‘Inappropriate use of hydrogen’ could slow energy transition: Report

Hydrogen bus created in Poland. Hydrogen has a wide range of applications and can be used in a wide range of industries.

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The G-7’s hydrogen consumption could increase by four to seven times by the middle of this century compared to 2020 to “meet the needs of a zero-emissions system,” according to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency. .

Foreword to the report, Francesco La Camera, Director General of IRENA, said it had become clear that hydrogen must play a key role in the energy transition if the world is to meet the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement.

Despite this claim, IRENA’s analysis – released on Wednesday at the COP27 climate conference in Egypt – paints a complex picture that will require a delicate balancing act going forward.

Among other things, it was stated that “despite the great potential of hydrogen, it must be kept in mind that its production, transportation and transformation require energy as well as significant investment.”

“Inadequate use of hydrogen could therefore slow down the energy exchange,” she added. “This calls for prioritization in policy making.”

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The first of these priorities, IRENA said, is related to decarbonizing “current hydrogen applications.” The second was about using hydrogen in “difficult to reduce applications” such as aviation, steel, ships and chemicals.

Broadly speaking, the energy transition can be seen as a change from fossil fuels to a system characterized by renewable energy sources. Given that it depends on many factors – from technology and finance to international cooperation – it remains to be seen how the transition will take place.

A spokesman for Hydrogen Europe, the industry body, told CNBC that IRENA was “right that the installation of large-scale infrastructure and power generation requires large-scale investments, and it is true that it requires energy to produce, store and transport hydrogen.” “

The spokesman said Hydrogen Europe agreed “that any development of hydrogen-related projects should be carried out responsibly and that certain applications should be prioritized over others.”

“On how to prioritize, we believe this should be done as much as possible with marketing tools that properly value carbon savings and other factors (such as delivery security), so that consumers can make informed decisions,” they added.

“Dogmatic restrictions from above on specific sectors,” such as hydrogen for heating, they said, should be avoided.

Hopes for hydrogen

Described by the International Energy Agency as a “versatile energy carrier”, hydrogen has a wide range of uses and can be applied in a wide range of industries.

It can be produced in many ways. One method involves electrolysis, where an electric current splits water into oxygen and hydrogen.

If the electricity used in this process comes from a renewable energy source such as wind or solar, some call it “green” or “renewable” hydrogen. Today, the vast majority of hydrogen production is based on fossil fuels.

In a statement published alongside its report, IRENA said the G-7’s goal of zero emissions by the middle of this century would “require significant deployment of green hydrogen.”

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In recent years, major economies and companies have sought to tap into the burgeoning green hydrogen sector in order to decarbonize the way industries integral to modern life operate.

During a roundtable discussion at COP27 last week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz described green hydrogen as “one of the most important technologies for a climate-neutral world.”

“Green hydrogen is the key to decarbonising our economies, especially for hard-to-electrify industries such as steelmaking, chemicals, heavy transport and aviation,” added Scholz, before acknowledging that significant work was needed for the sector. to mature.

“Obviously, green hydrogen is still an infant industry, its production is currently too cost-intensive compared to fossil fuels,” he said.

“There is also a ‘chicken and egg’ problem of supply and demand, with market players blocking each other and waiting for the other to move.”

Christian Bruch, CEO of Siemens Energy, also appeared on the panel. “Hydrogen will be essential to the decarbonisation of … industry,” he said.

“The question is, for us now, how do we get there in a world that is still driven, in terms of business, by hydrocarbons,” he added. “So it takes extra effort to make green hydrogen projects … work.”

Green hydrogen could help us reduce our carbon footprint, if it overcomes major hurdles

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