The Global Race to Use Hydrogen to Strike Energy Goals
Although you cannot see it or touch it, it is present in everything you do. The most prevalent element in the universe, hydrogen, and its prospective role as a cornerstone of the energy transition are causing great enthusiasm in the energy sector and elsewhere.
Clean hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels, when used at scale, might be a key component of efforts to decarbonize the world's energy system, along with renewable energy sources and strategies for carbon collection, use, and storage.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels might prevent up to 60 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions by the middle of the century as part of the Net Zero Emissions Scenario 2021-2050, which is equal to six percent of all cumulative emissions reductions.
Thus, what is the big deal about hydrogen's potential as an energy transition fuel?
An Ideal Solution to Energy Sources
One of its main benefits is that it is the ideal addition to renewable energy sources. When the production from renewable sources cannot completely meet the demand for electricity, on-demand power generation can be a supplement to wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources, which are still essential for the global energy transition.
One factor is hydrogen's potential to assist in decarbonizing industries like transportation, power generation, and other hard-to-abate businesses where it has been demonstrated that it is challenging to cut emissions. Moreover, hydrogen can enhance energy security and city air quality. One of the few choices for storing electricity over days, weeks, or months, hydrogen can help the integration of variable renewables in the electricity system.
Currently, the chemical and refining sectors use the majority of the hydrogen produced. Since 1975, the demand for industrial use has tripled, and if it becomes a viable fuel for the energy transition, demand might skyrocket.
Similarly, hydrogen might assist in decarbonizing difficult-to-electrify heavy transportation industries including shipping, railroads, and buses. Recent advancements in this area are noted in the IEA's Global Hydrogen Review 2022, with the first fleet of hydrogen fuel cell-powered trains starting to run in Germany as one example.
With several strategic partnerships in place within the shipping industry eager to reduce emissions in the face of ever-stricter regulatory restrictions imposed on fleet owners and operators by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), clean hydrogen is receiving significant interest from global players. More than 100 pilot and demonstration projects are now underway that use hydrogen or its compounds as a fuel for shipping.
Many large enterprises are also eager to take advantage of hydrogen's ability to reduce carbon emissions. A flurry of new steel projects have been launched that would employ emissions-free hydrogen in the direct reduction of iron, a year after the first experimental projects generated clean, green steel using renewable energy.
Moreover, as illustrated by the 26 countries that have released national hydrogen policies, clean hydrogen is a potent weapon that may support the specific demands of many countries, amplify natural resources, and connect areas. There are 680 projects in the works that use hydrogen due to its adaptability, capacity to decarbonize challenging industries, ability to provide energy security, and ability to transfer renewable energy across geographies. Each region plays a crucial part in these initiatives.
It's important to keep in mind that not all hydrogen is created equally. Hydrogen is a colorless gas, but it has a rainbow of labels that each indicate a different production process and associated emissions footprint.
A report by the Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), titled Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation: The Hydrogen Factor identifies six countries, including China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea and the US, keen on developing policy initiatives, technology and export facilities
China Sees Hydrogen as One of the Six Future Industries
China announced its first hydrogen roadmap in 2016, which helped the nation become a pioneer in the development of fuel cell trucks and buses and the third-largest FCEV fleet in the world. The five-year economic plan of China lists six future sectors, with hydrogen as one of them. Also, although there isn't a national policy in place for hydrogen right now, it is mentioned in 16 provincial and municipal energy plans.
Europe Sees Hydrogen as a Technology Achieving Policy Goals
The EU has identified hydrogen as a crucial technology for accomplishing political objectives like the European Green Deal after releasing its national hydrogen plan in 2020. The goal of the bloc's policy is to install 40 gigawatts of renewable hydrogen electrolyzer capacity by 2030, with a strong emphasis on emissions-free green hydrogen. The capacity of green hydrogen in Europe is only expected to reach 2.7 gigawatts by 2025, thus reaching such a high objective would be difficult.
India Sees Hydrogen as a Quantum Leap to Become Energy Independent
During the 2021 launch of the nation's National Hydrogen Program, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that green hydrogen may enable India take a quantum leap toward achieving energy independence by 2047. Legislation forcing oil refineries and fertilizer factories to employ a minimum amount of green hydrogen in their industrial operations is being considered by policymakers.
Japan: First Country to Propose a National Hydrogen Strategy
The nation is developing long-term supply agreements to import hydrogen from outside since it lacks the natural resources required to install adequate quantities of wind or solar to generate clean hydrogen at scale. In addition to $670 million in government funding for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in 2020, authorities have set mobility goals of 900 hydrogen refueling stations and 800,000 FCEVs by 2030.
South Korea Plans to Become a Global Leader in Deploying FCEVs
Clean hydrogen was hailed as a major catalyst for economic growth and employment creation in South Korea's 2019 hydrogen strategy. The country's goal is to lead the world in developing and utilizing FCEVs and large-scale stationary fuel cells for the production of hydrogen power.
The US: Second Largest Producer, Consumer of Hydrogen
For more than a decade, states like California encouraged the expansion of the FCEV industry in the nation through programs like the Clean Car Rebate Programme. Up until 2020, the US had the global lead in this area. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, which was enacted by the government, included a $9.5 billion budget to support the development of clean hydrogen.