Lhe European Parliament voted, on 14 September, on a draft revision of the directive on renewable energies submitted to it by the European Commission. The challenge was to reinforce the objectives for the deployment of renewable energies, in line with the European Union’s new ambitions in terms of renewable fuels of non-biological origin (hydrogen and its derivatives).
The problem is that an amendment making it possible to stamp “renewable” hydrogen produced from electricity which would not necessarily be renewable has been adopted by Parliament… In addition to the deception that this would constitute for the consumer, this generates a triple time bomb: climatic, financial and industrial.
This amendment extends to one quarter the maximum time difference between the production of renewable electricity and the production of hydrogen by water electrolysis. Thus, it makes it possible to qualify hydrogen produced in the absence of wind or sun as “renewable” if, at some point in the quarter, wind or solar electricity has been injected into the grid. As electricity is poorly stored, it is not necessarily renewable electricity that the electrolyser will in practice consume, but the electricity available at that time, potentially produced by other means, in particular fossil fuels (coal or gas).
Adapt the load
This device would therefore make it possible to qualify as “renewable” hydrogen whose carbon footprint could be up to 50% greater than that of the hydrogen produced by current fossil gas steam reforming processes. This will deprive hydrogen of its relevance for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions… which is nevertheless its primary interest.
To produce truly “renewable” hydrogen from solar or wind energy, the electrolyzers must only be operated when the network receives the renewable energy with which they are to be supplied. This makes it necessary to adapt the load and the power of the electrolysers to renewable production, and reduces their utilization rate, resulting in higher hydrogen production costs.
By allowing electrolyzers to operate without having to take into account fluctuations in renewable production, the amendment removes this constraint. However, it will not be possible over time to overestimate the volumes of renewable hydrogen produced and to underestimate the costs of this production. Indeed, if in the long term we really do without fossil fuels, the electrolysers will necessarily have to follow the fluctuations of renewable production: they will therefore produce less hydrogen than initially, and for more.
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