Electrolysis Hydrogen Production In Europe

Hydrogen, widely promoted as the key to unlocking a net-zero future economy, is a highly problematic assumption because hydrogen itself is only the tip of the iceberg.  

The hidden story in the hydrogen hype is the electricity CO2 intensity. Let’s think of it as an actual giant iceberg. If we see the iceberg for what it is, we can avoid wrecking the very ship that is needed to reach net-zero.

This briefing introduces the CO2 intensity of hydrogen calculation methodology into the debate. In the absence of other clear guidelines for projects for hydrogen and their compatibility with the net-zero future, this is the first go-to guide. It is imperative we check whether a hydrogen project proposed today is made from a CO2 intensive grid, increasing electricity demand for more of the same (unless the project is done with additional renewables capacity). 

Seen through the colour lenses of blue, purple or green hydrogen we ended up creating a rainbow vision, an idealised view of hydrogen made on electrolysis – however the story is not that simple. Electrolysis alone is not what makes hydrogen ‘green.’ 

Hydrogen as the key enables the decarbonization of all sectors currently dependent on fuels, a tempting proposition. It comes with no surprise; our economies are heavily reliant on fuels. The temptation of hoping that we will shift the current production methodologies to ‘clean’ fuels is a long-standing dream. Unfortunately, building our investments strategies around projects which could de facto slow down the decarbonization of the power system in the EU means a misguided redistribution of public funding towards projects. Projects with the potential to lock in the current co2 structure of the electricity grid while diverting public funding away from already existing solutions (massive renewables build-up, electrification of transport, buildings etc.).  

In other words, the hydrogen dream could become our biggest nightmare very soon, as it would collide with the energy transition.


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