House of Representatives wants a better view of hydrogen market

A large majority of the House of Representatives wants more control over government plans for a green hydrogen economy. So far, the House has hardly talked about the implementation of future hydrogen projects that involve billions of public money, recently revealed research by Nieuwsuur.

MPs want to be much more involved in those plans. VVD MP Silvio Erkens: โ€œAs a Chamber, we have always called for speed when switching to hydrogen for industry, for heavy transport. But we need to have a discussion with each other about the role of the government in that.โ€

‘Monopoly threatens’

In the future, the cabinet wants to replace natural gas with hydrogen, produced with wind energy at sea. Last month Nieuwsuur reported that behind the scenes there are far more plans for that than the House knows.

De Gasunie, the state-owned company that, together with market parties such as Shell, is fully committed to billions of hydrogen projects and asks for government support, came up with a warning in Nieuwsuur itself: if politics – cabinet and House of Representatives – do not interfere much more actively with these projects, the government is threatening to lose control of the market and may even emerge market monopolies.

In response to the reporting, the House is now asking for a technical briefing, in which specialists from the Ministry of Economic Affairs will update the House about the hydrogen plans. In addition, all groups, apart from FvD and the PVV, ask the cabinet in a motion for an independent investigation into the organization of the market: who gets it true in the energy transition to hydrogen, the government or the business community.

Nieuwsuur delved into the government‘s hydrogen plans for months. See how that research came about and what it yielded:

By far the largest hydrogen project in the Netherlands and Northwest Europe, NortH2 is in Groningen. That should replace the old natural gas industry with hydrogen. For the necessary energy, many hundreds of windmills have to come to sea. In the project, the Gasunie collaborates with the port company Groningen Seaports and Shell, Equinor (a Norwegian energy company) and RWE (a German energy company) in a consortium.

The research conducted by Nieuwsuur showed that officials from the Ministry of Economic Affairs are also concerned about the dominant position of the energy companies and the role of the state-owned Gasunie company in this project. The ministry hasn’t told the House about those concerns.

According to the ministry, it does not have to inform the House about NortH2 either. The reason: it is not a government project, but a commercial project of a market consortium. But the House does not settle for that.

โ€œOf course, that is actually incorrect,โ€ says MP Lammert van Raan (Party for the Animals). He came up with the initiative for the technical briefing. โ€œIf the consortium contains a state-owned company such as the Gasunie, you are by definition participating as a State. But apart from that, even if there would only be market players in that consortium, the energy supply is still of such a great importance that, of course, we should always have something to say about it.โ€

VVD MP Erkens submitted the motion for an independent investigation together with CDA and D66. โ€œFor such large-scale projects, you need government and business. But you must have clear rules on how those parties relate to each other to ensure that the public interest is always guaranteed, because of course, a company has a different incentive than the government.โ€

Preventing New Fyra Debacle

The General Court of Auditors also warned in Nieuwsuur last month on the basis of previous own investigations that the House should talk to and be kept informed about these types of major projects. In the past, financial ambiguity, for example, the Fyra led to billions of losses. โ€œThe pattern of not telling the whole financial story, you have to break that,โ€ said Court President Arno Visser.