Decarbonizing heavy industries dependent on energy may find options with green hydrogen (H2) technologies, according to German and California experts.

hydrogen fuel stations

Scientists with the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy joined representatives from the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GOBiz) during a webinar to compare the approaches each government is taking. The webinar was hosted by the California Hydrogen Business Council.

Long-life batteries may not become a reality for awhile, said the German ministry’s Cyriac Massue, deputy head. With heavy duty vehicles and industries such as steel and chemicals, “we see green hydrogen playing a very important role in decarbonization.” 

Germany is predicting 100% growth in hydrogen by 2030, concentrated in transportation and industrial applications, Massue said. “We see ourselves as on the export side when it comes to technologies, but on the import side regarding hydrogen itself.”

In the European Union, $2 billion euros have been budgeted for hydrogen projects, and California may work with Germany on some endeavors, said the German ministry’s Toni Glaser, a deputy division head in economics and energy.

“We want to trigger investment in pilot projects where hydrogen production can be done in an efficient way and where we can demonstrate that it can be done in an economically viable manner,” Glaser said. “We need to create a global market for green hydrogen, importing more hydrogen into Germany and ramping up the global production to lower the cost.”

International cooperative projects may be explored, he said. GOBiz executive Gia Vacin said there is “much that California can learn from Germany’s approach in seeking a more holistic approach across the value chain; there is no way we can get to 100% renewables without hydrogen being part of the solution.”

Infrastructure to support transitioning to hydrogen in California may be possible by converting existing natural gas infrastructure and building facilities. The state’s emphasis is on light-duty transportation applications, but infrastructure is the “limiting growth factor,” Vacin said. We know we need to zero in and really accelerate expansion on that side.”

Since hydrogen grants were issued in 2016, the number of fueling sites in California has increased 50%, costs have decreased 40%, and capital cost/light duty vehicle has decreased more than 60%, Vacin said.

A 128-page report from the California Air Resources Board urges the state to fund incentives for hydrogen vehicles and the development of up to 200 fueling stations by 2025. Currently there are 42 stations in the state with nine opening in the past year.