Japan, E.U. and U.S. to Cooperate on Hydrogen and Fuel Cells
On June 15, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan, the European Commission Directorate-General for Energy and the United States Department of Energy issued a joint statement affirming their shared desire to strengthen trilateral cooperation on hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.
The announcement was made on the sidelines of the G20 Ministerial Meeting on Energy Transitions and Global Environment for Sustainable Growth in Japan. The statement states that hydrogen and fuel cells are part of a broad and sustainable energy portfolio and could be a key to opening up opportunities and value in all sectors, from transportation to industry, as well as enabling reliable, clean and affordable electricity.
The three organizations intend to develop a memorandum of cooperation in preparation for the second Hydrogen Energy Ministerial Meeting which will be held on September 25, 2019. The envisaged memorandum would cover:
a. Cooperation on application of technologies and coordination on harmonization of regulations, codes and standards.
b. Promotion of information sharing, international joint research and development emphasizing hydrogen safety and infrastructure supply chain.
c. Study and evaluation of hydrogen’s potential across sectors including its potential for reducing both CO2 emissions and other emissions.
d. Communication, education and outreach
IEA Report on Hydrogen
On June 14, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released a new report on hydrogen. The study, which analyses hydrogen’s current state of play and offers guidance on its future development, was launched by Dr. Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, alongside Hiroshige Seko, Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, at the G20 meeting.
The report – The Future of Hydrogen: Seizing Today’s Opportunities – finds that clean hydrogen is currently receiving strong support from governments and businesses around the world, with the number of policies and projects expanding rapidly.
Hydrogen can help to tackle various critical energy challenges, including helping to store the variable output from renewables like solar PV and wind to better match demand. It offers ways to decarbonize a range of sectors – including long-haul transport, chemicals, and iron and steel – where it is proving difficult to meaningfully reduce emissions, says the IEA. It can also help to improve air quality and strengthen energy security.
A wide variety of fuels are able to produce hydrogen, including renewables, nuclear, natural gas, coal and oil. Hydrogen can be transported as a gas by pipelines or in liquid form by ships, much like LNG. It can also be transformed into electricity and methane to power homes and feed industry, and into fuels for cars, trucks, ships and planes.
To build on this momentum, the IEA report offers seven key recommendations:
• Making industrial ports the nerve centers for scaling up the use of clean hydrogen;
• Building on existing infrastructure, such as natural gas pipelines;
• Expanding the use of hydrogen in transport by using it to power cars, trucks and buses that run on key routes;
• Launching the hydrogen trade’s first international shipping routes.
The report notes that hydrogen still faces significant challenges. Producing hydrogen from low-carbon energy is costly at the moment, the development of hydrogen infrastructure is slow and holding back widespread adoption and some regulations currently limit the development of a clean hydrogen industry.
Hydrogen is already being used on an industrial scale, but it is almost entirely supplied from natural gas and coal. Its production, mainly for the chemicals and refining industries, is responsible for 830 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. That’s the equivalent of the annual carbon emissions of the United Kingdom and Indonesia combined.
Reducing emissions from existing hydrogen production is a challenge but also represents an opportunity to increase the scale of clean hydrogen worldwide. One approach is to capture and store or utilize the CO2 from hydrogen production from fossil fuels. There are currently several industrial facilities around the world that use this process, and more are in the pipeline, but a much greater number is required to make a significant impact.
Another approach is for industries to secure greater supplies of hydrogen from clean electricity. In the past two decades, more than 200 projects have started operation to convert electricity and water into hydrogen to reduce emissions – from transport, natural gas use and industrial sectors – or to support the integration of renewables into the energy system.
Expanding the use of clean hydrogen in other sectors – such as cars, trucks, steel and heating buildings – is another challenge. There are currently around 11,200 hydrogen-powered cars on the road worldwide. Existing government targets call for that number to increase dramatically to 2.5 million by 2030.
Policy makers are urged to make sure market conditions are well adapted for reaching such ambitious goals. The recent successes of solar PV, wind, batteries and electric vehicles have shown that policy and technology innovation have the power to build global clean energy industries.
The report is available here.