The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) projects that hydrogen and its derivatives could constitute a substantial 14% of the world’s total final energy consumption by 2050. With the urgent need to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius, green hydrogen is seen as a key player in achieving this ambitious goal.
IRENA’s recent Innovation Week witnessed discussions that emphasized the importance of scaling up green hydrogen production through a holistic approach that extends beyond just technology. According to Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA, this approach requires innovative regulatory and policy frameworks, financial support, and adaptable business models. These elements are crucial to ensuring a rapid and efficient expansion of green hydrogen in the energy landscape.
The Collaborative Framework on Green Hydrogen, in its eighth meeting, addressed the challenges and barriers that stakeholders face when building green hydrogen supply chains. Previous discussions had focused primarily on the demand side, while the recent meeting shifted the spotlight to the supply side, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive approach to both.
The Collaborative Framework meeting was co-facilitated by Dr. Nawal Al-Hosany, Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates, who highlighted the necessity of concurrently scaling up both the demand and supply for green hydrogen. She stressed that retrofitting and expanding infrastructure are also crucial aspects of this endeavor and that the outcomes of this framework should directly inform discussions at COP28, aiming to accelerate the adoption of green hydrogen markets.
While substantial progress has been made in terms of technology deployment, standardization, demand-boosting policies, and financial instrument implementation for green hydrogen in 2023, there are still challenges to overcome. These include financing large-scale hydrogen projects and mitigating risks to reduce the cost of capital. The World Bank’s Dolf Gielen emphasized the importance of supporting projects already in the pipeline to reach the Financial Investment Decision (FID) stage through widely replicable financial instruments and business models.
Addressing the complexities of transporting green hydrogen over long distances, Magnolia Tovar, Global Director of Zero-Carbon Fuels at the Clean Air Task Force, pointed out that the transport of ammonia, rather than pure hydrogen, is the most cost-effective method, provided that the ammonia is used as the final product and not converted back into hydrogen.
María Jaén, European H2Research Lead at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), delved into the challenges associated with repurposing existing pipelines and constructing new ones for hydrogen transportation. Erosion and a decrease in energy content are among the issues that gas transmission system operators (TSO) need to carefully assess when considering using their existing gas networks for hydrogen.
In terms of developing countries, Smeeta Fokeer, Industrial Development Officer at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), emphasized that these nations should concentrate on applications that create local value and develop the required in-house skills for a hydrogen-based economy.
Expanding sustainability standards for hydrogen was the focus of Sam Bartlett, Director of the Green Hydrogen Standard at the Green Hydrogen Organization. He stressed the importance of not just covering carbon emissions but also considering other environmental impacts and social aspects. Additionally, setting up appropriate governance structures is deemed critical.
The overarching consensus from the Collaborative Framework meeting was that with the rapidly approaching timeline for establishing global green hydrogen supply chains, a coordinated effort to address all aspects simultaneously is essential to harness their synergies effectively. International collaboration is pivotal for the successful implementation of national green hydrogen strategies, and IRENA plays a crucial role in fostering this collaboration.
The insights gleaned from the eighth meeting of the Collaborative Framework on Green Hydrogen will contribute to a brief presented at COP28, further advancing the conversation on hydrogen’s role in our energy future. The next meeting is scheduled for the first quarter of 2024.