To become climate-neutral by 2050, Europe needs to transform its energy system, which accounts for 75% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. The two-prong EU strategies for energy system integration and hydrogen, adopted on 8 Jul, will pave the way towards a more efficient and interconnected energy sector, driven by the twin goals of a cleaner planet and a stronger economy.
Energy system integration
The current model where energy consumption in transport, industry, gas and buildings is happening in ‘silos’ – each with separate value chains, rules, infrastructure, planning and operations – cannot deliver climate neutrality by 2050 in a cost-efficient way.
Energy system integration means that the system is planned and operated as a whole, linking different energy carriers, infrastructures, and consumption sectors. This connected and flexible system will be more efficient, and reduce costs for society.
For example, this means a system where the electricity that fuels Europe’s cars could come from the solar panels on our roofs, while our buildings are kept warm with heat from a nearby factory, and the factory is fueled by clean hydrogen produced from off-shore wind energy.
In an integrated energy system, hydrogen can support the decarbonization of industry, transport, power generation and buildings across Europe. Hydrogen can power sectors that are not suitable for electrification and provide storage to balance variable renewable energy flows, but this can only be achieved with coordinated action between the public and private sector, at EU level.
The priority is to develop renewable hydrogen, produced using mainly wind and solar energy. However, in the short and medium terms, other forms of low-carbon hydrogen are needed to rapidly reduce emissions and support the development of a viable market.
This gradual transition will require a phased approach:
- From 2020 to 2024, installation of at least 6 gigawatts of renewable hydrogen electrolysers in the EU, and the production of up to one million tons of renewable hydrogen.
- From 2025 to 2030, hydrogen needs to become an intrinsic part of the integrated energy system, with at least 40 gigawatts of renewable hydrogen electrolysers and the production of up to ten million tons of renewable hydrogen in the EU.
- From 2030 to 2050, renewable hydrogen technologies should reach maturity and be deployed at large scale across all hard-to-decarbonize sectors.