Two months after the summit on climate change, countries are looking at ways to slow global warming and help the world move toward a more optimistic future. Leaders have suggested some measures You have agreed to takeThe U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) are not new: phasing out coal power, halting the deforestation, and cutting methane emissions.
Experts say that although this part of the solution may not be immediately apparent to everyday people, experts believe it is becoming more popular. Scaling up the use of hydrogen – particularly the clean kind – could be a key element of the future of renewable energy, and countries from Australia to Germany to Japan have already set ambitious targets.
“If you were at COP in Glasgow, where all the climate folks were, hydrogen was by far the most used word,” says Marco Alverà, the CEO of Snam, an Italian energy infrastructure company. “If you talk to new energy experts, they will all say that hydrogen is the future.”
Hydrogen isn’t so much an energy source but rather an energy carrier, says Jose M. Bermudez, an energy technology analyst at the International Energy Agency, a forum created under the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation. It is already used a lot in oil refining but “practically all of it” comes from fossil fuels, which carries significant carbon dioxide emissions, according to Bermudez and Analysis by the agency. Its production is responsible for about 830 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, which is equivalent to the United Kingdom and Indonesia’s combined emissions of the greenhouse gas.
Bermudez says that the key is to use cleaner hydrogen, expand its application, and assist the direct integration of renewables into the power grid. A common term for this type is “green hydrogen,” which is produced using water, a machine called an electrolyzerand electricity from renewable sources, such as solar or wind Greentech Media reports. The IEA doesn’t use the color-coded system – which includes blue and gray – of describing hydrogen and prefers to describe the ideal kind as “low-carbon,” according to Bermudez.
Experts have common answers when asked about the countries that are pushing the hardest for clean hydrogen. Many European countries – including France, Germany and the Netherlands – and Australia, Chile, Japan and the U.K. have set aggressive goals. More than 10 countries, including South Korea and China, have detailed hydrogen strategies as at August 2021. According to KPMG. Bob Brecha, professor of sustainability, University of Dayton, points out that Sweden and Volvo Group are both sustainable. are partneringTo create fossil-free vehicles from steel made of green hydrogen
The United States is increasing its focus on hydrogen. The Department of Energy in June launched its first energy “earthshot” based on hydrogen, which seeks to reduce the cost of the clean form by 80% in one decade. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was recently signed into law. Funding in the billions for clean hydrogen.
The increasing number of countries investing in hydrogen is a sign of its utility. Jack Brouwer, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of California—Irvine and co-author of a The subject is covered in paper, says in an email that he believes hydrogen “is the only known zero emissions vector that has some of the features that are essential for sustainability.”
Emmanuel Macron, French President, speaks to employees during a tour of a hydrogen plant in Beziers in France on Nov. 16.(GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO/AFP/Getty Images)
“If you want to decarbonize everything, hydrogen has the potential to do that with these applications,” he adds, referring to things such as computer chip manufacturing and pharmaceuticals. “Electricity alone does not.”
The U.S. energy department’s earthshot provides a hint as to why clean hydrogen isn’t being widely produced just yet. Bermudez, of the IEA, and Brecha both note that it’s very expensive. There is some hope that this may soon change.
Alverà projects in his book, “The Hydrogen Revolution,” that green hydrogen’s cost will decline from where it is currently at $100-140 per megawatt-hour to $35-55 in 10 years. For large-scale adoption, the cost could get down to $22-28/MWh, Alverà forecasts in the book. In the U.S., electricity prices for residential use were 14.19 cents per unit in September 2021. According to the Energy Information Administration. Alverà’s company, Snam, is Already investingIn 2019 and green hydrogen initiatives launchedA first-of-its kind experiment that introduced a hydrogen/natural gas blend into the Italian gas transmission grid.
Some experts stop short of saying, as Alverà describes, that hydrogen is The future. Bermudez says his agency believes it “will play a critical role in certain sectors,” but is not going to be a “widespread field.” Brouwer agrees with the notion that hydrogen is “part of” the future, especially when it comes to “some of the things that we haven’t figured out how to solve yet and make zero emissions.” But he says calling it the future makes it “sound like it’s the solution to everything, and it’s not.”
“I think that societally, we’re just entranced with this silver bullet thinking,” adds Mike Timko, an associate professor of chemical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. “You’re hoping that each one’s the perfect solution, when in fact, you’re probably going to need a layered approach – lots of different solutions for different applications.”
Some of those applications include ammonia for fertilizers – cited by several experts, including Timko – and steelmaking, as Brecha noted in the real-world example out of Sweden. Factors that could lower the cost of low-carbon hydrogen and make projects like these more common include technological innovation, scaling up production in and of itself and the “continuous decrease” of renewable electricity costs, according to Bermudez.
“The question is by how much and how fast this can take place, which itself depends on the adoption of policies and, on the other hand, the speed at which the projects are deployed so the scale-up can happen,” he adds.
Bermudez notes that within the IEA’s net-zero emissions scenarioRenewable hydrogen could be competitive with fossil fuel-based hydrogen by the end this decade. But for now, green hydrogen is still expensive and another driving factor in changing that would be a combination of renewable energy “really becoming cheaper” and “commitments from countries to put a price on carbon dioxide emissions,” says Brecha.
“Economists will say that this isn’t just a tax, this idea of the carbon tax,” he adds. “It’s a recapturing of actual costs to society that are coming about due to climate change, for example. Every cost must be considered when a market is functioning. And so if you’re not taxing emissions, then you’re missing something that is costing society but is not in the product’s price of things you’re selling. In this sense, it’s about leveling the playing fields.