Germany will host a series of tenders for up to 23.8GW of hydrogen-fired power plants by 2035, Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck announced on Tuesday (1 August).

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These will provide back-up power for when there is not enough wind and solar power on the grid, in addition to energy storage and demand-side response.

“Specifically, we want to tender for 8.8GW of new power plants that will be operated with hydrogen from the start,” said Habeck, who is also the federal minister for economic affairs and climate action.

“And we want to put out to tender up to 15GW of hydrogen power plants by 2035 [in addition to the 8,8GW], which can be operated temporarily with natural gas until they are connected to the hydrogen network, but no later than 2035.

“As a first step, we want to put 10GW of these 15GW out for tender by 2026 and then carry out an evaluation before the remaining 5 GW can be tendered.”

Habeck also described the thinking behind the plan.

“A climate-neutral electricity sector is the key pillar for the decarbonisation of all other sectors, as these will consume more electricity in the future than they do today,” he said.

“The main pillars for decarbonisation are renewable energy, system flexibility and storage, but also controllable power plants for a few hours of the year.

“The conversion and decarbonisation of fossil power plants is therefore the next important step.”

Germany wants to decarbonise its power supply “as early as 2035”.

The Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) added that all power plants must be operated in a “climate-neutral manner in the future”.

“This is an enormous transformational task,” it said. “Not only must power plants be technologically advanced and converted to renewable fuels (especially hydrogen), but at the same time extensive investments must be made in the generation, transport and storage of hydrogen and its infrastructure.”

There will be three types of hydrogen-power-plant tenders, according to the BMWK: “sprinter”, hybrid and H2-ready, with the first two making up the 8.8GW and the third being up to 15GW.

1) Hydrogen “sprinter” power plants will generate electricity from green H2.

“This concept is aimed at locations where there is a connection to infrastructure, such as a large hydrogen or ammonia storage facility, to a regional grid or a hydrogen cluster or an opportunity to import hydrogen or ammonia, is available comparatively early,” the BMWK explains.

“The subject of the funding here is the generation of electricity from renewable hydrogen as soon as the power plant is put into operation. A tender volume totaling 4.4 GW is planned for the years 2024 to 2028. The program is open to new projects and the conversion of existing natural gas-based power plants.”

2) The hybrid power plants are described as “innovative concepts with hydrogen-based electricity storage”.

They combine wind and solar power with local hydrogen storage and an H2 power plant, “resulting in controllable renewable electricity generation based on renewable hydrogen”.

A total tendering volume of 4.4GW is planned, which refers to the capacity of the hydrogen power plant part of the project.

3) The H2-ready power plants are described as “new or existing power plants that will initially be operated with natural gas for a clearly limited period of time and must be converted to hydrogen operation by 2035”.

A total of 10GW is to be tendered in the years 2024-26, of which up to 6GW “can be reserved for new power plants”. The remainder would be existing gas-power plants that would be converted to run on 100% hydrogen.

“After an evaluation phase, the remaining 5GW can then also be put out to tender after 2026,” the BMWK adds.

While the exact details of the tenders have not yet been revealed, the ministry explains that precautions will be taken “to minimise the risk of excessive government funding and to keep the competitive intensity of the tenders high”.