Solar and renewable-based electrification recognised as core pillars of European Commission’s Energy System Integration and Hydrogen Strategies

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The European Commission adopted two important strategies in support of the Green Deal’s energy and climate targets: the ‘EU Strategy for Energy System Integration’ and ‘EU Hydrogen Strategy’. Together, the strategies indicate the Commission’s plans for a future-proof and climate-neutral energy system, with investments aiming to stimulate a green recovery and strengthen EU leadership in clean energy technologies.

The ‘Energy System Integration’ strategy integrates key elements that are crucial for the uptake of solar power. In particular, it proposes to support the deployment of solar-based solutions in the transport, building, and heating sectors through a review of the primary energy factor and dedicated flagship initiatives, such as integrating onsite solar solutions as part of the upcoming Renovation Wave. When it comes to EV charging, solar can play a central role by increasing the efficiency and cost-competitiveness of electrification, especially when integrated into buildings (through building-integrated photovoltaics). The need to further develop electricity grid infrastructure at both the transmission and distribution level is also strongly emphasised in the strategy, which involves revising TEN-E and TEN-T regulations to be consistent with the Commission’s climate neutrality objective.

The strategy further seeks to align the taxation of energy products and electricity with EU environment and climate policies, avoiding double taxation and ensuring a revision of the State Aid framework to support cost-effective decarbonisation, working towards phasing out fossil fuel subsidies altogether.

Mercè Labordena, Senior Policy Advisor at SolarPower Europe, commented: “As the most scalable and cost-competitive clean energy technology, solar is clearly key to enhancing energy system integration, underpinning the electrification of Europe’s energy system. It is good to see plans for the further electrification of buildings, where rooftop solar has a particularly important role to play, with the potential of powering EVs with clean energy produced right above our heads. Further, our recent study with LUT University, ‘100% Renewable Europe’, shows that Europe can achieve climate neutrality before 2050 with a 100% renewable energy system, but that this must be coupled with a high rate of electrification and sectoral integration. This strategy comes at the right time, to build on technologies of the future for a green recovery, and to deliver on the ambitions of the European Green Deal.”

In parallel, the Commission adopted its ‘EU Hydrogen Strategy’, which details the necessary measures to scale up the production of clean hydrogen in the context of an integrated energy system. The strategy acknowledges the central role of hydrogen produced through electrolysis using renewable electricity, based on solar and wind, to support the complete decarbonisation of hard-to-abate sectors. Renewable-based hydrogen should be prioritised and developed into a cost-competitive solution for Europe’s end-users, by producing 1 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen by 2024 (with 6 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolysers installed in the EU) and 10 million tonnes by 2030 (with 40 GW of electrolysers).

The strategy supports renewable hydrogen through incentivising the roll-out of dedicated gigawatt-scale renewable hydrogen factories, providing quotas for renewable hydrogen in certain end-use sectors, and proposing a European-wide criterion for the certification of renewable hydrogen based notably on GHG emission savings. To deliver this strategy, the Commission is launching the ‘European Clean Hydrogen Alliance’, to develop a concrete pipeline of projects.

Aurélie Beauvais, Policy Director and Interim CEO of SolarPower Europe, said: “The European Commission made an important step towards the ambition of the Green Deal, by recognising renewable hydrogen, powered by solar and wind-based electricity, as the most promising way to decarbonise hard-to-abate sectors. This is a smart and forward-looking move, as renewables today are the most affordable, clean, and job-intensive technologies that can support a green recovery at a crucial time for Europe. With the Commission’s Hydrogen Strategy, the European renewables sector was affirmed as a core pillar of the EU’s energy transition, supporting the full-decarbonisation of the European economy even beyond electricity.”

The Commission further announced that it will address the use of hydrogen in the transport sector in its upcoming ‘Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy’, scheduled to be presented by the end of the year.

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