Rudolf Zauner, Head of Hydrogen Programme, VERBUND
All signs are pointing to H2 outside Europe as well: China wants to strongly advance fuel cell vehicles, supported by state subsidies. Japan is striving to attain world market leadership by 2030 through the establishment of an international hydrogen supply chain. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates see the clean energy source as a way to reduce their dependency on oil. The USA is initially focusing on blue hydrogen. Like grey hydrogen, this is obtained from fossil sources – but the CO2 produced is separated and stored and is therefore not released into the atmosphere.
Regulators and transport as the sticking points
The question of “whether” is no longer applicable to the subject of green hydrogen – today, the discussion is about “where” and “how much”. Because the technology is (still) not economically viable. For example, production costs currently amount to 4 to 7 euros per kilogramme. By comparison: grey hydrogen varies in cost between 0.8 and 1.5 euros per kilogramme. (Source: IEA, The Future of Hydrogen, 2019). No wonder that the latter covers the majority of global demand amounting to about 74 Mt per year. This amount and much more will have to be covered by green hydrogen in the future. General economic viability will be seen only in the medium term, in five to seven years’ time, and depends heavily on regulatory frameworks.
It is now up to all of us to take the next step. If we succeed in getting innovations up and running and creating the right political framework conditions for green hydrogen, a liveable energy future will be within our reach.
Another challenge is transport: for as long as no centralised infrastructure is available, hydrogen will preferably have to be produced decentrally near to consumers. However, there are limits to the extent that local production can be implemented in countries like Austria. That makes imports necessary. International efforts are therefore needed at every stage of the value chain to cover the international H2 requirement for the energy future.
Pilot projects for the future
This mission also spurs us on at VERBUND. Together with partners from industry and science, we are engaged in innovative pilot projects and commercial projects of various sizes. The bandwidth ranges from the creation of a European H2 value chain (Green Hydrogen @ Blue Danube) to the development of new technologies for the production of green hydrogen (Hotflex/HyTechonomy) to the local generation of hydrogen for the operation of a railway (H2Zillertal).
VERBUND also focuses on transporting H2: with our subsidiary Gas Connect Austria, we are creating the necessary infrastructure for this – for example, we are already using or converting existing natural gas lines. In addition, we are exploring new ways to use green hydrogen. For example, in the C2PAT project, where we are helping to develop methods for the manufacture of renewable plastic using hydrogen as a key component.
Is the energy transition feasible? Yes – and green hydrogen is an important piece of the puzzle. The figures bear this out: the Hydrogen Roadmap Europe assumes that green hydrogen will make a significant contribution to decarbonisation before 2050 (Source: McKinsey, 2019). It is now up to all of us to take the next step: if we succeed in getting innovations up and running and creating the right political framework conditions for green hydrogen, a liveable energy future will be within our reach.
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