The Hydrogen Hoax article from The Ecologist

This article has many very factual observations but the slant the author has taken in damning government strategy is using hydrogen, has meant he has overlooked a few facts. The first of which is that hydrogen can be produced from renewables effectively and secondly that hydrogen plays a potentially very valuable role in balancing peaks of renewable power produced from the grid… Oh, and wait a sec, when produced at scale electrolysis can be deployed cheaply, in multiple locations, for multiple purposes.

I think the one thing the public and the politicians have got wrong is to see hydrogen as the fuel of the future. It is not the silver bullet. If we are to decarbonise our economy it must be through multiple mechanisms of storing and using renewable energy. And the reason we see hydrogen as so cool is because it is something we can pump and is so much like the economy of the past, we can relate to it.

One of the main dangers of hydrogen is that is could be used as a way for the oil/gas industry to keep a foothold in the service of power using blue hydrogen, with of course the promise ‘it is will decarbonise some day’.

I agree that the article does take an overly critical tone but the broad sentiment is pretty spot on. Hydrogen should remain an industrial feedstock rather than a general fuel replacement for gas or petrol.

My main concerns are that only 2% of the world’s hydrogen is currently produced by low carbon means and when you add on the newly lobbied uses of heating and transport, the task to decarbonise hydrogen becomes monumental and very expensive. All this whilst we’re in the middle of a climate emergency where every moment of inaction makes the net zero challenge even harder. And we have a perfectly good lower carbon alternative… Electricity.

Green hydrogen can be produced from renewables but not very effectively. Why spend the money on expensive electrolysers when you can directly use the renewable electricity more efficiently and cheaply, in heat pumps and electric vehicles?

If your talking hydrogen for power storage then again the process to convert electricity to hydrogen, store it, and convert it back means you end up with about 50% of the electricity you started off with. There are more efficient methods of longer term storage such as compressed (or liquidised) air storage.

Hydrogen produced from electrolysis will ALWAYS be more expensive and carbon intensive than the (hopefully renewable) electricity it’s produced from.

We will need a hybrid approach as some buildings won’t suit a heat pump, and some transportation won’t suit battery vehicles, but this should be an insignificant amount if we’re serious about tackling climate change.

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