The Evolving Hydrogen Landscape in Croatia

Byline: Petra Čotić

There is much speculation in Balkan countries wondering if hydrogen is the fuel of the future and what is the potential for the application of hydrogen technologies. 

The trend of green industry in which efforts are made to decarbonise the economy and achieve climate neutrality has raised interest around the world in the further development of this technology.

The European Union has set an ambitious goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050. Achieving this goal will require significant efforts to decarbonise the EU-wide economy, including the adoption of new technologies to help on this challenging path. 

In order to achieve climate neutrality, the EU will have to decarbonise all polluting sectors and transition to a low-carbon economy. This will require numerous investments in environmentally friendly technologies, encouraging innovative industries, introducing cleaner, more affordable and healthier forms of transportation, decarbonising the energy sector and industry, and increasing the energy efficiency of buildings.

One of the promising technologies on the journey to the net zero goal is green hydrogen, produced from renewable energy sources. 

It is expected to play an important role in decarbonising the economy, especially in sectors that currently have few alternative technological options and where electrification could lead to significant costs.

There are numerous reasons why hydrogen is among the key priorities for achieving the goals of the European Green Plan and the transition to clean energy. 

Namely, hydrogen can be used in various ways, such as powering fuel cells in electric vehicles, supplying heat and electricity for buildings, and as a raw material for various industrial processes.

One of the main benefits of hydrogen technology is that it can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. 

As more and more countries aim to phase out the use of fossil fuels in transportation, hydrogen fuel cells are emerging as a viable alternative. Fuel cell vehicles use hydrogen to produce electricity, emitting only water vapor as a by-product, making them an attractive option for reducing emissions from the transport sector.

Hydrogen can also be used to decarbonise the energy sector. As more and more renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are added to the grid, there will be times when excess electricity is produced that cannot be used immediately. 

This excess electricity can be used to produce hydrogen through the process of electrolysis, which splits water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can then be stored and used later as a source of electricity or heat, providing a way to store excess renewable energy.

In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, there are other benefits of using hydrogen technology. For example, hydrogen fuel cells are more efficient than traditional internal combustion engines, resulting in lower operating costs and longer life of the vehicle’s powertrain. 

Also, hydrogen can be used as a raw material for industrial processes, such as the production of chemicals and fertilisers, which can help reduce emissions from these branches of the economy.

But despite the advantages of hydrogen technology, there are still some challenges to overcome. One of the main ones is the cost of hydrogen production and distribution.

Although the cost of producing hydrogen from renewable sources is decreasing, it is still more expensive than producing hydrogen from fossil fuels. In addition, the infrastructure for hydrogen production and distribution is not yet widespread, which may limit its application.

To meet these challenges, the EU adopted a strategy to promote the development and application of hydrogen technology. The strategy includes investments in research and development, the creation of a regulatory framework to support the use of hydrogen, and the development of infrastructure for the production, transportation and use of hydrogen. The EU’s goal is to increase hydrogen production to 40 GW by 2030 and create a hydrogen market worth an estimated €140 billion by 2030.

Croatia, as part of the EU, is also working on decarbonisation and achieving climate neutrality. HGK (Hrvatska Gospodarska Komora – Croatian Chamber of Commerce) recognised the application of hydrogen technologies and hydrogen as a significant opportunity for Croatian companies in energy, transport and industrial processes, and after the adoption of the Croatian Hydrogen Strategy, established the HGK Hydrogen Group, which gathers around 80 members from various sectors.

Regulatory changes, funding opportunities for hydrogen technologies, the development of industrial solutions for the development and application of hydrogen, and connecting companies with the scientific community are the main tasks of the Group.

HGK places special emphasis on strengthening research and innovation and the transfer of knowledge from the academic community to industry.

With the aim of realising the plans outlined in the Hydrogen Strategy and obtaining guidelines for the promotion of all parts of the hydrogen value chain, HGK launched the Mapping of the Croatian Economy project for the development of hydrogen technologies last year. 

The aim of the mapping is to determine the starting point of the potential of the Croatian economy for the development and application of hydrogen technologies and to define the key challenges and opportunities in this area. Mapping gives us insight into the current state of hydrogen business, as well as Croatia’s potential in the implementation of the energy transition.