The energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine is likely to boost the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier. “Hydrogen is not helping Europe in the current energy crisis – but in the medium and long term we see more momentum for hydrogen use,” said expert Bernd Heid of management consultancy McKinsey in Davos. “It will come faster because conventional energy such as oil and gas will become scarcer and more expensive.”
Many hydrogen companies, such as Verbund and voestalpine in Austria, wanted to wait for the gas market to start investing despite the gold rush mood. Like a marathon, companies would need perseverance – “but you should start running now.” Critical ecosystems were now forming. “Anyone who arrives late can no longer participate.”
Europe is looking for alternatives to Russian gas
Because of the war in Ukraine, Germany – like many other European countries, see video – is desperate for ways to reduce its dependence on Russian gas and oil as an energy source.
Due to the climate-damaging effect of carbon dioxide (CO2), fossil fuels will only play a minor role in the future in the EU, making wind and solar energy more important. “Solar energy can be found mainly in the Middle East and North Africa, but also in Australia, South America and southern Africa, among other places. Europe is becoming a net importer of clean energy,” said Heid. Hydrogen is used as an energy carrier because long power cable connections are expensive and not very efficient.
According to the expert, electrification alone is not enough to achieve the goal of a climate-neutral society, especially in heavy industrial sectors that are difficult to decarbonize, such as steel and cement production and heavy transport. “You can easily supply a supermarket 250 kilometers away with electric trucks,” says Heid. “But bringing tomatoes from Spain to Hamburg – from a physical and economic point of view it makes no sense to drive long distances with heavy batteries.”