The year 2020 has been a big year for renewable hydrogen. Many European governments have announced multi-GW targets for hydrogen production by 2030 and Asia-Pacific countries have started to implement their national hydrogen strategies. Japan was the first to announce hydrogen targets back in 2017, followed by South-Korea and Australia in 2019. All the while, China is developing and progressing its own hydrogen plans.

A consortium including Kawasaki Heavy Industries, J-Power, Shell and AGL Energy, are expected to begin producing hydrogen from coal, and transporting via liquified hydrogen tanker vessel from Australia to Japan in 2021. Although using fossil-fuels, the project will serve as a proof of concept for maritime hydrogen transport. This will be key to the success of renewable hydrogen and open up more new offshore wind markets, especially in the southern hemisphere, whether there are wind resources beyond what local populations can use.

Each of these countries is targeting rapid growth in the production and consumption of hydrogen, as well as developing industries manufacturing hydrogen technology. The challenge for governments and industry will be to achieve low levelised costs of hydrogen (LCOH). The key to this will be utilising renewable energy sources with the lowest levelised cost of energy (LCOE) to convert to hydrogen.

For many years, the focus has been on proving the business case for hydrogen. The success of 2020 has been the recognition by many countries that hydrogen will be a part of energy mix to get to net zero through its use for heat, transport and storage. Industry and governments around the world are no longer thinking whether hydrogen has a place in the energy system. They are now thinking how they will best capitalise on the opportunity hydrogen represents for their energy system and economy. Those with access to low-cost, large-scale renewables have an especially interesting opportunity.

Lee Wilkinson