Hydrogen in decarbonized Energy Systems
Each system presents challenges in ensuring affordable, reliable, low carbon systems, which hydrogen can enable
The world’s energy system continues to be based on fossil fuels, which are either burned directly, or transformed into electricity. As our energy system decarbonizes to meet the shared goal of limiting global warming, these fuels will be increasingly replaced through electrification. However, sectors which are difficult to electrify will continue to require liquid and gaseous fuels, and these fuels can be produced using hydrogen. To fulfil this role, hydrogen fuels must be sustainable.
This means hydrogen will be made from solar, wind or nuclear power through the electrolysis of water, or from natural gas using carbon capture and sequestration infrastructure. If not used to provide flexible and reliable energy directly, hydrogen will be processed into liquid fuels using recycled carbon dioxide or nitrogen.
The presence of hydrogen will result in stronger links across the energy system by providing a bridge between electric, gaseous and liquid energy mediums. These links will allow areas with abundant renewable energy generation to meet energy demand in the power, heating, industrial or transport sectors where renewable energy is more limited.
They will however therefore place additional demand on the power sector to serve the production of fuels. The benefits and challenges provided by hydrogen will therefore vary depending on whether the system is a net exporter or importer of energy, and the extent to which it is already connected to other systems via existing power, gas, and liquid fuel networks.