What is renewable hydrogen? The EU Commission has given its definition
The EU Commission’s definition allows producers to prove that hydrogen is renewable. In the future, producers will have to comply with "additionality" requirements, meaning that the hydrogen must be produced by means of additional renewable electricity, produced at the same time and in the same area as the hydrogen.
In itself, hydrogen is not a renewable source of energy; however, hydrogen produced using electrolysis may be considered renewable hydrogen if produced using renewable electricity.
In the planning of hydrogen and PtX projects, it is crucial that there is clarity on the criteria applicable for the production of renewable hydrogen in the EU as well as the supply of renewable hydrogen to the EU.
As such, it is very positive that the EU Commission on 13 February 2023 adopted delegated acts that determine when hydrogen may be considered as a renewable fuel of non-biological origin, also referred to as "RFNBO". The relevant acts are:
- Delegated regulation on Union methodology for RNFBOs
- Delegated regulation for a minimum threshold for GHG savings of recycled carbon fuels
The European Parliament and the Council will now either adopt or reject the delegated acts proposed by the EU Commission, and generally this must take place within two months.
The EU aims to reach 10 million tonnes of domestic renewable hydrogen production (RFNBOs) in 2030 and import the same amount from third countries in 2030. (REPowerEU Plan)
RFNBO and renewable hydrogen
RFNBO is short for "renewable fuel of non-biological origin", which is liquid and gaseous fuels produced using renewable energy, and which is of a non-biological origin.
RFNBO's are included in the EU's aims for renewable energy if they offer greenhouse gas emissions savings of more than 70% compared with fossil fuels.
Renewable hydrogen produced by using renewable electricity in the electrolysis process is considered RFNBO. The same applies to liquid fuels such as ammonia, methanol or e-fuels when produced using renewable hydrogen.
Renewable hydrogen must comply with additionality requirements
Hydrogen may be considered renewable only when the additionality requirement has been observed. Under this requirement, the hydrogen must be produced by means of additional renewable electricity, produced at the same time and in the same area as the hydrogen.
The EU Commission has determined various ways in which producers can demonstrate compliance with the additionality requirements, including where there is a direct connection between the production facility and an RE plant, where a PPA has been concluded with a producer of renewable electricity, and where the production facility uses electricity from the grid.
The rules are structured so that the requirements become stricter in step with the expected growth of the hydrogen sector. For instance, it may be a requirement in the period until January 2030 to ensure on a monthly basis that the production of renewable electricity corresponds to the production of hydrogen, whereas this must be ensured on an hourly basis from 2030.
Key for on-going projects are the exceptions that apply for electrolysis plants that come into operation before 2028. These plants may produce renewable hydrogen by means of electricity from existing RE plants, i.e. there are no temporal restrictions on the construction of the RE plant and the electrolysis plant. Here, such restrictions will apply from 2038.
Same requirements to renewable hydrogen produced in the EU and outside the Community
In line with domestic producers, third-country producers who wish to export renewable hydrogen to the EU must comply with the requirements to renewable hydrogen production.
A certification scheme will be introduced, based on so-called "voluntary schemes", to ensure that third-country producers comply with the same requirements.
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