Netherlands & Portugal lead drive towards Green Hydrogen technology

The idea of hydrogen as a fuel to help power vehicles and energy plants has been around since the 1970s, but it is currently too expensive for widespread use. However, some countries, including the Netherlands and Portugal, have already begun investing in the technology, Reuters reports.

The renewables sector is now urging the EU to include Green Hydrogen in its post-crisis recovery plan: proponents say infrastructure investment and more demand from transport, gas grids and industry will bring the cost down

Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, said the technology was “ready for the big time” and urged governments to channel investments into the fuel.

Most hydrogen used today is extracted from natural gas in a process that produces carbon emissions, which defeats the object for many policymakers. But there is potential to extract “green” hydrogen from seawater with electrolysis, an energy-intensive but carbon-free process if powered by renewable electricity.

EU officials, one of whom described green hydrogen as the “holy grail”, said it could replace fossil fuels in sectors that lack alternatives to align operations with the EU’s Green Deal plan to reduce net emissions to zero by 2050.

“Hydrogen could solve a lot of problems. We need everything else as well but the political interest is because to achieve deep energy efficiency and decarbonisation, hydrogen seems relatively easy,” said Jesse Scott, senior advisor at think-tank Agora Energiewende.

“It is less alarming (for policymakers) than some other elements for meeting net zero,” she added, such as carbon removal technology for example.

“We could use these circumstances, where loads of public money are going to be needed into the energy system, to jump forward towards a hydrogen economy,” said Diederik Samsom, who heads the European Commission’s climate cabinet.

This could result in hydrogen use scaling up faster than was expected before the pandemic, he added.

The European Commission has earmarked clean hydrogen - a loose term which can include gas-based hydrogen, if fitted with technology to capture the resulting emissions - as a “priority area” for industry in its Green Deal.

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Over the past year, several governments, including Germany, Britain, Australia and Japan, have announced or have been working on hydrogen strategies and the pace has picked up over the past month during the pandemic.

This week, Australia set aside A$300 million ($191 million) to jumpstart hydrogen projects. Portugal plans to build a new solar-powered hydrogen plant which will produce hydrogen by electrolysis by 2023.

The Netherlands unveiled a hydrogen strategy in late March, outlining plans for 500 megawatts (MW) of green electrolyser capacity by 2025. A German hydrogen strategy is expected later this month. On May 7th Shell Nederland and Dutch energy company Eneco have confirmed they entered an offshore wind tender as part of a joint effort to create a record-breaking hydrogen cluster in the Netherlands.

The Dutch government is pushing for the EU to follow suit and present an “action plan” for clean hydrogen, a spokesperson told Reuters.

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