Our Benelux Hydrogen team attended the World Hydrogen Summit in May 2024 to discuss the latest developments, opportunities and challenges in the hydrogen energy sector. These are the team's three takeaways from the event.

With over 15.000 policymakers and other guests from large companies, start-ups and governments attending, this year's summit was the largest hydrogen event of the world ever held. After several years of hype, more realistic expectations are settling in combined with a widely felt sense of urgency.

#1. Exit of the ‘cowboys’: increasing market professionalisation and more realistic expectations
At last year's World Hydrogen Summit, the hydrogen industry was still in its infancy with visions and policies in the early stages of development and with headwinds such as cost increases, project delays and regulatory uncertainty. Although many uncertainties remain, the industry now appears to be entering the realisation phase. At the same time, realism is setting in among hydrogen stakeholders. More and more people understand that we need both green and blue hydrogen in order to accelerate the energy transition and to be ready with the necessary infrastructure for the moment when green electricity is available in sufficient abundance. So it is not a question of choosing one over the other, the market simply needs both to meet Europe's energy transition ambitions. That is why the hydrogen industry is taking a more down-to-earth approach. Just a week after the summit, the Dutch coalition parties announced in their outline agreement that blue hydrogen could indeed be a possible interim step.

"Moving towards more realism is a sign that we are going in the right direction."
Randolf Weterings, Sr. Program Manager New Energy System.

#2. Accelerating hydrogen adoption: there is a pressing need for government participation
Ahmed Aboutaleb, Mayor of Rotterdam, stated that government support and cooperation is essential for the energy transition. The position of the Netherlands and the Port of Rotterdam as a key player is something we cannot afford to lose. Air Products shares this view. The company has significant ambitions in Rotterdam, but says that no final investment decisions (FIDs) will be made without a regulatory exemption or permit in place.

Experts have repeatedly stressed that while the Netherlands is in a prime position to become the hydrogen hub of Northern Europe, it cannot afford to wait for a green electricity revolution that won't happen overnight. The transition is more of an evolution, requiring the use of hydrocarbons to kick-start the hydrogen market. Regulatory and governmental authorities hold the keys to initiating and facilitating this process. By addressing these legal and regulatory barriers, the Netherlands can expedite its transition and consolidate its leadership in the hydrogen sector. Coordination between government and industry is essential to overcome these challenges and ensure a smooth evolution towards a sustainable energy future.

#3. Overcoming key hurdles: public-private partnerships are essential
Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are essential to advance the hydrogen industry and overcome the critical challenges of permitting, subsidies, and certification. Successful PPPs leverage the strengths of both sectors, combining public regulatory support with private sector innovation and investment to overcome barriers. Stakeholder sessions and discussions led by Anouck Massant, Hydrogen for Mobility Business Manager in Northern Europe at Air Products, highlighted the need for incentives and cooperation between the public and private sectors to overcome the ‘chicken and egg’ problem of supply and demand.

Lengthy permitting processes are a major obstacle for hydrogen projects. Efficient permitting is essential to avoid delays in development. More subsidies and financial incentives are needed to support early stage hydrogen projects. These subsidies can help to offset high initial costs and make projects financially and economically viable. In addition, clear certification schemes are essential to ensure quality and consistency across the hydrogen industry. The establishment of these schemes can build trust and encourage investment by market parties. The development and implementation of robust and widely accepted certification standards is therefore crucial.

Looking ahead
On 16 May - days after the conclusion of the summit - the Dutch coalition parties forming a new cabinet announced in their outline agreement that the Climate Funds will be used for investments in innovations and technologies such as carbon capture and storage and green hydrogen, with blue hydrogen as a potential intermediate step. With this continued commitment to hydrogen, the four parties aim to contribute to greater energy independence, sustainable energy production and a favourable environment for entrepreneurship.

Hydrogen-related matters to discuss?
Our multidisciplinary Hydrogen team gladly assists you with the challenges and opportunities in this field, whether these concern the regulated transport and import of hydrogen carriers, the development and financing of infrastructure and storage capacity, or the conclusion of contracts. Are you interested in discussing any hydrogen-related matter? Do not hesitate to contact us.

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