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Study: Domestic hydrogen cheaper than import by ship

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Study: Domestic hydrogen cheaper than import by ship

“Domestic green hydrogen is more competitive than expected,” is the conclusion of a current meta-analysis. To this end, the Wuppertal Institute evaluated twelve studies on behalf of the North Rhine-Westphalia State Association for Renewable Energies, which have been published since 2021. At the end of 2020, the institute had already prepared a previous study. Since then, the “framework conditions for the hydrogen ramp-up in Germany have changed significantly and very dynamically,” according to the authors. A key result: The chances of “green” hydrogen from a domestic position have improved compared to imported hydrogen.


“Strengthening a domestic, green hydrogen economy makes sense not least because of the associated added value in one’s own country. Importing hydrogen does not necessarily involve cost advantages,” said Professor Manfred Fischedick, President of the Wuppertal Institute, according to the accompanying press release.

One reason for this reassessment: lower investment costs for electrolysers. At the same time, most studies also see lower import costs, but domestic production is generally cheaper than importing by ship and sometimes cheaper than importing by pipeline.

However, there is a wide range between the studies examined: the estimates for 2030 (including imports) range from 4.5 to 20.5 cents per kilowatt hour, i.e. they differ by a factor of almost five. Only four of the studies also make statements about domestic production costs: 7 to 13.5 cents, roughly in the middle of the spectrum.

For 2050, the studies expect lower production costs of 4.2 to 11 cents (including imports). The meta-analysis does not provide any information on the expansion of solar and wind power plants that the studies assume.

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All of this information relates to “green” hydrogen produced using electricity from renewable sources. In addition, the study also deals with “blue” hydrogen from fossil natural gas, in which the resulting CO2 is separated and deposited underground. The authors consider blue hydrogen “not a short-term interim solution” because it “will not be available any faster than green hydrogen”. “Today there are only four large-scale production plants for blue hydrogen worldwide,” according to the study.


In addition, blue hydrogen “even under very favorable assumptions” still has “significantly higher greenhouse gas emissions than green hydrogen”. The reason: Only part of the resulting CO2 can be captured. The climate balance is even worse if natural gas is used, which already has “high upstream emissions” – for example through fracking, during which large quantities of climate-damaging methane escape into the atmosphere.

Another lever to reduce import dependency: Use less hydrogen. Therefore, the authors recommend concentrating on “no regret applications” – i.e. on those that are “technically or economically otherwise not sensible to electrify or decarbonize”. The authors include “the production of ammonia, primary steel, basic chemicals and selected refinery products and, in some cases, the generation of high-temperature process heat and, if necessary, heavy goods traffic”.

All other areas should be directly electrified or made more efficient as far as possible. “For reasons of efficiency and available alternatives, the use of H2 for heating residential buildings and as a fuel for cars is not one of the areas that should be classified as a priority from today’s perspective,” the study concludes.

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