“I believe that water will one day be employed as fuel, that hydrogen and oxygen which constitute it, used singly or together, will furnish an inexhaustible source of heat and light, of an intensity of which coal is not capable.” Is this a present day statement? Not at all. Rather, the words date back to 1875, when one of French author Jules Verne’s main protagonists – more precisely, engineer Cyrus Smith – said them in the novel “The Mysterious Island”. According to the imaginary scientist, water broken down into hydrogen and oxygen with the help of electricity would serve as fuel instead of coal in the distant future. A bold vision at the time.
Almost 150 years later, hydrogen is attracting increasing attention as an energy supplier, especially in light of climate change. Politicians, scientists, and industry around the world are pushing the technology more than ever and see great potential with regard to the energy and mobility system’s necessary transformation. For example, the European Commission’s Hydrogen Strategy presented in July 2020 states that “between 2025 and 2030, hydrogen must become an integral part of our integrated energy system”. It says that from 2030 onward, renewable hydrogen will be used on a large scale in all sectors in which it has been difficult to reduce CO2 emissions so far.
There Are Many Hurdles Along the Way to Green Hydrogen Economy
“However, we still need to put in a lot of effort to achieve this ambitious goal,” says Hildegard Bentele, who sits in the EU Parliament for the European People’s Party (EPP) and works there in the Development, Environment, and Industry Committees, among others. In light of the fact that up to 95 percent of hydrogen currently used in industry is still of fossil origin, research as well as investments in applications with hydrogen from renewable sources must be significantly expanded. “As far as the production of green hydrogen is concerned, the EU must strategically deepen partnerships in particular with countries where a lot of cheap renewable energy is produced, for example in Africa,” advises the MEP. Bentele is addressing an acute problem. After all, alternatives to fossil fuels are needed for the long-term success of the energy revolution and for climate protection. However, hydrogen will only play a key role here if it’s “green”, i.e. if the electricity required for the electrolysis of water comes from renewable sources such as the sun, water, or wind, therefore making its production CO2-neutral.
However, the politician also sees numerous other hurdles along the way. For example the fastest possible certification of low-carbon hydrogen in order to further investments, the revision and adaptation of corresponding guidelines, as well as the stipulation of safety standards and recycling regulations. “I see diverse fields of activity for independent expert organizations such as DEKRA, particularly in the area of certifications as well as safety standards. With their know-how, they play an important role in regard to the future viability of climate-neutral hydrogen technology,” emphasizes Bentele.