Industrialization of Water Electrolysis in Germany


Industrialization of Water Electrolysis in Germany: Opportunities and Challenges for Sustainable Hydrogen for Transport, Electricity and Heat

Fraunhofer ISE, Fraunhofer IPA, E4tech Sàrl | 2018

Water electrolysis for the production of hydrogen on the basis of renewable electricity is a core technology of energy transition. The increasing proportion of volatile wind and solar electricity can be stored seasonally in the form of hydrogen, converted back into electricity or further processed into fuels and chemical raw materials. For Germany alone, an installed plant capacity in the three-digit gigawatt range is forecast by 2050, with the proviso that the climate protection targets of the German government will be achieved. On behalf of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (Bundesministerium für Verkehr und digitale Infrastruktur, BMVI), the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA and the consulting firm E4tech have developed a roadmap for the establishment of water electrolysis in Germany. The central questions of this study are how to ensure that water electrolysis will be available as an efficient technology in the future and what challenges exist in establishing a gigawatt electrolysis industry in Germany.

In the study, we show how the necessary industrial production capacities for electrolyzers can be built up over the next years. To this end, we examined the challenges involved in establishing a gigawatt electrolysis industry in Germany, particularly with regard to critical components. With the involvement of industry and users, the technological, manufacturing and actor-specific needs for action were discussed and recommendations for action derived.

The future electrolysis demand for the transport, heat and electricity sectors was determined using the REMod-D tool developed at Fraunhofer ISE in an energy system simulation for Germany. A total of six expansion scenarios were considered in order, to take into account the range of performance parameters for different electrolysis systems determined in a large industry survey; in all the scenarios considered, the boundary condition is that the German climate target of reducing energy-related CO2 emissions by 80 % is achieved without large-scale import of synthetic energy sources. The result — depending on the underlying conditions — is an expansion corridor of more than 100 to well over 200 gigawatts of installed electrolysis capacity in 2050. In the second half of the coming decade already, the new installation rate would have to significantly exceed one gigawatt per year, and from the 2030s, the scenarios assume several gigawatts per year.

Already today, the two most important technologies, alkaline electrolysis and PEM electrolysis, are in a technically mature state. From a technological point of view, there is nothing to prevent the large-scale implementation of water electrolysis systems. However, individual research topics still need to be pursued further. For example, high-temperature electrolysis is not yet competitive, but it does have potential due to the lower electricity demand and the industrial waste heat available in Germany. From a production point of view, too, only a few obstructive aspects could be identified. The processes required to produce the components are already being used on a large industrial scale in other sectors. A scaling of the production is possible with a comparatively low machine and capital investment. With regard to the components classified as potentially critical, it was shown that supply bottlenecks can be expected neither in the short nor in the long term.

First of all, there is a need for action on the part of the legislator: the market ramp-up, which is the central lever for further technology development and cost reduction, must be supported by adjustments to the regulatory framework, especially with regard to electricity procurement, so that electrolysis applications can become economical. We are therefore proposing a "market activation program for water electrolysis" that offers manufacturers and users planning security for investments.


The study was coordinated by the National Organisation for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NOW GmbH) and supervised by Project Management Jülich.


Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE:

  • Tom Smolinka
  • Nikolai Wiebe
  • Philip Sterchele
  • Andreas Palzer

E4tech Sàrl:

  • Franz Lehner
  • Malte Jansen
Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA:
  • Steffen Kiemel
  • Robert Miehe
  • Sylvia Wahren
  • Fabian Zimmermann





Contracting Authority:

Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI)


Projektträger Jülich – Brennstoffzelle und Wasserstoff (ESN 5)


National Organisation Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology – NOW GmbH

Further Information on this Research Topic:

Research Topic

Electrolysis and Hydrogen Infrastructure