Part of NRDC’s Year-End Series Reviewing 2020 Climate & Clean Energy Developments
This year saw a slew of global hydrogen announcements that earned it the title of “hottest new tech on the decarbonization block.” There is broad consensus that “green” hydrogen produced from renewable energy and water will be needed to avoid even more dangerous climate change by helping us achieve a net-zero emissions global economy by midcentury. But it has limits, despite the fossil fuel industry touting it as the one-size-fits-all solution even for applications that have much cheaper alternatives.
There’s no question that 2020 was a banner year for hydrogen. Large chunks of COVID-19 recovery packages across Europe were earmarked for the technology, more than 10 large countries put out national hydrogen roadmaps–mostly focused on green hydrogen–and large-scale projects were announced across Europe, Australia, Asia and the Middle East. While the United States is trailing behind, momentum is growing here with a series of announced green hydrogen projects, new regional hydrogen initiatives, and policy documents indicating growing interest at the federal level.
Hydrogen– mostly used in refineries and fertilizer production today–is currently produced via a dirty process that relies on fossil gas as feedstock and emits a significant amount of carbon pollution. The U.S. production of hydrogen emits nearly as much climate pollution as all of Illinois’ power plants. However, the process can be cleaned up to produce a “green” version using renewable energy and water. It also has potential replace fossil fuels in sectors most difficult to electrify such as aviation, marine shipping and heavy industry- and could help us resolve some of the biggest challenges to a fully renewable electric grid (See this blog for more detail).
With the dawn of a new year and a new administration, the 2020s offer a big opportunity for the U.S. to both join the ranks of global leaders on green hydrogen and erect the right building blocks from the outset to leverage this valuable resource without wobbling in misdirection.
A critical component of a GHG-neutral economy, if it’s cleaned up
There is broad consensus that green hydrogen can help us meet our climate goals. But hydrogen’s ability to play a role in…