Hydrogen: everything a city needs to know

Energy Cities' position on the role of hydrogen in cities

Hydrogen has long been identified as an alternative to fossil fuels. First in the 70s, especially in Japan, and then again in the 2000s. But the most recent “hydrogen hype” is different: technology is more advanced and costs are dropping.

There is a clear political window today at the European level to introduce hydrogen as part of the fit for 55 package and some Member States have included hydrogen in their COVID recovery plans. It is therefore an economic opportunity for several industries such as the ones usinghydrogen as a raw material (chemical and steel industries e.g.).

Energy Cities wants to bring the debate to the local level to understand how hydrogen can help decarbonise cities and what are the challenges for local governments. Cities need to know what the European hydrogen strategy will be, how they can rely on it for part of their energy consumption and how hydrogen will be supplied and transported for their own future plans.

Key findings:

  • Hydrogen can be a key technology to help decarbonise hard-to-abate sectors in cities such as heavy industries or transport (marine shipping, trains). Hydrogen can also have a role to provide dispatchable/on-demand energy to balance power grids in cities.  Policies to prioritize its use in these sectors need to be developed.
  • Hydrogen is not the silver bullet to decarbonise heating in cities: it is not efficient, competitive or easy to use hydrogen for home heating. Cities will bet on a range of several fossil free solutions depending on the local context and resources to decarbonise their heating sectors such as district heating and heat pumps, renovation to increase energy efficiency, waste heat recovery, solar thermal and geothermal energy, smart appliances etc.
  • Only green hydrogen can be considered as clean and must be developed in the EU. Other types of hydrogen involve life-cycle GHG emissions and may contribute to the perpetuation of fossil fuel use. Green hydrogen will be a scarce premium product and likely expensive.
  • Hydrogen would require huge investments to bring the gas to cities via pipelines: the current gas network would need to be refurbished to support 100% hydrogen. The costs of investments and the feasibility of the pipelines’ refurbishment is likely underestimated.  Thus, local production and consumption should be prioritized.

Read the paper for more information!

Policy Paper - Hydrogen: everything a city needs to know