The time is right to tap into hydrogen’s potential to play a key role in a clean, secure and affordable energy future.

Now is the time to scale up technologies and bring down costs to allow hydrogen to become widely used.

That’s according to a new report launched today at the G20 summit by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

At the request of the government of Japan under its G20 presidency, the IEA produced this landmark report – The Future of Hydrogen: Seizing Today’s Opportunities – to analyse the current state of play for hydrogen and to offer guidance oon its future development.

The report says that clean hydrogen is currently enjoying unprecedented political and business momentum and is receiving strong support from governments and businesses around the world, with the number of policies and projects expanding rapidly.

It also explains how hydrogen can help to tackle various critical energy challenges, including helping to store the variable output from renewables like solar PV and wind to better match demand.

The report says hydrogen offers ways to decarbonise a range of sectors – including long-haul transport, chemicals, and iron and steel – where it is proving difficult to meaningfully reduce emissions. Hydrogen can also help to improve air quality and strengthen energy security.

A wide variety of fuels are able to produce hydrogen, including renewables, nuclear, natural gas, coal and oil.

Hydrogen can be transported as a gas by pipelines or in liquid form by ships, much like liquefied natural gas (LNG).

It can also be transformed into electricity and methane to power homes and feed industry, and into fuels for cars, trucks, ships and planes.

Dr. Faith Birol, The IEA’s Executive Director, said, “Hydrogen is today enjoying unprecedented momentum, driven by governments that both import and export energy, as well as the renewables industry, electricity and gas utilities, automakers, oil and gas companies, major technology firms and big cities.”

“The world should not miss this unique chance to make hydrogen an important part of our clean and secure energy future.”

To build on this momentum, the IEA report offers seven key recommendations to help governments, companies and other stakeholders to scale up hydrogen projects around the world. These include four areas where actions today can help to lay the foundations for the growth of a global clean hydrogen industry in the years ahead:

  • Making industrial ports the nerve centres for scaling up the use of clean hydrogen
  • Building on existing infrastructure, such as natural gas pipelines
  • Expanding the use of hydrogen in transport by using it to power cars, trucks and buses that run on key routes
  • Launching the hydrogen trade’s first international shipping routes.

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Challenges

The report notes that hydrogen still faces significant challenges. Producing hydrogen from low-carbon energy is costly at the moment, the development of hydrogen infrastructure is slow and holding back widespread adoption, and some regulations currently limit the development of a clean hydrogen industry.

Today, hydrogen is already being used on an industrial scale, but it is almost entirely supplied from natural gas and coal.

Its production, mainly for the chemicals and refining industries, is responsible for 830 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. That’s the equivalent of the annual carbon emissions of the UK and Indonesia combined.

Reducing emissions from existing hydrogen production is a challenge but also represents an opportunity to increase the scale of clean hydrogen worldwide.

One approach is to capture and store or utilise the CO2 from hydrogen production from fossil fuels.

There are currently several industrial facilities around the world that use this process, and more are in the pipeline, but a much greater number is required to make a significant impact.

Another approach is for industries to secure greater supplies of hydrogen from clean electricity.

In the past two decades, more than 200 projects have started operation to convert electricity and water into hydrogen to reduce emissions – from transport, natural gas use and industrial sectors – or to support the integration of renewables into the energy system.

Expanding the use of clean hydrogen in other sectors – such as cars, trucks, steel and heating buildings – is another important challenge.

There are currently around 11,200 hydrogen-powered cars on the road worldwide. Existing government targets call for that number to increase dramatically to 2.5 million by 2030.

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