Hydrogen’s role in energy systems integration

Tim Karlsson, © IPHE

IPHE, the International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the Economy, was set up in 2003 to expedite the transition to clean and efficient energy and transportation systems based on fuel cells and hydrogen, or FCH. As an intergovernmental organization, it offers a global platform for discussing policies, initiatives, technological advances, and codes and standards to accelerate the adoption of cost-effective solutions. It also provides stakeholders as well as the public with information about the benefits and challenges of commercializing FCH systems at large scale.

H2-international: Mr. Karlsson, governments are mapping out national policies to achieve the Paris Agreement’s 2050 targets for limiting global warming. Will this affect the development and use of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies? And if so, how?

Karlsson: People increasingly recognize the role that zero-carbon hydrogen will have in energy generation, transportation and manufacturing, as well as the built environment. The method or source that is used to produce the gas is very important when you focus on the environmental aspects. To achieve the targets set out in the Paris Agreement, hydrogen will need to produce net-zero or close to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Today, there are two methods to meet this requirement. One is to produce the gas via electrolysis from renewable or other zero-carbon sources, for example, nuclear power. The other is to use fossil fuels for the same process, coupled with carbon capture and sequestration.

While the Paris Agreement has provided several countries with an incentive to act and forge ahead with their plans to establish hydrogen as a key component of future energy and transportation systems, it is not the only factor at work. Security of supply, energy systems management, innovation and economic opportunity are all driving renewed interest in the gas. Some are looking to diversify their sources of energy, while others have already taken the first steps toward a renewable future but know that they will need to dispatch and manage energy more effectively – which hydrogen, as a storage medium, will allow them to do.

There are also countries that are rich in energy but have unique innovations or resources that strongly favor hydrogen and its related technologies, be they fuel cell systems, electrolyzers or the parts going into these systems. The Paris Agreement has been an important reason for the growing focus on hydrogen, but it is not the only rationale for deploying the technology.

Thanks to the Paris Agreement, governments and industries are discussing how the gas could help bring about a drastic reduction in emissions in sectors as varied as transportation, heat and electricity. In what way does IPHE contribute to these debates?

Karlsson: The focus of IPHE is on the accelerated development and deployment of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies. As an intergovernmental partnership, it provides stakeholders with opportunities to share information, gain insights into what programs and initiatives are underway and why, and keep up on current events in their jurisdictions. It helps them make informed decisions about how to expand the use of hydrogen in their economies.



Interview by Alexandra Huss

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