Fit for 2030 series: Hydrogen enters center stage in RED

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Renewable Fuels of Non-Biological (RFNBO) have increased in importance in the updated REDII proposal. RFNBOs include renewable hydrogen, synthetic e-fuels containing carbon and also industrial products such as synthetic chemicals. The details on the fuels production and sustainability criteria remain unchanged from the previous RED, requiring an emission reduction of 70%.  However, the actual sustainability and real-world emissions intensity are yet to be defined in the soon to be released delegated act. 

 The scope and scale of the foreseen deployment of renewable hydrogen from now to 2030 is very large. The proposal includes a 2.6 % target in transport and 50% replacement of grey with green hydrogen in industry. Overall, this sums up to roughly 5 million tonnes of green hydrogen for industry and another 5 for transport, for a total of 10 million tonnes of RNFBOs per year by 2030, assuming no increase in hydrogen use in industry.  

In electricity terms, a back-of-the-envelope calculation would suggest that 250TWh of electricity will be needed to cover the 50% of the 9.7 million tonnes of hydrogen currently used in industry. Similarly, the 2.6% target in transport will need 250 TWh of renewable electricity to be covered. Overall, for both transport and industry a total of 500 TWh of renewable electricity will be needed in 2030 just for RFNBOs. That’s more than the amount of electricity consumed in France every year (480 TWh). If we compare to the total renewable power generation in the EU in 2019 (1,092 TWh) half of it will be needed to cover hydrogen production.  

 The proposed renewable target for 2030 (40%) would imply that 67% of the power generation will need to be renewable, meaning that the current renewable power generation will need to double by 2030 (adding an extra 1,000 TWh of renewable production). Therefore, it is important to set additional targets for renewable power generation for hydrogen production, otherwise half of that extra renewable power generation will be used for the production of RFNBO (for more information on hydrogen and additionality, read more here).

Finally, how and where this hydrogen will be used in industry is unclear. While the previous iterations of the revised RED indicated that there will be a delegated act to define the accounting of “renewable products produced in part with renewable hydrogen” by 2023 to give a forum to work out the details, it seems like the final revised RES replaces it with a simple ISO to be used for the accounting of hydrogen use in industry. Therefore, whether hydrogen use is to be focused at large industrial sites such as steel or it is meant at many small sites in small parts through blended in the gas grid is yet to be defined. The only hint we have is that conventional fuel (fossil fuel) manufacture will, thankfully, be excluded. 

The large targets for hydrogen production are admirably – but therein lies the danger of cannibalising renewables electricity. With such ambition for hydrogen it’s more important than ever that new additional renewables be mandated to meet the electricity needs of hydrogen.” said Keith Whiriskey, Deputy Director at Bellona Europa