11th June 2021, London - Hydrogen Europe, one of the most influential hydrogen lobby groups in the EU, is pushing for loopholes in an EU law that would allow energy companies to use climate-damaging fossil electricity to produce hydrogen, and still have the fuel labelled as renewable.
Freedom of information files seen by Global Witness show Hydrogen Europe - whose members include fossil fuel giants like Shell, Total and Equinor - has been putting sustained pressure on the European Commission over a key climate-focused regulation known as the Renewable Energy Directive. The documents show the group’s efforts included lobbying Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans to weaken these rules.
Greenwashed Hydrogen today reveals how the lobby group is proposing loopholes that would allow companies to use large amounts of fossil electricity to produce renewable hydrogen. This would have a huge impact on the emissions from hydrogen, as hydrogen from fossil electricity can have up to four times the carbon footprint of hydrogen made from fossil gas, and up to 130 times the footprint of hydrogen from renewable electricity.
Hydrogen Europe has also called for the removal of a crucial rule that requires hydrogen companies to build new renewable power installations. This “additionality” measure would ensure hydrogen producers source electricity from new installations, thereby preventing them from diverting precious renewable energy from existing sources and causing higher carbon emissions.
New Global Witness analysis based on EU Integrity Watch data shows the extent to which the European Commission is listening to industry voices to shape its views on hydrogen. Over the past 18 months, 80 percent of the meetings on hydrogen held by senior European Commission officials have been with private companies or industry associations. The majority of these were companies and groups with fossil fuel interests including Shell, Eurogas, Equinor, Hydrogen Europe, Engie and the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP).
Dominic Eagleton, Senior Gas Campaigner at Global Witness, said:
“Hydrogen debates are reaching fever pitch in Brussels, thanks to an army of gas industry lobbyists that’s using its sway to influence EU regulations. Business groups are pushing for rules that would allow companies to cut corners and use fossil energy to produce renewable hydrogen, but this could lead to a huge rise in carbon emissions and defeat the purpose of the industry.”
“Renewable hydrogen is supposed to be fossil free, but there’s a real danger that industry proposals would turn it from being a climate-friendly fuel into a polluting one.”
“The world is watching this debate in the EU, with its outcome potentially shaping other countries’ approach to hydrogen. Instead of listening almost exclusively to selfinterested gas companies, the European Commission must lead by example and ensure its sustainability rules for renewable hydrogen cut down emissions rather than worsen the climate crisis.”
The European Commission is currently finalising its implementing rules for the Renewable Energy Directive, which include requirements for sourcing renewable electricity and building new renewable energy installations for hydrogen production. Global Witness is calling on the
European Commission to adopt rules that ensure renewable hydrogen reduces carbon emissions. These must include strong requirements for additionality that come into effect immediately.