Increased Offshore Wind Targets to Fuel REPowerEU Green Hydrogen Ambitions

The 150 GW of offshore wind capacity pledged to be reached by 2050 by Belgium, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands under the Esbjerg Declaration, signed yesterday (18 May) at the North Sea Summit, will contribute to large-scale onshore and offshore production of green hydrogen, one of the focal points of the European Commission’s REPowerEU strategy, also launched yesterday.

The Ministers of Energy of Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands and the President of the European Commission; Photo source: State of Green

In an effort to strengthen Europe’s energy security and cut its reliance on Russian fossil fuels well before 2030, the EU plans to focus heavily on (green) hydrogen, faster deployment of renewable projects, rooftop solar and heatpump obligations, and making LNG its ‘transition fuel’.

The four EU countries that vowed to bring at least 65 GW of offshore wind by 2030 and 150 GW by 2050 said they had set combined green hydrogen targets of about 20 GW production capacity by 2030, and are looking to expand this even further for 2050.

“The recent geopolitical events will accelerate our efforts to reduce fossil fuel consumption and promote the deployment of renewable energy for more energy resilience in Europe. Therefore, we will increasingly replace fossil fuels, including Russian oil, coal and gas, with European renewable energy from the North Sea, including offshore wind and green hydrogen, contributing to both EU climate neutrality and energy security”, the Esbjerg Declaration reads.

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One of the main short-term action plans of REPowerEU is the approval of first EU-wide hydrogen projects by the summer, along with rapid roll-out of solar and wind energy projects combined with renewable hydrogen deployment to save around 50 bcm of gas imports.

In the medium term, the EU plans to increase its renewable energy target for 2030 from 40 per cent to 45 per cent, enable faster permitting of renewables, set up a hydrogen accelerator to build 17.5 GW of electrolysers by 2025 and a modern regulatory framework for hydrogen.

The new strategy outlines a target of 10 million tonnes of domestic renewable hydrogen production and 10 million tonnes of imports by 2030, to replace natural gas, coal, and oil in hard-to-decarbonise industries and transport sectors.

Also in the medium term, the EU plans significant investments in an integrated and adapted gas and electricity infrastructure network.

Interconnectors, Energy Islands, and Green Hydrogen Tie-Ups

For the four countries bringing forward the massive offshore wind plan, integration and interconnection is also one of the top priorities.

Under the Esbjerg Declaration, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands also announced their decision to jointly develop The North Sea as a Green Power Plant of Europe, an offshore renewable energy system that will consist of multiple connected offshore energy projects and hubs, offshore wind production at massive scale as well as electricity and green hydrogen interconnectors.

The system will connect the four countries and possibly other North Sea partners, including the members of the North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC).

The Ministers of Energy of the four countries have also signed a declaration on realising and advancing these plans for energy islands in the North Sea, with one of the first steps being expanding the world’s first energy island to its maximum potential capacity of 10 GW at 2040 at the latest.

Denmark and the Netherlands will explore how to connect the energy island in the Danish EEZ to a Dutch energy hub, including perspectives for offshore green hydrogen production, and Denmark also signed a Letter of Intent with Germany to initiate bilateral cooperation on green hydrogen both onshore and offshore.

The four ministers also stated that they would launch analytical work as a first step towards establishing the next of several major energy hubs and islands in the North Sea, including a collective process to identify options for the exact location, capacity and technical configuration.

“We will begin planning for multiple energy hubs and islands by undertaking a screening of the potential for offshore wind, and where relevant green hydrogen production, in our entire North Sea territory”, they said in a joint declaration.

In the development of energy hubs, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands have agreed to explore the possible synergies of cooperating on offshore hydrogen production and transmission, as well as an appropriate regulatory framework and support for green hydrogen innovation to support European production of green fuels and the phase-out of imported natural gas.

“We support the European Commission’s plan to develop a well-functioning market for green hydrogen in order to accelerate the buildout and support a high security of supply of affordable green hydrogen and energy for industry”, the Ministers of Energy said.

“In order to scale up capacity nationally and regionally, we will build on the ongoing work to establish an IPCEI on green hydrogen and consider further options for cross-border cooperation. For a well-functioning green hydrogen market across Europe, we will accompany and support the necessary EU regulation for green hydrogen”.

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