As Hydrogen sentiment globally is rising how do communities and other groups near the end of the current energy distribution network navigate this rising tide and as a result reposition themselves and as a result start to achieve energy security?
The level of governmental commitment, globally and especially in Europe, along with greater availability of cheap, renewable power, has positioned hydrogen as one of the key energy matrices in the drive to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. The recent EU Green Deal has placed hydrogen at the centre of its de-carbonisation plan and key to achieving their target of net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050. In Germany there is a ‘national strategy for hydrogen’, involving €9bn of potential funding and an ambition to build 5GW/10GW of electrolysis capacity by 2030/40.
The term now widely used ‘hydrogenewables’ producing GreenH2 from renewable sources has opened the gates to a burgeoning hydrogen economy. So why all the talk and headlines of a hydrogen economy now? Hydrogen as a key energy source is not new, it first raised its head way back in the 1970’s, and despite several attempts it has never reached the energy starting gate, there have been a number of ‘false starts’ in the energy race. That is until now. We are in the middle of a perfect storm that has created the perfect conditions for a future role for green hydrogen. We have a climate crisis to tackle, we must wean ourselves off fossil fuel dependence, environmental challenges must be addressed and the green economy is seen as a key provider of sustainable economic growth. All of these conditions combine to create perfect social, commercial, environmental and sustainable conditions for the hydrogen economy to take root and bloom. Decarbonising the energy sector is the first step in building a new hydrogen economy.
There are sequential energy applications where Green Hydrogen is gaining traction and others areas where there are grounds for optimism for hydrogen as an energy vector to make significant impact. If we are to look at the situation with just our economic glasses on there are no easy or low-cost solutions to decarbonisation of the energy system and this is certainly the case for possible deployment of low-carbon hydrogen. However when we look at green hydrogen as an energy vector with all of our technical, economic, social and environmental lens in, then we can see the where and the how of hydrogen as an energy solution. Hydrogen will certainly play a role in decarbonisation of the energy system, and it will be part of a hybrid set of solutions. Hydrogen is not a silver bullet but rather a silver buckshot with significant benefit to be gained in many areas either on its own or as part of a zero carbon hybrid solution. Hydrogen has a hugely significant role in reaching net-zero emissions, requiring a dramatic scaling up of its production and use.
Whilst the production of hydrogen from electrolysis is currently more expensive as an energy solution it brings many other environmental benefits than, which when taken in the round will ensure hydrogen has a key role in our energy spectrum especially when economies of scale are achieved. It will therefore be dependent on government policy to promote the required investments. Once low-carbon hydrogen production has been established at scale, it will enable incremental addition of new applications and push the hydrogen economy to new heights.
In a hydrogen economy, hydrogen would be used in place of the fossil fuels that currently provide four-fifths of the world’s energy supply and emit the bulk of global greenhouse gas emissions. This will help achieve climate goals because hydrogen only emits water when burned. The hydrogen economy will be sector and geographic specific addressing energy need depending on hydrogen availability, cost and performance relative to zero carbon alternatives. The energy solution with hydrogen for Western Europe with an abundance of offshore wind opportunities will be different from other areas with solar potential.
Therefore, the Hydrogen energy equation is not a simple yes or no, it is a question of hydrogen when and where and this will depend on several variables such as renewable energy opportunity, need and optimisation.
As Europe embraces the Green Hydrogen revolution many are confused and wonder how they can participate in the drive to a zero carbon destination. We all agree that we have an ever pressing need to tackle climate change and the best way to address this is to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels for transport, industry, heat and other sectors. The ever rising demand for more renewable electricity is facing many hurdles and the production of Green Hydrogen from renewable sources is a promising way to overcome these hurdles. The core rationale for green hydrogen is that it is as a clean energy alternative and is capable of tackling our huge C02 emission targets transportable energy storage system
The picture of the emerging Hydrogen economy is a confusing one for many. The 5 W’s – why, where, what and when of this new energy solution remain to be properly answered. To date there has been much talk but little discussions and engagement to explain and outline the benefits to society, communities and individuals.
The Community Hydrogen Forum (CH2F) is the starting point for meaningful engagement, information and discussions. It is agreed that GreenHydrogen is a versatile fuel that offers a path to sustainable long-term economic growth. It is a carbon free solution in our battle to tackle climate change whilst developing new commercial opportunities for our industries.
In order to make a just transition to a new green energy solution we must endeavour to leave no stranded assets. This includes communities, people and regions. As we map out the hydrogen highway we must ensure there is an on-ramp for all to join. The CH2F is this on-ramp, it is a forum for all to engage, be informed and inform and importantly allow people to appraise the opportunities for themselves. How to access the Hydrogen Highway – set your sat nav to http://communityh2.eu/community/
Paul Mc Cormack,
Hydrogen Ireland Board Member