EU countries agree to explore hydrogen as energy source

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union energy ministers agreed on Tuesday to pool efforts to increase the use of hydrogen in transport and power as part of the bloc’s attempt to cut carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030.

FILE PHOTO: Hydrogen cylinders are pictured at the "wind2hydrogen" pilot plant on the day it was officially opened in Auersthal, Austria, August 19, 2015. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader/File Photo

The non-binding initiative, seen by Reuters and endorsed by 25 EU nations, calls for governments to increase cooperation on research into the potential for hydrogen use in energy storage, transport, power and heating.

“The acceleration of early implementation and wider application of sustainable hydrogen technology is able to contribute to the economic competitiveness of the Energy Union,” the document said.

Agreed by energy ministers at an informal meeting in Linz, Austria, the document highlights the need for renewable energy, such as hydrogen, to reduce dependence on fossil fuels for which Europe is reliant on imports from Russia.

Technologies fueled by hydrogen, one of the world’s most abundant elements, have long held promise but uptake has been slow.

Germany on Monday began running the world’s first passenger trains powered by hydrogen fuel cells, replacing two diesel-fired trains on a line of nearly 100 km (62 miles) between Cuxhaven and Buxtehude in Lower Saxony.

Germany is leading efforts in the EU to explore ways to use and store renewable energy at a number of power-to-hydrogen and power-to-gas sites as a boom in wind and solar power in the country has led to excess production.

Running renewable power through water to split it into oxygen and hydrogen via electrolysis produces green hydrogen that can be used in transport or gas grids, which can absorb 10 percent hydrogen as a complementary fuel to natural gas.

Carmakers such as Toyota have touted the benefits of hydrogen vehicles, which take less time to refuel than the recharging of battery electric cars, but are expensive and suffer from a lack of refueling stations.

So far the technology has mostly been used in buses and long-haul trucks.

Additional reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel in Brussels and Vera Eckert in Frankfurt; Editing by Dale Hudson