TALLINN - The government at a sitting on Thursday approved Estonia's positions on two climate neutrality strategies by the European Commission -- the state supports both the European strategy for climate neutral economy as well as the hydrogen strategy.
The EU energy system is in need of in-depth reorganization in order for the European green objectives to be met as currently, the energy system generates 75 percent of the European Union's greenhouse gas emissions. With the strategy for the integration of EU energy systems, a cross-sectoral framework will be drawn up to transition to renewable energy and extensively reduce energy systems' carbon dioxide emissions, spokespeople for the government said.
Energy system integration refers to the planning and operating of the energy system "as a whole", across multiple energy carriers, infrastructures, and consumption sectors. It creates stronger links between them with the objective of delivering low-carbon, reliable and resource-efficient energy services, at the least possible cost for society.
Existing examples of energy system integration include the use of agricultural bio-methane in transport, and cogeneration of electricity and heat.
The strategy is built on complementary and mutually reinforcing elements -- a more circular energy system, where no energy is wasted and where energy efficiency is the first consideration; electrification; the use of cleaner electricity produced from renewable sources, and digitization of energy systems.
The strategy sets out the general courses of action for harmonizing energy systems with the European Green Deal objectives.
The EU hydrogen strategy will give a boost to clean hydrogen production in Europe. To target support at the cleanest available technologies, the European Commission will work to introduce a comprehensive terminology and certification, to define renewable and other forms of hydrogen. Appropriate infrastructure is also a condition for the EU-wide development, production and consumption of hydrogen.
In the first phase from 2020 to 2024, the objective is to decarbonize existing hydrogen production for current uses such as the chemical sector, and promote it for new applications. This phase relies on the installation of at least 6 Gigawatt of renewable hydrogen electrolyzers in the EU by 2024 and aims at producing up to one million tonne of renewable hydrogen.
In the second phase from 2024 to 2030, hydrogen needs to become an intrinsic part of an integrated energy system with a strategic objective to install at least 40 Gigawatt of renewable hydrogen electrolyzers by 2030 and the production of up to ten million tonnes of renewable hydrogen in the EU.
Hydrogen is a key solution to cut greenhouse gas emissions in sectors that are hard to decarbonize and where electrification is difficult or impossible. This is the case of industrial sectors such as steel production, or heavy-duty transport for example.
The strategy prioritizes supporting renewable hydrogen production; however, in the short-term perspective, other low-carbon forms of production are also acceptable.
Meelis Munt, secretary general of the Ministry of the Environment, said that Estonia has great potential for using hydrogen as an energy carrier and for energy storage in several sectors where reducing greenhouse gas emissions is difficult, such as industry, transport, energy and construction.
Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas said that hydrogen is set to become an important solution for energy transport and storage.
"However, sufficient wind and solar energy production volumes are the prerequisite here, which we don't currently have. Both the state and private developers are working on building large off-shore wind farms, and in the coming 10 years' perspective we can already talk about sufficient energy surplus for hydrogen production," he said.
A call for applications is currently being developed in cooperation by ministries for testing the hydrogen value chain from production to consumption in Estonia.
Thus far, the use of hydrogen for energy storage has best been realized in transport, and the introduction of green hydrogen will help reduce the sector's greenhouse gas emissions.
"With the pilot project, we aim to expedite green hydrogen's entry into the market and offer Estonian entrepreneurs an opportunity to test new technologies," Aas said.
With the European Green Deal, the European Commission has set the objective of reaching climate neutrality by 2050.