German energy company Uniper has admitted its flagship green hydrogen project in the Netherlands, H2Maasvlakte in the Port of Rotterdam, will be delayed despite recently being on course to take a final investment decision (FID).

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.

With a front-end engineering and design (FEED) study near completion and EU subsidies awarded, the project appeared to be on track for the first 100MW phase to be commissioned as early as the end of 2026 before scaling up to 500MW in subsequent years.

But a spokesperson for Uniper tells Hydrogen Insight that the project may only start producing hydrogen in 2030.

Although the firm aims to bring the full 500MW of electrolyser capacity on line by this date, the spokesperson admits that this is “a moving target” depending on how demand develops. Similarly, the spokesperson stresses that Uniper aims to install a 100MW first phase by 2028 at the earliest, “if possible”.

While the energy company had been awarded a grant for H2Maasvlakte from the EU’s Innovation Fund last summer, it failed to sign a final grant agreement with the European Commission, as it was unable to secure one of the pre-conditions: a power purchase agreement (PPA).

H2Maasvlakte is designed to draw on offshore wind power to produce H2 onshore. However, Uniper tells Hydrogen Insight that “not enough offshore wind was available” for multiple competing green hydrogen developments up to 2028.

This is because the power supply for these projects has to meet strict EU regulations for the hydrogen to qualify as “renewable” in order to be eligible for subsidies. The rules stipulate that only new renewable power plants built in the same grid bidding zone can be used — ie, only offshore wind farms in Dutch waters built within three years of an electrolyser.

According to Uniper, one problem with developing Dutch green hydrogen projects is that the timelines for H2 subsidies and offshore wind tenders do not match up, making it difficult to secure a PPA in advance of government support or vice versa.

Similarly, offshore wind farm developers have no incentive to sell their electricity to green hydrogen producers over other potential power offtakers.

“Grid fees have gone up sharply,” the Uniper spokesperson adds, referring to a tripling of rates for companies connected to the high-voltage grid in the Netherlands since 2021.

Uniper is currently calling for the Dutch government to exempt green hydrogen projects from these fees, which is already policy in Germany for electrolysers installed up to 2026.

The German energy company also tells Hydrogen Insight that while the updated Renewable Energy Directive has set strict H2 targets in industry and transport, these have not yet been transposed into Dutch law — making it difficult to determine which sectors will specifically be pushed to use renewable hydrogen, and when penalties or support for potential offtakers will kick in.

Uniper declined to disclose the expected levelised cost of hydrogen that would be produced at H2Maasvlakte.

While its grant from the Innovation Fund has fallen through, the energy firm is continuing to explore other subsidies for H2Maasvlakte, although it also declined to disclose any specific programmes it had applied for.

Similarly, while Plug Power had announced in 2023 that it would design 100MW of electrolyers for H2Maasvlakte for installation by 2026 pending a positive FID, Uniper declined to confirm whether an electrolyser supplier had been definitively chosen for the project.

A number of other large green hydrogen projects are also being developed at the Port of Rotterdam. For instance, Shell announced it had taken FID on its flagship 200MW Holland Hydrogen 1 plant in July 2022.

This project, which is due to begin operations in 2025, will draw on power from the Hollandse Kust Noord offshore wind farm, which is part-owned by the oil major and began operations up in December last year — within the EU’s three-year window for additionality.

Meanwhile, BP and HyCC (a joint venture between chemicals firm Nobian and the Green Investment Group) are developing their own 250MW H2-Fifty plant, which was selected by the EU as an Important Project of Common European Interest in December 2022.

However, while the Port of Rotterdam Authority had previously suggested this facility could be on line as early as 2025, no timeline has been detailed by the co-developers.

Updated to include additional comment from Uniper that it still aims to build a 100MW first phase before 2030.