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26-02-2024 | Hydrogen | In the Spotlight | Article

A Comparison of International Hydrogen Strategies

Author: Christiane Köllner

5 min reading time

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What are the strategies of individual countries for the use of hydrogen? The "H2 Kompass" project has documented which goals are being pursued, how hydrogen is to be produced and where it is to be used.

An international analysis of hydrogen strategies of numerous countries and regions shows high ambitions and serious price differences in comparison. The country analysis has been published by the "H2 Kompass" project of Acatech and Dechema and is intended to provide insights into the global hydrogen strategy. According to the analysis, European countries and regions alone are planning to build up 52 GW of production capacity. However, the long-term price assumptions for hydrogen are extremely varied.

Building on the country analysis published by the project in December 2022, 21 additional countries have now been integrated into the analysis - primarily in South America, Africa and Asia. These include Brazil, Colombia, South Africa, Namibia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, India and New Zealand, all of which are positioning themselves as future hydrogen exporters. According to the analysis, a total of 25 countries and regions state that they want to export hydrogen. In contrast, nine countries and regions would rely on hydrogen imports, including European countries, Japan and Singapore. The Netherlands, Italy and Ireland play a special role. They want to get involved as transit countries. 

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Majority Defines Clear Targets for Generation Capacities

According to the analysis, more than half of the country strategies define clear targets for generation capacities based on renewable electricity. In total, European strategies announce around 52 GW of generation capacity, which exceeds the targets of the EU 2020 strategy: This envisages 40 GW by 2030. Chile (25 GW) and India (25 to 60 GW) have set particularly high targets. Overall, the capacity targets of the 25 strategy papers, which contain quantitative information, add up to between 108 and 151 GW, according to the analysis.

Only a few countries provide specific information on the targeted production volumes of hydrogen. Hungary, for example, plans to produce 20 kt/a of low-emission and 16 kt/a of emission-free hydrogen from domestic production by 2030. According to the analysis, Canada plans to produce 3 Mt/a and the EU and the United States of America 10 Mt/a of hydrogen each for the same target year.

Only six strategy papers define how high the share of hydrogen in final energy consumption should be. For example, Italy and Portugal are aiming for hydrogen to account for 2 % and 5 % of energy consumption respectively by 2030. Canada wants to cover 30 % of its final energy demand with hydrogen by 2050.

Target Prices for Hydrogen Vary Widely

The future price of hydrogen is crucial for the planning security of various players. According to the analysis, not all strategy papers contain such target prices. These would range from 0.60 euros per kg (India) to 4.50 euros per kg (Korea), but could also vary for different applications. Sweden, Finland and Uruguay, for example, only state production costs, which according to Uruguay should be in the range of €1.37 to €2.20/kg H2 in 2025 and €0.92 to €1.28/kg H2 in 2050.

Some papers define a number of fuel cell vehicles (FCEV) for the transport sector. South Korea gives the highest figure of 6.2 million FCEVs in 2040, of which 3.3 million are planned for export. The United Arab Emirates, on the other hand, do not specify any concrete targets. Instead, they plan to convert half of the public fleet of heavy commercial vehicles to fuel cell technology by 2050.

CO2 Pricing as a Means for Cost Parity with Fossil H2

In order to support the development of a hydrogen economy, the federal states are focusing on appropriate funding measures. In the course of this, joint cooperation and research and development activities are an important lever for many players. According to the analysis, infrastructure measures are also referred to in most cases as the basis for the development of a hydrogen economy in order to be able to distribute hydrogen and its derivatives accordingly. However, achieving cost parity between fossil-based and renewable hydrogen also plays an important role. In some cases, CO2 pricing is mentioned for this purpose.

Use of Fossil Hydrogen

With regard to hydrogen production, more than half of the strategies and roadmaps state that they want to replace fossil-based hydrogen without CO2 capture ("grey" hydrogen), according to the study. Nevertheless, there are certainly countries that will continue to rely on this type of hydrogen production in the future. Turkey, Russia, South Africa, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates and the United States of America state that they want to continue using grey hydrogen under certain conditions, such as suitable compensation, for the time being.

Fossil-based hydrogen with CO2 capture and injection (or use), so-called "blue" hydrogen, is mentioned as a relevant option in more than half of the papers. However, according to the analysis, in some cases it is explicitly pointed out that its use should only be limited in time in order to enable a ramp-up of the hydrogen economy. Countries with their own natural gas reserves in particular would also be interested in producing blue hydrogen. The Norwegian strategy is the only country strategy to explicitly state the goal of producing blue hydrogen not only for domestic applications, but also for export.

The Objective is Water Electrolysis

There is agreement on the goal of using water electrolysis as a technology for H2 production. Only Singapore makes no statement as to whether water electrolysis should be carried out or whether hydrogen obtained from it should be imported. With regard to the electricity to be used (electricity mix from the grid, nuclear power, electricity from renewable energies), however, the views vary according to the analysis and would depend heavily on local conditions.

Some countries are also looking at other options for generating or producing hydrogen. For example, the update of the German National Hydrogen Strategy describes that the use of methane pyrolysis could be promoted. The use of biomass to produce hydrogen is also mentioned in some documents, according to the study, for example as part of the Austrian or Slovakian strategy. Another possibility is (thermochemical) gasification processes, which can also be used for (plastic) waste. This approach is mentioned in the German, Brazilian and US strategies, for example.

Areas of Application for Hydrogen and its Derivatives

With regard to the areas of application for hydrogen and its derivatives, the analysis comes to the following conclusions: In transportation, use is seen particularly in heavy goods traffic and for fleet networks. With regard to fuel cell vehicles, however, there are widely differing views as to whether they should be used in the short term or whether they are considered less relevant.

In the area of industrial consumers, the chemical industry and refineries are classified as very relevant. However, according to the analysis, the steel industry is also a very attractive option. In contrast to transport and industry, the use of hydrogen in the energy sector is seen as more of a medium to long-term option.

This is a partly automated translation of this German article.

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