The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) projects that hydrogen use as an alternative fuel for transport may lead to a 70 percent drop in oil consumption over the next 30 years.
Large-scale hydrogen fuel use is expected to enable greening of hard-to-decarbonise sectors such as factories, trucks, aviation, shipping and heating applications, which are heavily reliant on fossil fuels.
Deploying cleaner technologies in long-haul aircraft, trucks, as well as energy-intensive steel and cement factories has been almost impossible, but the rise of green hydrogen promises a transition. Currently, electrification of transport has largely been limited to lighter vehicles with lower energy needs.
“Hydrogen from renewable power, so called green hydrogen, produced through renewable-powered electrolysis is projected to grow rapidly in the coming years. The use of hydrogen as transport fuel could lead to a drop of nearly 70 percent in oil consumption by 2050.”
“Green hydrogen could translate into eight percent of global energy consumption by 2050.”
The forecast comes at a time when global oil prices have crashed to historic lows, on low demand weakened by the coronavirus pandemic amid excess supply from price wars between Saudi Arabia and Russia. Petroleum emits greenhouse gases like carbon, responsible for global warming and climate change as well as poisonous gases like nitrogen dioxide that could cause respiratory ailments.
Hydrogen market is expected to scale soon, driven by falling costs of the technology, according to IRENA.
“Electrolysers are scaling up quickly, from megawatt (MW) – to gigawatt (GW)-scale, as technology continues to evolve. Electrolyser costs are projected to halve by 2040 to 2050, from $840 (Sh84,000) per kilowatt (kW) today, while renewable electricity costs will continue to fall as well.”
Several countries have built or are in the process of putting up infrastructure for hydrogen fuel production in anticipation of a mass shift in future.
“In Germany, transmission system operator Amprion and gas net operator OGE have presented an investment-ready plan for a 100MW electrolyser and a dedicated hydrogen pipeline in the north-west of Germany that could come online in 2023,” IRENA says.
IRENA is a network of over 160 countries and is headquartered in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“Hydrogen has the potential to help with variable output from renewables, such as solar photovoltaics (PV). It’s one of the options for storing energy from renewables and looks poised to become a lowest-cost option for storing large quantities of electricity over days, weeks or even months.”