Europe leads the pack on hydrogen expertise innovation –


The EU and Japan have registered the biggest quantities of hydrogen-related patents prior to now decade, though the US just isn’t far behind, a brand new evaluation by the European patent workplace exhibits.

Hydrogen, the lightest factor, doesn’t emit CO2 when burned – making the fuel a vital facet of a decarbonised world. The EU’s hydrogen technique from 2020 expects the fuel to account for about 13-14% of the bloc’s 2050 power use. However the nascent clear hydrogen economic system can also be a enterprise alternative that European corporations appear well-placed to seize.

“World patenting in hydrogen is led by Europe and Japan, with the US shedding floor within the interval 2011–2020,” reads a report launched by the European patent workplace (EPO) on Tuesday (10 January). 

Patents are non permanent protections of mental property designed to reward analysis and improvement – patent filings are sometimes used to know the diploma of innovation in a market.

In the meantime, “hydrogen-related” improvements from South Korea and China are “solely beginning to emerge on the worldwide stage,” it provides. 

“This examine exhibits that innovators are responding to the necessity for aggressive hydrogen provide chains, but in addition identifies areas – notably amongst end-users – the place extra effort is required,” famous Fatih Birol, president of the Worldwide Vitality Company (IEA).

Some 28% of multinational patents, registered in a number of international locations’ patent places of work, associated to the manufacturing, storage, transformation and use of hydrogen from 2011 to 2020 had been registered within the EU. Individually, Germany accounts for 11%, and France for six%.

Japan, whose GDP is barely a 3rd of the EU-27’s, registered 24% of multinational patents, rising sooner prior to now decade than Europe. The US, which registered 20% of patents, noticed a pointy drop throughout the Trump administration, defined Yann Ménière, chief economist on the EPO.

However, it will not do to rely the world’s largest economic system out. “We are able to count on a powerful rebound within the US as of now due to the inflation Discount Act,” he added. The IRA comprises tax credit that make producing hydrogen within the US extraordinarily aggressive.

Whereas China and South Korea didn’t make a giant splash within the variety of patents, their respective development charges of 15.2% and 12.2% over the past decade look set to alter that.

Hydrogen’s golden potential beckons

Hydrogen holds nice potential to help the EU in reaching independence from Russian fossil fuels. Nonetheless, for this to occur, policymakers have to unlock financing, simplify allowing procedures and put aside archaic unbundling guidelines, writes MEP Christian Ehler. 

Hydrogen’s regulatory troubles

Whereas European hopes to earn a share of the growing international hydrogen market are excessive, home uptake has been stymied by continued authorized troubles. 

The EU’s guidelines that govern when hydrogen is really “renewable” have been delayed repeatedly. A December 2022 date was missed when a number of European Commissioner cupboards registered issues. 

“I believe the regulatory framework issues,” Ménière careworn, citing Japanese authorities help for home hydrogen purposes. When Tokyo backed utilizing hydrogen at house, patents spiked. When political backing stopped, so did patent filings, he defined.

A brand new economic system, just like the nascent hydrogen economic system, is “totally different items of the puzzle that want to return along with the fitting timing,” the economist highlighted.

Right here, regulators have a vital function to play. “We see the significance of storage and distribution, this enabling infrastructure. Doing that in a coordinated means can solely be achieved with a wise and constant coverage framework,” he famous. 

“The business alone can’t do it.” 

EU lawmakers are at the moment negotiating the fuel and hydrogen bundle proposed by the European Fee in December 2021. 

European management

One facet of the hydrogen worth chain is the place Europe actually has a leg up: hydrogen manufacturing, electrolysis being its chemical time period. 

“Europe actually stands out in excessive temperature (i.e. stable oxide electrolyser cells or SOEC) electrolysis,” the chief economist of EPO explains.

Hydrogen manufacturing is dominated by three strategies: alkaline, polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) and the aforementioned SOEC. 

Right here, European corporations like France’s CEA, and the nuclear fee, triumph. CEA is a world chief in SOEC patent registrations, having registered greater than 60 for that single expertise alone. For PEM electrolysis, CEA registered 18 patents.

This, mixed with vital capability constructing, has Ménière hopeful.  

“We regularly see a powerful efficiency of Europe in upstream analysis, however the funding within the industrialisation part doesn’t all the time comply with nicely,” he famous.

“Within the case of hydrogen, we see funding in capability. That is reasonably excellent news. However it’s nonetheless early.”

France slams ‘hypocrisy’ of low-carbon hydrogen critics

French Vitality Transition Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher slammed her German counterpart for his “hypocritical” stance on nuclear-powered hydrogen at an EU power ministers’ assembly on Monday (19 December), after each international locations agreed to keep up “tech neutrality” on the matter only a month in the past.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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