Decarbonization: What is Green Hydrogen and What is its role?
Traditionally, the energy industry has based its production on fossil fuels, which have a large carbon footprint, causing a high level of environmental pollution. Decarbonization implies going the opposite way. It means gradually decreasing fossil fuel consumption to reduce CO2 emissions to zero (Hydrogen Council, 2021).
According to the Global Carbon Atlas report (2019), China, the United States, Russia, Mexico, and Brazil are among the 15 countries that have emitted the most carbon dioxide in the last 20 years. With the Paris Agreement, the world’s largest economies have committed to reducing their carbon footprint by up to 50%. Nevertheless, some member states have not met the target. Despite this, the agreement allows all countries to have a common cause. Many are making efforts to combat climate change. Thus, a new horizon is drawn in the context of global initiatives to improve life on the planet.
According to El Periódico de la Energía (2021), 18 countries have shown a strong commitment to decarbonizing their industries in recent years. Among these countries are Sweden, Finland, Austria, and Spain. The reduction in emissions was a consequence of the greater use of non-fossil and renewable energies.
Decarbonization in the Energy Industry
What does it mean to carry out a decarbonization process in the energy industry? Fulfilling this task means taking some measures in the modus operandi of energy production.
To Increase Energy Efficiency
The official website of the European Commission mentions Energy Efficiency (EE) as one of the main strategies to reduce a carbon footprint. European countries are taking different measures in this regard. Among the main strategies, we find the cogeneration of heat and energy, the labeling of products according to their energy efficiency, heating and cooling strategies, eco-design, and the construction of energy-efficient buildings (European Commission, 2021).
To Expand the Use of Renewable Energy to Facilitate Decarbonization
The Paris Agreement aims at raising the use of renewable energy to 32% by 2030. Renewable energies include wind, solar, biomass, hydroelectric, ocean, and biofuel-based energies.
All these energy resources are provided by nature and their production costs are highly competitive. They are safe and represent an excellent alternative to the use of fossil fuels. Since they significantly reduce the emission of carbon gas, they promote the decarbonization of industrial processes.
To Reduce the Emission of Greenhouse Gases
Recently, the European Commission introduced the European Green Deal. This deal seeks to implement 50 actions to fight against climate change. Its most ambitious goal is to make Europe the first continent with zero emissions by the middle of the 21st century.
What exactly does it mean to be an emissions-neutral country? It means that the number of toxic gases emitted must be compensated with the amount that can be absorbed.
The Role of Green Hydrogen in the Decarbonization Process
Some industrial processes need high temperatures to operate. They consume very high levels of energy. To generate industrial heat, fossil fuels with a large CO2 footprint are often used.
Unlike fossil fuels, hydrogen is made up of only H atoms. Thus, it does not generate carbon dioxide when burned, but only water (El Periódico de la Energía, 2020). It is one of the most efficient gases to use to produce heat.
According to the Hydrogen Council (2021), the combination of renewable energy and hydrogen with a low carbon footprint helps to decarbonize the energy system and reduce global warming. Thanks to this, depleting finite fossil fuel energy sources are not the only option.
One of these renewable energies is green hydrogen. It is produced by the electrolysis of water, a renewable resource, which is converted into oxygen and hydrogen molecules without emitting CO2.
Globally, some companies are working on green hydrogen plants for all kinds of uses. Iberdrola is one of them. The leading renewable energy company has launched what will be the largest green hydrogen plant for industrial use in Europe: the Puertollano plant (Ciudad Real). The plant will be made up of a 100 MW photovoltaic solar plant, a lithium-ion battery system with a storage capacity of 20 MWh, and one of the largest hydrogen production systems through electrolysis in the world (20 MW), all of them from 100% renewable sources.
According to the Hydrogen Council (2021), this type of energy might enable the transition from a global industry with high CO2 emissions to an industry with zero emissions.
Final Considerations on Decarbonization
The decarbonization of industries is one of the objectives of the main world economies for the next decade. In this sense, green hydrogen looks like a promising solution to achieve much greener industrial processes.