The Green Hydrogen Revolution Is Now Underway

At-a-Glance:

While renewables are now the fastest growing energy industry, hydrogen is following closely behind in a massive gale. The 21st century will likely witness the rise of a mega-billion hydrogen fuel industry. Countries are taking initial steps to pursue green hydrogen as an energy solution and it is clearly becoming an innovative trend.  The Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) is tracking dozens of green hydrogen electrolyzer projects around the world with a theoretical combined capacity of 50 GW worth $75 billion. To learn more, read The Green Hydrogen Revolution Is Now Underway.”

Key Takeaways:

  • With the announcement of its 10-year $10.5 billion Green Hydrogen roadmap earlier this month, Spain joins a slew of other countries seeking to develop a zero-emission fuel for trucking, aviation, and shipping.
  • OPEC leader Saudi Arabia is building a green hydrogen facility,capable of producing 650 tons of green hydrogen fuel per day, in its cutting-edge futuristic city of Neom
  • Korea and Japan have both rolled out roadmaps to guide hydrogen-related investment and policy in coming years, including encouraging hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (HFVC) production. 
    • The Toyota Mirai is an HFCV unveiled in 2014 and has 10,300 worldwide sales since December 2019. 
    • Korea’s Hyundai is producing the hydrogen powered SUV Nexo.
  • China’s Hebei province approved $1.2 billion of projects for hydrogen equipment manufacturing, filling stations, fuel cells and hydrogen production, including electrolysis.
  • Perhaps the most ambitious project so far is the Asian Renewable Energy Hub based in Pilbara, Western Australia. The $16 billion initiative could see green hydrogen shipments as early as 2027.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Power-to-hydrogen is an alternate pathway to get to 100% clean energy. Hydrogen as a fuel is carbon free. However, there are costly investments involved with adding hydrogen to the mix because the infrastructure for this fuel still needs to be developed. Thermal power plants designed to burn methane typically cannot burn 100% hydrogen. Existing gas storage facilities, pipelines, compressor stations and distribution lines typically cannot handle 100% hydrogen without expensive upgrades, if not complete replacements.  Still, hydrogen is an efficient and carbon-free alternative to renewable synthetic hydrocarbons and is worth investigating. 

 

 

Photo: Levi Midnight on Unsplash

Q&A Series: Claudio Huepe Minoletti Shares Long-term Vision for Sustainable Development in Chile

Claudio Huepe Minoletti is an economist with more than twenty years of experience in both the public and private sectors committed to economic analysis, public policies and regulation, mainly in natural resources, energy, water infrastructure and sustainable development.

Please describe yourself and your work. 

Claudio: I am an economist, working on sustainable development and energy. I work part time at Universidad Diego Portales, where I teach, research, and liaise with the public and private sector on public policy issues.  The rest of my time, I work as an independent consultant, mostly for private companies.

During my career, I have focused mostly on the analysis and development of public policies and the impacts of projects and programs, using economic analysis (including quantitative and prospective methodologies) integrated with social, legal and political perspectives to develop useful products. I have also coordinated and managed research and dissemination projects.

I was a founding partner and director of a consulting company for over 10 years and later worked at the National Energy Commission and the Ministry of Energy, where I oversaw the creation of departments dedicated to long term studies and established links and joint projects with international organizations, such as the United Nations Secretariat, the International Energy Agency and the European Commission. I was also an advisor for the first United Nations Global Sustainability Report and am on the board of the Chilean Council for Strategic Foresight.

What made you want to join the Path to 100%?

Claudio: I believe exchanging ideas and experiences on long-term visions for the energy sector is crucial for sustainable development, as energy is one of its most significant elements and where renewables are the core.

Describe your passion for renewable energy and how you have put that to work in Chile.  

Claudio: Renewable energy is an opportunity not only for a greener planet but also for solid long-term economic growth with possibilities at various scales and for multiple uses.  There is a large potential and creativity must be put to work to untap it. While working at the Ministry of Energy on long-term policies we promoted not only the role of renewables in the energy mix in the medium to short term, but also the role that renewables (in all sorts of uses, from electricity to fuels) can have in a development, which is at the same time a strong driver of economic growth, of environmental protection (locally and globally), and socially acceptable and beneficial activities.

How would you like to see your work implemented on a global scale? 

Claudio: I would like to see more efforts on making the energy sector a strong driver of economic growth, where all countries participate and not only as neutral technology users, but as users and developers that seek to maximize the impact, especially for local development.

What do you believe are the greatest areas of opportunity for Chile’s renewable energy sector?

Claudio: In the short-term, the large-scale electric renewable sector is quite well developed, but I see an extraordinarily strong opportunity for small-scale, decentralized development of electric renewables, as well as local production. In the longer-term, there is great potential in green hydrogen, which can be relevant in all sorts of uses, such as transportation, storage, gradually replacing natural gas, and other uses. In the future, there are also opportunities for other forms of renewable energy.

Now, what do you see as the primary barriers or challenges Chile faces on its path to clean, affordable energy? 

Claudio: Up until now, the effort has been on affordable and secure energy provision, which has worked quite well in terms of the spread of renewables. Turning renewables into a source of economic growth would be the next step, but this requires a more active role of the public sector and greater public investment, which Chile has avoided until now.  

Finally, how can Chile lead in the path to 100 percent renewables? And what progress do you envision for the region over the next few years? 

Claudio: Chile is already quite advanced in terms of renewable penetration and its strategy already considers a major role for renewables — with 70 percent in the electric sector. Yet, working toward 100 percent renewables means a very relevant change in focus. On the one hand, it requires not only looking at the electric sector, but beyond. It is in this area where Chile could strengthen its leadership in renewables. Furthermore, it must seek ways to have a more renewable electric sector by reducing the role of gas, primarily because coal is already in the process of being phased out.

 

 

Photo: Olga Stalska on Unsplash

NextEra Now More Valuable Than Exxon as Clean Power Eclipses Oil

At-a-Glance:

NextEra Energy Inc., the world’s biggest provider of wind and solar energy, is now more valuable than oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp., once the largest public company on Earth. NextEra ended Wednesday, October 7, with a market value of $145 billion, topping Exxon’s $142 billion. The oil major’s U.S. rival, Chevron Corp., also surpassed it in value for the first time. To learn more, read “NextEra Now More Valuable Than Exxon as Clean Power Eclipses Oil.” (Reading this article requires a subscription.)

Key Takeaways:

  • NextEra has emerged as the world’s most valuable utility, largely by betting big on renewables, especially wind.
  • NextEra had about 18 gigawatts of wind and solar farms at the end of last year, enough to power 13.5 million homes. And it’s expanding significantly, with contracts to add another 12 gigawatts of renewables. Its shares have surged more than 20% this year.
  • At the same time, Exxon’s shares have tumbled more than 50% as the pandemic quashed global demand for fuels. The company’s second-quarter loss was its worst of the modern era and, in August, Exxon was ejected from the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
  • The company was worth $525 billion in 2007, more than three times its current value.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The global economic shift away from fossil fuels continues to become more evident as more public commitments are being announced and financial milestones such as this one are making history. However, continued efforts to reach renewable energy goals are still being monitored worldwide as organizations and governments are piecing together innovative solutions and strategic partnerships designed to pave a path to a renewable energy future.

 

Photo: Gustavo Quepón on Unsplash

This is How the Government Can Ramp Up Climate Tech Investment

At-a-Glance:

The last couple of weeks have brought a steady stream of new pledges to achieve net-zero carbon emissions within the next handful of decades. And yet a report released in September, by the International Energy Agency, estimated that roughly half of the technologies that will be needed to get to net zero globally by 2050 aren’t even commercially available yet. The secret of deep decarbonization is that it won’t happen by just plugging into a wind farm or buying carbon offsets in a tropical forest. Without new technologies, it will be impossible to rein in emissions from the most-carbon intensive sectors of the economy such as heavy industry and long-distance transport. To learn more, read “This is How the Government Can Ramp Up Climate Tech Investment.”  (Reading this article requires a subscription.)

Key Takeaways:

  • Physicist Varun Sivaram sees the first step is to establish a National Energy Innovation Mission and create a White House Task Force to coordinate spending across different federal agencies. Sivaram and his team include a draft executive order in the report so the next administration can just plug and play.
  • Step two is to ramp up spending on energy innovation research and development from the current rate of about $9 billion a year to at least $25 billion by 2022.
  • The plan breaks down decarbonization into 10 categories where breakthroughs must occur. These include clean fuels, clean agricultural systems, carbon capture use and sequestration, and carbon removal.
  • One of the most persuasive moments in the report comes in a chart showing the disconnect between the sectors in the U.S. responsible for emissions and the corresponding research budget through the Department of Energy. Electricity produces 27% of emissions but gets 47% of the research dollars, while industry produces 22% of the emissions but receives 6% of the innovation funding.
  • The proposed budget would remedy that by adding money to underfunded areas, such as tripling the money for carbon capture from $115 million a year to $300 million.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Government economic stimulus must go beyond merely boosting the amount of renewables, but should also support system flexibility. We don’t just need wind turbines and solar panels but also energy storage, optimization platforms and flexible power plant technology to balance the influx of renewables. Energy storage and digital optimization is already becoming essential as we increase the amount of renewables on the grid to manage the volatility of wind and solar. Flexible gas engine technology is ready to use future fuels such as green hydrogen and synthetic methane derived from renewable energy sources (Power-to-X). These will help to balance out the longer-term needs of the grid, that can’t be matched by shorter duration energy storage.

 

Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg