Renewables

Czech coal regions to introduce hydrogen technologies

Czech coal regions introduce hydrogen technologies

Photo: Ministry of the Environment / Twitter

Published

April 11, 2023

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Published:

April 11, 2023

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Ten years ahead of the coal phaseout deadline, the Czech Republic’s three coal regions are launching an initiative for piloting hydrogen technologies and establishing so-called hydrogen valleys – hubs of European-wide significance.

Karlovy Vary has joined forces with Czechia’s two remaining coal regions – Ústecký (Ústí nad Labem) and the Moravian-Silesian Region to lean on their experience in developing hydrogen projects and work on joint endeavors in the sector.

In a new memorandum, the governors vowed to work on bringing prosperity to the areas through economic transformation. The Czech Republic scheduled a coal exit for 2033, but all coal mines in the Moravian-Silesian region are set to be closed soon. Its Governor Ivo Vondrák said alternatives must urgently be found, Euractiv reported. He explained that the initiative enables the introduction of pilot projects.

Hydrogen valleys, innovations can bring massive European grants to coal regions

Karlovy Vary, also known as Carlsbad, revealed that it would start with the transportation sector. “It means focusing on how we can best produce hydrogen locally and consume it immediately,” Governor Petr Kulhánek said.

The push to abandon coal to limit global warming and protect the environment impacts the local economy, especially workers in the dwindling industry, and society as a whole. It raises the issue of a just transition, so the European Union is approving funds for cushioning the blow. So far the focus has been on retraining, rehabilitation of open pits and dump sites and preparing solar power projects.

Hydrogen valleys are proposed hubs with an integrated value chain from production to consumption

At the same time, the administration in Brussels, member countries, subnational authorities and the civil sector are working on opportunities to introduce state-of-the-art technologies in the coal regions and give them a substantial competitive advantage. Some of the obvious options are heavily subsidized innovative energy projects, so-called hydrogen valleys and energy storage solutions.

The hydrogen valley concept implies the creation of the entire value chain from production and storage to distribution to consumption. State aid is available for green hydrogen, obtained through electrolysis using renewable electricity, and low-carbon hydrogen overall, which includes the utilization of nuclear power.

Main bet is on transportation despite low efficiency

Karlovy Vary and Ústecký are in the country’s northwest while Moravia-Silesia is in the east. Minister of the Environment Petr Hladík is convinced they can become the main hydrogen hubs in Central Europe including for new applications and scientific research.

For example, the Ústí Region has a hydrogen mobility project in its capital city Ústí nad Labem. It is also developing a project for using it in rail transportation including a line to Saxony in neighboring Germany. The Moravian-Silesian Region is preparing to procure 10 hydrogen-fueled buses, as well as trains that would run between Krnov and Olomouc.

Projects are under development for hydrogen-fueled trains

Governor Vondrák acknowledged that hydrogen technologies are still less efficient than electromobility, but he pointed to the need for diversification.

The Moravian-Silesian Region founded a hydrogen cluster in June with VŠB – Technical University of Ostrava and Cylinders Holding, also based in its capital city, as a step toward the establishment of a hydrogen valley. The initiative includes other domestic institutions, local authorities and companies.

Experience from such endeavors could be useful for coal regions in the Western Balkans and the rest of Southeastern Europe.

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