Imagine an energy system where the electricity that powers our cars came from the solar panels on our roofs, while our buildings are kept warm with heat from a nearby factory, and the factory is fuelled by clean hydrogen produced from offshore wind turbines. With the European Commission’s new hydrogen strategy (COM(2020) 301), this vision of an hydrogen ecosystem can be reality.
In light of the European Green Deal and the general transformation of the EU energy sector, EURACOAL members are very much interested in expanding their hydrogen-related activities. We see this as a way to diversify portfolios and to transition towards low- or zero-emissions. Among our members, several companies such as SUAS (CZ); RWE, STEAG and DMT (DE); PPC and CERTH (EL); JSW and Tauron (PL); and DTEK (UA) are using their existing, highly skilled workforces and extensive infrastructure to build up production capacities for hydrogen and e-fuels. These can be used in steel production and other industries, as well as for transport. Members are also examining underground hydrogen storage which would allow renewable energy to be stored for later transformation back to electricity or heat. Some members already produce hydrogen from coke oven gas, which lowers GHG emissions during the transition.
EURACOAL members have long experience in heat and power generation, and in the management of large-scale, commercial energy projects. At the same time, the coal industry is under increasing pressure to transition towards carbon neutrality, and is encouraged to look at alternative investments that make use of existing competencies. We propose using these factors to support EU leadership in the creation of an hydrogen economy. Investing in hydrogen provides an opportunity for a just transition in the coal regions. For example, we are very much interested in the European Hydrogen Valleys Partnership. Some of our member companies are active in regions including North Rhine-Westphalia and Western Macedonia, but members in other regions such as Silesia are similarly looking to actively shape the transformation of their regions. Creating a hydrogen value chain in the coal mining regions can provide a new momentum for those regions hardest hit by decades of de-industrialisation.