Hydrogen has become the rising star of the transition to net zero, grabbing the attention of oil majors, policymakers, investors, and multiple industrial sectors after decades of relative obscurity as an essential but little discussed industrial gas. Its potential to decarbonise swathes of the global economy—from refining and chemicals to steel making, transport and domestic heating—is vast.
The creation of a hydrogen economy is hugely challenging and expensive, and not necessarily achievable at scale by 2050. Forecasts of hydrogen’s share of the global energy mix by mid-century range from as little as 2-3pc to about 20pc, highlighting the level of uncertainty at this early stage of the sector’s development.
Mindful of the need to attract massive investment, governments are rolling out hydrogen subsidies and other supportive policies at breakneck speed as the green technology race moves into a critical phase.
For example, the US has seized the initiative by offering project developers highly attractive tax credits provided under the Inflation Reduction Act, though the industry wants more detail before committing to large scale investments. The EU is under pressure to respond to the US but its own hydrogen policies have become mired in complexity and may even start to deter investment, according to some in the industry. As one major hydrogen investor notes, policies must ultimately be implemented by individual member states, which need to show more urgency in areas such as the roll out of hydrogen refuelling networks.
Meanwhile in Asia, China and India are expected to be major green hydrogen producers by mid-century, benefitting from existing demand for refining and fertilisers to provide anchor offtake. But differing concerns around energy security mean the two countries will take diverging paths to the transition.