The European Green Hydrogen Acceleration Center (EGHAC) aims to set up business opportunities for industries that have a hard time finding a sustainable model.
Steel, fertilisers, chemicals, heavy transport, aviation: these industries – and many more – are part of value chains that have difficulty becoming sustainable. Demand for the products is always high, and customers are willing to pay a reasonable price, but the production processes are causing an unacceptable level of carbon emissions. The stakeholders know they will have to decarbonise, but all of them are having a hard time finding a way to achieve that without losing their business opportunities.
To break this cycle, EIT InnoEnergy has launched the European Green Hydrogen Acceleration Center (EGHAC) which is supported by Breakthrough Energy. With this initiative, we aim to decarbonise complete industrial value chains, especially those that have not yet found the commercially viable business opportunities to do so. By using green hydrogen, ammonia, methanol, and other green fuels, we can help them accelerate their decarbonisation processes while reducing risks and retaining a viable business. Our first target is the steel industry. The steel sector is responsible for 8% of the global energy demand and 7% of the energy sector’s CO2 emissions – making it one of the most significant carbon-emitting industries.
Complete value chain approach
Essential in this effort is the ecosystem we have been building for the past decade. It allows us to create new industrial organisations through early-stage investment and acceleration services delivered in collaboration with our network. Altogether, it is a complete value chain approach. By bringing all stakeholders together, including the off-takers, the risks and benefits can be shared so the extra costs for a carbon-free end-product are kept to a minimum.
This way of thinking is then best applied when you set up a new company with the value chain partners and share the risks and revenues. If you would do this in a traditional project approach, the benefits and burdens are often not equally divided between the stakeholders. To be clear, the EGHAC initiatives never require subsidies to close the business case. Of course, subsidies are still welcome, but we do not depend on them. This aspect sets us apart from the hundreds of hydrogen energy project announcements that are all waiting for grants and often get stuck in the project phase.
Proof of viability
After already being involved in the initial set-up of H2 Green Steel, we have recently founded GravitHy. With this sustainable iron and steel company in southern France, we are offering proof of the viability of our model. Founding shareholders are, next to EIT InnoEnergy, Engie New Ventures, FORVIA, GROUPE IDEC, Plug, and Primetals Technologies. The project aims to mobilise €2.2bn in investments. The plant in Fos-sur-Mer can be fully operational by 2027 and intends to produce two million tons of Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) annually and create over 3,000 direct and indirect jobs for the region. GravitHy will support the emissions reduction of this industry by generating and using green and low carbon hydrogen to produce iron.
Holistic approach to green hydrogen
Although many industries see the potential of green hydrogen to store and use energy, there is a significant dispute about its efficient production, mainly caused by the apparent energy loss in the production and storage process and, partly because of this, the high costs. Our holistic approach can break through these, understandable, objections. By seeing the interdependencies all the way from securing enough renewables, producing the green hydrogen, integrating this hydrogen in chemical or other processes, to finally producing the product and finding the off-takers, we can unite stakeholders instead of dividing them. EIT InnoEnergy’s position as a neutral companion supports this: we can facilitate the whole process by bringing all these elements and players on board.
EGHAC and GravitHy see a growing demand for green steel from off-takers looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. This trend is reinforced by political and regulatory pressure and the geopolitical situation. Still, green hydrogen is a means and never a goal in itself. It is a means to decarbonise those industries where direct electrification is not possible, and hydrogen offers the best alternative to become more sustainable.
Battery alliance and solar initiative
For EIT InnoEnergy, the green hydrogen project is not the only way to support sustainable energy projects. We also started the European Battery Alliance (EBA), where projects have been launched that cover the whole spectrum from raw materials to battery recycling, thus strengthening Europe’s competitive position. In another effort, the European Solar Initiative is looking at bringing solar panel production back to Europe. These projects are, just like EGHAC, all about creating sustainable industrial value chains. As the world’s largest investor in sustainable energy innovations, this is what Europe can expect from us – and build a greener future upon.
European Green Hydrogen Acceleration Center
Please note, this article will also appear in the eleventh edition of our quarterly publication.