In their report, The Future of Hydrogen: Seizing Today’s Opportunities, the International Energy Agency reported there is a clear business and political momentum for clean hydrogen energy. The agency concludes that now is the time to scale up hydrogen power so it can become widely used.
Dr. Fatih Birol, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, said, “hydrogen is today enjoying unprecedented momentum. The world should not miss this unique chance to make hydrogen an important part of our clean and secure energy future.”
Hydrogen can be extracted from water, from biomass and fossil fuels, or from a mix of them. Extracting hydrogen from natural gas is currently the most common form of hydrogen production in the world today. Another way is electrolysis – where water is split into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity. The latter process is particularly interesting if we are generating that electricity from renewable power sources, which is when we call it green hydrogen.
The Most Common Uses for Hydrogen Power
Industry: The primary use for hydrogen is in industrial settings like steel production and oil refining.
Storing renewable energy: Hydrogen can be used to store renewable energy so it can be transmitted and used at a later time. This can help accelerate the shift toward intermittent renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
Transport: Shipping and aviation represent a huge opportunity for hydrogen-based fuels, and hydrogen fuel cell cars and trains are becoming more popular.
Buildings: Hydrogen can be blended into existing natural gas networks, particularly in multifamily and commercial buildings in dense cities.
The Potential Challenges of Hydrogen Power
The public perception of hydrogen may be a hindrance to using it more widely. Hydrogen gas is flammable, and it does need to be stored in a specific way, but the public’s worries about hydrogen’s safety are often overblown.
We will also need to continue ramping up our green infrastructure so we can refuel cars and other vehicles that have hydrogen tanks.
Today, we are creating a lot of the world’s hydrogen gas from natural gas, and that process does produce greenhouse gas emissions. However, hydrogen could be seen as a bridge that helps build the market until there’s enough renewable energy to serve our power needs.
Where Hydrogen Power Is Headed
As more and more governments commit to decarbonizing, it is driving a hydrogen economy. A recent McKinsey report stated that there are more than 350 large-scale hydrogen projects under development right now, and the total investment in the hydrogen sector is approximately $500 billion.
Every year, companies are making huge improvements to hydrogen cell vehicles and the industrial processes that use hydrogen. I have no doubt that hydrogen power will play an important role in our efforts to change how we produce energy.
Germany has announced a 7 billion Euro program and the Chinese government wants to have, have 1 million fuel cell powered vehicles on its roads by 2030.