Another Herculean stride for green energy

Another Herculean stride for green energy

DoE working to formulate Green Hydrogen roadmap 

In what is a major move that would reduce carbon footprints and green house gas emissions, the Department of Energy (DoE), Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (MoENR) is vigorously in the process of formulating a green hydrogen road-map.

Green hydrogen is obtained through electrolysis powered by renewable electricity, generated through technologies such as solar panels or wind turbines.

According to the department, the road-map will serve as a strategic blueprint detailing planned initiatives, targets, and milestones for the development and utilization of green hydrogen within the country.

Currently, in the draft stage, the road-map is undergoing refinement and enhancement through consultation with international experts in the field.

An official from the department said that green hydrogen has gained widespread recognition as a pivotal clean and sustainable energy source, poised to catalyze the imperative transition toward a low-carbon future.

“In alignment with this paradigm, the forthcoming green hydrogen road-map encompasses a range of strategic initiatives,” he said. 

The department diligently conducted an array of comprehensive literature reviews, aimed at comprehending the multifaceted applications of hydrogen. The official said that through these efforts, the focus has been on identifying and evaluating viable end-use applications. “Notably, two prominent areas have emerged as prospective avenues for hydrogen utilization: the mobility sector and industrial domains.”

“Leveraging hydrogen as a fuel within the mobility sector holds substantial potential to curtail carbon footprints,” he said, adding that concurrently the department is facilitating enhanced environmental stewardship. 

Similarly, the official said that within the industrial sectors, the integration of hydrogen as an energy source is poised to yield commendable reductions in carbon emissions, thereby substantiating its viability as a catalyst for sustainable industrial processes.

According to the department, the preliminary insights and evaluations comprise the initial strides in shaping the green hydrogen road-map, which aims to leverage hydrogen’s multifarious capabilities for substantial societal and environmental benefits.

The department has also already worked on the concept and is currently seeking expertise from multilateral forums like World Bank (WB) and International Finance Corporation (IFC). “There is no disagreement that hydrogen is a future fuel, and Bhutan must take advantage to advance,” the official said.

Meanwhile, the introduction of green hydrogen in the country is not without challenges, despite the merits.  

The department said that with green hydrogen there will be reduced carbon emissions as green hydrogen is produced using renewable energy sources, leading to minimal or zero carbon emissions during its production.

“The reduction of the carbon emission can contribute significantly to a country’s efforts to mitigate climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the official said, adding that, this also allows tapping into the international carbon market in the future. 

Similarly, it can be used as energy carrier and energy storage for longer periods, helping to balance intermittent renewable energy sources like solar and wind by providing a stable energy supply when needed.

Incorporating green hydrogen can also serve as energy diversification where the energy mix will diversify a country’s energy sources, reducing dependence on fossil fuels and enhancing energy security which is a national priority.

In addition, green hydrogen can be used as a clean fuel in various sectors, such as transportation including, hydrogen fuel cells for vehicles, industrial processes including chemicals, refining, and power generation.

The development of a green hydrogen industry can create new jobs in sectors like renewable energy, electrolyzer manufacturing, hydrogen infrastructure development, and research, according to the department.

However, the department stated that currently, the production of green hydrogen is expensive due to the costs associated with renewable energy sources and electrolysis technology.

“Establishing a hydrogen infrastructure, including production facilities, distribution networks, and refueling stations, requires significant investment and time,” the official from the department said, adding that, green hydrogen has low energy density and can be challenging to store and transport efficiently. It requires advanced technologies and safety measures.

“The electrolysis process to produce hydrogen from water can have efficiency losses, as it requires a substantial amount of electricity to break the water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen,” the official said.

For instance, the department shared that to produce green hydrogen at a significant scale, a country needs a substantial supply of renewable energy. “This requires expanding renewable energy capacity and addressing issues related to inter-mittency and energy storage.”

The official shared that making green hydrogen economically competitive with other forms of energy and hydrogen production methods is a key challenge and it is important to reduce the costs of electrolysis equipment and renewable energy sources.

According to the department, developing a clear regulatory framework for green hydrogen production, distribution, and use is essential to ensure safety, encourage investments, and promote market growth

Similarly, the official said that the global nature of hydrogen markets requires international collaboration for standardization, harmonization of regulations, and cross-border infrastructure development and also educating the public about the benefits and potential of green hydrogen, as well as addressing misconceptions, is important for gaining public support and acceptance.

Meanwhile, the department stated that few countries are ambitiously taking green hydrogen forward, and that pilot projects have been successfully conducted. 

However, the official reiterated that green hydrogen is very expensive and that storage and transportation are an issue, unless converted to another form through a value chain and down the line including ammonia. “We would like to pursue this and does provide an ambitious future scope for now.”

More about Green Hydrogen

Hydrogen gas can be used as a fuel in transportation, power generation and industrial activities. It does not release greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide when it is burned. Green hydrogen is the name given to hydrogen gas that has been produced using renewable energy, such as wind or solar power, which create no greenhouse gas emissions.

Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical element in the universe. Despite its abundance, hydrogen does not naturally exist as a gas in usable quantities, occurring almost entirely in compounds, such as water.

Therefore, hydrogen must be produced using industrial methods. Most of these involve the reforming of natural gas – a fossil fuel. Other methods exist, including a process called electrolysis, whereby an electric current is used to split water into its basic components: hydrogen and oxygen.

Globally, most of the hydrogen produced today is used in the refining and industrial sectors. By the end of the decade, hydrogen will find a host of new applications, including powering grids and fueling the building and transportation sectors.

Today, a smaller proportion of the total hydrogen produced is used to make ammonia for the fertilizer industry or as a shipping fuel. It also has applications in the steel industry. If the coal and coke that today power most blast furnaces could be replaced with green hydrogen, a sizeable amount of the sector’s emissions could be avoided.

Renewable technologies, such as solar, wind or hydro power, are used primarily to generate electricity, which is just one element of a society’s energy consumption. While electricity may account for a large proportion of all energy usage, and can be replaced with renewable energy relatively easily, other sectors such as long-haul transportation or heavy industries still use coal, natural gas or petroleum. These are the main energy sources that could be displaced by hydrogen.

Hydrogen can also be used in batteries. Fuel cells could, if developed at a larger scale, help countries set up infrastructure that can store and stabilize the supply of renewable energy, which fluctuates depending on environmental conditions such as wind speed or solar radiation.

The market for Green Hydrogen is projected to be worth USD 410.6bn by 2030.

Countries spearheading production

China consumes and produces more hydrogen than any other country – its current annual usage is more than 24mn tonnes. China issued its first hydrogen roadmap in 2016, leading to it having the world’s third-largest fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) fleet and to the country becoming a pioneer in developing fuel cell trucks and buses.

Having issued its national hydrogen strategy in 2020, the EU has recognized hydrogen as a key technology for achieving policy goals such as the European Green Deal. The EU has USD 4.56bn of annual funding potential for hydrogen projects in 2021-30.

Green hydrogen could help India make a “quantum leap” to energy independence by 2047, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said during the launch of the country’s National Hydrogen Mission in 2021.

In 2017, Japan became the first country to formulate a national hydrogen strategy as part of its ambition to become the world’s first “hydrogen society” by adopting the fuel across all sectors

South Korea’s 2019 hydrogen road-map hailed clean hydrogen as a key driver of economic growth and job creation. The nation has its sights set on becoming a global leader in producing and deploying FCEVs and large-scale stationary fuel cells for hydrogen power generation

Its Green New Deal contains an ambitious target of deploying 200,000 FCEVs by 2025 – about 20 times more than in 2020. And last year, South Korea passed the Economic Promotion and Safety Control of Hydrogen, the world’s first law aimed at promoting hydrogen vehicles, charging stations and fuel cells.

The US is the world’s second-biggest producer and consumer of hydrogen after China, accounting for 13% of global demand.

Sherab Dorji from Thimphu