Dutch National Growth Fund invests €73mn in hydrogen

A joint ‘green hydrogen’ bid by three public-private research and innovation partnerships in the Netherlands won a conditional €73mn commitment from the €20bn National Growth Fund last week.

Hydrogen is being trialled in public bus transportation across Europe. Michal Wachucik / ANP

To ensure the Netherlands’ economy’s future growth, the Dutch government established a €20bn National Growth Fund last year. The green hydrogen plan is set to receive €73mn, according to our Dutch sister publication, Energeia.

The plan had proposed investments worth €738mn, with the promise that 'other parties' would contribute €1,250mn.

While the €73mn awarded is just 10% of the requested amount, the Growth Fund reserved a further €265mn, with a decision regarding whether or not to commit this additional amount to be taken a year after the project starts.

Out of fifteen proposals vying for capital investments the Growth Fund awarded only seven applications. Three more proposals were granted a ‘reservation’ rather than outright commitment.

Large-scale production versus application

Although “we are positive about green hydrogen, large-scale production is not necessarily something that should take place in the Netherlands,” said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, chair of the expert committee judging the applications for the National Growth Fund.

Hydrogen based applications, however, are viewed more favourably. The application of hydrogen may benefit the Netherlands and the Dutch economy, Dijsselbloem said. “That is what we are emphasising.”

"Investing in a solid knowledge base - research and development combined with small-scale demonstration projects and human capital -, can produce valuable earning models, regardless of whether the Netherlands itself becomes a major producer of green hydrogen,” according to the report regarding the Growth Fund’s decision.

“In the case of large-scale electrolysis and hydrogen applications, the earning potential is not (yet) clear, all the more so because it is still uncertain in which parts of the hydrogen value chain (production, transport, storage, application, etc.) the Netherlands will play an important role."

Significant boost

The plan was put forward by three so-called ‘top sectors’: knowledge centers in which government, science and private sector collaborate to further innovation and competitiveness of specific industries in the Netherlands. The top sectors of the three leading industries backing the Green Hydrogen Plan, the chemical, energy and high-tech materials sector, were pleased with the result.

The €73mn awarded will help fund the first two years of their programme: €30 million for the first hydrogen demonstration projects, €35 million for research and almost €8 million for human capital and programme management.

This is a 'significant boost' for parties wanting to get started with hydrogen in the Netherlands, says Emmo Meijer, chair of the so-called Top Sector Chemicals. "With this amount, we can do a lot."

Conditions

The initial €73mn commitment is conditional on The Green Hydrogen Plan demonstrating how different aspects of its programme may enhance the country’s ‘earning power’ and clarifying “on which points the Netherlands can make a difference internationally”.

Meijer has little concern about the conditions attached to the allocation of the funds. "The money is released on the basis of the first results. A staggered allocation, I have no problem with that."