26 October 2022 • 8 min

Kathryn Boyd

From Wind to Wasserstoff - Why the UK and Germany Are Ideal Hydrogen Partners

By Kathryn Boyd, Country Director, Trade, Germany, and Deputy Trade Commissioner, Europe at Department for International Trade (DIT)

Wasserstoff, the German word for hydrogen, literally means 'water material'. It sounds pure and harmless - the ideal fuel of the future, producing only water when it burns.

Everyone is talking about it as a way to decarbonise our economies and improve energy security. But it remains somewhat controversial, primarily because it takes so much energy to produce this wonderful material. Where you have vast sources of renewable electricity - from, for example, wind - that isn't so much of an issue.

This is why the UK and Germany make perfect partners. The UK has the largest offshore wind market in Europe and the biggest project pipeline, and Germany is set to account for more than half of the combined hydrogen import demand in Europe.

"The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind” was in my head as I went to Hamburg recently to meet offshore wind innovators, and then to Bremen to do the same on hydrogen (Bob Dylan was prescient in many ways).

At both Wind Energy Hamburg and the Hydrogen Technology Expo there was a whole new level of excitement: with rocketing energy prices and the effects of climate change catastrophically tangible, there is huge pressure to change our energy economies, fast.

A partnership between Powerhouses – the North meets North hydrogen dialogue

The north of England, the birthplace of the first industrial revolution, is host to some of the most advanced hydrogen projects in the UK, whilst northern Germany is becoming a continental powerhouse for green hydrogen usage and production. We need to work together to lead this race for clean energy independence.

We've just launched the North meets North hydrogen dialogue between the UK's Northern Powerhouse and the HY-5 - a hydrogen alliance between Bremen, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Niedersachsen and Schleswig-Holstein - which provides a fantastic platform for companies, investors and other stakeholders to connect and collaborate. This will only be the beginning of UK-Germany hydrogen cooperation.

Key takeaways:

  1. This is a transformation powered by people

    Many people and companies I met in Hamburg and Bremen were beaming with pride when they spoke about the offshore wind and hydrogen projects they are involved-in or spearheading – and rightly so. They have fought against cynicism and resistance, and now is their moment in the spotlight.

  2. Energy independence – an ally of the net zero agenda

    Boosting our renewable energy supply in Europe is key to controlling energy prices and ensuring greater energy independence. Every wind turbine and hydrogen electrolyser powered by renewables installed is a step towards greater energy security and a step away from our reliance on fossil fuels.

  3. Investing in energy transition is investing in competitiveness

    Moving to a zero-carbon economy will require unprecedented levels of investment. In the UK, we are already a world leader in offshore wind. But we want to go further and faster to replicate this success in the hydrogen sector. The combination of strong policy support, investment from developers (including many German household names), and robust supply-chains has given the UK a head start in the offshore wind market and a favourable starting position for hydrogen. If we work together, these strengths will also contribute to Germany's future competitiveness.

  4. Greater ambition means more investment opportunities

    The UK’s Energy Security Strategy reinforced the UK’s commitment to decarbonisation. Our ambition is to deliver up to 50GW by 2030, including up to 5GW of innovative floating wind. We've also doubled the UK’s hydrogen production ambition to 10GW by 2030, with at least half of this coming from green hydrogen production. Carbon capture, utilisation and storage is something I hear talked about more and more - we need to think about the role it can play in the transition.

  5. Trade is anchored in a broader purpose

    And finally, both events were a great reminder of how trade and investment bring people, regions and nations together to tackle existential challenges like climate change. It's where you see trade at its best.

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