Will hydrogen experience a breakthrough in 2021?

Hydrogen Innovations NEWS - The hydrogen industry has seen a significant acceleration of activity recently, with new projects, pilot studies and commercial partnerships. It has been the subject of significant attention before. This time, the hype may be warranted, analysts say, and 2021 is likely to see even more activity.

December, in particular, was "extremely busy for us," said Vinayaka Nakul Prasad, corporate strategy manager for Siemens Energy. In one month, the company launched four projects tied to Siemens Energy's electrolysis or hydrogen gas turbine businesses, dispersed across three continents. But Prasad expects even more to come in 2021.

In the coming hydrogen economy envisioned by Siemens Energy and, increasingly, other large energy industry players, Prasad doesn't see Siemens Energy's role as limited to being a manufacturer of turbines and other generation equipment. Rather, he says the company is working on solutions for use across the hydrogen value chain, from production to storage and production. And he sees a pressing need for these technologies around the globe.

Interest in hydrogen is mainly centered in two regions, according to Massimo Schiavo, a director for S&P Global Ratings — China and the European Union. China's interest, Schiavo said, stems from the country's desire to dominate global energy and technology markets. In the EU, government policy has taken center stage thanks to the EU Hydrogen Strategy, which was released last July and calls for the installation of 6 gigawatts of renewable hydrogen electrolyzers by the end of 2024, and at least 40 gigawatts by 2030.

The U.S., Schiavo believes, will be the next major player to enter the hydrogen race, and he anticipates the U.S. could release its own national hydrogen strategy sometime in 2021. Parts of the U.S., particularly in the West, have taken steps down this path, and companies from small energy startups to the world's legacy oil and gas leaders are gearing up for policy and societal changes they anticipate could generate unprecedented demand for hydrogen.

This is not the first time the world has seen industry hype for hydrogen. But this time, the need for hydrogen is no longer theoretical, according to Janet Howard, a partner at Canadian law firm Fasken. Achieving economy-wide decarbonization will require carbon-free solutions in sectors where electrification alone seems unlikely to fit the bill. The question, many now believe, is not whether the world will transition to a grid powered by a combination of renewable energy and hydrogen-based fuels. The question is how soon will the needed hydrogen become available — and how should we best use scarce supplies in the interim.

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