Hydrogen: Identify, prioritize, and support clusters

Hydrogen: Identify, prioritize, and support clusters
August 17, 2023 |

Clusters can accelerate the market ramp-up of hydrogen. How hydrogen clusters work, what the status quo is in Germany, and what options at the moment exist are discussed in a policy brief by EWI.

Hydrogen clusters, i.e., regional focal points, can enable the development of the new market through step-by-step innovations along the value chain. In this context, clusters offer higher productivity, increased innovation power, and simplify the establishment of companies by concentrating competition and cooperation in one place. To support the hydrogen market ramp-up through the development of clusters, regions with cluster potential would have to be identified, prioritized, and supported in a targeted manner.

In the policy brief, “Zusammen stark: Wie Wasserstoff-Cluster den Markthochlauf in Deutschland vorantreiben können”, a team from the Institute of Energy Economics at the University of Cologne (EWI) shows the advantages of hydrogen clusters for the market ramp-up of low-carbon hydrogen. The policy brief was written as part of the EWI’s “Hydrogen Research Program” and was funded by the Gesellschaft zur Förderung des Energiewirtschaftlichen Instituts an der Universität zu Köln e. V.

Clusters as an opportunity for the market ramp-up of hydrogen

A cluster is the geographical concentration of suppliers, service providers, and other related institutions of an industry in a region. In the context of a hydrogen market, a cluster would include electrolysis operators, infrastructure operators, industrial and private customers, service providers, the location of academic research institutes, and educational institutions.

Clusters offer several benefits as the hydrogen market ramps up: They can increase productivity, boost innovation, and facilitate business creation. Organic growth of clusters could accelerate the hydrogen market ramp-up.

Identify, prioritize, and provide focused support

Targeted support for clusters requires that regions with suitable prerequisites are identified, prioritized, and supported in a focused manner by policymakers. The Policy Brief presents production, infrastructure, demand, and research & education criteria that can be used to identify such regions. “Supporting hydrogen clusters can be a useful option to accelerate the market ramp-up and to use public funds in the most efficient and targeted way,” says Tobias Sprenger, Senior Research Consultant and Head of the Hydrogen Research Program at EWI.

Accordingly, no clusters can currently be identified among the hydrogen projects already implemented in Germany. “If projects planned up to 2030 are also taken into account, there is a concentration in four regions: the Central German Chemical Triangle, the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region, Lower Saxony with the Hamburg metropolitan region, and the Mecklenburg Baltic Sea coast,” Sprenger said. However, since only a few planned projects have reached final investment status, it is not yet clear where hydrogen clusters could form.