Hydrogen can play a critical role in fighting climate change, and the G20 can be a catalyst for making this happen, Hydrogen Europe’s CEO, Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, explains in this interview
Why is hydrogen becoming more and more relevant and how is its role reflected in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change?
Climate change is approaching faster than many, even scientists, expected. Being German and Greek, I witnessed this summer the lethal floods in Germany and shortly after the fires in Greece. The tipping points seem already to have been reached. What counts now is an absolute acceleration of the pace of humankind towards climate neutrality, and there are physical but also economical limits to this, unless you introduce a cyclical process and an abundant molecule that can involve massive volumes of renewable energies into our system. And this is the role of hydrogen, to make a fast disruption physically possible and economically affordable. To my knowledge, the IPCC does not yet reflect the role of hydrogen adequately. However, we are in constant talks with renowned researchers and academics to highlight the important opportunities of hydrogen as an enabler
of a decarbonised system.
What is currently happening in Europe? Will the EU keep its pledge and deliver on the Paris Agreement goals?
The EU has been a front runner on the mitigation of climate effects, [while it had lost this role a little bit it is now back on the global stage again] due to the introduction of the biggest legislative change since the introduction of the internal market. The so-called Fit for 55 package is an attempt to add a legal framework to the change needed in order to become the first climate net zero continent on Earth. It is indeed [an] ambitious compound of 12 legislative proposals, 3,000 pages and 1,000 mentions of hydrogen. One year after the release of the EU Hydrogen Strategy, the European Commission put laws to the strategy. At the same time, financial resources have been added to make the package a real basis for a European Green Deal. Europe is back on the stage!
Beyond Europe, what are the next steps with regards to hydrogen and what is the role of the G20?
Hydrogen is regarded as an important tool for decarbonisation, also at the global level. Very recently IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, signed a [cooperation] agreement with our partner organisation, the Hydrogen Council, which acts on a global level. There is absolutely no doubt that hydrogen will have a key role to harvest the fast-growing amount of renewable energy, especially in geographies where there is lots of wind and solar. These regions will not necessarily be the place where renewable energy is consumed, but they become dispatchable by turning them into hydrogen and this is the big advantage which has caused the coupling of renewables and hydrogen to be the perfect marriage, called “HydroGenewables”. It is a question of some years until hydrogen and its derivatives will become globally traded commodities. The latest resolutions by the G20 reflect that to a certain extent already. One precondition is a global scheme to guarantee the origin of clean hydrogen. This would be a perfect task for the G20 in the upcoming months.
Do you really think that we can end the fossil fuel era and that hydrogen is the new oil?
There is absolutely no doubt that the end of the fossil era has been initiated. The Paris Agreement was the spark which will consequently lead to an ever degressive use of fossil energies worldwide. We are witnessing the end of the “Anthropocene” and the dawn of the “Cyclocene”. Basically, the man-made impact on the planet needs to be massively reduced and replaced by cyclical elements. Hydrogen, as the most abundant molecule in the universe, has the ability to turn cyclical processes into a basis for a new economy. By that, hydrogen will not only replace oil, it will definitely replace coal and also natural gas. Most of the members of the G20 have already started to move in that direction by adopting very ambitious hydrogen strategies. However, the ambition will grow exponentially once the first promising projects have been initiated, as this development will be much faster than many observers might have thought. Future generations will be acquainted with hydrogen and its derivatives as in everyday life commodity. Hydrogen will be the new normal!