Belgium and twelve other EU Member States have been given the green light by the European Commission to pump up to 5.2 billion euros in government support into innovative hydrogen projects. “State aid must play a role in unlocking, attracting and leveraging large amounts of private investment. These investments would otherwise never take place,” said Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.
Thirteen EU countries are committed to the Hy2Use project. They asked the Commission to allow public funding for a total of 35 sub-projects, in which 29 companies (including SMEs and start-ups) will participate. For our country, this is Engie Belgium, which is involved in two projects, Fluxys and TECforLime, based in Louvain-la-Neuve. It is estimated that the maximum EUR 5.2 billion in government support will attract EUR 7 billion in private investment.
On the one hand, the state aid should make it possible to build infrastructure that can provide for the production, storage and transport of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen. On the other hand, the development of innovative and sustainable technologies for the integration of hydrogen in industry is supported. This mainly concerns processes in sectors that are relatively difficult to decarbonise or decarbonise, such as the steel, cement and glass sectors. The entire project is intended to boost the supply of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen, thereby reducing dependence on natural gas.
“The hydrogen value chain in Europe is in its infancy. This makes it risky for companies and member states to invest alone in such an innovative market,” explains European Commissioner Vestager. “Then state aid must play a role in unlocking, attracting and leveraging large amounts of private investment. These investments would otherwise never take place.”
“Breakthrough innovation and positive spillovers”
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen points out that hydrogen could further reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and that the Hy2Use project could deliver “groundbreaking innovation and positive spillovers” that would benefit the entire European economy. Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said there could be an opportunity to decarbonise steel, cement and chemicals and replace large amounts of fossil fuels.
The Commission is not yet in a position to say anything about the exact amount of state aid that the participating companies will receive. The entire project should be completed by 2036. In July, the Commission already approved another hydrogen project, which was also submitted by Belgium. This Hy2Tech project focuses on the mobility sector.
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