University of Eastern Finland

Individual research project: “In search for cross-sectoral coherence: an emerging regulatory framework for hydrogen”



The praised role of hydrogen in tomorrow’s energy systems is based on its versatile nature. Hydrogen can be transported as a gas by pipelines. It can be transformed into electricity and methane to power homes and industries. It can be transported in liquid form by ships. It can also be transformed into fuels to run cars, trucks, ships, and planes. For the hydrogen economy to take off, a regulatory framework that captures all its potential benefits to several systems — electricity, gas and transportation is critically needed. However, the current regulatory framework for the energy system is heavily siloed; geared toward regulating one sector with little if any cross-sectoral elements. The versatile nature of hydrogen, however, requires a holistic approach to regulation, so that hydrogen production relying on electricity can feed the end-product into the gas system, for example. The EU’s Green Deal identified clean hydrogen as a priority area in which the EU needs climate and resource frontrunners to develop relevant technologies and commercial applications. Its Hydrogen Roadmap offers further detail, but it is nonetheless a general policy document that lacks in-depth analysis of the various options. Concrete legislative proposals remain on the horizon. The Commission has indicated that it will put forward legislative proposals by the end of 2021. These legislative proposals are likely to be narrow in scope and will focus on the main issues on the path towards a hydrogen economy. However, applying access rights, unbundling measures and other basic principles of energy market regulation or providing for state aid schemes is not enough. Many other areas of EU and national law will impact the development of the hydrogen economy. By way of comparison, the Australian study identified approximately 730 pieces of legislation and 119 standards that were potentially relevant to the hydrogen industry and supply chain development. Understanding the complexities involved in the path to a hydrogen economy requires an in-depth study on various elements of the regulatory frameworks. In order for large-scale hydrogen value chains to develop, the EU Member States will need to develop a regulatory framework that will support the production and storage of green hydrogen. Similar measures have been taken in countries which are further ahead in transitioning to a hydrogen economy. Comparisons with other key jurisdictions such as Australia and United States regulatory frameworks and future plans will provide a benchmark both for the EU at large and its Member States. It will also provide ideas and options for the way forward. The proposed research will be driven by the need to understand “how countries leading the hydrogen uptake have designed their policies and what regulatory choices they have made in support of the implementation of these policies.” This comparative law part of the study will provide new information on successful policies and regulatory frameworks, as well as potential pitfalls and risks. By employing a law in context approach to energy law and policy, the comparative research will take into account matters beyond the mere scope of law, such as energy economics, energy politics and energy technologies. Both comparative law and the law-in-context methodologies are well-established approaches. 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 involved in the regulatory process in the field of hydrogen 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 4 months at RUG (Supervisor: Prof. Squintani) to improve empirical analytical skills useful for the research on the general regulatory framework. DC 6 will also spend 6 months at URV (Supervisor: Prof. Cocciolo) to improve the doctrinal legal skills. Finally, researcher 2 will spend 2 months at Finnish Energy Authority (Energiavirasto), in the third doctoral year, to acquire a better understanding of the regulatory making processes related to the hydrogen economy.