The Future of Hydrogen

Seizing today’s opportunities

Hydrogen fuel cell technology presents us with an opportunity to switch over from carbon-emitting fossil fuels to clean energy.

At the request of the government of Japan under its G20 presidency, the International Energy Agency produced this landmark report to analyse the current state of play for hydrogen and to offer guidance on its future development.

The report finds that clean hydrogen is currently enjoying unprecedented political and business momentum, with the number of policies and projects around the world expanding rapidly. It concludes that now is the time to scale up technologies and bring down costs to allow hydrogen to become widely used. The pragmatic and actionable recommendations to governments and industry that are provided will make it possible to take full advantage of this increasing momentum.

Hydrogen and energy have a long shared history – powering the first internal combustion engines over 200 years ago to becoming an integral part of the modern refining industry. It is light, storable, energy-dense, and produces no direct emissions of pollutants or greenhouse gases. But for hydrogen to make a significant contribution to clean energy transitions, it needs to be adopted in sectors where it is almost completely absent, such as transport, buildings and power generation.

The Future of Hydrogen provides an extensive and independent survey of hydrogen that lays out where things stand now; the ways in which hydrogen can help to achieve a clean, secure and affordable energy future; and how we can go about realising its potential.

Demand for hydrogen

upplying hydrogen to industrial users is now a major business around the world. Demand for hydrogen, which has grown more than threefold since 1975, continues to rise – almost entirely supplied from fossil fuels, with 6% of global natural gas and 2% of global coal going to hydrogen production.

As a consequence, production of hydrogen is responsible for CO2 emissions of around 830 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, equivalent to the CO2 emissions of the United Kingdom and Indonesia combined.

Global demand for pure hydrogen, 1975-2018

Last updated 18 Nov 2019


Growing support

The number of countries with polices that directly support investment in hydrogen technologies is increasing, along with the number of sectors they target.

There are around 50 targets, mandates and policy incentives in place today that direct support hydrogen, with the majority focused on transport.

Over the past few years, global spending on hydrogen energy research, development and demonstration by national governments has risen, although it remains lower than the peak in 2008.

Current policy support for hydrogen deployment, 2018

Last updated 25 Nov 2019

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