Exploring subnational approaches to sustainable hydrogen in Netherlands

The Climate Group

Hydrogen has huge potential to empower the low carbon industry transition. It’s growing in popularity as an alternative to conventional fossil fuels because it can be used across a range of sectors and potentially created through renewable sources. But to realise the full scope of benefits that hydrogen offers, collaboration across regions is crucial.

On Earth Day 2021, we were joined by regional governments from the Netherlands for a webinar hosted by the Industry Transition Platform – a joint project of the Climate Group and the German state government of North Rhine Westphalia, funded by Stiftung Mercator. The project works with governments from highly industrialised regions to develop strategies to cut industry emissions, while supporting growth, job creation and prosperity.

During the webinar, representatives from the Provinces of Drenthe, Zuid-Holland and Groningen shared insights into their governments’ innovative hydrogen strategies and discussed how to overcome challenges associated with hydrogen.

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The hydrogen plans developed by the three provinces build on and support the Netherlands’ ambitious National Government Strategy on Hydrogen – highlighting the key role that hydrogen can play in decarbonising hard-to-abate economic sectors.

For regions considering utilising hydrogen, setting out a vision is key – particularly to progress actions on the pathway to 2050 climate targets and the transition to low carbon industry. In the Northern Netherlands, for example, the focus is on creating a self-sustaining hydrogen value-chain that’s supported by both the private and public sector. In Zuid-Holland, they’re rapidly expanding their hydrogen bus fleet and piloting innovation projects as they work towards creating their own hydrogen market.

As well as the benefits of hydrogen, the presentations covered some of the main challenges faced across regions, including around the storage and transportation of hydrogen, and how to involve key stakeholders in the process. The presentations also highlighted the policy and regulatory changes needed at EU and national levels to develop the hydrogen economy. The revision of existing EU legislation this year represents an important opportunity in that regard: the recast of the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (REDII), the Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), state aid rules and other important sectoral legislation. Speakers underlined that the EU institutions should design a favourable policy and regulatory framework for hydrogen that enables public and private investments into this strategic technology.

Speakers also noted that in order to move a hydrogen market forward, collaboration is needed within regions between their respective cities and businesses, but also on a national and international level. This is particularly important when considering large-scale hydrogen transportation, and the potential for hydrogen as a commodity to interconnect regions.

Not forgetting the importance of public perception, raising awareness and acceptance among citizens about the use and co-benefits of hydrogen to achieve climate goals is crucial. In addition to public outreach for hydrogen’s role in achieving climate goals, the governments discussed how they considered ensuring the transition to low carbon industry is just, creates jobs, and protects livelihoods – an essential part of strategy implementation.

‘Have big ambitions but start small’ was an important takeaway from the webinar. States and regions should first consider their unique selling points and build out a hydrogen strategy from there, working with a core group of stakeholders to set out stepping-stones to success.

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