Hydrogen strategies are being rolled out at European, national, regional and district levels with growing speed and conviction, with the green molecule seen as an essential piece of the decarbonisation puzzle. The direction and ambition laid out by those in power is clear.

But it’s not always so clear how this works from the bottom up, for those working on the nuts and bolts of green hydrogen implementation. How does a single green H2 company fit in?

To illustrate how this could look in practice, we’ve decided to share how our company slots into these multi-strata strategies in our quest to scale modular AEM electrolysers. And to understand how Enapter fits into the big picture, we must start at the smallest scale.

Starting with Saerbeck

As announced last year, the German municipality of Saerbeck is planned to be home to our first mass production site and R&D facility – the Enapter Campus.

The “Climate Community” of Saerbeck already produces twice the electricity it needs through its Bioenergiepark, and doubles this through rooftop solar and a nearby windpark.

As well as supplying us with fresh renewable energy for electrolyser mass production once the Campus is running in 2022, Saerbeck will also tackle hydrogen mobility: The municipality is expecting a hydrogen bus line and refuelling station between 2023 and 2025.

Initiatives like these are win-win situations, with pioneering communities gaining access to green mobility and electrolysers coming one step closer to grey hydrogen parity with every deployment.

Saerbeck plays a vital part in Enapter’s expansion story, just as Enapter will be central to the development and implementation of green hydrogen projects in Saerbeck – and beyond.

But even if the municipality has a strong climate action strategy that includes concrete green hydrogen applications, it’s only at the district level that broader hydrogen strategies emerge.

The Steinfurt Strategy

Saerbeck’s hydrogen mobility ambitions are one part of the hydrogen mobility masterplan created by the wider district of Steinfurt, with which it became a finalist in the running to become North Rhine-Westphalia’s Hydrogen Mobility Model Region.

Despite not winning, Steinfurt’s drive for climate-friendly energy and mobility, as well as €350,000 of prize money, led it to launch its masterplan via the brand “HYMAT-Energie”.

The HYMAT-Energie hydrogen mobility competence centre and network was launched late last year by Steinfurt and energieland2050 e.V. to implement the plan, with Enapter set to play a key role in both knowledge transfer and green hydrogen production.

Its masterplan foresees a full spectrum of hydrogen mobility infrastructure in place by 2030, ranging from green hydrogen production to distribution and multi-modal hydrogen mobility.

Among the 32 projects in the plan are a hydrogen-powered train connection by 2025, regional hydrogen pipelines and refuelling stations, and even more hydrogen bus lines – all driven by decentralised competence teams, including one in Saerbeck.

In addition to our electrolysers playing their part in enabling a number of these projects, Enapter, as part of the Saerbeck Competence Team, will help guide the network’s focus on hydrogen research and development, production, storage, use and logistics.

Such district hydrogen strategies pool capabilities of municipalities, letting them implement hydrogen initiatives they wouldn’t be capable of alone, and link the hydrogen district to the wider region – as hinted with the illustration’s regional pipeline, canal and airport connections.

New Industry North Rhine-Westphalia

Successful implementation of the masterplan by HYMAT-Energie will be a significant contribution to the new hydrogen strategy roadmap unveiled by North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) in November last year.

The roadmap is built around the three pillars of Industry, Mobility, and Energy & Infrastructure – broken down, like Steinfurt’s, into 2025 and 2030 horizons.

NRW sees its hydrogen demand growing to 104 TW Hours by 2050, and the state is eager to embrace green hydrogen to capitalise on the impending boom, decarbonise its industry, create new jobs and fill old ones lost in the transition from its fossil fuel incumbency.

In introducing the roadmap last year, Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart, the NRW State Minister for Economy, Innovation, Digitalisation and Energy pointed to our electrolysers as a current example of the kind of H2 technologies NRW needs to develop and produce to successfully work in the new world of hydrogen-based industry.

Digging further into the NRW hydrogen roadmap, it recognises AEM technology as a green hydrogen production method that’s expected to lower electrolyser material and system costs. As the world’s only commercial manufacturer of AEM technology, Enapter is exceptionally placed to realise the cost reduction potential of AEM and thus distributed green hydrogen.

If this can happen as we plan in NRW, a state reinventing itself for a new industrial age, we can make a solid contribution to development of a self-sustaining green H2 ecosystem.

The German Goals

For Germany, as with NRW, the benefits of a rapid move to green hydrogen are clear – it’s an essential tool for decarbonisation, a tantalising economic opportunity, a boost to help recover from the impacts of the Coronavirus Pandemic, and the chance to be a frontrunner.

As well as its existing programmes supporting H2 tech development, Germany’s Hydrogen Strategy from 2020 was matched with a €9 billion package for market ramp-up of H2 tech. Its first step will be to speed up the rollout of hydrogen technology, establishing a strong and sustainable domestic market for the production and use of hydrogen in the federal republic.

When looking at Germany’s goals for creating a self-sustaining hydrogen industry, it’s clear to see where we could fit. The Federal Government plans to establish up to 5 GW of green hydrogen capacity by 2025, and will provide support for the establishment and operation of electrolysers to help drive this transition. A large chunk of this capacity could already come online via our Saerbeck Campus in 2022, which is expected to be capable of producing modular electrolysers with a total annual capacity of 280MW – more than 5% of the goal.

Investment in scaling up the production of modular tech like AEM electrolysers (not just building bigger stand-alone plants) is needed to build the production capacity to supply and create demand from the get-go: Distributed green H2 production enables myriad use cases that together can help build hydrogen ecosystems fitting German and European goals.

Green Deal Green Hydrogen

The European Union is just as fervent in its support of green hydrogen scale-up as Germany, aiming to install at least 40 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolysers by 2030 and deploy green H2 tech at large scale to all hard-to-decarbonise sectors by 2050.

For this, the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance will build up a pipeline of clean hydrogen investments to be funded by the EU, in addition to creating the necessary policy frameworks. The EU foresees €180-470 bn of investment made by 2050 to get a renewable hydrogen market up and running and create large-scale production capacities.

One important accelerator will be IPCEIs – Important Projects of Common European Interest. Although the IPCEI Hydrogen won’t directly support companies (creating unbalanced competition), it will invest in cross-border hydrogen ecosystems or value chains: H2 value chains like those emerging in Saerbeck, Steinfurt and NRW, which show strong potential for cross-border integration via Rhine harbours and with the BENELUX countries.

Support of such value chains wouldn’t just help the EU reach electrolyser targets. If we continue to realise the cost reduction potential of AEM electrolysers, these will become a dominant H2 production tech and one unique to German and EU value creation. AEM is a European technology. And with B2B companies such as ours, each unit sold here adds further value with EU system integrators and helps the industry grow.

Nothing like the EU’s H2 strategy exists on a global scale; however, it’s conceivable that UN bodies or the UN Climate Talks could lead the way to one. Indeed, the Mission Innovation initiative born at COP21 in Paris has taken the first step with its Hydrogen Valley platform.

But despite the impact top-level ambition and strategy can have, green H2 has to be made a priority at all levels. And we believe that green hydrogen companies can contribute to this strategic growth by striving to add value at all stages.