Expert Interview – Meet the “who is who” of hydrogen at the Green Hydrogen Forum

Expert Interview – March 04, 2022

Dr. Michael Spirig, green hydrogen expert, CEO of the European Electrolyzer & Fuel Cell Forum (EFCF) and The smarter E Europe partner for hydrogen content, reveals some of the program highlights at the Green Hydrogen Forum 2022 and outlines the current situation in the market as well as risks and requirements associated with the further development of the industry.

The hydrogen industry had its successful debut at the Restart 2021 event and is getting ready for the second Green Hydrogen Forum at ees Europe 2022. International experts will be presenting topics covering the entire supply chain at the three-day event: political framework conditions and international markets, required infrastructure, technology innovation, savings potential and even hydrogen flagship projects. Can you let us in on some of the program highlights?

I think the mix of topics and speakers across the three days is a highlight in itself. Olivier Bucheli, President of the European Fuel Cell Forum (EFCF), the Solar Promotion team and myself have been responsible for drawing up the program. In cooperation with our industry partners Hydrogen Europe and the German Hydrogen and Fuel-Cell Association (DWV), we were able to put some industry heavyweights on the agenda, but we also received a number of excellent presentation submissions. We were really spoilt for choice. This is why we are hosting lunchtime pitches in addition to the main program, which will show off everything the hydrogen industry has to offer in compact 10-minute slots.

As far as specific highlights go, I’m really looking forward to professor Veronika Grimm’s presentation. She is a member of the German Council of Economic Experts and will speak about the Economic Viability and Relevance of Hydrogen in Germany and Europe on Wednesday. On Thursday, James Watson, Secretary General of Eurogas, the industry association of European gas producers and suppliers, will give a presentation on The European Gas Grid – Asset to Accelerate the Hydrogen Economy. And on Friday, my personal highlight would be the Statkraft presentation on The World’s First Hydrogen Cargo Ship with Green Hydrogen.

What is your top tip for readers to help them pick out the most interesting presentations and panel discussions?

We have structured the days so that attendees can plan their agenda according to personal preference. Day one of the program will be a bit more high-level and policy-focused. On day two, we will shine the spotlight on infrastructure and sector coupling, which is surely of great interest to investors, but also to those who implement projects and to suppliers. Attendees will find out where things will be happening in the next few years. We organized day three in cooperation with the German Hydrogen and Fuel-Cell Association DWV and the Association for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies (VDE), so it will be more hands on. The morning sessions will be dedicated to transportation and mobility, while the afternoon will be all about improving bankability, insuring products, processes and projects and financing new technologies.

My personal insider tip is on Thursday morning, which will highlight key hydrogen infrastructure, i.e. enormous investments: pipelines, H2 gas grids, large-scale storage systems and sector coupling.

And let’s not forget the panel discussions on Wednesday and Thursday afternoon: They will offer plenty of opportunity to network, and attendees will have direct access to all experts to ask them their most challenging questions. It will be both entertaining and instructive.

You mentioned the different stages along the supply chain earlier. Where do you see the greatest obstacles? What is needed to rapidly develop the market or even achieve a breakthrough?

The relevant technologies are pretty much in place. Even money would not be an issue, but people lack certainty and don’t have confidence that everyone will now pull their weight to make substantial changes, ideally all at the same time. If any link in the supply chain, either upstream or downstream, you could quickly be the loser. For example, if I produce green hydrogen but cannot transport it to consumers, then that is an issue. The same goes for developing H2 transportation capacities and storage options when no one supplies any hydrogen or if I’m unable to distribute it. Or take setting up an extensive distribution grid with fuel stations that no one supplies with hydrogen or uses to fill up their vehicle. I could also own a large fleet of trucks while there are too few or only empty fuel stations. That would also be a problem. So the real bottleneck is created by the fact that we need simultaneous investments into all links within the supply chain, rather than isolated investments into, say, the energy system or fleets.

Where do you see the greatest (or good) progress? And how is this reflected at the forum?

This question ties in nicely with my previous answer. On the one hand, much is happening in terms of technology nearly everywhere in the world. On the other hand, pressure from policy-makers is high. Unnecessary obstacles to existing solutions are being removed, while everyone – from inter-regional to inter-continental syndicates and projects – is being pushed. This will be echoed at the forum, with us highlighting the bottleneck I mentioned, but also adding further momentum to what is already underway.

The clue is in the name: The Green Hydrogen Forum is all about green hydrogen, which is the only form of hydrogen that can be produced in a way that protects the climate. Grey, blue and turquoise hydrogen all involve natural gas. How strong is the competition, and are we clearly heading towards green hydrogen anyway?

Multicolored hydrogen, i.e. not entirely green hydrogen, can help bridge a gap in those parts of the supply chain where we’re lagging behind. But this comes at the cost of taking detours and losing time and investment money on what could be a straightforward path. Because a sustainable solution must be fully green! In this specific context, I highly recommend Thursday’s panel discussion with the suggestive title The European Hydrogen Mix – 50 Shades of Green? (laughs)

Everyone is talking about generating power from hydrogen. In 2020, the German government launched a national hydrogen strategy. Why has this technology become so important?

Just consider what is happening around us. Our energy dependence is fatal or rather foolish, and in the long run it will cost us considerably more than if we did things ourselves – but did them right. Here in Switzerland in particular we have benefited from this strategy. The green hydrogen economy is an integral part the solution that will make Europe much more independent from crises or war. It seems that this truth has finally hit many people.

And – once again – this links nicely to one of the panel discussion, this time the one on Wednesday afternoon. It will feature the speakers from the morning sessions debating how we can become less dependent on importing fossil fuels and the unstable countries supplying them, and how in turn we can cooperate more with reliable countries to develop a joint infrastructure. The discussion will be based on the 12 demands of the manifesto presented at the Green Hydrogen Forum 2021.

As you mention it – at the Restart 2021 event, the EFCF, the organizers of The smarter E Europe, the DWV and Hydrogen Europe, Europe’s hydrogen association, adopted the Green Hydrogen Manifesto. When it was first published at the beginning of the exhibition, as many as 64 supporters had already signed it, publicly showing their support for decarbonization and a sustainable circular economy. Where do we stand now? What have you achieved with the manifesto?

Our objective at the Green Hydrogen Forum 2021 was to get the signatures of over 100 relevant institutions. We were able to achieve this quicker than anticipated. In fact, we could proudly announce and celebrate 100 signatures by the end of the forum. Of course, the manifesto will once again be an important topic this year and I’d like to take the opportunity to encourage everyone to read and sign it straight away. This way, you can make a small but really essential contribution to making the hydrogen movement a joint and concurrent effort.

This will help lend support to a topic which will also be prominently featured in the panel discussion on Wednesday: Green Hydrogen Manifesto: What Does It Take to Industrialize? Experts and attendees will discuss where we stand with implementation and what measures still need to be taken. It is so easy for anyone to join in when we pave the way for the future.

Find out more about the Exhibition Area Green Hydrogen Forum & Expo at The smarter E Europe 2022.

You are using an outdated browser

The website cannot be viewed in this browser. Please open the website in an up-to-date browser such as Edge, Chrome, Firefox, or Safari.