Thekla Walker: Roadmap for a sustainable H2 infrastructure

Thekla Walter (MdL), Baden-Württemberg’s Minister for Environment, Climate and Energy, on the role of the hydrogen economy for a climate-neutral and resilient energy supply

In your view, what is the significance of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies for the energy transition and climate protection, especially in light of the dramatic developments of recent months?

The state of Baden-Württemberg has set itself the ambitious goal of being climate-neutral by 2040. This goal can only be achieved by consistently reducing CO2 emissions in all sectors, and this includes the use of green hydrogen as one of the pillars of the energy transition – alongside the expansion of renewable energies and energy efficiency. Green hydrogen is characterized in particular by its wide range of possible applications. Whether it is used to power aircraft, ships and heavy-duty vehicles, for electricity generation in power plants, in chemical production or for material use, for example to produce plastics, pharmaceuticals or fertilizers – hydrogen makes it possible to make all these processes climate-neutral. Green hydrogen thus also contributes to making our economy more resilient and independent in the long term. In addition, hydrogen can assume an important energy storage function in the future energy system. .

How do you see the security of supply for hydrogen – what are the time perspectives for a hydrogen economy based on green hydrogen?

The Russian war of aggression has clearly shown us that a diversified energy supply is crucial to reducing dependencies and ensuring security of supply. As the state government, we are therefore also striving for a hydrogen supply geared toward diversification in the medium and long term. However, imports will have to play a significant role in this. Here, we are relying on close cooperation with the federal government as well as our own energy partnerships with Scotland, the Netherlands and Andalusia, for example. Crucial for a sufficient and cost-effective supply is the development of a hydrogen pipeline infrastructure. We therefore welcome the German government’s decision to build a hydrogen start-up network by 2032 and expect that important pipelines to Baden-Württemberg will already be included in this network. In the transitional phase until the completion of the start-up network – but also beyond – the regional production of hydrogen is particularly important to us. That’s why we are already funding electrolysers for the production of green hydrogen in individual projects.

Is Baden-Württemberg on track with the hydrogen roadmap? What do you see as the focal points of the federal state’s initiatives and funding impulses for developing and promoting value creation in this area?

With the Hydrogen Roadmap BW, a roadmap was published that shows how Baden-Württemberg can become a leading location and lead provider for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. The first progress report from May 2023 describes the current fields of action and provides information about successfully implemented measures. As a state, we are supporting important lighthouse and demonstration projects with around 500 million euros. As examples, I would like to mention the IPCEI projects on fuel cell technology, the “HyFab” research factory, which involves the industrial production of fuel cell stacks, and the “Green Hydrogen Model Regions”, which we are supporting under the European Regional Development Fund. With expert dialogs, a joint declaration on infrastructure and a current hydrogen demand survey, the state government, together with stakeholders from industry and science, has initiated important steps to build the necessary infrastructure in Baden-Württemberg. We will continue to pursue this concerted approach as well as targeted funding measures.

The promotion of tank infrastructure – to what extent is the state dependent on planning by the federal government and the EU, and to what extent can the state also provide impetus internationally?

In terms of decarbonizing the transport sector, green hydrogen also plays a significant role. One third of CO2 emissions from transport come from heavy-duty vehicles. Because of the range of hydrogen-powered fuel cell trucks, hydrogen is an important building block in making heavy-duty transport climate-neutral – here in Baden-Württemberg, in Germany and in Europe. That is why it is crucial for us to establish a filling station infrastructure for green hydrogen for heavy-duty vehicles. With our “Charging and hydrogen refueling infrastructure for long-haul trucks (LWT)” funding program, we are taking the lead here as a state. This refueling infrastructure must be established throughout Germany and Europe. We welcome in principle the EU Commission’s regulation on the establishment of an infrastructure for alternative fuels (AFIR). From the perspective of the state, the AFIR is a step in the right direction.In the Strategic Dialogue on the Automotive Industry (SDA), the key players from industry and science as well as the relevant specialist departments, under the leadership of Minister President Kretschmann, develop important positions that are presented and discussed in Brussels and Berlin.

What suggestions do you want to bring to the dialog with companies and science that hy-fcell is organizing in Stuttgart?

We are facing major challenges: We are burdened by the consequences of the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine and the Corona pandemic, as well as the climate crisis. In addition, the state of Baden-Württemberg, as an automotive location, is in an important phase of structural change. As challenging and difficult as this situation is, it also offers us the opportunity to successfully complete the turnaround toward a climate-neutral and resilient energy supply and to benefit from the transformation as a high-tech location. Baden-Württemberg companies, research institutions and universities are already leaders in many technological fields, including fuel cell and hydrogen technologies. If we continue to tackle these challenges together in politics, industry and science and utilize the innovative forces in the state, we can positively shape structural change. This means creating sustainable jobs, securing energy supplies and protecting the climate.


Interview: Hans Gäng, August 2023


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