Portugal whittles down hydrogen project field as multi-billion-euro initiative shifts gear

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Image: Flickr/fdecomite.

Portugal has chosen a total of 37 prospective green hydrogen projects, representing a total investment of around €9 billion (US$10.5 billion) to progress to the next stage of its selection process.

Last week the Portuguese government revealed that it had received 74 expressions of interest from parties eager to tap into a move by Portugal’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Action to bring forward green hydrogen projects capable of decarbonising heavy industry in the country.

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A Project Admission Committee was assembled to assess the proposals, and the committee has whittled down the number of projects suitable by half to 37, a note issued by the environment ministry yesterday revealed. A more in-depth assessment is now underway, with more detailed project information requested from successful parties.

The initial consultation was launched in alignment with the Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI), an initiative of the European Commission which encourages innovation and disruption of traditional business models and comes hot on the heels of the Commission’s own green hydrogen strategy which was unveiled on 8 July 2020.

Portugal has emerged as a beacon of opportunity in a renewables industry seeing a renaissance across Europe. Its 2019 solar tender was oversubscribed with record low bids from Akuo and Iberdrola winning a share in the 1.15GW solar pot and a 2020 auction of 700 MW of solar targeting the southern regions of Alentejo and Algarve will be completed at the end of July 2020. Winners will be revealed in September. Speaking to PV Tech at the time, a spokesperson for the government indicated this auction will be followed by another exercise of 500MW (the figure is indicative) towards the end of the year.

The announcement also comes around a month before the Green Hydrogen Virtual Summit, organised by PV Tech publisher Solar Media, at which Portugal’s energy secretary João Galamba will speak. Galamba is to outline the opportunity for investment in Portugal and will be joined by other major Portuguese stakeholders and investors into the Portuguese renewables market such as Galp, Smartenergy, Resilient Ventures and APREN, the association for the Portuguese renewable industry.

Green hydrogen is fast picking up traction in Southern Europe with developers of solar projects eyeing up the technology’s capability to provide an additional revenue stream and cushion the blow for any potential drop in revenue due to low power prices and reductions in government incentive schemes. Similarly, northern Europe is seeing wind developers look towards hydrogen.

Marc Rechter of Resilient Group, speaking at the Green Hydrogen Virtual Summit, highlighted the role that green hydrogen could play in decarbonising heavy industry and transport. Resilient Group is focused on developing and incubating investments in renewable energy, green hydrogen, smart grids as well as other technologies, and it is behind the 1GW solar+hydrogen Green Flamingo initiative proposed in the port of Sines. The initiative has attracted interest from the Dutch government, EDP (Energias de Portugal) and oil group Galp Energia.

Of green hydrogen, Rechter said it is “currently identified as the only energy carrier capable of enabling the timely decarbonisation of heavy industry, trucking, maritime navigation and aviation. The maturity of electrolysis technology is already a fact and will now be an opportunity to contribute to the reindustrialization of some European countries”.

“Green hydrogen depends on the renewable energy sector for its power input. Increasingly, the roll out of green hydrogen systems will allow renewable energy assets to maintain economic viability in an electrical market with a high tendency for curtailment,” Rechter added.

Additional reporting by Jo Wilkinson.

Rechter joins a panel of international experts at the upcoming summit in August which will uncover the drivers to investment, key projects of interest, government policy frameworks and the view of offtakers to going green. The summit is all accessible online and registrants can book tickets here: Green Hydrogen Virtual Summit.

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