The time to tap into green hydrogen is now says IFS VP

As demand rises, more organisations use green hydrogen as their energy facilitator, says Carol Johnston, VP Industries, Energy, Utilities & Resources, IFS

Carol Johnston, VP Industries, Energy, Utilities and Resources, IFS, shares insight into how a change in energy supply will spark a cleaner power transmission and distribution future. 

 

Why is green hydrogen such a good fuel source?

Hydrogen is a new green energy that has been disrupting the energy market for some years. It’s now taken on a wider significance, and is ready to disrupt the energy, utilities and resources (EUR) industry as a whole. Currently, hydrogen is experiencing unprecedented demand, as its potential to become a key facilitator of a global transition to a net-zero emission economy and provide a clean energy solution has not gone unnoticed. So much so, that demand is expected to grow by 44% by 2030.

As with any major transformation, the decision to switch to a hydrogen-first economy is no simple matter, nor one that could be achieved overnight. The changes will be big and disruptive, and the organisations in the EUR sector will need to rely on modern technology and infrastructure that will underpin how we not only transmit but distribute power for the next 150 years.

If there was ever a time to tap into hydrogen’s potential for tackling crucial energy challenges, it would be now. The focus has been on green hydrogen, an incredibly significant development for the renewable energy space and a huge step towards a decarbonized economy. The significance of green hydrogen comes down to how it is produced, because unlike hydrogen from the existing supply chain, it does not rely on natural gases or fossil fuels for its existence. Instead, green hydrogen is derived from water and renewable energies, such as solar or wind, and is the only type of hydrogen produced in a carbon-neutral manner—an invaluable trait for reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

In the long-term, hydrogen has the potential to considerably reduce the cost of energy production and the challenges of transportation and storage. Across the whole value chain, hydrogen presents a wealth of business opportunities—from power generation, energy efficiency, and improvement to the environment, to industrial feedstock, an increased number of high-paid jobs, and benefits in transportation.

 

What are the barriers to mass hydrogen uptake today?

The major barrier for organisations is the cost of hydrogen. Hydrogen is not only a costly energy to buy, but it is also a complex source to install as its extreme flammability means that expensive, specialised pipelines and carriers will be essential for transmission and distribution. 

Research into hydrogen has suggested that the cost of production is set to decrease by as much as 50% by 2030, due to economies of scale, technological advances, and renewable energy costs. We can see the same pattern in solar powered energy. In the last two decades, the cost of solar power has fallen by 90%, with prices set to drop another 15-25% in the upcoming years.

 

Who’s leading the sustainability battle between batteries versus hydrogen? 

Typically, consumers sit in the driving seat for change and this time in more ways than one. The rise of ‘cleaner cars’ has taken the consumer market by storm with 7% of U.S. consumers already owning an electric car and a further 39% very or somewhat likely to seriously consider purchasing an electric vehicle. Against this backdrop, it is hydrogen that can significantly transform how these cleaner cars are charged. Currently, the move is battery focused but using hydrogen can increase efficiencies in consumption, emit only water vapour and warm air, and provide added convenience. In fact, a hydrogen cell can be refilled just as quickly as today’s regular petrol or diesel car. 

It doesn’t all fall on consumers. In the upcoming years, we can expect to see an increasing number of regulatory changes regarding hydrogen that will shape the way industries and nations set about with their hydrogen roadmaps. We’ve already seen infrastructure bills in the U.S. to support wide-scale hydrogen deployment, while in Canada, Japan, and several countries within Europe, the drawings of their own roadmaps have commenced.

 

What is the role of technology in helping businesses boost sustainability?

Introducing a green hydrogen economy is essentially an impossible task without the digital helping hand of technology. It will be imperative that EUR organisations seek a tech vendor that maintains a deep understanding of both the software and the science behind it to support a new and emerging line of business. Implementing smart IT support that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning is vital.

In my work at IFS, EUR is a core market, and our industry clients are already at the forefront of looking at how they can integrate more renewable energies into their operations. For example, IFS customer LKAB, Europe’s largest iron ore producer, has delivered the first fossil-free steel in the world, made from 100% fossil-free hydrogen. Helping them efficiently make the transition has been a key driving force for investment in new technologies and toolsets, ranging from project and asset management to innovative supply chain capabilities.

As the need for more energy rises, more organisations will turn to green hydrogen as a power facilitator. With increased efficiency gains, carbon-neutral features, and transferable capabilities, hydrogen will undeniably be a huge part of the energy equation of the future.” 

 

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