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Hamburg, Germany is launching a robust array of hydrogen projects.

Amid calls for a prompt energy transition, Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economics and Climate Protection has articulated a bold national aim: to accelerate the reduction of annual emissions to a pace threefold of its previous trajectory.

Proponents of green hydrogen are vocal about its myriad benefits: its production and combustion, when executed correctly, are devoid of pollutive emissions. It boasts ease of storage, facilitating use beyond its production timeframe, and displays remarkable versatility—being convertible to electricity or synthetic fuels for varied uses across commercial, industrial, and transportation sectors. Moreover, hydrogen can be infused into natural gas pipelines up to a 20% mix, utilizing existing gas infrastructure for its transport.

Yet, green hydrogen confronts formidable obstacles. The requisite technology and equipment are still steep in cost and far from widespread manufacturing. An embryonic network of hydrogen plants means production costs are not yet competitive with conventional fuels like diesel. Similarly, the prohibitive cost of hydrogen-fueled vehicles, despite their environmental and social advantages, has limited their uptake.

Hamburg emerges as a beacon in this landscape, with a robust array of hydrogen projects spanning industry, mobility, and maritime sectors, marking it as a leader in the European hydrogen market. An array of projects in various development stages underscores the city’s commitment to hydrogen innovation.

The Hamburg Green Hydrogen Hub (HGHH) project exemplifies this commitment, with a vision to repurpose a defunct coal-fired power plant into a bastion of green hydrogen production by 2026. Anchored by a 100-megawatt electrolysis plant, the project has secured a €250 million investment from the European Union’s “Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI) Hydrogen” initiative. The project’s fruition hinges on timely permit approvals, promising to bolster Hamburg’s energy transition and supply green hydrogen to local industries.

A consortium of industrial powerhouses—Shell, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Vattenfall, and Hamburg GmbH—stands behind HGHH, with ambitions to harness wind and solar power for hydrogen production at the Hamburg-Moorburg site. Their strategy envisions not just the construction of a scalable 100MW electrolyzer but the transformation of Moorburg into a “Green Energy Hub” where renewable energy reigns supreme, replete with logistics and storage solutions for hydrogen.

Gasnetz Hamburg is intent on knitting a hydrogen network that bridges local production with cross-regional infrastructure and users. Alongside HGHH and others, including Airbus and the Hamburg Port Authority, it aims to foster a green hydrogen ecosystem within the port, encompassing production, transportation, and utilization.

Companies like Wärme Hamburg are already planning to harness waste heat, aiming to augment the electrolyzer project and explore additional renewable energy avenues at Moorburg, envisioning it as an urban renewable energy hub.
Endorsed by EU funding and industry commitment, Moorburg is posited as an ideal location for this green hydrogen venture, with infrastructural and locational advantages that cater to an extensive hydrogen value chain. This initiative is celebrated as a pivotal step toward Hamburg’s climate objectives, positioning the city at the forefront of the global hydrogen economy narrative.

Kentaro Hosomi of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries envisions the Hamburg hub as a testament to the tangible reality of the hydrogen economy and its role in energy and industry decarbonization. “The establishment of a green hydrogen hub that is fully integrated into Hamburg’s industrial infrastructure would show Europe and the world that the hydrogen economy is real and can make a significant contribution to the decarbonization of the energy system and heavy industry,” Kentaro Hosomi has suggested.

The site’s transformation from a conventional power plant, phased out through a national coal auction, to a green hydrogen nexus is a decisive move by the city of Hamburg and its partners, eager to clear the way for this renewable transition.
Jens Kerstan, Hamburg’s Minister for the Environment and Energy, and a key advocate for HGHH, heralds this agreement as crucial for a city committed to the energy transition. The Moorburg project is a pivotal force in achieving Hamburg’s climate ambitions.

“At the Moorburg site, we will be producing green hydrogen on a large scale in collaboration with experienced partners from industry, while at the same time establishing a Green Energy hub for climate-friendly energy. This project will be a major lever for reaching our climate goals,” Jens Kerstan has suggested.

Vattenfall’s Andreas Regnell underscores the role of green hydrogen in industry and transport decarbonization, aligning with the company’s vision for a fossil-free existence within a generation and its commitment to expanding renewable energy operations.

“Vattenfall wants to enable fossil-free living within one generation and we have high ambitions to grow within renewable energy production in the markets where we operate,” said Andreas Regnell.

This article was originally posted in Tomorrow’s Affairs.

While advocating for systemic change over 4 decades, Gordon Feller has been called upon to help leaders running some of the world’s major organizations: World Bank, UN, World Economic Forum, Lockheed, Apple, IBM, Ford, the national governments of Germany, Canada, US – to name a few. With 40 years in Silicon Valley, Feller’s 300+ published articles cover the full spectrum of energy/environment/technology issues, reporting from more than 40 countries. Obama/Biden appointee to Federal comm. on innovation; Global Fellow at The Smithsonian; Winner: Prime Minister Abe Fellowship, Japan.