GERICS discusses offshore green hydrogen production for sustainable energy solutions in Germany
Green hydrogen is seen as a major part of Germany’s energy transition. Its production with offshore wind energy is promising, but the acceptance of this new technology by stakeholders and the population at large is the key to its successful realization. In project H2Mare, GERICS supports the development of such offshore technologies with an acceptance analysis.
To achieve greenhouse gas neutrality by 2045, Germany must drastically reduce its carbon footprint. The production of green hydrogen, obtained from renewable electricity, can make a significant contribution to this political objective. The flexible energy carrier and the secondary products derived from it, such as ammonia, methanol and synthetic fuels – called Power-to-X (PtX) products – can store the energy generated and can be used in the industry or transport sectors for example, thus serving to replace the use of fossil fuels.
For the production of green hydrogen, offshore wind farms have great potential. Offshore, large areas with more constant wind are available and there are fewer conflicts regarding their use compared to onshore wind farms. Especially in areas far from the shore, where connection to the grid becomes a major challenge, the transformation of wind energy into hydrogen and other PtX products and its transport by pipeline or ship to the coast is considered favorable.
The H-project2Mare explores this potential. H2Mare is one of three flagship hydrogen projects, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with a total of up to 740 million euros[i]. H-shaped2Mare, the direct production of green hydrogen and a range of different secondary products with offshore wind energy will be investigated with around 32 partners from science and industry, over the project’s four-year lifespan.[ii]. Besides developing a new type of off-grid wind turbine with an integrated electrolyser, H2Mare is also testing options for an open-ocean platform to produce other PtX products directly from offshore wind energy.
While 89% of the German population supports the expansion of renewable energies as such[i], several major infrastructure projects have not been carried out due to societal resistance, such as onshore wind farms or power lines. In the case of an offshore PtX platform, for example, environmental organizations might have concerns about the impact on the marine ecosystem, residents and the tourism industry might fear the increase in maritime traffic and the infrastructure development along the coast with little benefit to the community, and fishing could be afraid of losing valuable fishing grounds.
The early involvement of the people and stakeholders affected by these infrastructure initiatives is therefore essential. The aim is less to convince people, but to identify and jointly discuss the critical aspects that influence the acceptance of a new technology among different stakeholder groups. Giving voice to stakeholders, discussing trade-offs transparently, and taking concerns into account already at an early stage in the development process increases the chances that solutions will be developed that are acceptable and can scale.
H-shaped2Mare, the engagement of stakeholders and the analysis and consideration of their concerns and conditions of acceptance are an integral part of the project. As a first step, GERICS conducted a stakeholder analysis with a focus on the German North Sea and Baltic Sea region. Mainly based on desk research and exchanges with project partners and experts, we have identified stakeholders that may affect or be affected – positively or negatively – by a PtX platform. We have identified six major groups:
- The administration and public authorities at local, federal and national levels and international organizations setting the regulatory conditions;
- Environmental organizations, fishing associations, sea rescue, coastal protection and tourism organizations likely to be concerned in their field of action;
- Chambers of commerce, regional and economic development agencies, research projects, ports and public services in coastal regions likely to benefit in terms of economic and climatic objectives;
- Networks of experts, media, science, schools and museums that can be used for knowledge transfer;
- Offshore and other private industries as a producer and user of PtX products;
- Political actors and government departments (federal and state) setting general conditions and expansion goals.
Next, GERICS will conduct interviews with key representatives of these stakeholder groups to learn in detail their concerns and hopes regarding the establishment of offshore PtX platforms. In focus group discussions, we aim to bring like-minded stakeholders together to discuss and gather the conditions they deem necessary for an acceptable achievement. In final workshops, we then bring together all stakeholders to develop a mutual understanding of the different positions and the resulting requirements. In all these stages, the regular exchange and engagement with the project partners is essential in order to ensure that the critical aspects will already be taken into account during the development of the technology on the one hand, but also to clarify the technical feasibility and allay unjustified fears on the other hand. hand.
The need for green hydrogen and other secondary products to meet Germany’s climate goals is enormous. In early 2022, Germany’s Ministry of Economics and Climate Action announced that it would increase its offshore wind power expansion targets to 30 GW and electrolysis capacity to 10 GW by 2030.[ii]. Currently, Germany has an annual offshore capacity of 7.8 GW. To achieve such objectives, the energy transition is not only a technical challenge, but also a societal challenge. If we are to achieve the societal transformation necessary for a sustainable future, we must develop innovative technologies that are socially accepted and supported.
 Hydrogen flagship projects: https://www.wasserstoff-leitprojekte.de/home
 H2Mare: https://www.wasserstoff-leitprojekte.de/projects/h2mare
 Renewable Energy Agency: https://www.unendlich-viel-energie.de/english/acceptance-of-renewable-energy-in-germany-2019
 Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action: https://www.bmwk.de/Redaktion/DE/Downloads/Energie/220111_eroeffnungsbilanz_klimaschutz.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=22