Poland could be leading Europe’s hydrogen economy thanks to producing green hydrogen, but only if the state, which is now working on the hydrogen strategy, introduces a swift and efficient policy. Otherwise we will repeat the mistakes made by our power industry, which took to long to decide whether to invest in innovations and is now paying for it – writes Wojciech Jakóbik, editor in chief at BiznesAlert.pl.
Reality ahead of strategy
In this piece I will focus on green hydrogen generated without CO2 emissions that is produced during electrolysis that is fuelled by renewable energy sources (RES). The European Commission will promote this fuel the most as it is perceived as the target technology of the transition to a hydrogen economy, which in turn is to make Europe climate neutral by 2050.
Poland’s Energy Policy until 2040 offers only an outline of the direction in which the energy industry should develop, which means it does not provide any solid foundations for the development of a hydrogen economy. According to the PEP2040, in the future Poland will own significant potential green hydrogen capacity – in offshore wind farms after 2025 and large-scale nuclear power after 2033. However, before this happens it is necessary to take action to use the country’s potential for generating hydrogen. Due to the fact that the Polish hydrogen strategy is still in the works and, according to the latest declarations by the government, the document is to be ready in the fall of 2021, state-owned companies are forced to make decisions on a hunch and develop the hydrogen sector on their own. This situation is similar to what had been happening before the energy strategy was adopted, when state-run companies such as the PGE Group, Tauron, Enea and Energa had to plan the pivot to renewable energy sources on their own, before the government updated the strategy.
PKN Orlen announced the Hydrogen Eagle program to develop hydrogen hubs in Central and Eastern Europe – in Poland, Czechia and Slovakia. The company wants to produce 50 thousand tons of hydrogen a year by 2030. The Baltic Power offshore wind farm is to play a major role in the project, ensuring power for the electrolyzers whose capacity is to reach 250 MW. This is how Orlen wants to use the EU funds to develop hydrogen, but not just the green kind. The Polish fuel giant wants to build 54 hydrogen fuel stations in Poland, 22 in Czechia and 26 in Slovakia. However, in order to use green hydrogen efficiently in Pomerania, cooperation with PGNiG will be necessary. These companies may achieve synergy thanks to the gas storage unit in Kosakowo, which in the future may be used to store hydrogen. One cavern may hold as much as 3 thousand tons of hydrogen. In 2025 in Mogilno a demonstration facility of this kind is to be built. This deadline is the same as the launch of Poland’s first offshore wind farms. This project needs to go hand in hand with developing the infrastructure that will make it possible to transmit a mix of hydrogen with natural gas (up to 15 percent, which is a safe threshold from the point of view of the TSO Gaz-Sytem), or with infrastructure that will be devoted only for this purpose. However, according to the TSO, the first hydrogen pipeline in Poland may be built in the 2040s. It will run from Pomerania to Silesia.
Invest or wait for others?
So, if Pomerania is to become the first place in Poland, where green hydrogen will be produced, we should already prioritize projects related to this plan and pursued by the above mentioned companies as well as other businesses. Poland’s hydrogen strategy is technologically neutral and in its current shape it does not prioritize any technology due to the fact that Poland has the potential to generate this gas from various sources. However, this does not mean we cannot go the extra mile to support green hydrogen. Poland should at least test the usage of green hydrogen and add to its strategy additional funds to quickly develop this technology in Pomerania. The period between 2025 and 2030 should reveal whether this investment will be profitable, and if it will, then state owned companies will be more comfortable in the reality of a hydrogen economy, as they will already own assets that do not need to be protected against the ever stricter EU climate policy. It is worth pointing out that the world will not stop and wait for a decision on this matter. Companies owned by western European states, to which Poland is aspiring, as well as private businesses in Poland are already investing in zero-emission hydrogen economy. In the long term green hydrogen, contrary to the other colors, will not be at risk of becoming another item on the EU black list, like it is in the case of the coal sector, and like it will be in the case of the gas sector. Poland’s energy industry took a long time to decide whether or not to invest in innovations. Today it is forced to pay big money to make up for the fact that it is way behind the more advanced sectors in the West that are setting the tone for EU’s climate policy. If Poland wants to be at the forefront of the hydrogen economy instead of getting stuck in its tale, just like it happened with the power sector, it is high time to take decisive action to build a green hydrogen hub. However, to do this we need a hydrogen strategy, which includes green hydrogen and a legislative initiative that will build the foundations of this new economic sector.