By Sergio Goncalves
LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal expects to become a major producer and exporter of green hydrogen with 70 private investors or groups planning to spend 10 billion euros ($10.2 billion), the environment minister said on Thursday.
So-called green hydrogen, produced using renewable electricity, is seen as a key power source that can reduce pollution from long-haul heavy transport, steel and chemical industries and power generation.
Duarte Cordeiro said that his country's strong focus on low-cost wind and solar power will allow the production of hydrogen and other renewable gases at competitive prices and ensure greater energy independence. He did not give a specific time frame for the 10 billion euro investment nor say when exports would start.
In a normal year, 60% of electricity consumption in Portugal comes from renewable sources, and the government wants that share to reach 80% by 2026.
"We believe that Portugal will be an important (European) producer of hydrogen and renewable gases in the short term. The projects are in different stages of development," he told a parliamentary committee.
Portugal should be able to meet its own hydrogen needs and to export, he said, adding that most exports would go by sea instead of the planned pipeline between Iberia and France, dubbed BarMar.
Brussels has mapped out a plan to scale up green hydrogen projects across polluting sectors to meet a net zero emissions goal by 2050.
Portugal's largest utility EDP and oil and gas company Galp Energia are both planning to build green hydrogen plants in the same industrial hub of Sines.
Portugal's three main glass producers and two biggest cement makers, together accounting for 10% of the country's industrial carbon emissions, also joined a new consortium to launch a green hydrogen plant.
($1 = 0.9846 euros)
ANALYSIS-Race to ship clean Canadian hydrogen to Europe navigates choppy water
High gas prices spur green hydrogen investment -report
(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Lisa Shumaker)