Germany’s BNetzA assumes hydrogen regulation responsibilities

Arlind Neziri

30-Jul-2021

LONDON (ICIS)–The German Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) announced that it was to assume new responsibilities in the regulation of hydrogen networks and infrastructure, following recent amendments to the Energy Industry Act (EnWG).

The announcement means that BNetzA will be responsible for the regulation of hydrogen infrastructure in Germany as it develops.

The amendment also states that operators of hydrogen networks could in future be regulated by the agency should they decide to by submitting an “opt-in declaration”.

BNetzA also added that operators of hydrogen networks are obliged to cooperate with each other to implement a cross-operator line and storage infrastructure for hydrogen and its use by third parties.

EnWG AMENDMENT

In addition to regulating the hydrogen sector, the EnWG amendment included a number of other provisions covering network access and unbundling.

On network access, the amendment states that hydrogen network operators have to grant third parties’ connection and access to their networks under reasonable and non-discriminatory conditions, provided that the connection or access is necessary for third parties

Hydrogen network operators are obliged to publish their current terms and conditions for network access on their websites and have the right to refuse connection or access to the network if they are able to prove that connection or access is not possible or unreasonable for them for operational or other economic or technical reasons.

As part of unbundling requirements, hydrogen network operators are also not allowed to build, operate, or own any systems that can be used in the production, storage, or sale of hydrogen.

NETWORK DEVELOPMENT PLANS

The announcement comes as BNetzA confirmed their Gas Network Development Plan 2020-2030 (NEP Gas) earlier this year which saw a number of hydrogen projects requested by transmission system operators (TSOs), rejected.

BNetzA stated that hydrogen infrastructure did not fall under the scope of EnWG and as a result were unable to make decisions on the conversion or construction of new hydrogen infrastructure within the scope of the gas network development plan.

They did however confirm measures that allowed for the removal of 24 gas lines or gas pressure regulating systems from the natural gas network, which could immediately be converted to be used with hydrogen so long as they could meet their gas transport commitments in the existing natural gas network.

While acknowledging that it was an important step in order to be able to begin the conversion of natural gas infrastructure to hydrogen, the German Association of the Gas Transmission System Operators (FNB Gas) criticised the decision, arguing it would turn the hydrogen network in Germany into a “patchwork quilt”.

As part of the first step in developing the Network Developnent Plan (NEP) 2022-2032, FNB Gas in the scenario framework have reported a sharp increase in demand for hydrogen and green gases, with 500 project submissions reported from market partners.

The EnWG amendment now means these projects will be considered by BNetzA when they are reviewed in the near future.

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