Hydrogen: the multitalented fuel?
We interviewed the Secretary General of Hydrogen Europe on the properties of this fuel and its uses towards the energy transition.
What’s the difference between blue and green hydrogen?
The colour affiliation attempts to indicate the origin of hydrogen, it’s more of a marketing idea then an indicator of the real colour of the molecule which is always the same. Green symbolizes hydrogen that stems from renewable energy sources. Blue hydrogen indicates that natural gas is the source whereby the carbon is captured and stored so that it is not emitted into the atmosphere. Nowadays, we tend to talk about renewably produced hydrogen and low carbon hydrogen.
How has the uptake and perception of hydrogen changed within the last 5 to 10 years?
The last decade has seen a dramatic change in the perception of the role of hydrogen in the energy system. 10 years ago hydrogen was perceived as a fuel for zero emission mobility, some five years ago the energy and industrial dimension topped this previous view. Hydrogen is an enabler of long-term storage of big volumes of renewable energy and therefore it became more and more the enabler of an affordable energy transition. Additionally, hydrogen (as a chemical feedstock) can help decarbonize industrial processes as steel-making. Today, Hydrogen is viewed as multi-talented: a zero-emission fuel, a decarbonised feedstock for the industry and, last but not least, an energy carrier – the gaseous form of electricity.
What industries and regions are leading in the uptake of hydrogen?
When it comes to maturity of use, mobility has been an early mover with some products on the market, such as passenger cars, buses and trains. The corresponding refuelling infrastructure is also on a high maturity level being used by many people on an everyday basis. The importance of storage of intermittent renewable energy via the power-to-gas technology based on water electrolysis is the second important aspect. The power and gas suppliers started already to work together in some projects to unite forces. We can see already on the horizon that industries, such as the chemical and steel industries, look upon hydrogen as a feedstock, with some first projects already started. When it comes to the leading regions, we see projects in the north-west of Europe especially in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark and Austria. The leading European country in terms of building up a hydrogen economy is the Netherlands.
Hydrogen has unprecedented momentum and will play the most important role in enabling renewables all over the globe
How will the hydrogen market develop by 2030 and by 2050?
There have been plenty of publications in the last year predicting an enormous potential and a very important role for hydrogen to manage the energy transition. In the Hydrogen Roadmap Europe, it is foreseen that in 2050 approximately a quarter of all energy activities will be based on hydrogen both at European and at global scale. However, the latest most respected study was done by the IEA. The main message is: hydrogen has unprecedented momentum and will play the most important role next to safe gas in enabling renewables all over the globe and, it is here to stay.
What is your vision for hydrogen in the European energy system?
Hydrogen is not the silver bullet, but without hydrogen the energy transition will take much longer and will not be affordable. The key words for a successful energy transition are sector coupling and sectoral integration. The first stands for the coupling of the power, the heat and the gas sector. The second stands for the integration of renewables into different sectors such as mobility, residential heating and industry. In both cases, hydrogen is the most important enabler for the deep decarbonization of Europe next to electricity.