‘Hydrogen can help reduce our dependency on fossil fuels but the climate benefits will be limited, if we use fossil fuels to produce it – even with carbon capture and storage,’ says William Gillett, Energy Programme Director at the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC).
In requesting the European Union to stop all subsidies to fossil fuels, Gillett highlights that the growing demand for hydrogen must be met ‘by a massive increase of renewable electricity, together with certified imports from third countries’.
His comments are made in the context of a new commentary published by EASAC, and he also notes that while electricity can make a significant contribution to decarbonisation, ‘important sectors such as ships, trucks, planes and steel production cannot easily be powered by electricity.
‘To become climate neutral, they need a fuel that can be transported like oil or gasoline, or that can convert iron ore to steel at high temperatures like coal.’
He continues: ‘The growing demand for hydrogen and synthetic fuels will require much more renewable electricity to be generated in the EU. In addition, Europe will need imports and must therefore develop partnerships with third countries to drive global trade in renewable hydrogen and in technologies to produce it.’
According to EASAC, the EU must act to remove subsidies, taxes, levies and other incentives for fossil fuels.
As Gillett explains: ‘Direct and indirect support to fossil fuels sends wrong signals. The EU should rather strengthen carbon pricing and revise the emissions trading directive to build investor confidence in future markets for renewable electricity and renewable hydrogen.
Even in combination with carbon capture and storage, fossil-fuel based hydrogen still has a significant carbon footprint.
‘To achieve carbon-neutrality, the EU should take a leadership role in global markets for renewable hydrogen and in the manufacture of low cost electrolysers to produce it.’
The scientists also highlight the importance of avoiding premature and expensive lock-ins to new or renovated infrastructures could subsequently become stranded assets if they are superseded by cheaper technologies or market developments.
The full EASAC commentary can be accessed here