In the panorama of renewable energy technologies, hydrogen’s potential is seen in several sectors. It is what the IEA calls an ‘integration’ technology. It promises to play a cross-sectoral role throughout the energy system, contributing simultaneously to decarbonization in various ways. It can make clean energy sources more efficient and increase overall system flexibility. What has increased its appeal, beyond the basic need to address climate change, is the remarkable decline in the cost of renewable energy, which makes the large-scale production of low-carbon hydrogen more feasible. These factors have motivated a growing number of plans and pilot projects throughout the world, reaching a high point of announcements for new projects last year.
Now the outlines of how hydrogen will function in future energy systems, and the pathways to get there, are beginning to appear. One region of particular importance is northern Europe.
But it is a critical moment when momentum has slowed in large part due to the pandemic. With recovery, it is not certain that investment in low-carbon hydrogen applications will continue to grow. Strong and specific commitments from companies and governments will be required to spur demand and foster markets.