17 August 2023 - 15:37
  • News ID: 477063

Hydrogen, green and clean energy

Fereydoun Barkeshli, Energy Market Analyst
Hydrogen, green and clean energy

As the world gets closer to the 28th Conference of Parties (COP) to be held in the United Arab Emirates, competition amongst renewables in order to stay ahead of the curve intensifies. However, according to latest data and statistics released by International Energy Agency (IEA) on April 2023, energy from hydrogen is ahead compared to all other sources of energy in, as long as the rate of new investments is concerned. Though green hydrogen is still behind solar and wind in absolute term. According to the above-mentioned IEA report, total renewables accounted for 11 percent of total global energy consumption in 2022. Among these renewables: solar, wind, hydroelectric and geothermal energies, hydrogen stood last.

Unlike fossil fuels, for which large reserves are concentrated in certain countries and areas of the earth and most consuming countries are importers, renewable in general and hydrogen energy could be produced everywhere. As such we may not get involved with issues related to the geopolitical aspects of energy the way we know it today. However, as we go over, we will encounter issues related to the technology and dependence of the less industrial countries on technology and equipment to develop hydrogen and more notably green hydrogen that is less carbon emitting and fueled by other sources of renewables; namely solar or wind or tidal.

Hydrogen energy has immense potential to revolutionize the global energy landscape. Hydrogen is a versatile and clean and possibly hundred percent green source of energy that could be used in various sectors such as transportation and industry.

Hydrogen does not produce any harmful emissions when used as a fuel, making it an attractive option for combating climate change and reducing pollution that is attributed to the use of oil, gas and coal.

Hydrogen could be produced from a wide range of sources, including water, biomass and renewable electricity. This flexibility in production methods ensures that hydrogen could be sustainably sourced, further contributing to its environmental benefits.


It is also important to note and highlight the long-term storage capabilities of hydrogen, which makes it an ideal solution for intermittent renewable energy source such as solar and wind. Excess electricity generated from these sources could be used to produce hydrogen through electrolysis, which can then be stored and utilized during periods of low renewable energy availability.

Further, as acknowledged by IEA-OPEC+ workshop held in OPEC Secretariat on April 2021, hydrogen has the potential to create a decentralized energy system. With the establishment of hydrogen refueling stations and infrastructure, individuals and communities can even generate their own hydrogen, reducing dependence on centralized energy grid.

However, there are challenges to overcome for widespread adoption of hydrogen energy. These include the high cost of production and infrastructure development, as well as the need for technological advancements in hydrogen storage and transportation. I believe that one of the issues that should be discussed in COP28 in November 2023, will focus on ways and means to encourage investments on green hydrogen energy. For the time being, new investments may be pending due to the determination of governments to subsidize and support green hydrogen.

The theory of effective pain that is developed by Joe Blown refers to a situation that is called renewable and energy justice. I need to explain a bit of history. Back in 1970’s when international oil prices went up, influential members of OPEC decided to create an agency called OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID). This was created to help countries that could not afford high crude oil prices. Affluent countries in the Western Hemisphere paid higher oil prices but then the oil producing countries recirculated the revenues back to the West for their requirements.

What I intend to say is that, green hydrogen, will possibly be a reality in two decades’ time. A reality, yes, but possibly a “rich man” energy. Sophisticated technology and high cost precision know how may make it out of reach for poor nations that still rely on fossil fuels to drive home and cook.

Prospects for green hydrogen

As mentioned above the prospects for green hydrogen is promising. It is in fact so positive that some experts argue that when it comes to green hydrogen, the future is already with us.

Some key factors that contribute to the optimism and positive outlook are referred to as follows:

Climate change mitigation. Green hydrogen is considered a clean and sustainable energy carrier as it doesn’t lead to greenhouse gas emissions when used. Therefore, it has the potential to significantly mitigate carbon dioxide emissions, particularly in sectors that are difficult to decarbonize such as heavy industries, transportation and heating.

Industrial applications. Green hydrogen has various industrial applications, including the production of ammonia, methanol and synthetic fuels in industries such as steel making, chemical production and mining machineries, leading to significant emissions mitigations.

Supportive policies and investments. Many countries and regions are recognizing the potential of green hydrogen and have started implementing supportive policies and investing in its development. Governments are providing financial incentives, setting targets and funding research and development to accelerate the deployments of green hydrogen technologies.

However, there are still challenges to overcome for widespread adoption of green hydrogen, such as high production costs, limited infrastructure and technological advancements and increasing investments that improve optimistic views towards global green energy markets.

In the following parts, experiences and achievements of some countries and areas of the world in green hydrogen energy production are to be reviewed.

Experience of Japan

Japan has been actively pursuing the development and deployment of green hydrogen. The country aims to become a global leader in hydrogen technology and has set ambitious targets for hydrogen production and usage. One of Japan’s key initiatives is the Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field, which is the world’s largest hydrogen production facility. It utilizes renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, to produce hydrogen through electrolysis. The facility has a capacity of 10 MW and may produce up to 1,200 cubic meters of hydrogen per hour.

Japan is also investing in hydrogen infrastructure, including the construction of hydrogen refueling stations for fuel cell vehicles. The Japanese government has set a target of having 160 hydrogen refueling stations in 2020 (last year data), to 900 by 2030. This infrastructure development is crucial for promoting the widespread adoption of hydrogen-generated vehicles and supporting the growth of hydrogen economy in Japan. Furthermore, Japan has been actively promoting international collaboration in the field of hydrogen. Japan has now posed as a key player in hydrogen production. The role of Japan in hydrogen production could be possibly similar to the role of Saudi Arabia in crude oil production within the coming years.

Overall, Japan’s experience in green hydrogen showcases its commitment to transition towards a sustainable and low-carbon energy system. The country’s investments in research, infrastructure and global collaboration demonstrate its determination to become a leading player in the world hydrogen economy. In fact, Japanese Central Bank has already lowered its financial support for any future investments in fossil fuels energy in the Middle East, Africa and South America.

Japan green hydrogen policy is considered an important case study for the subject in that, the country has incorporated hydrogen into its energy strategy pathway and expects to raise the percentage share of green hydrogen energy in total energy production and consumption to 17 percent. Although many analysts consider the Japanese green hydrogen impetus as too ambitious, still worth contemplation. Japan requires to invest $ 0.75 Trillion for that purpose. Private sector is the main contributor but government subsidiaries are inevitable.

EU and green hydrogen energy initiative

The European Union has also been actively pursuing the development and deployment of green hydrogen. The EU’s Hydrogen Strategy, released in July 2020, aims to establish a clean hydrogen economy by 2050. The strategy sets out a comprehensive roadmap for scaling up production, reducing costs and creating a market for green hydrogen.

One of the key initiatives of the EU is the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance, which brings together industry, national and regional governments and other stakeholders to support the development of sustainable hydrogen value chain. The alliance aims to build a robust and competitive European hydrogen industry, with a focus on renewables and low-carbon hydrogen production.

The EU is also investing heavily in research and innovation in the field of green hydrogen. The Horizon Europe Hydrogen Energy Program, the EU’s research and innovation framework, includes funding opportunities for projects related to hydrogen technologies. Additionally, the EU’s Innovative Fund provides financial support for large scale demonstrations projects in clean energy, including hydrogen.

In terms of infrastructure, the European Union is working on developing networks of hydrogen refueling stations for fuel cell vehicles. The European Commission has set a target of 1,000 hydrogen refueling stations by 2025 and 2000 by 2030. The EU is also exporting the potential of using existing gas infrastructure for transport and distribution of hydrogen.

Furthermore, the EU is actively promoting international cooperation in the field of green hydrogen. It has established partnership with countries such as Australia, Canada, Japan and Morocco to facilitate collaboration in research, innovation, and investment in hydrogen technologies.

Overall, European Union’s experience in the field of hydrogen is behind Japan. The main reason is the addiction of most European countries to cheap and abundant gas supply from Russia and North Africa. Nevertheless, EU’s climate commitments to achieving climate neutrality and transitioning to a sustainable and low to zero carbon energy system is the major driving factor to an enhanced green hydrogen supply chain system. The EU’s strategies and initiatives aim to foster innovation, create a market for green hydrogen, and establish Europe as a global leader in the hydrogen economy.

Mideast and green hydrogen energy

Among the Middle Eastern countries of OPEC, there prevailed a sense of skepticism and perplexing situation in so far as green hydrogen initiative is concerned. In fact, there has always been suspicions on what major oil and gas consuming countries really meant by hydrogen economy. United Arab Emirates was somehow a pioneer within OPEC and in the Middle East. However, at a later stage, Saudi Arabia pioneered the green hydrogen campaign and made some impressive inroads towards renewables in general and hydrogen energy in particular.

The country recognized the potentials of green hydrogen and developed strategies to promote its production and use. Some of the key strategies include:

1- The National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP). The program focuses on developing a competitive green hydrogen industry in Saudi Arabia. It aims to attract investments, promote research and development and establish partnerships with international companies to accelerate the growth of the sector.

2- Renewable Energy Project Development Office (REPDO), is responsible for the procurement and development of renewable energies projects, including those related to green hydrogen. It has launched tenders for utility-scale products on green hydrogen energy. According to a 2021 annual report, project had completed and registered roughly 15 percent progress.

3- Collaboration with international partnership. Saudi Arabia has been actively seeking collaboration with international companies and countries to advance its green hydrogen agenda. To this effect, the country has involved Japan, Australia and Germany to foster its green hydrogen sector.

4- Saudi Arabia has surpassed UAE on infrastructure investments for green hydrogen production and distribution. This includes building electrolyzer facilities, hydrogen pipelines and storage facilities to support the growth of the industry.

5- Hydrogen Energy exports ambitions. Saudi Arabia is keen to keep remaining an energy exporter, from oil to renewables and to green hydrogen. It plans to leverage its existing infrastructure for oil and gas exports to transport hydrogen to global markets.

As mentioned, the United Arab Emirates too has ambiguous green hydrogen plans and several initiatives are under scrutiny. Abu Dhabi Hydrogen Alliance was formed in 2021 with the aim of developing a hydrogen economy in the Emirates. It aims to bring together government entities, industry players and research institutions to collaborate on hydrogen projects and initiatives. Several other initiatives and projects are underway but all at pilot stage.

Qatar is also warming up and preparing for a post-fossil fuel era. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that most Persian Gulf countries are preparing for a massive Public Relations campaign for the upcoming 28th COP in UAE. Green hydrogen is considered the flagship of pioneering renewable energy sources for the remaining years of the current decade.

In conclusion, it is important to note that the green or gray energy provides electricity. However, electricity is not the sole energy source that humanity needs to survive and prosper with. Oil has got much more to do with the human society than electric energy. What the world needs is sustainable, affordable and secure sources of energy.

Crude oil has no direct use. Crude oil is vital when it is refined and converted to several other products for which fuel is the least important of all the benefits of oil.

In the meantime, it is absolutely important to emphasize that green hydrogen is costly and sophisticated to produce and process. As such the issue of energy justice and fair availability of technology is important. We do not want to see a world divided and separated between the clean energy users and not so clean energy users.

For a country to be able to develop green hydrogen, it is essential to already have or simultaneously should have developed a powerful renewable energy infrastructure. Producing gray or blue hydrogen energy as commonly referred to, that is hydrogen from fossil fuels is not quite and sustainable and desirable, since it’s not pollution-free and besides, lots of energy is needed to produce hydrogen. This is a problem that most developing countries and oil and gas producing nations are going to encounter in the process of production and use of green hydrogen energy.

As such, post-fossil fuel energy era will not bear geopolitical implications and aspects of oil and gas the way we have been experiencing during the last hundred years, but we should not witness a technological divide between the “Haves” and “Have-nots” of certain phases of technology. An energy re-awakening is underway and no nation must be left out if green hydrogen is to popularize around the world. With green hydrogen, there will be almost zero-carbon emissions.

Iran Petroleum

News ID 477063

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