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What is green hydrogen and why do we need it? An expert explains

The time is right to tap into hydrogen’s potential to play a key role in tackling critical energy challenges. The recent successes of renewable energy technologies and electric vehicles have shown that policy and technology innovation have the power to build global clean energy industries.

Hydrogen is emerging as one of the leading options for storing energy from renewables with hydrogen-based fuels potentially transporting energy from renewables over long distances – from regions with abundant energy resources, to energy-hungry areas thousands of kilometers away.

Green hydrogen featured in a number of emissions reduction pledges at the UN Climate Conference, COP26, as a means to decarbonize heavy industry, long haul freight, shipping, and aviation. Governments and industry have both acknowledged hydrogen as an important pillar of a net zero economy.

 

The Green Hydrogen Catapult, a United Nations initiative to bring down the cost of green hydrogen announced that it is almost doubling its goal for green electrolysers from 25 gigawatts set last year, to 45 gigawatts by 2027. The European Commission has adopted a set of legislative proposals to decarbonize the EU gas market by facilitating the uptake of renewable and low carbon gases, including hydrogen, and to ensure energy security for all citizens in Europe. The United Arab Emirates is also raising ambition, with the country’s new hydrogen strategy aiming to hold a fourth of the global low-carbon hydrogen market by 2030 and Japan recently announced it will invest $3.4 billion from its green innovation fund to accelerate research and development and promotion of hydrogen use over the next 10 years.

You might encounter the terms ‘grey’, ‘blue’, ‘green’ being associated when describing hydrogen technologies. It all comes down to the way it is produced. Hydrogen emits only water when burned but creating it can be carbon intensive. Depending on production methods, hydrogen can be grey, blue or green – and sometimes even pink, yellow or turquoise. However, green hydrogen is the only type produced in a climate-neutral manner making it critical to reach net zero by 2050.

We asked Dr Emanuele Taibi, Head of the Power Sector Transformation Strategies, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to explain what green hydrogen is and how it could pave the way towards net zero emissions. He is currently based with the IRENA Innovation and Technology Center in Bonn, Germany, where he is responsible for assisting Member Countries in devising strategies for the transformation of the power sector, and currently managing the work on power system flexibility, hydrogen and storage as key enablers for the energy transition. Dr Taibi is also a co curator for the World Economic Forum’s Strategic Intelligence platform, where his team developed the transformation map on Hydrogen.

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What is green hydrogen? An expert explains its benefits | World Economic Forum (weforum.org)


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