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Green hydrogen made in Germany will be cheaper than shipped imports in 2030: study

Germany may have put imports at the heart of its hydrogen strategy, but the country might be shooting itself in the foot by not putting more focus on producing its own green hydrogen.

Locally produced renewable hydrogen will be cheaper than that shipped in from overseas up to 2030, while it may also be cost-competitive with imports piped in from North Africa and European neighbours.

This is according to a recent meta-analysis of 12 studies since 2021, published by the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, which was commissioned by the State Association for Renewable Energies North Rhine-Westphalia.

Domestic production of green hydrogen is expected to cost €0,07-€0,13/kWh in 2030, the Wuppertal Institute’s reports.

As a kilogramme of hydrogen is equivalent to around 33,3kWh at lower heating value, this would work out to around €2,33-€4,33/kg (US$47,88-US$4,71/kg).

In contrast, the study calculates that hydrogen shipped over long distances, such as from the Americas, will cost €0,09-€0,21/kWh (€2,99-€6,99/kg) by that year, while piped imports are estimated to cost €0,05-€0,15/kWh (€1,67-€5,00/kg).

The analysis indicates that between all 12 studies, the cheapest estimates are for green hydrogen piped into Germany from Spain, Eastern and Northern Europe, and North Africa. It also suggests that more recent studies are trending towards more optimistic cost estimates for hydrogen imports.

Germany is currently in the process of updating its national hydrogen strategy, with leaked drafts indicating that it would meet 50-70% of its renewable H2 demand by 2030 through imports, despite a doubled electrolyser installation target of 10GW by that year.

Meanwhile, vice chancellor Robert Habeck, who is also the federal minister for economic affairs and climate action, has spent the past couple of years on a charm offensive, shoring up memorandums of understanding with potential exporters, including Australia, Brazil, Egypt, Namibia and South Africa.

The country was also the first to launch a dedicated auction to import green ammonia, methanol and synthetic aviation fuel in its H2Global scheme, which now seems set to be rolled out across the EU.

But the German government should increase efforts towards building out hydrogen capacity closer to home in the short term, argue the report authors.

“Strengthening a domestic, green hydrogen economy makes sense, not least because of the associated added value in one’s own country. Importing hydrogen does not necessarily entail cost advantages,” says Manfred Fischedick, president and scientific director of the Wuppertal Institute.

However, the study contains a caveat – scenarios that predict a higher overall demand for green hydrogen also involve a greater dependency on imports.

And while predicted demand by 2030 ranges between 29-101TWh across all sectors – including industry and energy – estimates for 2045 or 2050 indicate that it could be between 200-700TWh.

And by 2050, the cost gap between domestic and shipped hydrogen starts to close, while pipeline imports get even cheaper.

Green hydrogen produced within Germany will cost €0,07-€0,09/kWh (€2,33-€2,99/kg) in the middle of the century, similar to shipped import costs of €0,07-€0,11/kWh (€2,33-€3,66/kg). Piped imports will also fall to €0,04-€0,12/kWh (€1,33-€3,99/kg) by 2050.


The analysis also rejects blue hydrogen imports from Norway on the basis of emissions, noting that even with the most favourable assumptions of upstream emissions and carbon capture rates, molecules will still have “significantly higher GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions” than renewable hydrogen.

“Existing production plants for blue hydrogen only achieve separation rates of around 56% on average and could therefore ‘only’ reduce GHG emissions by around half compared to gray hydrogen,” it adds.

And blue H2 produced in other countries such as the US will use fossil gas associated with even higher upstream emissions, it warns.

The EU is currently only focusing its efforts on renewable hydrogen. Previous attempts to include blue hydrogen in the new Renewable Energy Directive definitions failed, but there may also be growing pressure to re-evaluate support as part of the upcoming hydrogen and decarbonised gas markets package.
– Hydrogen Insight