AnalysisHydrogen network

Getting ahead of the wave

Policymakers and network operators want to prevent a classic chicken-and-egg problem in the hydrogen ramp-up. Chances for success are not bad.

Getting ahead of the wave

The significance of the plans now on the table for Germany's future hydrogen network cannot be overstated. The routing of the major pipelines is the crucial piece of the puzzle for the energy transition and the green transformation. New gas and hydrogen power plants can now be connected to this network, which will mid-term secure the production of solar and wind power. It forms the basis for further hydrogen infrastructure planning, ranging from distribution networks to storage. Future industrial large consumers of hydrogen, such as the steel industry, gain a degree of planning security. The hydrogen import strategy is based on this. Even municipalities, in their heat transition, cannot do without a map of the essential pipeline connections.

In the electricity sector, it is clear what happens when the necessary infrastructure is not addressed in a timely manner. The expansion of major power highways has lagged for years, resulting in a significant investment backlog today. Together with network operators, policymakers seem to have set the goal of getting ahead of the wave in the ramp-up of the hydrogen economy this time. Of course, it is also made easier by the fact that the costs for the hydrogen network are significantly lower than those for expanding high and extra-high voltage lines in Germany. The fact that about half of the core network is supposed to consist of converted natural gas pipelines is certainly helpful. However, the core problem still remains: it involves billions of investments in a market that does not exist today - with all the risks for network operators and their financiers. It could once again become a classic chicken-and-egg problem. However, companies now promise to take the lead, and the Ministry of Economic Affairs promises to keep bureaucracy to a minimum and approval processes as short as possible. That gives hope.

With these plans Germany is currently a pioneer in Europe. Therefore, the approximately 10,000-kilometer-long German core network could serve as the foundation for the future European hydrogen network, thus driving the ramp-up of the hydrogen economy across the entire EU. This is crucial because it won't be feasible without deliveries from abroad. Around two-thirds of Germany's demand are expected to be imported in the mid-term.