Full speed ahead for hydrogen

by Pierre-Etienne Franc, Vice-President of Hydrogen Energy at Air Liquide Group and Co-Secretary of the Hydrogen Council

This article appears in REVOLVE #33
Opinion 5 December 2019

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Harnessing a versatile solution to accelerate the global energy transition

We might be at the biggest turning point in human history since the industrial revolution. The climate change conversation, which has been bubbling away for years, has escalated beyond conjecture to a clear call for action. Citizens are demanding that their governments take bold initiative and that industries harness ambitious innovation to halt the dangerous effects of global warming.

It goes without saying that the energy sector is at the heart of this debate. It is the vital source that powers our modern lives and lifts nations into prosperity, yet it is also the largest source of global greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the International Energy Agency. So at this critical turning point, it is time for a paradigm shift – one that allows for a major structural transition and a new energy mix, as well as the large-scale financial investments that will be needed to make this happen.

One element that must be a part of this new energy paradigm shift is hydrogen. Hydrogen – the most abundant element in the universe – has enormous potential to move us towards a clean energy future and the technology to harness it is here, ready to deploy at scale. Hydrogen is incredibly versatile, able to be used as a fuel for power or in industry; and can help us decarbonize major sectors such as transport, steel, aviation and building heat. Most importantly, hydrogen generates zero emissions at the point of use, can be produced from renewable electricity and allows for long-term energy storage. In fact, by 2050, hydrogen could meet 18% of the world’s final energy demands, preventing 6 Gt of CO2 emissions compared to today’s technologies.

The hydrogen industry has been developing for around 60 years and is now gaining unprecedented momentum. Governments all over the world, recognizing hydrogen as critical to reaching their energy and climate targets, are rolling out long-term hydrogen strategies to accelerate its deployment. From Germany to Australia to Korea, in 2019 there are more than 50 strategies and targets now set in place to support hydrogen development.

This year’s G20 Summit in Japan had a strong focus on hydrogen, it was there that a new International Energy Agency report, The Future of Hydrogen” (2019)1, was launched, concluding that the time is right to tap into hydrogen’s potential. In addition, recent analyses by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and The Rocky Mountain Institute predict that the cost of producing hydrogen gas with renewables is likely to drop dramatically in the coming decades, contributing to the growth of the hydrogen market and making the technology even more accessible.

The different pieces of the hydrogen puzzle have never been more closely aligned: the technology is ready to deploy at scale, industry is poised to deliver, political will is strong, and commercial opportunities are waiting to be seized. So, what is needed now to realize the benefits of a clean hydrogen energy economy for the global energy transition? Collaboration and action on a global scale.


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