No hydrogen certification scheme is suitable for international trade, IRENA says

According to a study by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), none of the current hydrogen certification schemes are appropriate for cross-border trading.

Standards, eco-labeling, and certification designs are lacking, and there is inadequate data to allow for meaningful cross-border comparisons. Data on greenhouse gas emissions during the manufacturing and/or transportation of hydrogen, or on compliance with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria, are two examples of areas where more clarification is needed.

At least 60 nations had published or had begun formulating hydrogen policies as of the previous year, some as consumers and others attempting to position themselves as exporting regions. Germany is already receiving bids in the world’s first auction for the purchase of green hydrogen derivatives, which marks the beginning of international trade on the new energy frontier from the demand side.

A number of questions are yet unanswered as a result of the vertiginous emergence of this topic in the international discussion. When hydrogen is produced through electrolysis using renewable energy, it is deemed green, though other factors may affect how it is labeled. Today, renewable sources only account for less than 1% of the world’s H2 generation. By 2027, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that approximately 50 gigawatts of renewable energy might be used to produce renewable hydrogen.

Currently, there are eight voluntary certification programs. Despite employing the same or similar approaches to build their standards, Irena notes that the majority of them have “fundamental discrepancies” that prevent them from being compatible.

Two of them restrict their scope to comparing carbon footprints but do not specify an emissions cap. For renewable routes, those that set a ceiling range between 1 and 4.9 kgCO2eq/kgH2. Some restrictions are described as emissions up to the point of consumption, while others are regarded as emissions up to the point of hydrogen synthesis.

The paper demonstrates that in the latter situation, the end customer is typically a local factory (as is the case in Japan) or a transport loading point close to the manufacturing facility. There are significant differences in the methods used to validate the usage of renewable energy, with various schemes needing a variety of renewable energy models and chains of custody.

The H2V holds considerable promise for decarbonizing heavy industry and transportation—including air and sea freight—which are energy and emissions intensive. However, a sizable portion of the energy producing projects are located far from the energy consumption areas. The G7, which consists of the European Union as well as Germany, Canada, the United States, France, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom, should increase consumption.

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