German Advisory Council on the Environment

Type:Statement · date of issue 2021.11.22The role of hydrogen in climate protection: quality rather than quantity

Hydrogen can play an important role in climate protection, but will remain a scarce and valuable energy carrier for the foreseeable future. In this report, the SRU recommends that all efforts should be focused on the market ramp-up for green hydrogen made from wind and solar energy. Even for a transitional period, policy-makers should not support fossil-based hydrogen.

In the view of the SRU, blue hydrogen is not suitable as a so-called bridging technology, as this would require new infrastructure that would delay the long-term transformation to renewable energies.
Only green hydrogen can be produced without greenhouse gas emissions and sustainably. However, the production of green hydrogen has an environmental footprint as well. It consumes large amounts of renewable electricity and requires raw materials and land. Moreover, the additional water consumption can be a problem for arid regions. To limit negative environmental and social impacts, a certification system with ambitious sustainability criteria is necessary.
State support for green hydrogen and downstream products should be focused on the sectors in which its use is necessary for long-term decarbonisation. These include, above all, the chemical industry, the steel industry, and international shipping and aviation. For heating and passenger cars, however, the use of hydrogen is inefficient and significantly more expensive than direct electrification via heat pumps and battery-electric vehicles.
Infrastructure planning for hydrogen, natural gas and electricity should be more closely interlinked and aligned with climate targets. Long-term strategies for the phase-out of natural gas and oil should be laid down in order to avoid misinvestment in fossil technologies and to initiate the necessary transformation in all sectors.
This English-language publication summarises a comprehensive German-language statement on the role of hydrogen in climate protection in Germany published in June 2021.


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