The Promise of Hydrogen in the Future Energy System

A coordinated approach will be required to realise the full potential of the hydrogen economy. By Neo Yue Zheng

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In a future where our energy systems are decarbonised, what role could hydrogen have to play in this landscape? At the SIEW Thinktank Roundtable A, Yukari Yamashita of the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ) led a discussion to understand the potential of carbon-free hydrogen, and the way forward for this promising technology.

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What is carbon-free hydrogen?

Carbon-free hydrogen can be produced from electrolysis using electricity generated from renewable sources, or through chemical processes accompanied by carbon capture and storage. It serves as a universal energy carrier with multiple applications, ranging from large-scale energy storage to fuel for transportation, industry and power generation uses.

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Why is hydrogen key to the energy transition?

As Quentin Vaquette of ENGIE Factory Asia Pacific put it, we will always need to physically move energy around. Hydrogen is the cleanest fuel there is, and presents huge opportunities for a decarbonised future. Beyond the power sector, hydrogen could also be valuable to the chemicals sector in a future where industries could be deprived of traditional feedstocks in the global push towards decarbonisation.

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How can we work together to make the hydrogen economy a reality?

Three key challenges stand in the way of the panel’s long-term vision for hydrogen. Firstly, there needs to be a strong push from early adopters, to take bold steps in large-scale applications in order to kickstart the massive infrastructure developments required for a global hydrogen economy. To draw a parallel, hydrogen now could be seen to be like liquefied natural gas 50 years ago. Secondly, further technological developments need to be made in the areas of  hydrogen transport, and to make electrolysis cost competitive. Lastly, and most importantly, standardisation and frameworks would need to be developed for the various segments of the value chain, so as to ensure its safety and commercial viability.

If these challenges are addressed, the panel believed that hydrogen could reach its tipping point in the next decade or two, paving the way for a truly carbon-free energy system.

         

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