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If 2020 gave hydrogen more awareness, 2021 will bring more focus

If 2020 gave hydrogen more awareness, 2021 will bring more focus

While global support for hydrogen has never been stronger, expectations have also never been higher. In the past twelve months an unprecedented sense of urgency, accelerated by the Covid crisis and its recovery, is driving action around the global clean energy transition.

In search of technologies that can make our energy systems and economies more resilient while contributing to climate neutrality objectives, policymakers around the world have shifted their attention to hydrogen, acknowledging its huge potential. All of this attention on hydrogen is well placed. As we seek to transform our energy future, the scalability and capacity of hydrogen is up to the job.

Yet, much of our energy system is hidden from public sight; therefore, it is not surprising that the public has a limited understanding of the vast scale of infrastructure which is behind the energy we consume every day. The most visible part of the system is the electrical side. This is also the focal point for our aspirations to decarbonise. However, the ‘electron flow’ in our electrical system typically accounts for not more than 15-20% of the energy we use1. The greater part of our consumption is molecular flow supported by liquid fuels and natural gas. This 20/80 split of electrons to molecules is a key reason for the important place of hydrogen in the future. Many of the attributes of molecular energy are attractive and helpful in the ways we use energy.

If we were to ‘electrify everything’ we would need to increase our system of generating and transporting electricity by five times. The immediacy of the electrical system where we must make it and use it very rapidly is also an issue. The molecular systems of oil and gas give us the ability to store and move energy at a much more manageable pace than electrical systems. Hydrogen brings a similar ability to store and move energy around better than electrons on the grid. In a car, hydrogen provides more range and rapid fuelling. This is because it is a gaseous molecule which can fill a tank in minutes. Vast amounts of natural gas are stored in large reservoirs in our heating energy system. Hydrogen can duplicate these large-scale storage capabilities.

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