EU funding from the RRF: “Perseverance is what’s needed”
The Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) sets Europe on a path to the future. However, anyone wanting to take advantage of such EU funding will need to master a few tricks. This is illustrated, for example, by the “doing hydrogen” project, which will both produce and transport green hydrogen. Our author spoke with Dr Ralf Borschinsky from Ontras Gastransport, the project’s lead company, and Gaby Limbach from APEX Group, which is setting up the necessary electrolysis plant.
Hydrogen (H2) is considered to be an energy carrier that is likely to make a significant contribution to slowing down the climate crisis. This presupposes, however, that the gas is produced with the help of renewable energies. But since the production and transport of green hydrogen is complex and currently still very cost-intensive, this often leads to a chicken-and-egg situation: potential customers are waiting for manufacturers and vice versa.
In eastern Germany, the “doing hydrogen” project now wants to slice through this Gordian knot. Green hydrogen is set to be produced on a large scale. Potential customers are on board. A large part of the financing will be realised through funding programmes.
In December 2022, the EU notified the “doing hydrogen” partner network that it could already begin preliminary measures even though the official funding decision had not yet been issued. “The EU has apologised to us because we still haven’t received the funding notification,” says Dr Ralf Borschinsky, press spokesperson for Leipzig-based Ontras Gastransport GmbH, which is spearheading “doing hydrogen”.
More than 7,500 tonnes of green hydrogen per year
Six partners are working together dynamically in this process to pave the way for green hydrogen. Both customers and producers are on board. Among them, for example, is the APEX Group in Rostock, which wants to build a 100-megawatt electrolysis plant by 2027. The facility in Rostock-Laage will then utilise electricity generated by regional solar and wind power to produce over 7,500 tonnes of green hydrogen annually.
According to APEX, potential customers include steelworks and refineries, as well as the mobility sector. A trading platform is also being discussed, through which hydrogen could be purchased from APEX and other producers.
If it wasn’t for EU funding such as the RRF, some complex schemes wouldn’t even get off the ground
“doing hydrogen” is a project that is not going to finance itself from the word go. In all likelihood, not even during the first year. This is where the various funding options offered by the EU come into play. Gaby Limbach, Marketing Manager from the APEX Group: “A subsidised market ramp-up is essential if we’re going to get producers, transmission network operators, traders and customers to invest in hydrogen at all.”
The project is therefore being supported by funding pots, first and foremost Europe’s IPCEI fund, which forms part of the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), i.e. the European reconstruction fund that was set up in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. However, applying for funds from the RRF is hardly a stroll in the park.
“Applying for funding is a lengthy and time-consuming process,” says Gaby Limbach. After submitting a draft proposal and an expression of interest, the “doing hydrogen” project first had to pass a pre-selection round to identify suitable schemes, which is organised by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action.
Human resources can be key to accessing EU funding
“The extensive applications,” explains Limbach, “are then notified across several rounds by the EU-COM (2nd stage) and then by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs (3rd stage). If they’re positively assessed, each project receives the funding notification.”
Organisations wishing to apply for such funding must therefore come up with projects that are not only convincing in terms of their content. The applications must also meet the formal requirements – all of which might sound, of course, like stating the obvious. However, the choice of funding can also be decisive, as can your own human resources. Limbach: “Above all, it’s important to present yourself as a well-organised consortium that covers all parts of a value chain.”
Ontras press officer Ralf Borschinsky adds: “My tip is to document everything meticulously and archive it in an audit-ready way. This has to take place during the process, you can’t get it right by reworking it. It’s important to plan the projects properly from the outset. It’s hardly possible to do this without a consultant. After all, it must be possible to carry out an audit even if the person in charge is on holiday.” Borschinsky: “We're not talking about a few euros here, but about a lot of money, so the effort is justified.”