Here’s something very different for our readers today, and an opportunity for you to register for our Webinar and Q&A on Wednesday Feb 16th at 09:00 CET (register here). It’s to mark the book launch of “Touching Hydrogen Future”, where 27 energy experts from around the world have written a chapter each. They are fictional accounts of what our world could like in the near future. The countries covered are the Netherlands (2029), Denmark (2030), Sweden (2048), the United Kingdom (2035), France (2040), Spain (2035), Morocco (2029), Namibia (2030), South Africa (2044), Uruguay (2021 – 2031), Chile (2030 – 2040), Peru (2032), Colombia (2040), the United States (2035), Canada (2040), Australia (2040), Japan (2030 – 2040), China (2030), Russia (2040), Uzbekistan (2040), the United Arab Emirates (2040), Turkey (2040), Ukraine (2040), Romania (2040), Greece (2034), Italy (2040), and Germany (2040). It’s quite fascinating to see energy sector experts let loose and draw upon their imagination and fictional writing abilities. Read about hydrogen train journeys, electrolyser plant managers, upskilled ex-coal workers, French wines, Christmas, and plenty more. Although fiction, the writing is laced with references to actual hydrogen and energy transition studies and projects. The book is edited by Erik Rakhou (expert in international energy markets, regulation and strategy development and former Acer Board Of Appeal member) and Rosa Puentes (Interoperability Adviser for Hydrogen and Gas Quality, ENTSOG). Both are hosting the webinar, featuring a selection of the authors. The book is free to download.
Glasgow COP26 for inspiration
“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before” – is an expression being attributed to Dalai Lama. That expression was going through my mind, when I had the honor of being in a beautiful Scottish castle for a side event of Glasgow COP last year. I am still touched, remembering how executives of Mid-East, energy majors, energy and climate ministers of an African country and one of the sinking islands due to climate change, and an American policy maker spoke – in person or virtually – of what’s to be done globally to fight climate change.
It was that very evening, building on images of Scotland, the energy I picked up in the room, and thinking of places I wanted to visit – mindful of my childhood hero author Jules Verne – that inspiration flew. Sitting in a nearly empty airport in Amsterdam upon return from Scotland, I wrote a first draft of the contribution to a book I initiated, together with 27 others, on how clean Hydrogen could help to fight climate change.
The book could do many things. It could motivate those interested in the energy transition to see more clearly what the future can look like, a future they could help to build. It could help energy professionals to have the comparative conversations on how different countries could play their part in that future.
It could help trigger fierce debates on how we design the energy mix, taking the debates from academia and LinkedIn to the homes of our communities and those who want to feel and touch what energy transition could bring. The book would also help to satisfy a secret desire we all have in COVID, to travel again. Even without flying. I remember a big smile on my face, when I pressed a send-button to Rosa Puentes**, my co-editor.
Hydrogen is rising up the agenda
Today, in February 2022, both decarbonisation to fight climate change and the role of hydrogen as a key decarbonisation tool are creating more buzz than ever.
The buzz over hydrogen is alive in the mainstream global media, and in reports by recognised international energy experts like IRENA and the IEA. Hydrogen is an abundant element and is an ideal renewable energy carrier.
Clean hydrogen can be a key part of the toolkit when considering the pathways of the energy transition. Many, if not all, major industrial sectors across the world, including Europe, use energy for heating, cooling, manufacturing, transportation, power generation and ammonia (fertiliser). Many of these sectors use energy sources like oil and natural gas that are heavy “emitters” that contribute to global CO2 emissions; a Hydrogen economy can decarbonise industries, increase energy access, and reduce the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere.
Envisioning the Hydrogen future
The new, free-to-read book that we created, ‘Touching Hydrogen Future. Tour around the globe’, sets out the changes we can expect if hydrogen projects currently under consideration are successfully implemented. With a foreword from former EU Commissioner for Energy, Andris Piebalgs, each of the book’s 27 chapters focuses on a specific country, providing a snapshot of a hydrogen-powered life over the next twenty years. Starting in the Netherlands, the book’s global ‘hydrogen tour’ covers countries across six continents, with insights from experts from every corner of the world in a Jules Verne style odyssey.
The accounts the book provides are fictional, but the hydrogen technologies they reference are based on existing hydrogen projects and strategies. Hydrogen powered flights, shipping, road vehicles and factories are envisaged across the world, playing their role in fighting climate change. Hydrogen, as a decisive decarbonisation tool, contributes materially to reducing the total carbon footprint of the 27 countries covered by the book, which together account for 66% of global emissions (2020 data).
Hydrogen economy has interesting dilemmas
Hydrogen has some deep challenges. Let’s list some of the questions and themes that are still to be answered before it can become as important as fossil fuels in the global energy mix:
- Can hydrogen be economically competitive versus other energy decarbonisation options (e.g. nuclear energy, renewable power coupled with batteries, biofuels, CCUS etc.)?
- Who will finance the hydrogen boom, and how – a question similarly asked about the rise of renewable power, plugging green hydrogen into grids backed by subsidies, enough to get initial financing? Or does it take more?
- What roles should governments play to incentivise markets to steer the journey – carbon pricing, subsidy schemes, targets, ..?
- How will the hydrogen market develop – is it to be similar to global oil with its own version of OPEC now? Will there be global transportable and tradable commodities (including its derivatives)? Does hydrogen have the same risks as an oil market today?
Extracts from the book
The ‘Touching Hydrogen Future’ book helps you to have a conversation and develop your own thinking on these questions. As a teaser, please see extracts from three of the chapters in the book: by Robin Mills (United Arab Emirates), Eric Ehrhardt (Chile), and Nesma Aboshanab (Morocco). Some of the stories about the transition are encouragingly positive, others not so much. Either way, they all make you think about the important role clean hydrogen can play.
Robin Mills: United Arab Emirates, 2040
“His Plan: The OHEC (Organisation of the Hydrogen Exporting Countries) Meeting of 14 September 2040
It was a pleasantly warm day in Neom on 14 September 2040, just over 50 degrees. Ziad Al Shammary was there for action, not vacation, and his pilotless plane was first in the swarm. The followers buzzed near-silently over the hazy coastal plain as they delivered the constellation of ministers and robot assistants to the floating hotel. The fifth annual meeting of OHEC was in session.
Ziad, only just appointed his country’s second hydrogen minister, appeared more relaxed than he was, as he hopped out of the fuel-cell flyer and greeted his colleagues and rivals. Some seemed a little dismissive of the young man whose ability they had yet to gauge. He exchanged a few words with the unsuspecting representatives of Chile, Iran, Russia, Libya and Namibia. They murmured polite expressions, and he expressed a slightly naïve question or two to disarm them. He who estimates last, estimates best….”
Eric Ehrhardt: Chile, 2030 – 2040
2040. Santiago City Centre
“I walk down the steps of the metro and can already hear the high-pitched whining of the trains as they rush past. I get down to the platform and glance at the updated metro map and see that two new lines have been added in the last year. The steady hydrogen and renewable energy supply have fuelled the expansion of the metro in the past few years from 100 km of rail to 175 km. Better yet, the government keeps dropping the prices of the tickets because it’s so affordable to run the trains, and it’s also helping get cars off the street….
The light in the carriage flickers, just a faulty bulb but it makes me think back to the daily power cuts that used to occur. Those days are behind Chile thanks to the backup hydrogen cells. Whenever there is an excess of renewable power that isn’t sold directly onto the centralised power market or used, it gets stored in hydrogen tanks. With every building in Santiago being topped with solar panels that “excess” problem is more common than you’d think. I remember three years ago, when we got hit by one of the biggest storms of the last decade, a significant portion of the renewable’s infrastructure was damaged, solar panels and wind turbines alike. The hydrogen reserves are what kept the country running during the rebuilding period.”
Nesma Aboshanab: Morocco, 2029
“(After the nightmare, where I dreamt of drowning in a climate storm), on my way to Ben Guerir (for the start of my internship in hydrogen research), I first checked the news – there is nothing about any tsunamis hitting the kingdom of Morocco or Northern African shores. I took a deep breath thankfully. My mind wandered.
It has been nearly 10 years since I started having this nightmare. It all started one day in 2021 with three successive events; first the COP26, second a google search, and third a movie night. My mother is an engineer and an environmental enthusiast, and she was very keen on following COP26. Although I had no interest, I managed to catch some keywords from the talks including hydrogen economy, global warming, decarbonisation, exporting energy, and the color green, and out of curiosity I started to do a random search about Morocco using these keywords. It was interesting yet complicated to me as a 13-years-old kid. Then, I accidentally learned about the effect of global warming on sea levels; I can still remember that the map showing land areas vulnerable to flooding included Mehdia beach and Chlihat beach….”
Readers can download and read the whole book ‘Touching Hydrogen Future. Tour around the globe’, at www.europeangasmarket.eu – it’s freely available in all e-book formats. The book has been edited by Erik Rakhou* and Rosa Puentes**.
Erik is an expert in international energy markets, regulation and strategy development, with over twenty years of experience in both commercial and public roles. Erik has written, spoken, lectured and moderated on decarbonisation of gas markets, including nascent hydrogen market development. His high-level expertise in EU energy markets was recognised by his appointment to the Acer Board Of Appeal (2016-2021 term). As a management consultant, he has worked on the energy transition on projects in the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, Moldova and Ukraine.
Rosa is specialised in renewable energy and hydrogen. As Hydrogen and Gas Quality Adviser at ENTSOG she provides expertise, and proposals for ENTSOG activities related to gas quality, hydrogen injection and transport, while contributing to the development of the EU market rules and the technical aspects of the energy transition. She also collaborates at Women in Green Hydrogen (WiGH) to increase women visibility in the sector.
- See eg. Hydrogen — Fantasy or fuel of the future? | Financial Times ↑
- See https://www.irena.org/publications/2022/Jan/Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation-Hydrogen ↑
- The IEA’s 2019 report, The Future of Hydrogen, found the number of countries with polices that directly support investment in hydrogen technologies is increasing, along with the number of sectors they target. There are around 50 targets, mandates and policy incentives in place today that directly support hydrogen, with the majority focused on transport. Since 2019, at the time of the release of the IEA’s landmark report “The Future of Hydrogen for the G20”, only France, Japan and Korea had strategies for the use of hydrogen. By October 2021, the IEA’s “Global Hydrogen Review 2021” revealed that 17 governments have released hydrogen strategies, more than 20 governments have publicly announced they are working to develop strategies, and numerous companies are seeking to tap into hydrogen business opportunities. Such efforts are timely: hydrogen will be needed for an energy system with net zero emissions. In the IEA’s “Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector”, prepared for the Glasgow COP26 summit, hydrogen use extends to several parts of the energy sector and grows sixfold from today’s levels to meet 1/10th of total final energy consumption by 2050. ↑
- Clean Hydrogen, the energy carrier, can be formed through various energy resources. Green and Blue hydrogen are the most prominent as clean hydrogen production methods at the present moment. Pink hydrogen, produced using nuclear energy and electrolysis, is also making a rise as clean hydrogen. Green hydrogen is hydrogen generated from renewable energy sources using the water electrolysis process. There is also Grey hydrogen which is a process where hydrogen is extracted from hydrocarbons using steam methane reforming; while Blue hydrogen is cleaner and generated from hydrocarbons the same way as Grey hydrogen, with carbon being removed through carbon capture technology. More colours of hydrogen exist in professional discussions, yet the direction of travel is to certify the carbon footprint of making the hydrogen, not sticking to colours, as e.g. the amount of carbon not captured in making blue hydrogen can differ. ↑
- See EU Joint Research Centre Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) 2020 ↑