Federal Economics Minister Altmaier wants Germany to become the world champion in hydrogen. The sector and industry have been waiting for the go-ahead since last summer. Now, the long-awaited draft for the creation of a legal framework for hydrogen networks has finally been presented, which should enable the development of the future hydrogen infrastructure from the existing gas network. “Despite the proposals of the Federal Council and to the disappointment of the sector and industry, Peter Altmaier is presenting a concept that amounts to completely separate planning and financing of the two networks. This will be significantly more expensive for hydrogen customers and could delay the start of the hydrogen economy for years,” said Inga Posch, managing director of the Association of Transmission System Operators (FNB Gas). “The world champion will be the one who arrives first. With Altmaier’s draft, we end up in the midfield at best!”
The original idea is as simple as it is ingenious: Germany has a modern and widely ramified gas network. With this and from it, the future hydrogen network can be developed excellently step by step according to demand. This makes technical and economic sense, since it costs much less time and money to convert a network than to build a new one. “We’re talking years and billions that we could save,” explains Inga Posch. However, many hurdles are being placed in the way of this approach in view of the draft bill submitted by the Federal Ministry of Economics.
The transmission system operators are already in the starting blocks. The gas network development plan including the hydrogen grid for 2030 with approx. 1,200 km has been with the Federal Network Agency for approval for over six months. The first line should be converted as early as the end of 2022. What is still missing is the right regulation. “Now regulation is finally supposed to come. The only catch is that what’s on the table now throws everything back into disarray. The strict separation of gas and hydrogen networks creates numerous financial and network planning problems.”
Transformation process from natural gas to hydrogen is a task for society as a whole
The network operators’ planning was based on the unity approach of the natural gas network and the hydrogen network. “One network should develop from the other. Therefore, joint financing of the new infrastructure by all gas customers is also justified,” said Dr. Thomas Gößmann, FNB Gas Board Chairman. The FNB sees the entry into the hydrogen era as a task for society as a whole in the context of decarbonization. “After all, today’s gas customer is tomorrow’s hydrogen customer” continues Dr. Gößmann. “According to our calculations, the burden on end consumers would be very low.”
“If hydrogen is to be available in the mid-2020s, we cannot wait until the mid-2020s to start planning the network,” Posch said. “We remain convinced of our planning approach and appeal to the Minister of Economics to make the necessary corrections on the way from draft to final regulation. The Bundesrat already presented very good proposals for this in November.”