On March 10, 2020, as COVID-19 enveloped Europe and the Americas, European Commission (EC) President Ursula van der Leyen declared clean hydrogen energy “a pillar” of the European Union (EU)’s new industrial strategy. Van der Leyen identified the “Green Transition” as a key driver of the strategy, the EU’s blueprint for growth and global competitiveness. While COVID-19 will likely have significant effects on hydrogen’s success in Europe, hydrogen has nevertheless become a top EC energy priority. It is likely to stay that way even amid a global pandemic thanks to the EC’s progressive policymaking.
As an industrial gas, hydrogen is a major global business of longstanding. Current hydrogen production from fossil fuels amounts to 8 million tons/year in the EU alone. There and elsewhere, hydrogen is used for hydrocracking and desulphurization in petrochemical refineries; for ammonia production and fertilizer in the chemical and agricultural sectors; and for methanol production and steel smelting. Beyond traditional markets and uses, the EC recognizes hydrogen’s future value as a versatile fuel, energy carrier, and storage medium in a clean, integrated energy system.
Today, most hydrogen energy technologies are in some phase of research, development, and deployment (RD&D) or early stage commercialization. Continued RD&D funding and policy support are needed not only for research that improves performance and reduces costs, but also for the purpose of