Based on the basic assumptions made, the study calculates detailed prices for green hydrogen and methane of over 100 euros per megawatt hour in 2030 and just under 100 euros per megawatt hour in 2050. The price for methane on the European raw materials market is currently around 30 euros per megawatt hour. “The high costs show that the import of e-fuels to Europe is not a cheap panacea to circumvent bottlenecks in the expansion of renewable energies or to achieve a transformation on the supply side,” warns Ben Pfluger from Fraunhofer IEG in a press release. The cost of e-fuels needs to be weighed against other options. According to the study, two things are decisive for the competitiveness of hydrogen imports from North Africa and the Middle East to Europe: comparable risk premiums for investment capital as in Europe and low transport costs. In addition, the slowed expansion of renewable energies in Europe, for example due to the lack of expansion areas for wind power and photovoltaics, could favor imports.
Do not misuse as a filler
The researchers believe that analyzing the production chains of synthetic fuels and taking transport into account also illustrates the complexity and sheer size of these potential projects. Too often, green hydrogen and fuel imports are used as gap-fillers in national energy conversion strategies. A more detailed analysis shows that these projects are too large and too expensive to be carried out without strong political support and without a high level of certainty that the energy products will be purchased in the long term at agreed prices.
Policymakers aiming to import green hydrogen or fuels should start developing measures in this direction now, as infrastructure projects of the scale discussed here have a considerable lead time, the scientists advise. The analysis shows that e-fuel production in the region from North Africa to the Middle East is attractive, especially due to the high solar potential. However, developments in capital and transportation costs could reduce or even negate the region’s advantages. Experts from Fraunhofer IEG, Fraunhofer ISI and the DVGW research center at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology worked together on the study. (amo)