Excerpt from project-syndicate.org
Although more countries and businesses have made commitments to achieve carbon neutrality in the decades ahead, a net-zero economy will not be possible without additional substitutes for fossil fuels. Fortunately, the tiny hydrogen molecule holds the key.
While we already have mature technologies that can replace fossil fuels in many parts of our economy, there are areas where eliminating carbon pollution will be much more difficult. Steel, shipping, aviation, and trucking, for example, account for a combined 40% of our global carbon footprint and are on track to consume two times the remaining carbon budget for staying below 1.5° Celsius of warming.
Fortunately, “green” hydrogen – H2 produced through electrolysis using renewable energy – holds enormous promise for these sectors. Through various applications, this tiny molecule can provide the heat, reduction properties, fuel, and other services needed to replace fossil fuels. In fact, given the technical challenge of getting these “hard-to-abate” sectors to a state of carbon neutrality, hitting 2050 net-zero targets without it would be virtually impossible.
H2 uptake can serve other objectives beyond decarbonization. For example, hydrogen’s ability to substitute for natural gas in many applications allows for a degree of energy independence and reduced reliance on liquefied natural gas or pipeline imports from Russia. And while renewables like solar and wind are limited by the extent of electrical grids, hydrogen can be transported by pipeline or potentially by ship. That means it could become an exportable renewable-energy source, eventually replacing petroleum as the main global energy commodity.