H2 Reality Check – Reappraising the EU's H2 Strategy in a New Era of Geopolitical Disruptions

Hydrogen is viewed as an indispensable energy carrier in climate-neutrality pathways for the EU, expected to provide storage for surplus renewable electricity and high-density energy for hard-to-electrify applications in sectors like industry, heating, and mobility. Because of such projections, the EU and many member states have developed hydrogen strategies to foster the adoption of hydrogen as a fuel. At the same time, the geopolitical situation for the EU has dramatically changed over the past years, leading to a significant reappraisal of policy priorities in many fields, especially with respect to protecting and building an industrial base in Europe and growing European and member states’ military capabilities in the short and medium term.

The focus of the study

The 7-month research project, which will be undertaken with ECF funding, wants to analyze the risks and dependencies of a widespread use of hydrogen in the EU´s industry sector in the light of new geopolitical and geoeconomic conditions. The focus of this study will be the analysis of current EU goals for 2030 and 2035 for decarbonizing the industry sector by using hydrogen with regard to the entailing political risks and dependencies that arise from the current geopolitical situation. The second focus will be on hydrogen strategies for heat supply in the energy-intensive industrial sector. Direct electrification as an alternative to hydrogen will be discussed in certain aspects of this study (e. g. energy and resources demand, costs, import dependency). The study is divided into five areas, which are being developed by CASSIS and EWI: Status quo, Technology & Economy, Dependency, Transition, and Summary & Conclusion.

Strategic fit of the study

This project focusses primarily on two of ECF big bets: Fossil-free energy and Europe’s industrial transformation. ECF’s priorities lie within accelerating of a just transition to affordable and clean energy as well as enhancing EU’s long-term industrial prosperity. The grant objective for the joint study is a critical and evidence-based review of the official hydrogen targets by the year 2030 in light of new conditions of the European and global geopolitical landscape, economic-financial constraints of the EU as well as technological uncertainties to enhance energy and cost efficiency. Thus, the EU is beginning to re-define its policy priorities by spending much more financial resources to security and defense as well as to re-shoring some industrial capacities back to Europe in the light of its de-risking as well as self-sufficiency and autonomy agenda. Hence, energy- and cost-efficiency may play a much more prominent role than in the past as the EU won’t be able to subsidize its ambitious energy transition to a non-fossil fuel era as much as prior to the Ukraine- and Gaza-wars, an even more ambiguous relationship with China, current developments on the crude oil market and upcoming elections in the US. All these new geopolitical and geoeconomic developments and conditions will have a major influence on the EU’s hydrogen strategy as well as the international hype of hydrogen as a “new silver bullet” solution for a fastening decarbonization of the worldwide industries.

Organisational strength and Uniqueness of the study

EUCERS (originally the European Centre for Climate, Energy and Resource Security) has originally been created in 2011 at King´s College in London and became a well-known leading research centre on energy resources, raw materials and climate security policies in UK and Europe. In 2020, EUCERS moved to the University of Bonn (Germany´s most successful University of Excellence) and has become a cluster of the newly created, larger Center for Advanced Security, Strategic and Integration Studies (CASSIS). CASSIS links various security issues and policies (incl. energy, critical raw materials, cybersecurity, critical infrastructure protection, space policies) with strategic, sustainability, economic, technological, financial, and other aspects. Pursued research approaches are based on a wider definition of advanced security linked with strategic questions and a dedicated sustainability perspective (with Bonn being a leading hub of sustainability research and activities) in a multidimensional and cross-cutting approach.

With the geopolitical expertise of CASSIS and the energy economics expertise of EWI, the project consortium offers a unique opportunity to analyze the industrial transformation towards a hydrogen economy from a geopolitical and economic perspective. The uniqueness of this joint research project is thus twofold: (1) The joint project of CASSIS and EWI combines their unique research strength, focus and expertise in energy geopolitics and the economic dimensions of energy policies in general and in regard to this joint project specifically the EU´s, Germany´s and global hydrogen policies, strategies, and targets, and (2) It will be the first project, which systematically reviews the EU´s and Germany´s hydrogen policies in the light of the new geopolitical conditions and ramifications as well as the changing economic-financial conditions due to the Ukraine- and Gaza wars, a fragmented globalization and re-prioritisation of public funding by the European Commission as well as the European Council in favour of defence and security with potentially wide-reaching implications on the EU´s future energy and climate policies.


Project Managers 

Avatar Fels

Dr. Enrico Fels

Avatar Umbach

Dr. Frank Umbach

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Team


Supported by:

In Cooperation with:

European Climate Foundation
© European Climate Foundation
EWI
© EWI
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