The climate emergency that the planet is experiencing makes solutions such as hydrogen produced with renewable electricity increasingly seen as a solution that comes to save sectors with particularly complex emissions, such as heavy industry and aviation. As a result, emission-free gas has become one of the big energy policy issues in an increasing number of countries.
But producing a very energy-rich gas like hydrogen requires huge amounts of electricity, which makes it more expensive than conventional fuels. This is why decisive government action is needed to launch an international hydrogen economy. Still, despite the high hopes of many, experts warn that hydrogen is not a panacea in the fight against climate change. It is clear that large-scale renewable hydrogen will be needed if the economy is to be properly decarbonized, although there is no consensus on where it should be used and whether it would be appropriate to include blue hydrogen made with carbon capture and storage.
Most of today’s greenhouse gas emissions can be avoided by increasing efficiency and directly replacing fossil fuels with clean electricity, but there is no technology on the horizon to power aircraft and large ships with batteries, because they are too heavy. Something similar is happening in industrial sectors such as chemicals or steelmaking, where completely new production methods are required because current ones cause unavoidable CO2 emissions. In these cases, green hydrogen made in electrolyzers has become the main candidate for achieving carbon neutrality.
Reasons to bet on green hydrogen
- It is not polluting
Green hydrogen is produced from renewable energy sources, which makes it totally clean and sustainable. Thanks to electrolysis, it does not emit carbon dioxide when using electric current to separate hydrogen from oxygen in water.
- It is stored and transported
Unlike what happens with other energy resources, it can be stored for a long time and can also be transported.
When energy supply and demand do not match, surplus wind or photovoltaic energy could be harnessed to transform it into green hydrogen and then store it to convert it back into electricity when there is no sun or wind. Likewise, if a photovoltaic plant could not discharge to the grid, electricity could be conducted to the electrolyzer, transformed into green hydrogen and stored. Furthermore, compressed hydrogen tanks can store energy for long periods of time preventing the loss of surplus energy produced by renewable sources.
- They serve natural gas networks
Current gas infrastructures can be reused to drive green hydrogen through them. In fact, in some European countries a percentage of hydrogen is being injected into natural gas networks so that the consumption of natural gas in homes and companies is not so high.
- Decarbonizes transportation
The future of transport decarbonisation is fundamentally through the use of hydrogen and fuel cells. When hydrogen is used, only water vapor is produced instead of the greenhouse gases that fossil fuels emit.
- A less polluting industry
The hydrogen used in industries such as steel or petrochemicals is the so-called brown hydrogen, which is known this way because during its production carbon dioxide is emitted. Something that would not happen with the use of technology to produce green hydrogen.
- Hydrogen technologies
We must not be left alone in the possibility of creating green hydrogen, but we must also seize the opportunity to develop the technologies that are needed to produce green hydrogen. That would allow countries and their industries not to depend on energy beyond their borders.