Demand for green hydrogen will skyrocket in the EU after the 27 member states finally approved the long-gestating Renewable Energy Directive, which includes mandatory usage targets for renewable H2 and its derivatives (known in EU parlance as Renewable Fuels of Non-Biological Origin, or RFNBOs).

Stay ahead on hydrogen with our free newsletter
Keep up with the latest developments in the international hydrogen industry with the free Accelerate Hydrogen newsletter. Sign up now for an unbiased, clear-sighted view of the fast-growing hydrogen sector.

This means that 42% of the hydrogen used by industry must be green by 2030 (reaching 60% in 2035), with 1% of all fuel used in transport to be RFNBOs by 2030.

And in a separate regulation, known as the ReFuelEU Aviation directive, which was also signed off today by the Council of EU ministers, 1.2% of all aviation fuel must be synthetic fuel derived from green H2 by 2030 (see separate story here).

With about 9.7 million tonnes of grey hydrogen (derived from unabated natural gas) currently consumed in the EU each year — mainly in fertiliser and chemical production and oil refining — the new directive instantly creates demand for about four million tonnes of green H2 in industry alone by the end of the decade.

There are two get-out clauses that allow member states to reduce the contribution of RFNBOs in industry by 20 percentage points: if their “national contribution to the binding overall EU target meets their expected contribution”, or if “the share of hydrogen from fossil fuels consumed in the member state is not more 23% in 2030 and 20% in 2035”.

This opens the door for France to produce much of their H2 from nuclear energy.

According to Hydrogen Europe, 1% of all transport fuels would statistically equate to about one million tonnes of RFNBOs. However, the so-called “multipliers” contained in the Renewable Energy Directive allow every 1MJ of RFNBOs used in the aviation and shipping sectors to be counted as 1.5MJ towards the target.

The trade association therefore believes that the actual amount of RFNBOs required to meet the 1% transport fuel rule would actually be about 360,000 tonnes.

The EU has already passed the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation, which requires the 27 member states to ensure that publicly accessible gaseous H2 filling stations capable of serving both heavy-duty and light vehicles are set up in every “urban node” and every 200km along the core routes of the planned Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) by 2030.

The TEN-T core network links “urban nodes” — an EU term for 424 major cities in the bloc with ports, airports and rail terminals — across Europe and is expected to be completed by the start of next decade.

Although the renewables directive will now become law 20 days after it is printed in the Official Journal of the EU, both Poland and Hungary voted against it, with Bulgaria and the Czech Republic abstaining. Only Poland opposed the aviation directive, with the other 26 member states voting in favour. Nevertheless, these nations still have to meet their requirements.

The EU plans to produce ten million tonnes of renewable hydrogen by 2030, and import a further ten million tonnes from outside the bloc by the same date.

The new renewables directive also ensures that 42.5% of the EU's overall energy consumption must be green by 2030, and sets further targets for renewable energy usage in transport, industry and heating and cooling, as well as faster permitting for renewables projects. Click here for further details.

“This is a great achievement in the framework of the ‘Fit for 55’ package which will help reaching the EU’s climate goal of reducing EU emissions by at least 55% by 2030,” said Teresa Ribera, Spain’s acting minister for the ecological transition. “It is a step forward which will contribute to reach the EU’s climate targets in a fair, cost-effective and competitive way.”