Af en toe duiken er in het straatbeeld waterstofpompen op, zoals hier in Berlijn. Maar de grootste afnemers van waterstof worden de industrie, de lucht- en de scheepsvaart. Foto Maurits Kuypers

The demand for hydrogen will pick up speed from 2030 onwards. In Germany, it is estimated by the German Fraunhofer Gesellschaft that 80 terawatt hours (TWh) will be needed by 2030, and 400 to 800 TWh by 2050.

These are the findings of an as yet unpublished study that several German media outlets have reported on. “We now know, based on this study, that the demand for hydrogen will be even greater than previously assumed,” Katherina Reiche told the German newspaper Handelsblatt. Reiche is president of the national ‘Wasserstoffrat’, which commissioned the study. Her appeal to politicians: “We need more hydrogen, and we need it faster.”

95% less greenhouse gases

The Fraunhofer institutes ISI, ISE and IEG have compared and combined eight national and four international studies in what they call their meta-study. Their starting point is that greenhouse gas emissions in Germany should be reduced by as much as 95% by 2050.

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    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Katherina_Reiche_Copyright_Westenergie_AG-678x490.jpg
    Katharina Reiche, chair of the Wasserstoffrat and CEO of Westenergie. Photo: Rat für Nachhaltige Entwicklung

    It should come as no surprise that by then, the largest demand for hydrogen – about 500 TWh – will stem from the manufacturing industry. The metal and chemical sectors in particular will be hard-pressed to produce in a CO2-neutral manner without hydrogen.

    Furthermore, demand is set to rise exponentially in the transport sector as well. A demand of 140 to 200 TWh is projected for aviation and shipping in 2050.

    Electricity consumption in the Netherlands

    By way of comparison: Annual electricity consumption in the Netherlands has fluctuated around 120 TWh for many years. This implies that a great deal of hydrogen will be involved, while hardly any is being produced at present.

    However, according to Fraunhofer, there are a number of uncertainties still surrounding the hydrogen. For example, a successful development of carbon capture and storage (CCS), could help tamp down demand. This explains the substantial disparity between 400 and 800 TWh foreseen for 2050. Fraunhofer is also assuming that all this hydrogen can never be produced domestically. A large portion will have to be imported.

    Wat is de Nationale Wasserstoffrat?

    The Nationale Wasserstoffrat – the German National Hydrogen Council – was established last year at the same time as the national Wasserstoffstrategie – the hydroden strategy. The council consists of 26 high-ranking experts from business, science and civil society. The council’s task is to advise and support the government in Berlin on proposals around the theme of hydrogen.

    Chair Katherina Reiche is a prominent member of the CDU, Angela Merkel’s party, for which she served in parliament (Bundestag) until 2015. She then switched to the business world and worked for energy giant Eon, among others. She is now CEO of Westenergie, a subsidiary of Eon.

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    About the author

    Author profile picture Maurits Kuypers graduated as a macroeconomist from the University of Amsterdam, specialising in international work. He has been active as a journalist since 1997, first for 10 years on the editorial staff of Het Financieele Dagblad in Amsterdam, then as a freelance correspondent in Berlin and Central Europe. When it comes to technological innovations, he always has an eye for the financial feasibility of a project.