Assessment of the Advantages and Disadvantages of Hydrogen Imports Compared to Domestic Production

  • Project no.152197
  • Duration 06/2020 - 08/2020

Hydrogen (H2), which is produced from renewable energies, is an essential building block for a future climate-neutral, decarbonised energy economy. With the National Hydrogen Strategy (NWS) published in June 2020, the German government aims, among other things, to both develop a "home market" for hydrogen technologies in Germany and prepare the way for imports. In this context, the German government expects an annual hydrogen demand of 90 to 110 terawatt hours in Germany by 2030 and aims to achieve a domestic generation volume of 14 terawatt hours by then.

This means that in 2030 only one eighth to one sixth of the expected H2 demand in Germany could be covered by domestic production and the vast majority would have to be imported. The main reasons for these imports are cited as the more favourable production and transport costs and the potential for renewable space in the exporting countries. However, such a strongly import-oriented strategy does not take sufficient account of the positive effects in terms of national employment and value added that would be possible with a more nationally oriented strategy. In addition, some future exporting countries still lack the prerequisites for their own energy system transformation and sustainable production of green hydrogen. This in turn would lead to rebound effects for climate protection. Therefore, the project participants asked themselves, from a holistic perspective, to what extent a more nationally oriented hydrogen strategy could perform equally well or even better than an import-oriented variant.

Against this background, the Wuppertal Institute and DIW Econ investigated exploratively:

  • how high import costs will be in future compared to national production (Wuppertal Institute),
  • the extent to which hydrogen production can use curtailed electricity from renewable energies, such as wind power in particular, as an alternative and thus save costs (DIW Econ),
  • which sites appear to be most suitable for electrolysers in Germany, especially with regard to sites for (new) wind energy and photovoltaic plants (Wuppertal Institute) and
  • what gross value added and employment a domestic production of hydrogen – in particular through the additional demand for renewable energy plants – can generate, and the resulting macroeconomic effects associated with an import-oriented versus a national hydrogen strategy (DIW Econ).

Further project information


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