Parliament vote could further delay EU H2 definition

  • : Hydrogen
  • 22/09/15

The European Parliament has, narrowly, effectively rejected the European Commission's definition of renewable hydrogen, which could bring about further delays to finalising the rules.

A slim majority adopted a specific amendment on 14 September, effectively trying to claw back competence over the legal definition of renewable hydrogen. As a result, the commission may or may not have to rethink formally presenting the so-called delegated act defining green hydrogen. Before the vote, EU commissioner Adina Valean said officials would present the act soon.

Parliament has now set its negotiating position on revising the bloc's renewable directive, ahead of talks with EU member states. It is effectively calling for renewable hydrogen to include production from established, previously-subsidised plants as well as hydrogen produced using indirect contracts for green electricity. The commission's draft regulations had foreseen that hydrogen would only be considered renewable if it is produced with an electrolyser that runs on power from a newly-built renewable facility.

Parliament's text more simply defines renewable hydrogen as being produced with an electrolyser powered by renewable electricity, biogas and biochemical conversion of biomass. Legal uncertainty may have slipped into adopted texts, as renewable power providers only need to show the "objective to arrive at intervals of no more than one hour of production".

German centre-right EPP member Markus Pieper re-inserted wording previously rejected by parliament's energy committee, which specifies that parliament and EU members, and not the commission, would regulate the renewable hydrogen definition through the ongoing process of revision to the 2018 renewable directive, known as RED III.

Pieper said the commission's proposal for a separate delegated act was "gold-rimmed hydrogen".

"That's exactly what we don't need at the moment," he said. "We want to help European start-ups and not overwhelm them with bureaucracy." But the slim parliamentary majority for rejecting the delegated act could fall apart in detailed negotiations with EU member states over a final legal text.

Industry association Hydrogen Europe welcomed the outcome of the vote, saying parliament listened to the sector's concerns that overly strict regulations would hinder development.

In contrast, photovoltaic industry association SolarPower Europe was unhappy with the rejection of the commission's draft delegated act.

"[The approved amendment] jeopardises the adoption of robust legal definition, which would have ensured that electrolyser deployment does not depend on fossil fuels", SolarPower Europe's policy advisor on renewable hydrogen Arthur Daemers said. "Right now, developers have dozens of projects in the pipeline, waiting for the clarification of the rules".

Still, SolarPower Europe joined Hydrogen Europe in welcoming the general vote, as parliament and the European Commission now support a 45pc renewables share in final energy consumption by 2030. Only EU member states are sticking to a 40pc target.

Hydrogen Europe further highlighted parliament's support for binding transport targets, with renewable fuels of non-biological origin (RFNBO) set a target of at least 2.6pc in 2028 and 5.7pc by 2030. In addition, fuel suppliers should from 2030 deliver at least 1.2pc of their fuels to the maritime sector as RFNBOs or renewable hydrogen, and 50pc of industry RFNBO demand should transition to green hydrogen by 2030, moving to 70pc by 2035.

An additional push could come from the transport sector, where a greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity reduction of at least 16pc by 2030 compared with current levels was favoured by parliament. Parliament also approved amendments which charge the commission with developing a global hydrogen import strategy for the EU market.

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