European Union funds for green hydrogen: the moment of truth.
The Renewable Energies, Renewable Hydrogen and Storage (ERHA) Strategic Project for the Recovery and Economic Transformation (PERTE), approved on 14 December 2021, plans to invest a total of 16.37 billion euros to help companies with their energy transitions. In particular, renewable hydrogen will be given 1.555 billion euros, on top of 2.8 billion euros in private investment.
Green hydrogen, which is being allocated almost a quarter of the European Union funds and is raising a third of the funds from private investment, is the leading component of the Renewable Energies, Renewable Hydrogen and Storage (ERHA) Strategic Project for the Recovery and Economic Transformation (PERTE).
Spain is aiming for hydrogen, which is highly developed in its technological phase, but still has lots of manufacturing potential, to become a universal energy source in industry and among end consumers. As a result, this will reduce reliance on foreign energy, as is already happening thanks to the expansion of wind and photovoltaic power.
Green hydrogen: the energy of the 21st century
- Decarbonising the economy: >Europe has taken the lead in the fight against global warming and has set a deadline of 2050 for fully decarbonising its economy. Chile and Japan have the same target, while China has a longer target of 2060 and the United States is also aiming for 2050. This process absolutely must include green hydrogen.
- Green hydrogen projects: across the world, 300 billion euros have already been given to green hydrogen projects rolling out between now and 2030, including more than 70 billion euros from official grants, such as European NextGen funds.
- The EU's priority: green hydrogen is one of the priorities of the EU Green Deal. The EU Green Deal is aiming at 50% of the hydrogen produced in Europe being renewable, even for industrial use, and having a fuelling station every 150 kilometres. By 2030, one million people will be working in this sector, which will grow five-fold during this decade.
Spain, a world leader in green hydrogen
The hydrogen roadmap in Spain, which was developed in 2020, forecasts investment of 8.9 billion euros by 2030. The new European Union funds align with that strategy.
- Spain has huge hydrogen-technology potential. Incredible knowledge has built up over the years in companies and research centres.
- The different hydrogen technologies are at different stages of maturity and each announcement is aimed at a different phase in that process, ranging from technologies that are still in an embryonic stage to technologies that are ready for the market.
- We can produce on a large scale because we have enough renewable energy sources to produce hydrogen at a competitive price, not only to supply ourselves, but to export to other countries.
- We can create our own infrastructure thanks to the grants for the assets required, such as production equipment, storage systems, transport and compression systems.
- We still need to get the technology out of research centres and universities into companies .
- Out of the 500,000 annual tonnes of hydrogen that we produce in Spain, only 50 are currently from renewable sources .
- We need support for developing equipment and prototypes, and for ensuring that companies have enough manufacturing capacity.
These weaknesses are the areas that the green hydrogen PERTE intends to address. This technology will enable more complex sectors, such as the steel and cement industries, and HGV transport, from trucks to trains, planes and ships, to decarbonise.
Cars and homes powered by green hydrogen
Renewable hydrogen will also be distributed to homes, as a replacement for natural gas for heating systems and hot water, and to the road network, for fuel cell powered cars.
Spain is already home to companies that manufacture, produce and sell polymer fuel cells. Solid-oxide fuel-cell prototypes are also being developed in SMEs and research centres, which do not use rare earth or elements, such as platinum, as a catalyst, and opt for iron or nickel instead.
Like other PERTEs, the opportunities presented by the Renewable Energies, Renewable Hydrogen and Storage (ERHA) Strategic Project for the Recovery and Economic Transformation (PERTE) are not limited to large companies, SMEs, micro-SMEs, technology companies, energy companies or transport companies. They benefit all sectors and cover the entire value chain, from manufacturing to distribution, storage and sales to consumers.
The first announcement of grants: pioneering projects that bring hydrogen to the market
The Institute for Diversification and Energy Saving (IDAE) of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO) has just published the first official announcement of grants for pioneering and unique renewable-hydrogen projects. It aims to switch the focus from producing hydrogen to using hydrogen, by helping to make it a universal and profitable energy source.
- Plan budget: 150 million euros.
- Submission deadline: from 7 March to 6 May 2022.
- Maximum grant per project: 15 million euros. With percentages of aid ranging from 15% to 60%, depending on the type of project and the size of the company.
- Project execution time: before 15 September 2025.
What projects can be accepted? The call, in a system of competitive concurrence, specifies that the projects be commercially viable (firm commitments from consumers are especially valued) and are directed at sectors that are difficult to decarbonise, such as heavy industry or heavy transport. Specifically, it states that projects that integrally combine the production, distribution and use of hydrogen at the same location will be awarded.
The award criteria will pay special attention to these characteristics:
- The participation of SMEs. At least 1 SME when they are groupings of companies.
- The positive impact on islands and on areas of just transition and demographic challenge.
- The reduction of emissions .
- The creation of jobs .
- Gender equality.
Second call: green hydrogen throughout the value chain
The MITECO, also through IDAE, has opened a second call, endowed with 250 million euros, which is distributed in 4 aid programs to strengthen the innovative value chain of renewable hydrogen.
It is one of the most far-reaching lines of the Recovery Plan in Spain. It intends to create 14,000 new jobs, both directly and indirectly, and contribute more than 960 million euros to the GDP. The 4 programmes seek to promote technical knowledge and productive capacity by developing technological advancements and prototypes throughout the hydrogen value chain, as well as testing facilities and new manufacturing lines.
- Plan budget:250 million euros.
- Large electrolysers: 100 million euros. Focused on the manufacture of this equipment and integration in real industrial contexts.
- Hydrogen vehicles: 80 million euros. The universalisation of transport powered by fuel cells.
- Industrial and experimental research: 40 million euros.
- Improvement of capacities and technological progress in testing and manufacturing lines: 30 million euros. More focused on R&D.
- Submission deadline: from 8 April to 7 June 2022.
- Minimum investment per project: 1 million euros (500,000 euros in the case of the last line).
The award criteria will weigh up these characteristics:
- The significance of the project goals, the level of technological maturity and the degree of innovation provided.
- A greater proportion of private investment for every euro of the grant.
- Collaboration between companies and the scientific community .
- The participation of SMEs.
- The replicability and scalability of the project.
- The positive impact in areas of Just Transition.
- The reduction of emissions.
- The creation of jobs.
We have already advised 1,500 companies: now comes the funding
- We are entering a new phase of structuring and submitting proposals. We have completed a first phase of training and information from Bankinter. It is now time to submit projects and to find financing solutions.
- Bankinter has joined the FI Group to offer both advice and support in the processing of projects.
- In Spain, the percentage of European Funds used is at around 35%, when other countries, such as the Netherlands, exceed 75%.
- Bankinter has already offered advice to 1,500 companies over recent months and added the CEOE's European grant search engine to its website.
- The calls are presented for a relatively short period of time and with a high degree of complexity: you have to be ready before the time comes .
- The PERTE ERHA has an injection of public funds worth 7,000 million euros, but the 9,000 million foreseen for the private initiative will require the support of banks .
- Interested companies must have a roadmap: as the new grants may be incompatible with other grants, it is advisable to carefully map out your path in order to take advantage of the official funds available for each project cost.
What is Bankinter proactively contributing, as a financing institution, to European energy-related projects?
- International: the submission of guarantees is requested before grants are delivered. More necessary in this first phase.
- Grant advances: it will depend on each type of call, since some are already being delivered, but others will be based on meeting certain milestones.
- Finance: loans to allow these projects to be carried out as regards the part requiring private investment.
Sustainability without profitability is meaningless
The financing of the projects submitted to these calls aims to strike a balance between profitability and sustainability. For these green hydrogen projects to make sense over time, it is essential that they offer a horizon for return.
The arrival of European grants will mean that curve can be shortened. It will make it easier for us to go much faster and reach an optimal level of maturity sooner. The philosophy of the funds is to promote collaboration between industries and sectors and generate synergies. No one is going to do it alone.
In this regard, Bankinter has signed 9 agreements with associations in the sector. A formula that allows us all to share knowledge, from research centres to manufacturers, institutions and consumers.
What is green hydrogen?
Let's get hydrogen under the microscope. It is a gas symbolised by the letter H and the first element on the periodic table. It represents 75% of the matter in the universe and is so light that it was used to fly airships and balloons in the 20th century. It is so efficient and powerful as a fuel that it is used to propel spaceships and rockets.
As a source of energy, therefore, it would be inexhaustible and we have it on any planet and at any geographical point: you don't have to go looking for it at a site. The problem is that, on Earth, it is associated with other elements, such as oxygen or carbon, and we cannot collect it naturally: we have to manufacture it.
And how is hydrogen manufactured? Up to now, the procedure has been highly pollutant because of using coal or methane gas. One of the most developed technologies, electrolysis, manages to separate the two components of H2O, the water molecule: oxygen and hydrogen. To generate this chemical reaction, electricity is injected into water. This is done by electrolysers.
Green hydrogen, unlike grey or blue, is obtained by injecting renewable electricity into water such as wind and solar energy. Up to now, hydrogen was produced using electricity from non-renewable sources or using gas, with the consequent emission of millions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Green hydrogen has thus become an inexhaustible fuel, without harmful emissions and that can be stored for a long time.
El hidrógeno verde se convierte así en un combustible inagotable, sin emisiones nocivas y que se puede almacenar durante mucho tiempo.
Information obtained from the webinar The potential of green hydrogen organised by the Bankinter CFO Forum. With the participation of:
- Javier Brey: Chairman of the Spanish Hydrogen Association.
- Daniel Ramos: Grants Manager at FI Group.
- Emma Montserrat: Head of Corporate Banking and European Funds at Bankinter.
- Ruth Bernaldo de Quirós: Head of Territorial Transactional Business at Bankinter.