its buildings
By Daniel Byrne
(Dan Byrne is a correspondent based in Dublin, covering climate and finance matters. He is a graduate of Dublin City University. He has held communications & fundraising roles in NGOs and has contributed content for Irish media outlets RTE, AMLintelligence, and the Irish Examiner.)
DUBLIN (Callaway Climate Insights) — It will be possible to dramatically reduce the price of green hydrogen to affordable levels by 2030, the European Commission has said.
The bloc is currently planning to bring the cost of the zero-carbon fuel down to €1.80 ($2.04) per kg by the end of the decade, according to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
To put that in context, green hydrogen costs anywhere between €2.60 and €5.80 per kg, depending on the location and cost to generate, according to the Commission’s July 2020 figures.
This would mean a reduction of between 30% and 70% on more current prices, and in a keynote speech for European Hydrogen Week 2021, von der Leyen confirmed that “this goal is within reach.”
“We have to scale up clean hydrogen production, expand its applications, and create a virtuous circle where demand and supply feed each other and bring the prices down,” she said.
“This is without any doubt a global endeavor, but I want Europe to be leading the race. This is the time to invest in Europe's leadership on hydrogen, for our own sake, and for the world’s sake.”
Hydrogen itself is a fuel that has no carbon footprint. Producing it can make a footprint if the methods involve fossil fuels, so the term “green hydrogen” has been used to refer to hydrogen that is produced sustainably.
Examples include using solar, wind or wave power to feed an electrolysis machine that splits water into its two elemental components, thus yielding a supply of hydrogen.
It is seen by the EU as a perfect alternative to fossil fuels, and a key tool in achieving its ambitious Fit-For-55 climate goals, but right now, it’s an expensive energy source for consumers, and this situation needs to change, von der Leyen stressed.
“How do we intend to do that? First, strong public investment to innovate and scale up. Second, international cooperation to build a global market for hydrogen. And third, our partnership with the private sector and researchers,” she said.
European Commissioner for Climate Action Frans Timmermans also weighed in for Hydrogen Week, saying he was “deeply convinced that hydrogen will help us complete that transition in a positive way.”
He promised that, with state aid rules, the green hydrogen industry would expand to an accessible level, putting the EU in a “very good position,” to stand out as a global leader in safeguarding climate security.
“This is feasible, this is within reach,” he said.
And let’s not forget, the stars are made of hydrogen, so let’s reach for the stars. Or as I used to say, hydrogen rocks.”
Coalition of thousands tell EU to focus on reducing the carbon footprint of Europe’s buildings
Over 4,500 organizations across the European Union have jointly called on the Commission to up its game when it comes to the carbon footprint of the bloc’s buildings.
The coalition — representing politicians, architects, environmentalists etc, and operating under the umbrella project #BuildingLife — wants “transformative policies,” to ensure that the building sector actively contributes to lowering the EU’s carbon footprint.
In an open letter to the commission, the project outlined that two fifths of energy consumption and over a third of CO₂ emissions could be traced back to buildings.
Some 11% of emissions were connected to various phases of a building’s life, it went on to explain, from construction to maintenance, through to demolition.
While the letter acknowledged that these figures were an estimate — held back by a simple lack of EU data — it did stress that what the coalition knows for sure “presents a compelling case for action.”
It has pushed for the “Whole Carbon Life Approach,” to be considered.
This would essentially mean that developers, architects, engineers, and others involved in the early phases of a building’s life cycle would examine the potential footprint of a building before ground is ever broken.
“The greatest opportunity to address operational and embodied carbon in any project occurs during the early design stages,” the letter said.
“If the whole life impact is not addressed at that point, then the opportunity to make carbon-reducing decisions diminishes and costs increase.”
It stressed that action needs to be taken immediately to ensure strong policies that foster an accepting culture around the Whole Carbon Life Approach.
It would combine support at the highest levels of the EU with an enhanced level of action at the more local level, fed by directives and guidance from important EU bodies, the project suggested.
“A climate-neutral Europe will not become a reality unless EU Policymakers in the Commission, Parliament, and Council support these policies,” the letter said.
“We call on the European Commission to work with us to deliver policies that enable the built environment sector to tackle its total carbon and resource impact.”
Price of green energy and its impact on consumers must be central Europe’s climate goals
Protecting citizens should be at the heart of the EU’s bold climate goals, Spanish MEP Nicolás González Casares (S&D) has warned.
The Commission has repeatedly praised its own vision for Europe’s climate future, in particular its far-reaching Fit-For-55 package that involves a dramatic switch to green living in all walks of life.
But Casares has warned that citizens should not be left behind as these plans come to fruition, particularly in areas like the affordability of energy, and the cost of making homes more sustainable to run.
“Protecting citizens is the objective of the work we are carrying out with the implementation of the EU Green Deal and with the Fit-For-55 package,” he told a conference.
“We should focus on implementing the package in an ambitious and equitable way with the social dimension, of course, along with energy efficiency, decarbonizing the energy system through sustainable renewable energies,” he added.
His comments come against the backdrop of the first major reputational challenge to Fit-For-55.
A jump in fossil fuel prices through the autumn left European citizens paying more for most day-to-day fuel needs.
It prompted angry calls that the bloc should not move away from fossil fuels so quickly if it will result in shortages and price spikes, especially if markets for sustainable alternatives are not fully developed yet.
Jaume Loffredo, energy policy officer at BEUC, the European Consumer Organization, said that “The priority, of course, should be … to really empower consumers to shift to energy efficiency and shift to renewables by giving them access, for example, to installers to one-stop shops, and by giving them access to financial incentives.”