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International Hydrogen Talks at LGP

International Hydrogen Talks at LGP

On 17 March 2022, the international business law firmLansky, Ganzger, Goeth, Frankl & Partners (LGP)organised a roundtable on hydrogen with high-profileexperts from France and Austria.

The first Vienna “H2 Talks”, hosted by LGP in cooperation with the Federation of Austrian Industry and the French Embassy in Vienna, promoted the exchange and networking of leading French and Austrian companies, experts and interest groups in the field of the hydrogen economy. The topic of hydrogen, which already enjoyed growing attention due to the ambitious climate targets of the European Union, has gained additional importance and attention in the course of the current Ukraine conflict and the volatile situation on the global gas markets. In order to make sectors of industry and transport that are difficult to electrify independent of fossil fuels and also to achieve the much-vaunted European energy autonomy, there is no way around so-called green hydrogen, generated by electricity from renewable energy sources.

Representatives of leading French industrial groups and H2 industry groups provided an overview of the country’s impressive, coordinated H2 strategy, involving the development of several dedicated H2 industry clusters at strategic locations as well as a conscious investment in R&D and domestic production capacities. A common refrain from industry players both in France and Austria was the call for a timely establishment of a common regulatory framework that allows the development of an integrated European H2 ecosystem and market. Representatives of electricity and gas providers made clear that they see the EU’s plans for ownership-unbundling, presented in a Commission proposal regarding Single Market Rules, as problematic because they would disincentivize the largescale infrastructure investments currently needed. Several participants stressed the immense potential of Ukraine for green   energy and H2 production and argued for a post-conflict reconstruction and recovery plan. Focussed on integrating Ukraine in a pan-European green energy environment, it would bring modernization and investment, allowing the country to become a major producer of green hydrogen.

While everyone agreed that decarbonization is of the essence in the face of the fast-advancing climate crisis, and that the transition to renewable energy and H2 would allow Europe to become truly energy independent (and decarbonised) and thus achieve strategic autonomy, some experts warned of remaining obstacles to feasibility: On the one hand, the production of green hydrogen requires enormous amounts of electricity, demand for which is already set to rise rapidly due to electrification efforts in mobility. On the other hand, decarbonizing too hastily could cause a major competitive disadvantage for Europe’s industries if the rest of the world continues to rely on cheaper and dirtier sources of energy. However, there were good reasons for confidence among the assembled H2 experts, considering the substantial new EU commitments to foster and support the emerging H2 industry, investments in R&D that promise to bring down costs and enhance efficiency. Add the fact that H2 production is the ideal complementary technology to green electricity generation from wind or solar, as it can efficiently store any surplus generated. Already, the demand for hydrogen is rising fast, and while many sectors of industry are being increasingly electrified, green H2 is the sole reasonable alternative to fossil fuels in areas such as the chemical, steel and cement industries, as well as long-haul road transport or aviation.

H2 experts at one table

The demand for hydrogen is already rising rapidly: While many industries are increasf  ingly electrified, green H2 is the only reasonable alternative to fossil fuels, especially in sectors such as the chemical, steel and cement industries, as well as in long-distance road transport or aviation.

In addition to law firm founder Gabriel Lansky and Ambassador ret. and LGP Senior Expert Klaus Wölfer, speakers on the latest technological and (European) legal developments as well as the international market situation for the emission-free energy source included French parliamentarian Michel Delpon, President of the newly founded think tank “Club vision hydrogène”, Michael Löwy, Head of International Relations and Markets of the Federation of Austrian Industries, Philippe Brunel, Economic Counsellor of the French Embassy in Vienna, Jean-Luc Soulé, President of Mécénat & Entreprise, and Philippe Boucly, President of the French industry association France Hydrogène. In addition, leading managers from Michelin, Bouygues construction group, EVN, Verbund, Siemens, ÖBB Group and other renowned companies took part in the lively debate. Participants agreed that LGP should continue to support a stronger cooperation of Austrian and French companies in market development and research in the field of hydrogen technologies. LGP, with the help from friends and partners in France (cf. Michel Delpon as well as “France Hydrogène”) should also be involved in the improvement of the EU legal framework under the French Council Presidency.

A deeper integration of the Austrian hydrogen economy into the EU-wide interest group “Hydrogen Europe” as well as another international conference on H2 in September 2022 organised by LGP Vienna were also defined as goals.

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