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Hydrogen key to developing a global green economy

Green hydrogen could one day evolve into a global commodity, traded in the same way that gas, oil and coal are. This would strengthen energy security and international trace in a cost-effective way. But, the idea is still a pipe-dream as hydrogen is not yet traded across borders in any significant amounts and hardly any infrastructure for hydrogen exists.

Thus, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) members got together to focus on challenges in developing the infrastructure, technology and certification needed to create a global green economy.

Opening the Collaborative Framework on Green Hydrogen, IRENA director-general Francesco La Camera emphasised the critical role hydrogen could play in a net-zero economy, in line with the Agency’s 1.5°C scenario.

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“Our recently released preview of the World Energy Transitions Outlook makes clear that we have to urgently step-up action on all fronts of the energy transition to achieve our climate and sustainable development goals”, he said.

“Green Hydrogen is a critical pillar for decarbonising energy systems”, La Camera continued. “Especially for hard-to-abate sectors that cannot be directly electrified. Green hydrogen, in various forms, is easier to transport than electricity over long distances. However, we do not have the necessary infrastructure in place today, and coordinated efforts are needed to unlock this potential.”

IRENA’s Collaborative Frameworks are meant to deep the Agency’s engagement with its global membership as well as relevant stakeholders to ensure concrete action and progress on key aspects of the energy transition.

As IRENA’s World Energy Transitions Outlook preview shows, H2 could offer solutions to industry and transport needs that are hard to meet through direction electrification. This could mitigate 12-26% of CO2 emissions, respectively.

Hear more about this topic at the Enlit Africa digital event between 8 and 10 June. Register now for your front row seat to a discussion on The role of Africa in the hydrogen-generation market on 10 June.

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Creating a hydrogen economy will take collaboration across all sectors

Participants from more than 50 countries recognised that governments around the world have started identifying their role as a hydrogen player from a global trade perspective.

Representatives from the European Commission and Morocco, co-facilitators of the platform, provided their lessons learned and best practices during the discussion.

At the same time, policymakers confirmed the need to put in place enabling measures, including innovating in improving the technology, financing development of the infrastructure, and building related regulatory and certification elements.

In particular, enabling measures and certification were stressed as indispensable to overcome key barriers for infrastructure. Solutions are needed to address cost recovery, certification of the green hydrogen and commodities, standardisation and long-term planning of the scale-up of H2 facilities.

Also, the need for continued collaboration and partnership development was highlighted. Finally, as there is limited hydrogen infrastructure today, the financing of hydrogen infrastructure would have to grow significantly, participants underlined.

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Acknowledging that some of the issues can only be addressed through public-private-partnerships, IRENA will host a similar conversation, this time focusing on discussing with the private sector, in a workshop co-organised with the World Economic Forum on 10th June.

The fourth Collaborative Framework meeting in a high-level format is foreseen before COP26 in November. At that Framework meeting key next steps to enable the development of green hydrogen infrastructure and related enabling frameworks will be discussed.

Theresa Smith
Theresa Smith is a Content Specialist for ESI Africa.

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