If there was a popularity contest among molecules, hydrogen would surely be a promising contestant. It has become impossible to talk about energy transition without talking about the role of hydrogen in it. It is with good reason therefore that ERC introduced a Focus Group on hydrogen during the ERC event on 7 March on Changing Demand in the Built Environment.

During the plenary session it already became clear that while there is general agreement about the potential of hydrogen in industrial applications and mobility, not everybody is convinced of its potential for the built environment. Joyce Conings, Program Coordinator at NLHydrogen Association and Jan Prins, Vice-President at Siemens Energy and ERC Steering Committee member, hosted the inaugural Focus Group session and had invited three speakers to share their views on hydrogen in the built environment
  • Albert van der Molen, Innovation Expert, Stedin
  • Willem Henskens, Business Developer Hydrogen, Essent
  • Silvan de Boer, Business / Asset Developer, Eneco

Joyce Conings briefly introduced NLHydrogen as the trade association that connects, strengthens and represents the Dutch hydrogen sector. Launched in May 2023, the association now brings together members from each part of the hydrogen value chain. NLHydrogen seeks to help the industry scale up, to advance supporting policy and to reduce costs, both for hydrogen as feedstock and hydrogen as energy carrier.

Albert van der Molen shared Stedin’s experience with Stad aan ’t Haringvliet, a village 50 km south of Rotterdam that is part of the municipality Goeree-Overflakkee. Stedin and the municipality are working together to replace natural gas and Stedin is testing the potential of hydrogen to heat homes. Public engagement was an important part of the project, addressing key concerns including safety, affordability and scalability. In June 2023 the municipality put the go / no go decision to use hydrogen to a public vote and the inhabitants voted in favor. Research into using the natural gas grid for hydrogen transportation is still ongoing.

According to Willem Henskens, blending of hydrogen into the natural gas grid can kickstart the hydrogen value chain. Blending can create opportunities for offtake guarantees, in particular in the built environment. This is important, as a hydrogen production asset needs certainty to close the business case. Essent expects that 10 to 20 per cent of all Dutch homes will not be able to switch to district heating or electrified heating. As the costs of making a home “hydrogen ready” are low compared to electrified heating, Essent sees homes, and potentially buildings, as a relevant future market for hydrogen.

On costs, Silvan de Boer added that he expects that the willingness-to-pay for sustainable gases will be higher for businesses than for households. Eneco is running a number of demonstration projects to test the existing infrastructure, system integration (hydrogen production and waste water treatment) and forms of public-private cooperation. De Boer sees a limited role for green hydrogen for homes before 2030 but nevertheless encourages attendees to keep an eye on developments and results of demonstration projects and pilots, agreeing with Henskens that there will be homes for which there is no other alternative to natural gas.

The discussion led by Ismail Sarti of JongRegio pushed the presenters on their personal convictions of the role of hydrogen. At the moment a hydrogen producer has little incentive to prioritize selling to homes over selling to industry. However, hydrogen blending can get the market going and can contribute to consumer freedom of choice for heating.

The presentations from the Hydrogen Focus Group session can be found on the ERC website
  1. Login and head to FORUM
  2. Select EVENTS
The next Hydrogen Focus Group meeting on 4 June 2024 will be in collaboration with the Focus Group on System Integration.
Author: Femke Perlot-Hoogeveen
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