In September 2020, the Norwegian Board of Technology adopted a new strategy for the period 2020-23. The Green Shift is one of three focus areas, where several new projects will be launched. The first project carried out is to assess the climate and industry potential of hydrogen technology.
The effects of the climate crisis are becoming increasingly clear. At the same time, public engagement contributes to stronger climate goals set by countries around the world. This accelerates the green transition and means we need to quickly assess technologies that will become crucial much sooner than anticipated.
Hydrogen is a good energy carrier
Hydrogen is energy dense and emission-free in use, which make it a valuable energy carrier in a zero-emission future. Hydrogen can remove greenhouse gas emissions in steel production and industry, as well as land and water transport. It can even be an alternative to electrical cables for transporting power.
Hydrogen can replace fossil energy in many cases where batteries have important disadvantages, e.g. long-distance transport. The demand for hydrogen is expected to multiply in few years as fossil fuels are increasingly phased out. Low-emission hydrogen can be produced by electrolysis of water (green hydrogen), and from fossil gas where the carbon is separated and then stored (blue hydrogen).
- Norway has cheap renewable electricity for the production of green hydrogen, well-developed research groups, and a history of industrial development. Green hydrogen production can be placed close to the use, e.g. hydrogen ferries.
- Norway has access to natural gas, as well as a wealth of industrial expertise that is transferable to hydrogen production and handling. Carbon capture and storage is a complementary technology to blue hydrogen, and Norway has good prerequisites for industry creation.
- The Government’s hydrogen strategy released June 2020 had few concrete goals and initiatives, in contrast to the hydrogen strategies of the EU, Germany and the Netherlands. The EU’s strategy focuses less on blue hydrogen. Without clear political goals, it is possible that hydrogen will remain a marginal technology in the energy system of the future.
Important questions remain
Time for action in the climate crisis is diminishing rapidly, and the action space decreases with each passing year. Thus, it becomes important to prioritize investments. Hydrogen investments may be necessary for the low-emission society, but there is also a risk of it being a dead end. A failed investment in climate technology will waste critically important time and resources. To avoid this, it is crucial to understand where the opportunities and risks lie.
For hydrogen to reduce emissions, large parts of industry and society must be restructured. There are still technical challenges and unanswered political questions concerning when and how to support the change. The Norwegian Board of Technology will raise the critical questions that must be answered to ensure a hydrogen industry that brings climate impact and value creation.
Hydrogen is the first topic in a series of short reports related to the green shift. The reports will cover technologies with significant climate and business potential, and serve as a pre-project.