Opening speech by President von der Leyen at the European Hydrogen Energy Conference 2022

(Source: European Commission)

“Check against delivery”

Your Majesty,
Vice Prime Minister Ribera,
Dear friends of the Spanish Hydrogen Association
and Hydrogen Europe,
Distinguished guests,

For years, science has been telling us that we must end our reliance on fossil fuels to save our planet.

Now the Kremlin’s attack on Ukraine has given us yet another reason. That is to secure our energy independence. The transition cannot wait. Scaling up alternative energy sources and carriers is more urgent than ever. And Spain can be a great source of inspiration for the rest of Europe. For at least three reasons.

First, Spain is a European and global leader for renewable energy.

Second, Spain has built, through the years, a rich and diversified network of energy suppliers.

And third, Spain has become a very attractive country for green hydrogen too.

In the first three months of this year, 20 per cent of all new clean hydrogen projects announced in the world were in Spain. That’s impressive. Spain is home to large scale projects like Lacq Hydrogen, where the co-location of solar and electrolysers is cutting the cost of power by two thirds. And gas pipelines are being converted to carry green hydrogen to France and beyond.

A shift is happening in Spain and across Europe: from small-scale subsidised hydrogen to mass-scale competitive hydrogen. Our task is now to accelerate.

Some will tell you that hydrogen is for the future. I disagree. Europe’s hydrogen economy is being built today. For instance, as we speak, countries on the North Sea are announcing that they will increase their offshore wind production at massive scale, and use part of it for clean hydrogen. Clean hydrogen already proves its value to de-carbonise our economy. And – even better – it is beginning to be competitive also from an economic point of view.

But we are not there yet. If we are to meet our climate goals, and end our dependence on Russian fossil fuels, we must ramp up our ambition. That is why the European Commission, in its new plan, REPowerEU, has doubled the EU hydrogen targets for 2030 to ten million tons of renewable hydrogen produced annually in the EU by 2030. And another 10 million tons in annual imports. We must complete the construction of the European hydrogen economy so that we offer your industry the conditions to move faster.

Today I would like to focus on four actions that will get us there.

First, injecting public investment to leverage even more private investment.

Second, cooperating closely with industry to advance projects and innovation.

Third, giving the industry the predictability it needs.

And finally, building a truly global market for hydrogen.

With the current rise in gas prices, green hydrogen can already be cheaper than grey hydrogen. Our target is to bring its cost well below 1.8 euros per kilo by 2030. And this goal is within reach. The more we invest, the quicker we’ll get there.

This is my first point. We have to scale-up clean hydrogen production, expand its applications, and create a virtuous circle where demand and supply feed each other and bring the prices down.

Our EU recovery plan, NextGenerationEU, is worth 750 billion euros over 4 years. Over one third of this will finance the goals set in the European Green Deal to ensure sufficient renewable electricity to produce the renewable hydrogen. 9.3 billion euros of recovery funds are going straight into hydrogen projects. At the same time, the Commission is assessing State Aid for hydrogen projects as a priority. Our Important Projects of Common European Interest on hydrogen shall be approved by the summer. This will kickstart large industry-driven investments, which are worth well over 50 billion euros. Hydrogen is a perfect example of what public-private partnerships can achieve.

That is my second point. It is the concept that inspires and drives our European Clean Hydrogen Alliance. Because our entire hydrogen transition is about cooperation to de-risk investment, build a massive project pipeline and push the innovation frontier. Our recently launched new Clean Hydrogen Partnership will add one billion euros to research and innovation, matched by another one billion from industry. It’s a new step to bring innovative technologies from the laboratory to the factory floor and, ultimately, to European businesses and consumers.

And this brings me to my third point. Because for this cooperation to intensify and become a virtuous cycle industry and private investors need predictability. The EU is giving you targets for 2030. The technology and public investment is getting on stream. And now come the rules of the game.

I am glad to announce that the Commission has presented today, as part of REPowerEU, the hydrogen accelerator. With this, all regulatory measures announced in the European hydrogen strategy have now been completed. This means that we can start with the actual construction of an integrated gas and hydrogen infrastructure, including storage and port infrastructure. And with the development of a Global European Hydrogen Facility, we will transform and connect our regional hydrogen ecosystems into the world’s leading hydrogen market.

My final point is about the global hydrogen market. What has begun in Europe – in our labs, in our regions and in Member States – will turn into a competitive global market. Big harbours in Europe, the Americas,  the Middle East, Africa and Australia are already creating new shipping corridors for clean hydrogen. Europe’s global investment strategy Global Gateway is there to support green hydrogen projects around the world.

We have partner countries that have an abundance of renewable energy. Europe wants to buy green hydrogen from them. And we are ready to invest in their projects to get them running. Because energy diversity is energy security. We want a clean and lucrative hydrogen market led by Europe and its partners to sooner rather than later replace the global market for dirty fossil fuels.

This is how we can build a European and global hydrogen economy. The targets and rules are in place. The investment and tech is there. And together we are making it happen. Because green hydrogen is not just a huge commercial and development opportunity. Green hydrogen is energy security for Europe. And it can provide climate security for the global community.

I wish you a successful conference.

Thank you!

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