Clean and Affordable energy has become a focus on the energy sector throughout the globe, therefore an obvious concern for the 24th World Energy Council being held in Abu Dhabi next month. The researchers and policymakers both are seeing hydrogen with great hope. Marzia Zafar and Pauline Blanc present an analysis of the potential of hydrogen as a source of clean energy.
The promise of abundant and clean energy in the form of hydrogen is nothing new. As we hear announcements from all over the world – Alstom's hydrogen-powered train in Germany, Japan and Korea's hydrogen strategies or the UAE's solar-driven hydrogen electrolysis facility – we wonder: is there anything different this time around? To answer this question, the Council undertook a series of exploratory interviews with key leaders from across the globe.
The 34 interviews, conducted with companies such as Engie, Airbus, Toyota and Alstom, suggest that a series of co-existing factors are playing in favour of hydrogen's role in the Grand Transition. On the one hand, climate change targets and air pollution concerns are leading governments and companies to seek cost-effective decarbonising solutions.
In this context, the deployment and cost drop of renewable technologies is a game-changer as it enables the decarbonisation of the production of hydrogen using electrolysis. On the other hand, beyond those appearing to be at the forefront of this new hydrogen wave - Japan, Korea, Germany, UK, California - China's discrete efforts may very well catapult the production and consumption of hydrogen for energy sector applications into the mainstream. Failure to decarbonise our economies is not an option and a complete reliance on the electrification of heating, industry, transport and wider power demand is increasingly being contested as unrealistic.
As a versatile energy carrier, hydrogen has the long-term potential to be the ideal complement to renewable- generated power and provide a solution to decarbonise hard-to-abate sectors and store energy. Many challenges to this vision exist, which we discuss in the new Innovation Insights Brief, together with possible solutions. From technology development (e.g. hydrogen-fuelled planes) and demonstration projects (e.g.hydrogen-fuelled power plants) to commercial scale-up (e.g. passenger vehicles), the Brief provides the reader with an overview of the current state of play for hydrogen. Overall, the interviews we conducted all reaffirmed what the Issues Monitor is indicating; hydrogen is being tried and trialled again, but this time around with mature technologies and reasonable cost attainability scenarios. The key success factors to realising the potential of hydrogen are:
- Recognising hydrogen as a system solution
- Unlocking sustainable production pathways
- Building an international hydrogen market
- Achieving cost-effectiveness
- Developing infrastructure
Whether hydrogen's full potential is deployed, or whether it remains limited to niche applications depends on the adoption of long- term energy strategies and cross-sector cooperation. The Council will convene a series of Innovation Forums focused on advancing the discussions around enabling regulation, investments and cooperation.
The report was released on 19th June. For more information please visit the World Energy Council's official website
(Marzia Zafar is Director, Issues Monitor & Innovation at World Energy Council and Pauline Blanc is Manager, Energy Transition Insights at World Energy Council)
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