Affordable and clean energy and climate action are two of the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals, that were established to address world’s global challenges. These goals bring new technical and technological challenges to energy supply and consumption. Europe’s transition to a decarbonized energy system is radically transforming how energy is generated, distributed, stored and consumed. European goals to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 and to limit energy-related CO2 emissions to 770 megatons per year by 2050, require increased carbon free generation, energy efficiency and deep decarbonization of transport, buildings and industry1. Reaching 90% renewable electricity production requires substantial market efforts which, in turn, require different ideas and new technologies to be developed and transferred to industry. In particular, a society supported on variable renewable energy, needs appropriate, and massively scalable energy storage technologies. Thus, for widespread market deployment, it is vital that energy can be stored for long periods in a high energy-density vector (as hydrogen) to be used as and when users (industries, transportation, etc) need.
To achieve this goal the European Commission’s hydrogen roadmap2, states that hydrogen plays a pivotal role as it is a versatile, clean and flexible energy vector that can be used as fuel for power or as a feedstock in industry. Hydrogen can help tackle various challenges that the energy system is facing in the decarbonization process: i) It enables the large scale introduction of renewable energy sources with variable output (solar, wind) in the electrical grid3, by providing long term storage and sector coupling solutions such as power-to-gas or power-to-fuel through energy carriers such as ammonia (NH3), liquid organic energy carriers (LOHCs) or liquid hydrogen (LH2); ii) It provides solutions to the decarbonization of energy intensive industries (steel, chemicals, cements) as a feedstock either directly or together with CO2, as synthetic fuel; iii) It is the most promising decarbonization option for heavy duty transport, such as trucks, buses, ships, trains and aircraft, providing significant energy density advantages when compared with batteries.
However, the widespread use of green hydrogen in the global energy transition faces challenges due to its (still) high production cost, challenging implementation of hydrogen infrastructure for production, transport and use, or lack of an adequate and stable regulatory framework.
Strategic Vision and main Lines of Action
The final goal of the HyLab is to create a worldwide reference Research, Development and Innovation (R&D+I) cluster with a strategic agenda focused on strengthening hydrogen competitiveness and creation of new products and services. Moreover, the HyLab will foster innovation, addressing the relevant supply chain components to enable a hydrogen-driven economy and to promote skilled and value-added job creation.
The HyLab involves valuable national and international R&D institutes, academia, industry companies, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), start-ups, and hydrogen-related technology manufacturing industries. This large value chain allows the HyLab to cover different levels of R&D+I, creating a cross-fertilization environment for delivering high-value solutions and products, and to create high social and socio-economic impact. Based on each partner’s expertise, it enables the concentration of efforts and resources for assisting the national effort in the hydrogen area for addressing the world market. To meet these objectives, the HyLab will implement an ambitious R&I agenda, based on highly qualified staff.
The HyLab will also support the development of a large European project (connection with IPCEI – Important Projects of Common European Interest) with the objective to produce green hydrogen in Sines, Portugal, to support the national and European efforts to decarbonize the economy, leveraging on endogenous renewable resources, existing infrastructure, and skilled workforce. The production of green hydrogen in Sines aims at satisfying local and national demands and to export it to northern Europe, namely to Netherlands and neighboring countries.
HyLab targets a gap between the academia and industrial ecosystems in the implementation of green hydrogen to boost the energy transition and to tackle the above-mentioned challenges, through the entire hydrogen value chain.
Furthermore, the HyLab aims at becoming a reference at national and international levels, by boosting new Research, Development and Innovation (R&D+I) areas, with the potential to create and export new or improved knowledge, technologies and services throughout Europe. The innovation agenda of the HyLab is aligned with both the European priorities, the National Energy Climate Plan (NECP) and the National Strategy for Hydrogen following three lines of action:
- Green hydrogen value chain: aiming at reducing technologies’ cost and at improving performance (e.g. efficiency, reliability, lifetime, etc.) across the value chain. The R&D+I focus will include socio-economic impact components, such as training and public acceptance angles.
- Electrolyzer industry: aiming at supporting the developments in the electrolyzer industry ecosystem and at improving the manufacturing process.
- Enabler: aiming at supporting the creation of the hydrogen value-chains across Europe and the related industrial scaling up and R&D+I partnership ecosystem.
Thus, the Research and Innovation (R&I) agenda is structured in four Pillars.