On 18 April, Alexela, Eesti Energia, Port of Tallinn, the University of Tartu and the Estonian Association of Hydrogen Technologies signed an agreement founding Hydrogen Valley Estonia to accelerate the robust and diverse development of the hydrogen sector and formally establish the world’s first nationwide hydrogen value chain.
Boosting the development of the green hydrogen sector based on renewable energy has an important role in implementing the green transition and achieving Estonia’s national climate targets. The ambitious goal of the European Union and Estonia to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 creates the need to significantly accelerate the development and deployment of green technologies. Hydrogen will be one of the most important keywords in the coming decades, contributing to the green transition, for example, as a storage and energy carrier.
According to Marek Alliksoo, the head of international projects at the Estonian Association of Hydrogen Technologies that coordinates Hydrogen Valley Estonia, hydrogen valleys mostly cover a single city or region, but Estonia is developing the world’s first hydrogen value chain to cover an entire country.
“While Silicon Valley in the United States is a global centre of high-tech and innovation, the ambition of Hydrogen Valley Estonia is to develop our region’s technology and innovation centre for the hydrogen economy,” Alliksoo said.
“The agreement signed today turns the enthusiasm-based initiative into an official association, allowing us to advance hydrogen-related cooperation and building the hydrogen economy in a faster, smoother and more efficient way, and contribute to the green transition.”
Hydrogen Valley Estonia is a consortium of Estonian public and private capital-based organisations, including research institutions. It aims to render the local mainly fossil fuel-based energy system more sustainable. This aligns with Estonia’s ambitious plan to switch to 100% renewable energy by 2030 at the latest. In 2022, the consortium announced its plan to develop the first nationwide hydrogen ecosystem, hoping to create the first production units, distribution solutions and usage opportunities within the next six years. Such an ecosystem creates new jobs and contributes to economic growth all over Estonia.
The University of Tartu is a leader in Estonia’s hydrogen technology research and development. According to Professor Enn Lust, Director of the Institute of Chemistry at the University of Tartu and a member of the steering group of the hydrogen valley project, the university develops basic research and teaches renewable energy experts at all levels of higher education and in all fields of technology. The university also offers continuing education in renewable energy and is a good partner in advising interested companies and decision-makers at national and local levels.
“In cooperation with entrepreneurs, we have launched an international pilot project, as a result of which we will be able to test a hydrogen bus and refuelling option in Tartu in 2025. Green hydrogen has great potential in the transport sector, but there is currently no green hydrogen production in Estonia and there are no refuelling options,” said Raimond Tamm, Deputy Mayor of Tartu. “As hydrogen will have an important role in our energy system in the future, the City of Tartu is participating in the creation of Hydrogen Valley Estonia to boost the hydrogen economy in cooperation with our partners,” Tamm added.
According to Marti Hääl, chairman of the board of Alexela, it will not be long until hydrogen refuelling stations are established: ”Alexela has started designing public hydrogen refuelling stations and aims to open its first station in Tallinn in 2024. The next steps include expanding Alexela’s refuelling stations along the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) and creating hydrogen refuelling capacity for different modes of transport and consumers in Pärnu, Tartu and eastern Estonia.”
The support group of Hydrogen Valley Estonia already includes more than 30 local and international institutions, and new interested parties are most welcome to join. The strategy and work plan for the hydrogen valley will be public to support synergies between the parties. All this will contribute to creating a test environment suitable for Estonia to accelerate the uptake of green hydrogen, which has an important role in linking economic growth and climate targets.
According to Joonas Vänto, manager of the Invest in Estonia department of the Estonian Business and Innovation Agency, energy technologies, including hydrogen technologies, are one of the strategic focus areas of the department. “We aim to attract foreign investors to projects experiencing market failure or needing innovation. We are in constant contact with international investors, funds and companies, and support Estonian companies in finding foreign investments so that Estonia can become a leading green industry country in the world,” said Vänto.
The steering group of Hydrogen Valley Estonia comprises Alexela, Eesti Energia, Port of Tallinn, the University of Tartu and the City of Tartu.
In addition to the steering group, members of the support group take part in the work of the hydrogen valley: AuVe Tech, Baltic Workboats, Clever Cities, Drannel, Estonian Aviation Academy, Elcogen, Elering, ELMO Rent, Estiko, H2Electro, Harju Entrepreneurship and Development Centre, HHLA TK Estonia, Keila City Government, Liwathon E.O.S., Lääne-Harju Rural Municipality, MP Industries, Pakri Science and Industrial Park, PowerUp Fuel Cells, Pärnu County Development Centre, Põlva Rural Municipality, Saaremaa Development Center, Saare Wind Energy, Skeleton Technologies, SKYCORP, Stargate Hydrogen, Tallinn Airport, Tallinn University of Technology, Tartu Vocational College, Tartu Terminal, Association of Municipalities of Tartu County, TiVo – Taltech Hydrogen Organisation, TS Laevad, Xfly.
The article was originally published by the University of Tartu.