Often mentioned as a viable solution to tackling the climate crisis, “green hydrogen” promises the ability to turn water into hydrogen using renewable energy.
But research from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) suggests fuel will provide just 1% of the world’s energy by 2035.
According to a study, this is based on a usual approach to investing in the green hydrogen industry. published in natural energy.
Green hydrogen is the golden fleece of climate energy solutions. Implemented, it uses wind or solar technology to power an electrolyzer that splits water atoms into oxygen and hydrogen. This is compared to other “colors” of hydrogen, particularly carbon-emitting “grey hydrogen” which uses steam methane reforming to convert fossil fuels (like gas) into hydrogen.
The research calculates that an increase in global production capacity of at least 6,000 times current levels by mid-century is needed for green hydrogen to meet the net zero goals of the Paris agreement on the climate.
On the other hand, it indicates a 10-fold increase in renewable electricity sources already available.
“The broad success of green hydrogen is by no means certain,” says Falko Ueckerdt, co-author of the study.
“Even with electrolysis capacities growing as rapidly as wind and solar power, there is strong evidence of short-term scarcity and long-term uncertainty in the availability of green hydrogen.
“Both impede investment in hydrogen end uses and infrastructure, reducing the potential for green hydrogen and undermining climate goals.
“Historical analogues suggest that emergency-type policy measures could foster significantly higher growth rates [of green hydrogen] accelerating the breakthrough and increasing the likelihood of future hydrogen availability.
Ueckerdt says these policy parameters could see the targets met over the next 17 years (although a 2040 target is more likely) pointing to massive public infrastructure projects like China’s domestic rail investments and construction of French nuclear power plants, as well as wartime mobilization, as examples.
Australia’s National Hydrogen strategy developed by the former government Morrison committed $146 million to hydrogen projects. These included both ‘green’ and ‘blue’ hydrogen projects (‘blue’ hydrogen refers to carbon-emitting steam methane reforming with a carbon capture mechanism to prevent emissions to reach the atmosphere).
New Prime Minister Anthony Albanese expressed his desire to position Australia as a “global renewable energy superpower” in his victory speech in May. However, the authors of the paper argue that countries like Australia should foster rapid investment in supply chains to enable exceptional growth in smelter technology if green hydrogen is to be part of that mix.
Given the delay that those looking to implement green hydrogen in home energy services are likely to face, they emphasize the need for governments to start first with the deployment of existing clean energy options.
“Short-term scarcity and long-term uncertainty are two sides of the same coin,” says study co-author Gregor Nemet, a professor of public affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“These could be resolved together through stronger political support that engenders shared expectations of rapid growth.”