Focus area

Hydrogen Use

Hydrogen is a potential substitute for hydrocarbons like fossil gas or coal in various applications. However, its production requires significant amounts of energy as well as infrastructure that currently does not exist.

Indiscriminate use of hydrogen, such as blending it with fossil gas for combustion, is unsustainable. Instead, hydrogen should be used wisely, with a particular focus on sectors with no other decarbonisation options.

For now, hydrogen will remain a scarce resource, and direct electrification should be prioritised wherever possible to reduce carbon emissions.

In short:

  • Hydrogen should be considered judiciously in targeted applications where more efficient alternatives like electrification are not feasible. 

  • Blending hydrogen into the existing gas grid should be minimised as it does not provide significant emissions reductions and unnecessarily locks in the use of fossil gas. 

Hydrogen supply is limited, and it should primarily be used to decarbonise harder-to-abate sectors, where a cheaper or more efficient alternative does not exist. Moreover, direct use of electricity is more energy-efficient and preferable even if additional renewables and electrolyser capacity were to be built up at an unprecedented speed.  

Targeted and prioritised use of hydrogen is essential to ensure the most efficient decarbonisation pathway possible for our energy systems. Clean hydrogen is needed first in those sectors where unabated fossil-based hydrogen is currently used as feedstock, like fertilisers. Additionally, where other solutions are not available, hydrogen will be needed to replace fossil fuels in shipping, long-haul aviation, and as a means to store energy over long periods of time. 

However, the transport of hydrogen poses significant challenges due to its specific characteristics such as the smaller size of the molecule, its lighter weight, and its higher flammability compared to other gases. Hydrogen infrastructure must also bear a higher burden due to these characteristics and the fact that the energy content of the molecules is lower than that of fossil gas. As a result, hydrogen cannot entirely replace fossil fuels as the existing infrastructure is inadequate, and much larger volumes would be required than for fossil gas. A dedicated hydrogen distribution network should therefore be established, primarily serving industrial clusters with harder-to-abate industries, and not allowing for the transport of hydrogen blended with natural gas. 

Prioritising targeted use of hydrogen is crucial to ensure the efficient decarbonisation of harder-to-abate sectors where alternatives are not available. The challenges of hydrogen production, transport, and infrastructure also require not only a dedicated hydrogen network, but also to limit the blending of hydrogen with fossil gas, and to primarily serve industrial clusters with harder-to-abate industries. 

Publications related to focus area

All publications

The people involved

Michał Wendołowski

Senior Climate Technology & Policy Manager (CEE)

Hanna Biro

Policy Advisor

Ariane Giraneza

Manager Climate Policy, Industrial Decarbonisation (NL-BE-NRW)

Janis Volberts

Climate Technology and Policy Manager for Baltic Region

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