'Hydrogen gateway to Europe': Belgium pioneers renewable energy law

'Hydrogen gateway to Europe': Belgium pioneers renewable energy law
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. Credit: Belga/Jasper Jacobs

Belgium is aiming to become a European pioneer in hydrogen distribution, with a new law that will pave the way to a hydrogen network, approved by the Chamber's Energy Committee on Tuesday. Belgium is the first country in the world to take such steps.

Belgium's first-ever hydrogen law regulates the transport of renewable hydrogen through a network of pipelines and introduces the function of grid operator (similar to what the company Elia does for the Belgian high-voltage grid).

The grid operator, yet to be appointed, must guarantee free and non-discriminatory access to the hydrogen network and ensure the quality of hydrogen – which is mainly intended for industrial processes that cannot be easily converted to electricity, VRT reports.

The cheapest way is to import them from countries with high renewable energy potential. On this, Belgium already has some agreements in place with Oman, Chile and Namibia.

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With this law, Belgium is ahead of European legislation and may become the first to implement such a rule, Federal Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten, who hopes it will make Belgium a benchmark for Europe to emulate, told De Standaard.

Today, Belgium already has a hydrogen network of about 600 kilometres, and more than 100 companies and research institutes working on hydrogen applications. By comparison, Germany has 400 kilometres.

"There are opportunities for Belgium to become the hydrogen gateway to Europe," said Van der Straeten. "Our ports are world-class and the existing transport infrastructure for natural gas is quite easy to adapt for hydrogen. We are well connected with our neighbouring countries."

Now, the hydrogen bill still has to pass the House Energy Committee for a second reading, before the plenary chamber can give it the official go-ahead as well. While the full rollout of hydrogen will still take several years, this law makes it clear that Belgium is definitely investing in it.

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