The Northern Netherlands is ready for the development of a sizeable and sustainable hydrogen economy. Especially now that, thanks to a European grant, more resources are available to bring together the production, distribution, storage and application of hydrogen. This makes the North the first European region to be awarded Hydrogen Valley status.
Enthusiastically, Patrick Cnubben flips open his laptop. The New Energy Coalition project manager wants to show a video. His eyes twinkle as the animation appears on the screen. In just over two minutes, he is told that the Northern Netherlands has been officially designated as Hydrogen Valley and why that is not at all surprising. Indeed, the North has everything it needs to become the hydrogen region of Europe. 'We have the production facilities, the infrastructure, the knowledge, the will and a large administrative base,' Patrick clarifies, pushing aside the laptop. 'We obviously want to take full advantage of those opportunities and possibilities. That's why we applied for a European grant last April as a HEAVENN consortium.
HEAVENN stands for H2 Energy Applications (for) Valley Environments (in) Northern Netherlands and consists of 31 public and private parties from six European countries. The application, with New Energy Coalition and SNN as boosters, was supported by more than 65 national and international parties. With results, therefore, because in the summer of 2019, the Hydrogen Valley project was honored by the European Commission's Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCHU JU) for a €20 million grant. Including public-private co-financing of €70 million, this brings the total project size to around €90 million. The jury report? No, Patrick is unfortunately not allowed to share that. 'But at least we passed with distinction,' he smiles. 'Of the seven selected applications, we came out a glorious winner. That means that the Northern Netherlands is the first European region to be awarded Hydrogen Valley status, on the model of Silicon Valley in the United States. Of course, there are several regions that want to manifest themselves as such. But we really are. Demonstrated and recognized. And when you're the first, you stay the first. We should be immensely proud of that.
In short, there is a bright outlook for the local economy. Or more precisely, the North is well on course to play a major role in the energy transition. After all, according to experts, green hydrogen, produced from renewable energy, is the future. They even call it a game changer. 'That remains to be seen, of course, but it is clear that green hydrogen will play a major role in the energy transition,' says Patrick. 'The time is ripe to give this an emphatic shape. We have all the trump cards in our hands here. We in the North are good at managing large energy flows. We have proven that over the past 70 years. And if we can do it with natural gas, we can also do it
with hydrogen. With targeted modifications, we can use the existing gas infrastructure to transport hydrogen. In the HEAVENN story, that is an important foundation. In addition, of course, the North Sea will become one big energy park. This will make large amounts of sustainable energy available. At the same time, there is the knowledge to convert that energy into hydrogen and use it in industry. Indeed, everything is in place to eventually supply part of Northwest Europe with this green energy.
Before that happens, a functioning green hydrogen chain must be developed in the Northern Netherlands. Production, storage, distribution and applications in the market. All these facets will receive full attention in the coming years. And that is precisely what the grant obtained is intended for. Heavenn is a six-year program in which more than thirty public and private parties are making every effort to further shape the hydrogen economy. All supported projects are addressed in coherence. In the form of sector integration, to speak in technical terms. 'If you can't share, you can't multiply,' Patrick emphasizes. 'We really have to do it together. Together we have to give green hydrogen a place in the region in every conceivable application. In industry, the built environment and mobility. Meanwhile, numerous companies have already committed to the project, many of which are SMEs. Because of Heavenn, even companies from England have settled in the Northern Netherlands. Of course, NOM can also play a significant role in the project. For example, by helping us with funding structures and acquisition processes. We can strengthen each other very well.'
There is quite a bit to be done in the coming years. Among other things, existing pipelines will be prepared to transport hydrogen. But new hydrogen pipelines will also be realized, at the Chemiepark Delfzijl and between the GZI-Next site and the Emmtec Industry & Business Park in Emmen. In addition, green hydrogen is being used to heat homes and offices, in Hoogeveen and Groningen, respectively. And of course, the number of hydrogen vehicles and refueling stations in the region is being greatly expanded. It should all be ready by 2025. Patrick is visibly positive. He notices that it takes relatively little effort to enthuse parties from all over the world, he says. 'With this status, there is no need for a very technical story. You can skip a few beats. It may not be quite in our vernacular, but it's quite nice to say you can do something really well.'
New Energy Coalition
Sander Oosterhof: "The world is facing a number of major transitions in the use of raw materials. A significant part of those raw materials are used for energy supply. New Energy Coalition is committed to making that energy supply more sustainable through projects such as Heavenn, in which companies work together with governments and knowledge institutions to develop new technology and bring it to the market. Our partnership with NEC focuses on closing the chain: NEC's projects lead to new businesses and also attract the attention of companies outside the region. Our role is to support startups and innovative companies in their search for funding and, in some cases, to invest in them ourselves, as well as to assist companies in their search for a good location.'