In the cacophony of global enthusiasm around hydrogen, Ontario has thrown its hat into the ring with a published hydrogen strategy. However, a critical examination reveals not a well-considered roadmap but a misguided venture into what the author aptly terms “energetic and economic nonsense.”
The essence of any effective strategy, as outlined by strategy guru Richard Rumelt, involves a clear diagnosis of reality, establishment of policies, and the formulation of an action plan. In Ontario’s case, the author contends that the strategy falls short on multiple fronts, with a flawed understanding of the hydrogen landscape.
Key points from the author’s assessment of a good Ontario hydrogen strategy include acknowledging hydrogen as an industrial feedstock with global warming implications, recognizing the declining demand from major consumers (oil refineries and ammonia-based fertilizer manufacturing), and understanding the inefficiencies of hydrogen as an energy carrier.
Contrasting the existing strategy with an alternative, the author proposes a rational approach focused on ammonia-based fertilizer and steel production. The key tenets of this proposed strategy include providing beneficial rates for hydrogen electrolysis facilities, bridging skilled resources, and focusing on industries aligned with low-carbon electricity generation.
The strategy’s failure to consider viable storage alternatives and its insistence on retrofitting existing pipelines for hydrogen transmission are flagged as key shortcomings. The criticism intensifies when dissecting specific actions, notably the Niagara Falls Hydrogen Production Pilot. The decision to truck hydrogen to a location far from major demand centers, the inefficient conversion of electricity, and the carbon-intensive nature of the process are highlighted as major drawbacks.
The composition of the Hydrogen Strategy Working Group is also scrutinized, with an overwhelming presence of hydrogen-for-energy lobbyists and a conspicuous absence of major hydrogen consumers like refineries and fertilizer manufacturers.