University of Eastern Finland

Individual research project: “Hydrogen certification schemes”



Despite the diverse sources hydrogen can be produced from, the end product itself – hydrogen – does not enable identification of hydrogen origin. All hydrogen molecules are identical. There are, however, significant differences between the greenhouse gas emission footprints of hydrogen depending on the origin (blue, green, purple, grey…). The impact of this can be seen, e.g., in related production costs which are reflected on the price development for hydrogen. Depending on the jurisdiction, these differences may lead to additional benefits, for example in the form of tax credits in relation to promotion of green hydrogen. While the hydrogen economy has been promoted as a future pathway to a low-carbon energy future, it can only redeem this role if the end product can be certified as ‘sustainable’. There are currently no internationally applicable certification schemes for hydrogen. Similarly, there is no internationally accepted – and applicable – standard or definition for, e.g., ‘green’ or ‘blue’ hydrogen. Instead, the nature of hydrogen is often contractually agreed between sellers and buyers. However, certain forerunner jurisdictions have introduced certificate of origin schemes that help to verify that hydrogen meets certain agreed standards. These jurisdictions include Europe’s industry-led project CertifHY as well as Australia’s Zero Carbon Certification Scheme (ZCCS) that has drawn inspiration from its European counterpart. These schemes are important for the development of hydrogen trade internationally, as it is reliant on an international guarantees of origin scheme agreed by all key proponents. In order to support the uptake of the hydrogen economy, in particular in its more sustainable form, it is essential to examine the emerging practices on certification schemes. What are best practices emerging internationally? What are the main pillars and common elements of the recently launched certification schemes? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Considering that renewable energy certificates, guarantees of origin as well as renewable energy credits that prove the origins of energy produced from renewable energy sources are already a well-established policy instrument within the renewable energy sector, it is essential to analyse what are the most important lessons learned from their launch and operation. In addition, potential benefits that could be harnessed by combining hydrogen to renewable energy certificate schemes should be analysed. Examples of such can be found, e.g., in the US, where certain states have included green hydrogen in their renewable energy credit schemes. This project combines traditional positivist, comparative and empirical approaches to the analysis of the legal and regulatory aspects of the emergence of hydrogen certification schemes. The main research data, therefore, consists of the regulatory, legislative and policy frameworks of the selected jurisdictions. In methodological terms, legal-dogmatic research is often a prerequisite for engaging in any other type of legal analysis. It will be employed to analyse the existing legal and regulatory frameworks governing the subject-matter of the research in the selected jurisdictions, offer insight into those frameworks and shed light on areas where such regulation is yet to be adopted or is insufficient.
Once a basic understanding of the existing frameworks is established, functional comparative analysis will be undertaken. Comparative legal analysis is ideally suited to functional analysis, whereby differing models of regulation fulfilling the same (or similar) function can critically inform the regulatory framework under investigation. In this context, this research adopts a functional approach to comparative legal analysis, comparing and contrasting key functionalities of hydrogen certificates schemes in the EU with that which exists in Australia (plus possible others that are currently emerging; this needs to be updated.) Finally, the results based on legal-dogmatic research and comparative research will be enriched by means of qualitative empirical methodology. By means of semi-structured interviews, stakeholders from the Netherlands, Spain and Finland active in the field of hydrogen certification schemes will provide deeper insights about the experienced legal barriers and possible solutions.

Planned secondment(s):

The doctoral candidate during the second PhD year will run for 6 months at RUG (Supervisor: Prof. Squintani) to improve empirical analytical skills useful for the research on the general regulatory framework. DC 2 will also spend 4 months at URV (Supervisor: Prof. Cocciolo) to improve doctrinal legal skills. Finally, researcher 2 will spend 2 months at Gasgrid Finland Oy, in the third doctoral year, to acquire a better understanding of the regulatory-making processes related to the Hydrogen Certificate Schemes.