The creation of Hydrogen Valley, hydrogen corridors and transformation of some industries from conventional gas to hydrogen displays progress.
In our highly demanding society, energy usage has always been a major concern while we have got used to oil, gas, and electricity being part of our everyday lives. ‘Unlimited’ access to energy sources has been taken for granted, and despite concerns about climate change and a willingness to reduce carbon emissions, in truth, the transition from fossil energy to renewable energy has been slow and scattered. Also, many decisions have been made locally with little or no cooperation with other parts of the region, country or unions. As a result, we are now facing a deployment of renewable sources of energies with a lack of global strategy, and perhaps even worse, without real consideration for high-scale energy storage.
In July 2020, the adoption of the EU strategies for energy system integration and hydrogen paved the way toward a fully decarbonized, more efficient and interconnected energy sector with the ambitious goal of making the EU energy-independent and climate-neutral by 2050. Since then, a lot of activity has taken place, but the political situation regarding the war in Ukraine has reshuffled the cards and we now realize how big the gap was between our long-term vision and reality.
Often discussed and seen as something of a curiosity, the interest in hydrogen, especially green hydrogen, has become a central point of interest and many dormant projects have moved toward implementation. The creation of Hydrogen Valley, hydrogen corridors and the transformation of some industries from conventional gas to hydrogen displays significant progress in this area. For sure, this is a major transformation that will require a lot of effort and investment but also, innovation. Many improvements have been made in electrolyzers and fuel cells as well as in network energy management.
There is no ‘miracle cure’ in hydrogen and it should be considered as part of an ecosystem. As previously mentioned, it’s very important to rethink not only how we produce energy but also how we transport and store it. Battery banks are good for local applications but how do you store enough energy to supply cities and industries for hours or even days? We know that converting electricity to hydrogen and then back to electricity is not very efficient; however, it could provide an alternative solution when demand exceeds production or when the network is unable to feed energy to the grid. As well, recent wind droughts have forced countries who, having shut down nuclear plants, now have to restart coal power-generators to compensate for the lack of energy.
Again, there is no magic power to solve the complex equation of reducing CO2 emissions, become energy independent, and sustain healthy society development. When considering alternative energy sources, there is no doubt that nuclear fusion is probably the future, but as we all know, despite huge progress in this area, we are still years away from connecting a fusion generator to the grid. Indeed, it’s a long-standing joke that nuclear fusion power is 30 years away and always will be. Nonetheless recent publications are telling us that we might see micro-fusion generators delivered on promises, way before the massive ITER is turned-on.
As a power electronics engineer and technology freak, I strongly believe in and appreciate the power of science and the energy challenges that we are facing. These provide us with great scope for creativity and inventiveness.
This article was originally published on EDN.
Patrick Le Fèvre is chief marketing and communications officer at Powerbox. He is delivering a keynote titled “The EU Green Deal challenges and opportunities for Hydrogen ecosystem” and is participating in a panel discussion titled “Alternative energy sources and related energy storage technologies” on the third and final day of Green Engineering Summit to be virtually held on 13-15 September 2022.