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Regulatory framework for hydrogen networks

Legal basis and regulatory framework for hydrogen networks

In 2021, the legislator amended the German Energy Industry Act (EnWG) to establish the first national regulatory framework for hydrogen networks. This legal basis for the construction, operation and regulation of hydrogen networks in Germany is expressly intended to serve as a transitional regulation. The German government has been taking a further step since 2023 and wants to create a framework for implementing an initial core hydrogen network as well as an integrated gas and hydrogen network development plan. 

German Energy Industry Act (EnWG) 2021

Since 2021 the EnWG has defined hydrogen as a public energy source. The hydrogen network is fundamentally independently regulated and is separate from the natural gas regulation. Cross-funding between natural gas and hydrogen networks is not intended. The legislation states that hydrogen network operators are able to decide whether they wish to be subject to the regulation (opt-in) or prefer to remain unregulated. Regulation involves numerous obligations, such as the creation of a hydrogen network development plan and separate accounting. In return, regulated network operators benefit from, for example, higher returns on equity, which are covered in another regulation (H2-NEV [Hydrogen Network Tariff Regulation]). 

The EnWG also includes a duty of cooperation. However, the wording used here is ambiguous and incomplete, and it throws up antitrust issues, which is the reason why, for example, network operators are not able to exchange any information on hydrogen networks within the scope of the network development planning. This and other gaps have resulted in a lack of take-up of the opt-in of this transitional regulation for hydrogen networks in practice.

In addition, the updated EnWG is the first to contain regulations for the conversion of natural gas lines to hydrogen transport as well as for the construction and expansion of hydrogen networks. This also includes extensive permit-related relief where lines are converted from gas to hydrogen.

H2-NEV (Hydrogen Network Tariff Regulation)

The regulation on the costs and charges for access to hydrogen networks and to amend the incentive regulation (“H2-NEV”) entered into force on 1 December 2021. A key element of the regulation is the definition of returns on equity for old and new installations for operators of hydrogen networks. These have been set at 9% for new installations and 7.73% for old installations. Both are valid until the end of 2027, which indicates that the H2-NEV, too, is intended to be a transitional regulation. Overall, the regulation covers a number of important issues and can be considered a starting point for the regulation of hydrogen networks in Germany.

Core hydrogen network

An amendment to the EnWG came into force in December 2023, which contains the first building block of the regulatory, antitrust and network planning basis for the development of a core hydrogen network. The core hydrogen network forms the basic framework of the future hydrogen infrastructure. It will cover the requirements in accordance with the criteria defined in the Energy Industry Act and, in the first stage, will include important supra-regional hydrogen infrastructures that are to go into operation by 2032. The ONTRAS H2 start network of hydrogen is part of the core grid planning.

Entwurf Wasserstoff-Kernnetz

Development of the core hydrogen network

The EnWG regulates the criteria for the design of the core hydrogen network, the obligation of the participating grid operators to cooperate and the prompt approval by the Federal Network Agency. Network modelling is coordinated by the transmission system operators. On 15 November 2023, the transmission system operators submitted the draft application for the core hydrogen network. The Federal Network Agency put the draft out for consultation and is reviewing the comments received. In May 2024, the transmission system operators will submit a joint application for the construction of the core network to the Federal Network Agency. Once the application has been confirmed by the Federal Network Agency, the network operators will begin realising the core network. 

A prerequisite for the construction of the infrastructure is the legal establishment of a suitable financing model. To this end, the EnWG will be amended again. As part of this, integrated gas and hydrogen network development planning will also be enshrined in law.

The latest information is available on the FNB Gas website