Europe has the opportunity before it to lead the transformation of its economy to a future in which it is carbon-lean, environmentally responsible, circular and able to compete internationally. Steel is central to the EU economy, and it underpins the development of major manufacturing sectors right along the value chain.
European steel’s transition to carbon-lean, ‘green’ steel requires a fundamental change in the way steel is made, because our current processes are already at the technical and thermodynamic limits.
The breakthrough technologies that we need mean using hydrogen and renewable electricity to produce steel; they also mean capturing and either storing or using carbon that is emitted to bring the environmental footprint of our production as close to zero as possible.
The technical demands are enormous: our sector alone will require 400 terawatt hours of renewable electricity, of which 250 terawatt hours for the production of 5.5 million tonnes of hydrogen. This is the same as the current electricity demand of Germany, and this quantity will be needed every year from 2050 at the latest.
The capital and operating costs of this change are extreme, numbering in the multi-billion-euro range. Per tonne of steel produced, costs could be from 35 to 100 percent higher. This is why our transition to a carbon-lean future relies so heavily on the right conditions being in place, and why we need a ‘Green Deal for Steel’.
With supportive conditions in place, notably the right infrastructure and a supportive regulatory framework, the European steel industry will be empowered and fully committed to the EU’s climate objectives and sustainable growth targets. The sector would be able to develop, upscale and roll-out new technologies that could reduce EU steel production’s CO2 emissions by 30% by 2030 and by 80 to 95% by 2050, while contributing to greenhouse gas mitigation across all sectors.