Hydrogen and hydrogen synthesis products are regarded as key elements for achieving the recently stressed climate protection goals. On behalf of the National Hydrogen Council (Nationaler Wasserstoffrat), the three Fraunhofer Institutes ISI, ISE and IEG have analysed the potential demand for hydrogen as well as hydrogen derivatives until 2050 in a meta-study.

Berlin, 4 June 2021 – The results of the study reveal that the more CO2 we aim to save in Germany, the greater the need for hydrogen: The more CO2 we want to save in Germany, the greater the demand for hydrogen. And the sooner we wish to achieve our climate protection goals, the sooner these quantities must be available. Hydrogen and hydrogen-based synthesis products are crucial building blocks of our energy system of the future.

“Without the widespread use of hydrogen, we will not be able to achieve the climate targets, which have been further tightened. The demand in industry, transport and the heating sector is much higher than politicians have expected so far. The study shows what needs to be done now: The German government must set the course in such a manner that the required quantities will be available in the next few years,” declared Katherina Reiche, Chairperson of the National Hydrogen Council.

To achieve this, a rapid market ramp-up of the hydrogen economy, an ambitious expansion of renewable energies and the speedy development and establishment of a grid infrastructure are necessary. The required quantities of hydrogen and hydrogen-based synthesis products cannot be provided solely on the basis of domestic resources. A significant share of them will inevitably have to be imported. The ramp-up of the hydrogen economy with its international value chains must therefore be thought of in European and global terms alike.

Katherina Reiche: “We must create large capacities at electrolysis plants domestically. We must continue to massively expand renewable energies in order to obtain the necessary quantities of green electricity. We need to upgrade and expand our infrastructure for the distribution of hydrogen. We need to enter into international energy partnerships to secure the necessary imports. And we must create incentives for the use of hydrogen, which is still too expensive today. Only if we succeed in doing all of this will we manage the ramp-up of a hydrogen economy and the development of a hydrogen market.”

First relevant demand quantities for Germany from 2030 onwards

In order to obtain greater clarity regarding the demand for hydrogen and hydrogen-based synthesis products by 2050, the Fraunhofer Institutes ISI, ISE and IEG have jointly conducted a meta-study. For this purpose, the institutes evaluated current system studies with a focus on the demand for hydrogen and hydrogen-based sources of energy in Germany.

Today’s hydrogen production in Germany amounts to 57 terawatt hours (TWh) per year. This amount is produced almost entirely with fossil fuels. From 2030, the study shows the first relevant demand quantities for green hydrogen and derivatives of up to 80 TWh. This demand grows to 100 to 300 TWh in 2040. For the year 2050, the range of demand for hydrogen and hydrogen-based synthesis products then increases to 400 and up to almost 800 TWh. Overall, the maximum demand for hydrogen and its derivatives increases tenfold between 2030 and 2050.

To cover the potential hydrogen demand in 2040 and 2050, imports will become increasingly important. In all studies, the import share of hydrogen-based synthesis products is higher than the import share of pure hydrogen.

Potentially high demand in the industry and transport sectors

The study identifies the greatest demand for hydrogen and hydrogen-based synthesis products in the industrial sector. In 2050, up to 500 TWh will be needed here. The largest consumers are the iron and steel industry as well as the chemical industry.

The studies also see a great demand in the transport sector. By the year 2050, it will require between 150 and 300 TWh. The focus is particularly on international air and sea transport, with a demand of 140 to 200 TWh. In road transport, recent studies see the greatest potential in heavy goods transport.

The meta-study sees further consumers in the building sector (up to 200 TWh by 2050) and in the conversion sector for electricity and heat generation (between 50 and 150 TWh by 2050). Most studies also still contain gaps regarding the future role of refineries. The meta-study therefore recommends that this aspect be examined in greater detail.

Development of hydrogen demand hinges on many factors

According to the meta-study, the development of demand for hydrogen and hydrogen-based synthesis products depends on many factors. Only a few studies see “carbon capture and storage” as being of great relevance. However, should this technology become more established and widespread, the future demand for hydrogen and derivatives would decrease, as more process-related residual emissions can be permitted.

Assumptions about the amount of available and sustainable biomass are also relevant. Biomass competes with hydrogen and hydrogen-based synthesis products in relevant demand segments. To accelerate the market penetration of hydrogen and derivatives, technological developments and cost reduction potentials in electrolysers, transport technologies or the air capture of CO2 must continue to be driven forward.

The studies examined adopted a strongly techno-economic energy system perspective and neglected aspects such as job effects or the influence of policy measures. The statements are mainly based on scenarios that depict possible techno-economic developments under various assumptions and uncertainties, such as future energy requirements or price assumptions.

The study can be downloaded (in German) from the websites of the National Hydrogen Council and the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI) using the links below:




The National Hydrogen Council

With the adoption of the National Hydrogen Strategy, the German government established the National Hydrogen Council (Nationaler Wasserstoffrat) on 10 June 2020. The Council consists of 26 high-ranking experts from business, science and civil society who are not part of the public administration. The members of the Hydrogen Council have expertise in the areas of production, research and innovation, decarbonisation of industry, transport & buildings/heating, infrastructure, international partnerships as well as climate & sustainability. The National Hydrogen Council is chaired by Katherina Reiche, former Parliamentary State Secretary.

The task of the National Hydrogen Council is to advise and support the State Secretary’s Committee for Hydrogen with proposals and recommendations for action in the implementation and further development of the Hydrogen Strategy.