The German government has today unveiled the draft of its planned “hydrogen core network”, saying it will cost €19.8bn, start transporting H2 in 2025, and consist of 9,700km of pipelines by 2032 to connect ports, industry, power plants and storage facilities.

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A new law to accelerate its construction is expected to be introduced this year, and the network will be paid for through user fees, said Robert Habeck, who is both vice-chancellor and minister for economic affairs and climate action.

In a Twitter post, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK), explained that 60% of the pipelines in the network will consist of existing, repurposed natural gas pipelines, with the remaining 40% built from scratch.

“In the future, climate-neutral hydrogen will be delivered to industrial companies and power plants via the hydrogen core network,” the BMWK explains. “The core network thus lays the foundation for energy-intensive areas of our economy to become climate-friendly. It ensures climate-neutral prosperity and future-proof employment.”

The post adds that the government wants to secure private finance to fund the network.

“Because without consumers there is no network, without a network there are no consumers,” it says. “As with the natural gas network, financing is generally provided through network fees.”

However, it adds that the cabinet is yet to decide on “the financing model and the framework for the next stage of network planning”.

While the cost of the hydrogen network is due to be funded through grid fees, there will be few users initially, so the government will make advance payments over the next 20 years to ensure that fees are affordable and to promote the expansion of the hydrogen sector, explained Habeck, without providing further details.

A Q&A page on the BMWK website explains: “The quick and efficient implementation of the core network is a basic requirement for the successful market ramp-up of the hydrogen economy.”

Thomas Goessmann, the chairman of gas transmission network operator association FNB Gas, who sat beside Habeck for the announcement, said: “We know we have no time to lose. The excavators have to roll next year.”

The BMWK explains that the “exit volume” of the network will be 280TWh of thermal energy in 2032, with about 160TWh of this required for combined heat and power plants.

The network will also be “embedded” in a future European hydrogen grid.

According to the BMWK, the draft network will be officially submitted by FNB Gas to Germany’s Federal Network Agency, BNetzA, tomorrow (Wednesday), and a public consultation will then be carried out until 8 January 2024.

“The results of this consultation will be incorporated into the further design of the core network,” says the BMWK.

It adds: “As part of the future ongoing network development planning for gas and hydrogen (2nd stage), a draft scenario framework for a network development plan is to be presented by June 30, 2024, which, among other things, makes assumptions about the development of the extraction or production, supply and consumption of gas and hydrogen is the basis.

“Building on this, the first integrated gas and hydrogen network development plan is to be drawn up by May 31, 2025 and confirmed by the regulatory authority by June 30, 2026.”